How To Cinch A Dress At The Waist (With and Without Sewing)

Do you have any dresses in your closet that you don’t wear because they’re a little loose around the waist? Perhaps you have a tiny middle that you’d like to show off. How do you cinch in a dress at the waist?

how to cinch a dress at the waist

Cinch a dress at the waist permanently by sewing a fitted casing to the dress and inserting elastic. If you can’t sew, cinch in the waist of your dress by wearing a belt, bum bag, or corset, tying on a ribbon, scarf, jacket, or sweater, or making a coin fold.

Upcycling clothes is a popular trend, allowing you to breathe new life into unworn, ignored, or thrift shop items. To get a dress to look more flattering, is tighten the waistline to streamline your curves. Let’s look at ways to cinch in a dress at the waist.

How To Cinch A Dress At The Waist

how to cinch a dress at the waist

Many of us avoid wearing items in our wardrobes because they don’t fit neatly. But transforming an ill-fitting dress is easier than you think. Whether you want a new look for the day or a more permanent solution, here are ideas for cinching in your dress at the waist.

How To Cinch A Dress At The Waist With Elastic

If you want a permanent solution to a baggy garment, use elastic to cinch in your dress at the waist. Sewing in elastic works best if your dress is made with a light fabric that drapes well, like linen, cotton, or rayon. It also only works if your dress has no lining.

To cinch in a dress with elastic, you need to sew a separate casing or tube, attach it to the garment, and insert elastic. Although this seems time-consuming, you have a neat, flat finish. Follow these steps.

Find Your Waistline

how to cinch a dress at the waist

1. Begin by putting on your dress inside out.

2. Put a narrow belt around your waistline where you want the elastic. The slimmest part of your waist may be higher or lower than you expect.

3. Mark the waist using pins, a water-soluble pen, or tailor’s chalk (which washes out). Marking is easier if you have someone to help you.

4. Remove the dress, lay it on a flat surface, and mark the whole waist.

Tip: The waistline may not be straight as it will curve with your bust.

Measure Your Casing

1. While the dress is flat, use a measuring tape to measure the length of the marked waistline or circumference.

2. To make the casing, choose a piece of fabric with a similar weight and color to your dress – it shouldn’t show through. You’ll need about two to four feet (1/2 to 1 meter) of fabric.

3. Cut the fabric the same length as the waist circumference, plus an extra inch (2.5 cm) for seams. For example, if your waist measures 40 inches (102 cm), you will cut a strip measuring 41 inches (104 cm).

how to cinch in a dress at the waist

4. Cut the fabric into a strip 1 ¾ inches (4.4 cm) wide. This size fits a standard ¼-inch elastic with a seam allowance.

Sew The Casing

1. Fold the fabric strip in half lengthwise, keeping the right sides together. Press.

2. Allowing a seam or edge of ¼ inch (0.64 cm), sew a straight seam along the length of the fabric to create a tube.

3. Leave one to inches of fabric unsewn at each edge of the length. You’ll use this to sew the ends of the casing together when you turn it right-side out.

Turn The Casing Right-Side Out

1. Turning the long tube right-side out can be tricky, so follow this hack.

2. Attach a safety pin to a layer of the unsewn edge of the tube.

3. Push the safety pin through the tube, feeding it through until it comes out the other end.

4. Your casing will now have the right side on the outside. Remove the safety pin.

5. Press the casing flat with the seam along the top.

Finish The Short Edges

1. Align the edges of the tube that you left unsewn earlier.

2. Sew the ends together, allowing for a ½ inch (1.27 cm) seam.

3. After sewing, trim the seam to ¼ inch (0.64 cm) and press it open.

4. Fold in the rough edges at the openings of the tube and press inwards.

Pin The Casing

1. With the dress lying flat, pin the top edge of the casing along the waistline marking.

2. The open edges of the casing should meet at the dress’s side seam or back seam.

Tip: Use a pin every inch or so (2.5 cm) so that the casing fits securely.

Sew The Casing To The Dress

how to cinch a dress at the wais
  • Edgestitch the top of the casing to the dress. Sew straight to the open edges at the side or back seam. Remove the pins as you go.
  • Edgestitch the bottom of the casing to the dress, leaving the open tube edges.

Tip: Choose a thread that matches the dress so that the alteration is not obvious.

Cut The Elastic

1. To measure the length of the elastic, wrap a piece around your waist. Make sure it fits comfortably, as this will be how the dress fits.

2. Mark the length of the elastic and add two inches (5.08 cm) for the seam.

3. Cut the length of elastic you need.

Insert The Elastic

how to cinch a dress at the wais

1. Attach a safety pin to the elastic. Insert it through the open side seam of the casing.

2. Push and feed the elastic through to the other opening. Keep a firm hand on both ends, so the elastic doesn’t get lost in the casing.

3. Pin the edges of the elastic to the open edges of the casing.

4. Try the dress on carefully, avoiding the pins. Adjust the fit of the elastic waist as necessary.

Finish The Waist

how to cinch a dress at the wais

1. Secure the elastic by overlapping the ends by an inch. Pin.

2. Sew the edges together securely.

3. Stitch the open edges of the casing together.

4. Turn the dress right side out and spread the gathers evenly.

How To Cinch A Dress At The Waist Without Sewing

Sending a dress to a tailor sounds expensive, and not all of us have the time or skills to alter an item by sewing. These ideas all use accessories you already have, and take a couple of moments to change your dress from a sack to a shape.

Add A Belt Or Bag

how to cinch a dress with a belt
how to cinch a dress with a bag

Simply putting a belt, belt bag, or bum bag around your waist immediately creates a waistline, giving you an hourglass figure. Vary the dress’s appearance by using colors and sizes of belts.

Use A Scarf

how to cinch a dress with a scarf

If you don’t have an appropriate or matching belt, grab a colorful scarf to cinch in the waist of your dress. Tie the scarf around your waist and let the ends hang elegantly.

Tie A Ribbon

how to cinch a dress with ribon

For an old-fashioned, Alice-in-Wonderland feel, highlight your waist or bust line by tying a ribbon around the dress. Choose a thin velvet ribbon or a wide satin sash.

Wrap A Coin

Use a coin or bangle and an elastic to create an unusual wrap or fold style to cinch your dress. Here’s how:

  • Hold the coin or bangle against the outside waist of your dress.
  • Stretch the elastic band open in your other hand.
  • Reach under the skirt of your dress and grab the coin with the elastic. Pull it in with a fold of the fabric.
  • Secure the elastic by looping it around the fabric-covered coin a couple of times and tying it tightly.

Throw On A Jacket Or Sweater

Cinch a dress with  a jacket or sweater

For an informal look, tie a light jacket or sweater around your waist. You’ve also got a backup if it gets chilly.

Lace Up A Corset

how to cinch a dress at the waist with elastic

Lace up a corset over your dress when you’re keen to look dramatic. This item will cinch your waist as much as you like and add interest to your outfit.

how to cinch a dress at the waist step by step tutorial


To instantly cinch a dress in at the waist, you can tie a separate item, like a belt or scarf, around you. Cinch the waist of the dress in with a casing and elastic if you want a permanent, gathered waist.

And follow Yet Another Thread on Pinterest for more sewing tutorials and ideas.

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