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How to Add a Fantastic Elastic Waist to Just About Any Dress!

Sleeveless Dress to Keyhole Back Top Refashion
Yacht Rock Dress Refashion

Today I’m going to dispel two myths about this blog.  πŸ™‚

The first myth is that I never try to look cute in my “before” pics.  

Okay…fair enough.  I’ll try to look as gorgeous/glamorous as possible in this boring shift dress:

how to add elastic to dress before
Oooo lah lah!

Okay…that’s just weird.  Let’s go back to the normal, shall we?

how to add elastic waist to dress before
Ahhhh…MUCH better!

Now for the second myth!

I keep getting told that I’m belt-obsessed and that that’s the only way I know how to cinch a waistline.  

Now, I definitely am belt-obsessed, but there are other ways to bring in the waist of a frumpy frock!  I personally prefer belts and sashes as they’re A.  Easier and B. more flattering for my short waist.

But enough of the belts!  Begone, sashes!  

Today I’m going to show you how to add an elastic waist to a dress!

First, take a dress that already fits you properly (like the one I’m wearing above) and mark where you want your waist to be.

safety pin on waistline
This is my impression of the Pillsbury Doughboy.

I put the safety pin a little lower than my natural waist, as I want the top of my frock to be just a little blousy.

Next, make a big cut!

removing bottom from dress

Take the skirt part and turn it inside out, then put the top part inside of it, with the right sides facing each other and with all the seams in line.

dress on ironing board
I use my ironing board to help with this.

Now pin them together!

pinned waist
Hello, future waist!

Stitch those two sides together…

sewing waist on dress
I’m so Pfaffsy…

…then press them both down towards the bottom hem of the dress.

ironing waist of dress
This will all make sense in just a moment!

Now for the much-awaited elastic!

Grab some thin elastic…

wad of elastic
Big wad o’ elastic!

Wrap the elastic around your waist and pull it to where it’s just tight enough to cinch the waist, but not uncomfortable.  Cut it off and sew the two ends together.  Make sure your elastic doesn’t have any kinks in it!

elastic sewn together

Fold your elastic ring in two, and mark each side.

marking elastic with fabric pencil

Now, fold it in two again, and mark those two sides as well!

folded elastic

Pin each marked part to the front, back, and each side right over your newly-stitched waist.

pinning elastic along seams
right along the seams!

Now for the finicky bit.  

Pin the elastic all around your new waist.  Stretch it as you pin, and try to avoid having any bunched-up bits.  

If you see part of it bunching up more than the rest, just start over.  Don’t worry.  It’s a pain, but it’ll be worth getting right!

elastic pinned along waist
Looking pretty Even Steven!

Now you’re ready to stitch your elastic down!

Run it through your sewing machine using a straight stitch.  Pull the elastic as you go.  

Don’t worry!  It’ll bounce right back and gather the waist!

stitching elastic down
Keep it stretched!

And that’s it for the waist!  πŸ™‚

But I couldn’t stop there!  I didn’t like the neckline or the length of this dress, so I still had a bit more work to do!

I decided to make the zippered back the front and turn it into a V-neck.  I pinned my new neckline down…

pinning v-neck on dress
Gimme a V!

…then I stitched it in place!

sewing vneck on sewing machine

There was one problem with this though.  Since the original front of the dress had bust darts, when I put it on, I looked like I had back boobs!  :/  That would not do!  

Not to worry!  I pinned those darts into straight lines and stitched them down.

adding darts
No more back boobs!

I was almost done!

 I chopped off some of the length, with the help of my dedicated companion!

douglas tugging at dress
He’s too cute to be annoying!

I gave my new dress a new hem, pressed it, and was all done!

sewing hem
The final step!

Here’s what it looks like now!

How to Add a Fantastic Elastic Waist to Just About Any Dress after
Elastic is fantastic!

And here’s what it looks like outside!

How to Add a Fantastic Elastic Waist to Just About Any Dress after outside
Same dress. Different lighting.

Do you like my sweet thrifted $3 platforms?  I sure do!

platform shoes close up
Only fell in ’em once! πŸ™‚
close up of refashionista eating cheese
Ugh…selfies are just soooo cheesy! πŸ˜‰

A few of you have been asking about the mystery guy who appeared a couple of times on this blog but you haven’t seen in a while.  

Wellllll…if you haven’t seen him in my multitude of out-and-about pics, that’s prrrrrobably because I’m not out-and-about with him, eh?  Don’t worry.  I get plenty of male affection!

friend kissing refashionista's cheek
Thanks Cole!
refashionista kissing friend's cheek
Oh hai Ryan!

These guys are all the men I need!  πŸ˜‰  My new dress enjoyed an unseasonably cool evening with friends playing “Truth or Dare Jenga”.  Seriously.  You need to make a set of your own!

refashionista playing truth or dare jenga
You’ll never play Jenga any other way ever again!
refashionista with friends making silly face
Goofy faces…not just for “before” pics anymore!

Soooo…now you know another way to make your waists nice and cinched!  Even if you hate belts (What’s wrong with you?!?!)!


how to add elastic waist before and after
Sleeveless Dress to Keyhole Back Top Refashion
Yacht Rock Dress Refashion

92 thoughts on “How to Add a Fantastic Elastic Waist to Just About Any Dress!”

  1. I really want to do this to a shirtwaist dress that buttons in the front…but won’t the elastic make it gap “open”? Not sure how to do this.

  2. Jillian,

    Thank you for taking the time to document and share the transformational magic and potential in thrift finds. I find myself learning and giggling a lot on your page. (: Where did you find your platform shoes? They’re awesome.

    Keep on rocking on~

  3. your tutorials and your ideas were amazing, i love to sew too and your site is an Inspiration to all Lovers of Fashion… please Show us more!!!!

  4. After reading your tutorial on adding an elastic waist I pulled out a dress I’d been wanting to do this to and wimped out when it came to cutting it in half. Instead I used a fabric scrap from my stash to stitch a casing to the inside of the dress, pulled the elastic through and called it done. Thank you so much for the inspiration on this one.

  5. So I just noticed your Pfaff. I upgraded from the most basic Pfaff to the Ambition Essential two weeks ago and it’s a whole new world. How did I ever live without IDT? I hope you’ll tell us about your new machine in an upcoming post.

  6. I don’t understand what you did with the bust darts. Did you extend them to the shoulder? Does the shoulder area get all bunchy that way? What if the dress had underarm darts and you wanted to reverse it? Could you sew a horizontal seam across? I just love your blog!!

      • A dart tapers. I don’t know how to straighten that line to extend it to the shoulder.Do you fold in more fabric above the dart to take in the fullness? On some dresses, they have bust darts that start at the side seam and go horizontally. Always too low down for me. Thank you for taking the time, I can be so dense about the simplest things sometimes!

  7. I want to share a thought on the whole “uses a lot of belts” comment. I stumbled across your blog about a month ago and quickly read every last one of your entries!. As a lifetime thrifter, I’ve seen my share (and then some) of u-g-l-y thrift store finds, and I absolutely love your ideas for re-fashioning:-) I have recently dropped a total of 50 pounds, and because of all your posts featuring belts, I thought, “Why not?” I have totally transformed two dresses that were a good fit into WOW fits!! Now that I have a waist again (that, btw, I worked very very hard to get LOL), I love the idea of using belts to accentuate. So, in short, you inspired me to try something different since I had been in frumpy mom mode for so long. Rock out what works for you; thanks for your inspiration!!!

  8. Hello, “long time reader, first time commenter”… The dress is fantastic but I love, love, love your hair in these pictures! Too cute! (Love this blog, I feel inspired every time a new post shows up in my inbox πŸ™‚

  9. I saw this blog post and thought of you!

    I know, you have made panties before, but these are so dang cute! I could totally see you coming up with a cute idea for all the scrap material you likely have. They seem pretty simple, and I saw another blog that actually used elastic for the waist band. Just think, you could make a ton of em and donate them to homeless or something altruistic like that πŸ™‚

    I would love to know what you think! >Love this dress btw.

  10. Even on your size 2 frame the elastic waist is THE BOMB – very flattering indeed. Totally love the outfit, the hair, and the killer platforms which I love. Really great tutorial on this one Jillian – well done! And there will always be another guy coming along, how can they resist you? Mr. Right will find his way to you eventually πŸ™‚

  11. Because of you, I shop at Goodwill Outlet! I am honestly outraged at the great stuff I’m finding here! I don’t even refashion that much, just hems and fixing stains.

    My coworkers and boss were making pointed comments about my suddenly nice clothing options. I admitted to everyone at work that I shop at Goodwill outlet and now they’re bugging me to take them. Grr.

  12. Everyone else here is commenting on the dress while I drool over your sewing machine…I have an old Pfaff that is a workhorse as well as a newer Singer. You still need to do a post on the sewing machine!!!

  13. I prefer sashes and belts too, my waist is my best feature so why cover it up with a baggy bit. Also dressing for comfort, sashes stay in place, elastic rubs and bunches. You’re the refashionista, it is your style that has made you popular! My favourite refashions are probably creating wearable separates from one item

  14. I love everything you do here! But you’re so tiny, and you always look good by making dresses shorter, and sometimes strapless. Some of us need more coverage. πŸ˜‰ I would love to see you do some refashions for some of your friends who are not quite as tiny as you.

    • I don’t understand why people keep saying stuff like this. They’re refashions for HER, and she’s tiny and looks good in short, strapless stuff. For the people who need more coverage…go make your own stuff!

      • I get it. I really do. It’s just hard for me to make things for other folks when I work 3 jobs, live on the edge of town (no one wants to drive to where I am), and when most of my friends are guys. :/ I’d like to…It just doesn’t work out with my schedule and location.

  15. An email from u in my inbox with a new refashion is like a treasure hunt! You’ve given me the confidence to take boxy clothes I own and make them actually fit me in a flattering way. Thank u!

  16. Don’t let ’em get you down, girl! I love your silly before faces, your sashes and belts, & your mystery men! Keep on keeping on!

  17. Don’t you just hate those people who comment that there’s another way to do something that you just explained? Not necessarily a better way, just another way that might work in some situations. If you were to fold the dress at the waistline with right sides together, you could sew a seam next to the fold to create a casing to put the elastic through.

    I love your refashions but mostly, your moxy and confidence. You go girl!! You look great.

  18. Love this! I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to add an elastic waist to a dress of mine… Can’t wait to try! (I also kind of feel like my dress wants to be a high-low (a.k.a. “mullet”) dress, if you feel like doing a tutorial on that, too… πŸ˜‰
    Aaaand, my 3-yr-old was looking at this post with me and asked, “is she the dress doctor?” Lol, if you ever need an idea for re-branding πŸ˜‰

  19. Wish I cold have seen the back! Maybe you could dedicate one picture per post for a back view! Thanks love your fashionista style!

  20. Good refashion. I’m one of the ones that wonder why you didn’t make a casing, tho, as it just seems it would have been a lot easier for you. Your way really turned out well, tho. As for the belt/sash issue, I actually prefer belts and sashes to an elasticized waist on a dress. But here’s the clincher: YOU are the one doing the work and then wearing the dress, so, do it the way YOU want and never mind the rest of us, lol!!!


  21. Fantastic job! All of the items you remake turn out well and look good on you. However, your methods look a little hit or miss. Are they really carefully planned and carefully sewn- like do you measure all carefully- or do you just go for the final appearance but would not bear close inspection? I’m not trying to be offensive. I really appreciate what you are doing. I just want to know if you really have a sewing background or if you sort of wing it. In others words, does everything turn out so well because of your vast sewing experience?

  22. I am addicted to your blog! I have read through all of your years in a few weeks. This is by far MY FAVORITE refashioning site!! I like the fact that you are unique and interesting. Your life (to me) is fascinating. I enjoy that you and your sewing are not perfect. I am not perfect. We are not perfect. I relate to your artsy ways and wine drinking nights. Your before pics are endearing and relatable. You are witty and charming in your words! I have started refashioning everything because of this blog. I have always thrifted but I am now thrifting in a new way. I love this new hobby! Thank you!
    There are many sewing blogs out there but the more professional sewist are too hard to follow and usually boring. I can’t make what they make but I can do what you do and I love it. I hope this was a compliment!

    • Yes! I completely agree with everything you said, thank you for putting it in such a perfect way, Jennifer!

      I can’t wait to move to my new place and get my sewing machine out. So many of the before clothes on here are ones I see ALL the time in thrift stores, now I’m seeing them in a whole new way.

      Thanks for the inspiration πŸ™‚

  23. This dress is so cute! You look adorable! AND you look like you are having fun. Thanks for making time for your blog. I may be living vicariously through you!

  24. I think you are absolutely fantastic terrific! Keep doing with you’re doing and ignore the haters. Not a complaint, just jealousy – many of your refashions are strapless and I cannot go without a bra. Wish I could use those ideas, but it will never work for me. You look so cute in everything!

  25. It seemed like all the fussy elastic pinning could have been avoided if you had made a slightly wider seam allowance and used it to create a casing for the elastic by sewing down the edge once you had ironed it (either) up or down. Once the casing is created–remember to leave an opening to insert the elastic through-attach a safety pin to one end of the pre-measured elastic, feed it through, sew the ends together, and sew up the opening in the casing. This would be much more comfortable to wear, and would create a nice straight stitch BEFORE the dress is all gathered up by the elastic. Hope this is clear.

  26. Love this refashion, one of my favorites! Of course there are many. But as others have mentioned though, I am curious about the way you added the elastic. I am basically a self taught seamstress, so I am never quite sure if I am doing things the best/correct way. So why did you cut off the top, and why did you sew the elastic to the dress and not make a casing. You make refashioning look so easy πŸ˜‰ I have taken men’s dress shirts and attempted skirts, t-shirts to dresses,etc many with less than desirable results. So I am always curious about why you do things the way you do. Of course, having a cute little figure helps πŸ˜‰

  27. Hi! I love refashioning clothes too and it is so much easier to use a belt than sew elastic! Plus-
    1. You save money on Elastic
    2. You can always change out the belts!

    I’m with Steph, forget the haters! Your blog is amazing!

  28. Love your stuff it is fun to watch what u do I have a lot of scrub jackets how can I up date them to wear everday, I’m retired now and still love my jackets

  29. I actually can’t sew a stitch! Having said that I love seeing the transformations. It has inspired me to use my crafting abilities to redecorate my home. Thanks for the inspiration!

  30. I wish you had also taken a photo of the back with the darts sewn down……….I would be interested in seeing what it looks like. REALLY love the new look………as I saw the “old” look, I thought there would not be too much you could do with it……….wrong! keep sewin’, girlie!

  31. There are different ways to adding elastic
    One way was the cutting, another adding bias tape and inserting elastic
    Main thing is to measure so things are straight all around
    Love you, Jillian! Saw you on GMA too
    You inspire us for sure!

  32. Wouldn’t it have been easier to use bias tape to create a pocket for the elastic? Then you could adjust the gathering so one side doesn’t have more than another. Ah well, to each her own! Love your creativity and vision!

    • I would have done it the way Andrea suggested, with bias tape. However I realize this blog refashions on a very tight budget and bias tape would be an extra purchase (although she could have used some of the cut off fabric from the bottom). It is nice to know there are more ways than one to put an elastic waist in a dress.

  33. Jill, love this one!!! But there’s not many that you’ve refashioned that I don’t like. Love that you remind us that we can use the back as front, etc. Keep up the great work!!!!!

  34. I love everything you do, I often refashion my thrift finds and have for years. I’ve been sewing for 60 years! However I never take out the sleeves, or wear a belt. Most women don’t have good upper arms and I loathe armpits. I’m long waisted so the belts aren’t flattering. But, if you got it Honey, flaunt it!

  35. still laughing!! Glad you only fell once in your gorgeous shoes πŸ™‚ (I may have done a face plant in to a car once because of heels… and I was sober and it was daylight and witnessed.)

    Thanks for some awesome instructions on the elastic waist… as for the adjustments you needed to make so you didn’t have back boobies… I didn’t think that was a possibility on you! lol


  36. Hey Jillian!

    Love your stuff. I saw your blog featured on another site recently, and found myself yelling at the computer because of the stupid people who made stupid comments. Because they Just Don’t Get It. Particularly the trolls who said ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that’, as if they believed that made them appear witty. In their case, they don’t have time for that, because they’re too busy trolling the internet for places to be stupid.

    Also, the indignant ‘Well that’s fine for her, but no good to me, because I don’t know how to sew.’ Uh. So go learn?

    You do use a lot of belts, but you’re a long way away from ‘always’ using belts.
    And if belts suit you, and reflect the look you’re after, wear belts! This is your blog and you are dressing for your body type. If people want belt free, let em go start their own blog.

    Take whatever before and after photos you want. The ugly befores are fun. Also, they capture the ‘spirit’ of the garment, and how they make the wearer feel. ‘This dress used to be sad and tragic, now it’s happy,’ is part of your story.

    Anyway, long comment I know. But I wanted to stop by and say thank you for not only making cute dresses, but for being a part of constructing a culture in which making and recycling is celebrated, and fashion, ethics and consumption is discussed. <3

    • I agree with you totally. You learn what you can from each blog, amalgate all the info and make something that suits yourself. These trolls should really go get a life – jealousy makes them nasty.

    • “Particularly the trolls who said β€˜Ain’t nobody got time for that’, as if they believed that made them appear witty. In their case, they don’t have time for that, because they’re too busy trolling the internet for places to be stupid.”

      Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  37. I love this post and your sense of humor! The dress came out cute even though the fabric confused me before I realized it was a print. At first I thought it was glittery sweater-knit fabric. But that would be insane in August, wouldn’t it?

  38. I’m wondering about the cutting as well…
    I’ve been saving skinny strips of elastic for a bit, but didn’t know the “proper” way to get it to work right. Thanks for he help!! Love it!
    (do also love belts & sashes, tho!)

  39. Love this! I love how you changed the waist AND turned it backwards. The V-neck is quite flattering. Just one thing: in the second “after pic”, something about your bottom hem looks funky! Did it come out uneven or something?

  40. Why did you have to cut a waist? Couldn’t you just add elastic to the dress without making a seam? I never would have thought to make the back the front and wear that way. I love the new look, very cute.

      • personally I’d say for this particular dress that cutting the dress is probably the fastest way to make a waist so that you have a straight line to attach the elastic to. You could measure and mark the waistline all the way around but that would take longer.


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