Plus-sized Women–Unite!

I think we need to do a million-women-march for decent plus-sized clothing.  I am so tired of boxy, no shape, fat clothes I can’t even stand it.   Why can’t manufacturers come up with one of those pretty blouses that have a waistline built in, without the neckline being cut down so far that it’s indecent?  Why are the sleeves on plus-sized clothing made 4 inches too long?  Why is it that plus-sized pants are never made for 5’2″ people, and why do we always have to alter them?  Why do the pockets always gap at the sides and why are jeans that have built-in shapers only made up to size 12?  I have yet to find a plus-sized tee shirt that is long enough to cover my waist and hips without being halfway to my knees. 

Well, thank goodness for the sewing machine!  You can make some adjustments on ready-to-wear clothing that will help with style and shape.  This is how I changed a tee shirt I purchased recently.

To add shape to a boxy tee:

Put on the shirt and stand in front of a full-length mirror.  Pinch the fabric at the waistline and mark it with a pin.  Take off the shirt, turn inside out, and measure the length up from the bottom hemline to the spot you marked with a pin.  Mark the spot at the same place on both sides of the shirt.  Go up 2″ from that spot and place another mark on both sides.  Go down 4″ from the first mark you made and place another mark on both sides of the shirt.  Now, returning to the waistline mark, measure directly in towards the center of the shirt 1″ and mark there. 

Set your sewing machine to a basting stitch smaller than the norm.  Starting from the top mark, baste a curved line down over the 1″ mark and very gradually back until it crosses the original seamline at the bottom mark.   Repeat on the opposite side. 

Turn the shirt and try it on again.  Make adjustments to the stitching line until you are happy with the shape.  Then, stitch with a regular stitch length, making sure to backtack at each end. 

Turn the shirt and try it on again to be certain you can get in and out of it without tearing the stitching.  Trim to 1/4″ from the stitching line.  Finish the seam with a serger or zig-zag.  

If you get a pucker at the bottom of the seam you just made, try re-sewing with a slightly more gradually.  You can also taper the stitch length down towards the end of the seam.  The idea is to eliminate any abrupt return to the original seamline.

What do you get?  Well, you lose about 10 pounds instantly without even trying, and you get a much more shapely garment.  Try it and see what you think!

Note:  Do you like to see tips like this one?  Do you want more on alterations of ready-to-wear, more on altering patterns?  Post and tell us your feedback!  Not only will you help us make YCST/YCMT better for YOU, you might also win 25 YCMT points! (Points = $)

Sew Now!





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51 responses to “Plus-sized Women–Unite!

  1. Michell


    I actually have the opposite problem in that I am not only plus, but TALL, I swear that somewhere along the way designers for got that TALL women have curves too!

    I have “Mitten Clips” that I use to “cinch” t-shirts and dresses. You know the little pieces of elastic that your mom would attach one end to the mitten/glove and the other to your sleeve. Honestly they are hard to get here in AZ, but when I run across them…I grab a couple!!!

    I have a confession, one of my biggest peeves…the TALL men that date/marry the petite women, I actually hollered at my cousin once saying that he could avoid years of back problems if he dumped her…well there were other issues too!

    I will have to work out your tailoring with my mom (she is the singer goddess) for some of my shirts, esp those I get for team builders at work! OOHHHHH…thanks for the tidbit!!!

  2. love this idea!!! will definitely be using this tip – thanks!! and yes – these are definitely tips i can use, especially beding brand new to sewing!!

  3. leslie

    Isn’t it amazing how just a little tweaking can help?! My MIL and I used a similiar (read as lazier) method to adjust several of her “boxy” t-shirts after she had lost some weight. I had her try on the shirt inside out andthen I pinned out the excess fabric. We took the shirt off (carefully!) and I sewed the side seams, starting with the origional seam at the bottom, tapering in along the pins and back out the the origional seam again. It worked great – and looked much more flattering afterwards. :o)

  4. jennebeker

    This is a great idea. I can adjust shirts in my closet, and I don’t have to go buy more, now that I’m confident enough to show my curves. Thank you very much.

  5. Lorie! I didn’t know you were only 5’2″! I’m 5’0″, and have a terrible time finding cute, stylish, FLATTERING jeans that are the right length for me. All the petite styles look like “mom” jeans.

    I’ve tried buying long and hemming, but my jeans hems always look hand-done, even when I try to match the topstitching, etc. I’d love to learn how tailors alter jeans!

  6. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Hi Michell –

    Mitten clips sound like a great idea! I love seeing shirts that are gathered in center at the back, creating that hourglass effect. Thanks for the tip!


  7. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Hey Leslie–I call that smart! I just do things the hard way sometimes. You eliminate a whole step by trying the shirt on inside out. Good tip!


  8. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Hey Carla…

    Yep–5’2″ and I won’t tell you how much I weigh. My mom is 4’10” and shrinking. The proportions are jeans are hard to hit on the nail for we short girls–and the tall ones, too! I’ll see what I can find on altering jeans and do a post when I find out. Seems like I saw something recently that involved hammering down the hemline and sewing with a double needle…..more later!


  9. kidscottage

    I love it! Its so true I an 5’6″ and have a hard time finding shirts that are not so short.. or not so long… they just don’t make clothes for us ladies nor pants! I have a hard time fing capris too! Great ideas and love that all can use the ideas!

  10. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Hey KidsCottage…..

    OK–that’s too funny! I can buy capri’s and wear them as regular long pants! So, what am I complaining about? LOL

    Do you buy regular shirts and end up having 3/4 sleeves?


  11. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    BTW you guys–I noticed that on Project Runway, the designers always hate the “normal woman” (i.e. size 14) challenge. I would LOVE to do that challenge–they don’t know what they’re missing!


  12. e&p

    This is an awesome tip! So simple! I *hate* boxy tops and always want to alter them. Don’t forget to use a ballpoint needle for knits!

  13. Shelli

    I’d love to have some tips for making the jeans’ hems a little more professional looking. My little girl is constantly drowning (vertically, anyways!) in her jeans. Thanks for the tips!

  14. leslie

    Lol, thanks Lori! (I’ll file that one away for later, not lazy – just smart!)
    FWIW, I know it’s not a sewing tip but… In regards to finding jeans to fit a fuller petite figure check out the girls department! Seroiusly, I am 5’2 and I always check out the PLUS size girls jeans. Depending on your demensions a size 12 1/2 – 18 1/2 may just do the trick! Everywhere from Walmart to department stores now carry the plus girl sizes, and they come in really cute trendy styles too! (and are usually cheaper than womens)

  15. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    OK–Leslie–that’s an awesome tip! Thank you! To tell the truth, I’m so lazy about utility sewing (thus, the last newsletter topic) that I usually order jeans from Land’s End and have them hemmed to my specs. I’ll be checking out Wally World girls’ dept soon!


  16. Thanks for the tips. I run into this problem all the time. I’m going to try to fix some of my shirts!

  17. I love this post! My biggest grudge with clothing manufacturers is that those cute empire waist shirts have the cup size equivilant of a B cup! Most overweight women I know are much larger than that!

    Give me enough room for the girls not be cut off in the middle! I mean have they heard of the D or DD cup? Heaven forbid the F or G cup!

  18. Great tip – and it really does make you look HEAPS thinner!

  19. Wow… I’ve never considered doing that. I will have to give this a try. My biggest complaints about clothes are the waistlines in jeans. I cannot buy pants online; I have to try them all on because most likely they will not fit. Recently I took a gamble and now have a pair of jeans to return to Old Navy. My complaint is how waistlines bell on many pants and jeans. I have a big rear and thighs, but want that waistline to fit good enough I won’t lose the pants.

  20. linda rose

    great idea! never would have thought of doing that to help with shape and style! someone really should create an e-pattern or series of patterns for plus size women!

  21. valarie

    this is a good tip/discussion. I HATE trying on clothes, because even at my smallest (which I haven’t seen in a LOOOOOOng time) I still have problems with being busty AND short. It’s like designers don’t believe someone under 5’6″ could be a D cup. I would love a good way to alter shoulder seams since I usually have to buy a size larger in order not to have “pucker factor” across the bust.


  22. I would love more tips for plus size clothing. I have the same problem, I am only 5′ 0″ so finding things to fit in length is a challenge. I have found some in the juniors dept at different stores but had to hem them a little. Shirts are an issue too. They will fit in the waist but my ladies play peek a boo with the buttons. Never fit right. I have a girl friend who is a size H (all natural and she cant stand it) and has a HUGE problem finding shirts to fit. Very odd shaped body so clothing is not her friend however she always manages to stay cute.

  23. Rebecca

    Wow, great tip! I have actually done this before for some shirts that I have…it always makes me nervous that I will mess it up! Now I have “measurements” to use, that will make me much more confident. Thanks!!

  24. Mindy

    this is a great tip! I have never thought of doing this. I always have to by a larger shirt for my chest!LOL Now I can make the shirt fit better around the waist! And I too would like a tip on jeans! I am only 5’2″ and can NEVER find jeans that are the right length!!!!

  25. Amy

    This is a great tip! I’ve thought of ding this in the past, but I wasn’t sure I could execute it properly. With your directions, I will have enough confidence to give it a try! Keep these great tips coming!!

  26. Juanita

    I totally agree with everyone here! Carla C, I am an older “Mom” and I still hate “Mom” jeans! Lorie, I have another peeve for your list–Why do manufacturers think that plus sized women like hugh flowers, hugh geometric designs, hugh anykind of design on our clothes?
    I am also petite and jeans and shirts are hard to fit. The only “pants” I can find that are the right length are capris!!
    This idea is excellent, Lorie, and thanks. I love these tips and would love to see more. I also enjoy the discussion.

  27. Amy

    Great tip! I’ve done this once or twice with boxy men’s tees, and it worked fine. This method works great for all those shapeless t-shirts you get from your kids’ school and school sporting events.

    I suggest practicing on a one of your husband’s old t-shirts, so you can experiment without too much worry about ruining a nice top.

  28. Mamacat4

    Thanks for this post. It is an great “fix” for some of the clothing that is available to us “plus sized women”. I wonder who came up with that label… My observation is that we are simply normal women. I wish the clothing designers and retailers would read the comments here and get a clue. I went shopping at ‘good’ clothing stores a month ago and the clothing was so ugly – in both style, fit and pattern – I was able to find 3 garments after trying on hundreds and only one needs altering…Hooray! There are styles that flatter us plus sizes and the mfg’s don’t seem to care because they sure don’t provide them. I will use the alteration tip to make some of my clothing more stylish. Thanks.

  29. Michelle

    I totally agree with the length of the shirts. I am 5’9″ and I have a long torso. I have been buying the largest size maternity shirts at Old Navy. They fit me well. I would love more tips. Thanks!

  30. Raylene

    This is a great tip. I would like to see more tips for ready-made clothes and also suggestions for adjusting patterns.

  31. Elaine

    I agree we need some cute patterns for plus size. Thankyou for the tip. Keep em coming!

  32. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Hey Sherri….

    I’m with you on the empire waist shirts–darling–love them! Couldn’t fit one with duct tape and a hammer. Seems like if the manufacturers make them at all, they make them with the bustline down at the waist and while, yes, my bustline does seem to be slipping, I don’t want to reflect that in my clothing. We need to figure this out.


  33. Jennifer F.

    I can totally relate! I love the tee shirt info. Those baggy shirts just make you look bigger! Thanks for the help. I hope there is more to come.

  34. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Oh, Juanita–you hit the nail on the head, girlfriend. What is with those upholstery patterns on women’s clothing fabrics?


  35. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Hey girls…

    Just to echo a few thoughts that have been brought up:

    1. Be sure to use the appropriate sewing machine needle for the fabric you are altering. Knits should always be sewn with a round tipped needle, or you risk needle holes and pulls in the fabric.

    2. In the instructions, I suggest you baste the seam and try it on before sewing the final seam and finishing. This is because you don’t want to ruin a shirt, and you may not like or fit the alteration after it’s done. Baste it first, try it on, and then adjust the measurements as needed.

    Thanks for all your comments, girls!


  36. Barbara

    I have yet to figure out why manufacturers believe that strips will make a woman look great if they are only on the horizontal. Maybe they didn’t have mothers to clue them in while they were growing up.

    I, too, have to alter my daughters’ shirts, she is 5’0″, very small boned. The only shirts she can buy that fit her arms are from Tommy Hilfigers. She HAS to have those little cap like sleeves. The body legnth is close to what she wants but I still have to shorten them about 3″. Hint: make sure they are washed & dryed several times before altering & after alteration then wash & dry again.

    Love the tips here & would appreciate more. Thanks, Barbara

  37. Ginny

    Gotta say I love this tip! plus size clothes rarely flatter unless you spend a fortune on it so this is a great tip for me. As for ideas/suggestions – how about some alteration ideas or patterns for breastfeeding shirts? (new baby in the house here and a smaller wallet)

  38. holly

    well, i’m a shorty–4’11” and 3/4 thankyouverymuch! and i’m plus sized too. the crotch on every pair of pants i sew goes down to my knees! altering patterns is a lesson i very much need!

    thank you once again

  39. Yvonne

    Thank you so much for any and all posting for PLUS-SIZES!!
    Please continue focusing on this very over-looked size. I would love to see MORE!! Also: To: That Darn Kat, is it possible to get a pattern for “undies” in “PLUS-SIZE” as cute as the pattern you have for children? I know WE (Plus-Size girls) would be VERY supportive!!!

  40. kag

    YES!! Keep them up! These are so helpful!!

    I had never thought about it – but I didn’t know it would be so easy to fix a t-shirt.

    thanks again

  41. I purchased the wrap skirt not too long ago, but am afraid it won’t fit my waist size (I’m one of those 5’3″ size 16 people, so I have a thick, no shape waist).
    Is there an alteration tip for this pattern?
    Thanks for looking out for us!

  42. Caryn

    Thank you for the tips. My 15 y.o. daughter is borderline plus-size. She is about 5’4″ and about a size 16. It is so difficult to find clothing for her. Some things that fit, are just too mature in style. Things that are more age appropriate in style, are usually cut too small. Often things are too revealing even when they do fit. She doesn’t have a huge bust, 40B, but it is hard to accommodate. She has short legs, but often petite length pants are too short, so she wears average and drags that floor. (Okay, that doesn’t really bother either of us.) I really believe that the plus-size teen is a market that is drastically under-served.

  43. Maryann

    I was so excited when I saw this tip on your site. Your directions (with the measurements) make it sound easy to do. I am definitly interested in any and all tips you can give us for altering our plus size clothing. I am a size 16W and find in order to get a good fit in the waist and hips the legs are ginormous! Thanks again –keep them comming.

  44. Natalie

    This is EXCELLENT!! Thank you so much for this. I would also love to see more pattern alteration help and I second the need for some awesome plus-size patterns.

    My biggest issue – which will probably be hard to alter – is the necklines of plus-size t-shirts. Unless they are crewneck, which is less flattering for me, they are huge and end up showing my undergarments and also cleavage which I can’t stand. I hate always having to wear a tank under things. If someone could do an e-book on how to make a tank-like thing that just attached to your bra, that would be awesome!! Or even to sew the “layered look” to the necklines of t-shirts. Maybe even the bottoms too, to lengthen them.

  45. Diana

    I think the desingers on this site are the best! Clever and unique. I just wish there were more that focused on adult clothing, rather than just accessories. There are many women who grow tired of running around in t-shirts and jeans, but find it hard to find simple and easy patterns for dresses that show a sense of imagination. Lounging clothes would be nice also. Just an idea. Hopefully your amazing designers will take heed.

  46. Lorraine

    I am a Plus Size Woman and when buying a shirt I notice that they are too short. I need to cover up since I am not a teenager so what I do is find a common piece of material and I add to the bottom making it the right length. No one can tell that you have added on most people think it came that way.

  47. Lorraine

    I love tidbits of information like this. Being a very practical person this appeals to my nature. I have thought for a long time that pintucks might offer the same benefit as curving side seems and also offer interestin style. I have yet to try it will have to let you know later. Thank you for such a great Magazine. I always want to learn.

  48. girrrygirl

    Thank you!! I am 5’2 and a size 24. It was so good to hear other women echo my own feelings about the garbage we are sold from the fashion industry. For other short ladies, If you can find a fashion bug store they usually have some jens that are plus but labled short. Please continue with the plus sized ideas, you most assuredly have a willing audience.

  49. brandy

    Thanks for the great tip. I echo all the sentiments of the short, plus sized women who cannot find clothes to fit comfortably and stylishly. For those interested in the jeans with the panel inside: I have found that Sag Harbor makes a jean with a stretch panel inside. They are very difficult to find but I have found them on Kohl’s site periodically. I even found them in their store, once. This week, Boscov’s has one style available. I’m still looking for jeans that are not too high or too low at the waist. I’ve never purchased a pair of jeans that I didn’t have to hem two to four inches (Even if I was lucky enough to find a “short” or petite.) I’m 5’1″.

  50. Rebekah

    Question for ya! Do you take in the arms as well? I have found when i take in the waist but not the arms, the arms seem too big.

  51. lorieatyoucanmakethis

    Oooh–that’s a great question! I think you could probably do a taper from the elbow down, as though you’re making a dart. You have to be careful with sleeves, however, because if you take them in, the parts that are supposed to stretch will not be as stretchy when you go to put it on. What would happen then is that you wouldn’t be able to raise your arms above your head, and you might rip out stitching. In addition, you don’t want to pucker the armhole. That’s why we started the taper just a few inches above the waistline, so as to not interfere with the armhole shape. I’m not sure if I would go above the elbow with a taper, unless you want to take out the entire sleeve seam and side seam and re-sew it. If you try this–don’t cut anything off the tee shirt until you baste it and try it on first. Hope this helps–and thanks for the question!

    Sew Now!

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