How to Make an Empire Waist T-Shirt

Written by jennifer dermody
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How to Make an Empire Waist T-Shirt
Turn a tired T-shirt into a trendy empire-waist top. (beautiful brunette against white background 7 image by Kevin Browne from

You can add flair to your favourite jeans-and-tee outfit by giving your favourite shirt an graceful empire waist. The 19th century style features a high waist gathered right below the bust, which highlights the feminine silhouette. The fabric below the waist line is loosefitting, shifts gracefully and flatters thick waistlines by hiding the midsection. Today's empire waists feature a modern look with an accentuated bust line and a more form-fitting bodice that hugs your curves. An empire waist can fill out your T-shirt in all the right places.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Common pins
  • Grommet punch
  • Grommets
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors

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  1. 1

    Try on your T-shirt while wearing a bra. Stand up straight with your hands down at your sides.

  2. 2

    Place pins along your bra line, starting in the centre under your bust. Place pins approximately every 2 inches at least to the area under your arms.

    How to Make an Empire Waist T-Shirt
    An empire waist sits just below the bust line. (détail de mannequin image by Bruno Bernier from
  3. 3

    Remove your T-shirt. Lay it flat in front of you on a table.

  4. 4

    Continue placing pins around the back of the T-shirt that line up with those on the front.

    How to Make an Empire Waist T-Shirt
    Mark your empire waistline with pins. (sewing pins image by Christopher Hall from
  5. 5

    Punch holes in the T-shirt along the pin line. Space holes as evenly as possible, approximately 2 inches apart. This will become your gathered waistline and does not need to be perfect.

  6. 6

    Attach the grommets to the fabric by putting the grommets through the front and securing them in the back.

  7. 7

    Weave your ribbon through the grommets with an in-and-out pattern, leaving a foot-long ribbon tail on each end.

    How to Make an Empire Waist T-Shirt
    Choose thick or thin cloth ribbon in solid colour or a print. (red ribbon xiv image by Mykola Velychko from
  8. 8

    Try on your T-shirt again. Gather the ribbon tight below your bust. Tie the two ends of the ribbon in a bow to form the empire waist.

Tips and warnings

  • Choose a loose fitting T-shirt if you desire a fullness to the fabric gathered under the waistline For an empire waist with a form fitting bodice, choose a somewhat fitted tee.
  • Experiment with different ribbon widths and colours. A ribbon narrower than your grommet opening may expose your skin for a peek-a-boo effect.
  • Remove ribbon before laundering.
  • Do not punch a hole too big, or your grommet will fall through. A hole that is too small can always be made bigger.

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