The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

When you are online shopping it can be tricky to make sure you buy the right size. You might not know your exact measurements, or the sizing chart for the clothing might not be accurate.

We have all had that awkward moment when you buy a shirt online, but when you try it on, the fit isn’t what you wanted.

Do you pay the postage to return the item? Or is there a way that you can adjust the shirt so it meets your needs?

It could also happen if you are clothes shopping in a store but you don’t have time to go to the fitting room- it will take time to return the item and try to exchange it for a different size.

The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

If someone buys you a shirt as a gift but they don’t give you a receipt then you might not be able to return it.

What if you lose weight and your work clothes, uniform or favorite shirts are now too big for you? Should you throw them out or give them away?

Or is there a way that you can get them to fit you again? 

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So how can you change the shirt so that it fits you better? There are several ways that you can make a shirt smaller or shorter.

We have put together this useful guide to help you, so keep reading to find out more. 

Should You Resize Your Shirt?

There are lots of different methods you can use to make your shirt shorter or smaller, and we will take you through these methods in detail.

But the first thing you need to decide is whether you should resize your shirt in the first place. 

You need to consider the time and effort it will take to resize the shirt in comparison to how much the shirt costs you and how easy it would be to return it or exchange it for a different size.

If the shirt only costs a few dollars then it might not be worth putting lots of work into getting it to fit you better.

On the other hand, if the shirt is very expensive then you may need to get it altered by a professional tailor. 

You also need to think about which method you are going to use. Some methods work better on t-shirts and others work well on fitted shirts.

If you have a cheap t-shirt that is too big then you can consider a simple method like cutting it into a crop top, as this doesn’t take much time or effort. 

If you are in a rush then you will need a quick fix like using a safety pin to tuck and pin the shirt.

If you need to adjust your work uniform that you wear often then you will need to spend a bit more time getting it right and choose a method that will last. 

Another factor to consider when deciding which method of resizing to use is your skill level. If you do not feel confident using a sewing machine then you may need to choose one of the simpler methods. 

RELATED: How To Make Pants Or Jeans Smaller

Quick Fixes

The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

There are a few quick and simple methods you can use to make your shirt smaller or shorter. They require little skill and don’t take much time, so they are suitable for everyone.

If you aren’t very experienced with sewing then these methods could be just right for you. 

The first thing you can do is tie a decorative knot in the shirt. This can be at the front, on the side, or even at the back depending on what style you are going for.

The good thing about this method is that it doesn’t permanently alter the shirt. 

If it is a closed shirt or t-shirt, simply gather the excess material and tie it into a simple knot, a bit like tying off a balloon after you have inflated it.

If the shirt is unbuttoned or open then you can take either side and knot it, making more of a bow shape. 

You can use this method to make the shirt smaller so it pulls tighter across your body, but you can also use it to make the shirt shorter.

If you roll the shirt upwards or pull the material up as you gather it to tie the knot then it will fox the shirt in a higher position on your body.

This works especially well with an open shirt, as you can tie it above your waist to create a crop top style. This can accentuate your waist, and can also be used to create a layered look. 

If you don’t want the knot to be visible, simply tie the loose fabric into a knot and then tuck it underneath the shirt so it can’t be seen. 

Another quick fix is the safety pin pleat. You can either do a pleat on each side of the shirt or one at the back.

Gather excess material, pinch and fold it to give the shirt a more fitted style. Use a safety pin to secure the pleat, attaching it inside the fold so it is not visible. 

You will need to be careful not to move too vigorously when you use this method, as the safety pin could become unfastened or even rip the shirt.

This is more of a temporary solution. If you want to create an edgy look then you can attach the safety pins to the outside of the shirt so they are visible. 

If you have an oversized shirt, you could style it with a tight belt. This will accentuate your waist and create a peplum style, making the large shirt into a fashion statement.

You could also wear the shirt open with a tighter top underneath to create a layered, casual style, tuck the shirt into a tight skirt or trousers and wear a statement belt. 

A simple way to make your shirt smaller is to turn it from a full-length shirt into a shorter style by cutting it.

This will permanently alter the style and size of the shirt, so make sure you are certain before you do it.

You don’t need to be good at sewing to use this method, as you can make it an edgy, messy style which means you don’t need to hem the shirt. 

Try the shirt on, then use a pencil to mark where you want to cut it. Take the shirt off and cut a little below the line, then see what the length is like.

Once you have the right length, you can make the edge messy and frayed by snipping vertically with the scissors instead of horizontally.

You can also use tweezers to pull at loose threads to create a frayed look. 

There is another method you can use to cut an oversized t-shirt. Place it on a flat surface, then lay a smaller t-shirt that fits you well down on top.

Use the smaller t-shirt as a template and cut away the excess fabric. You can cut along each side seam to open the shirt on either side, then remove the excess fabric. 

Once the t-shirt is the right size, you can tie the loose bottom ends of the t-shirt together on either side.

The t-shirt will have a funky, open-side style which is ideal for the summer. You can also wear a vest underneath to layer it up. Alternatively, you can create a new side seam. 

Sewing And Stitching

If you want a more permanent fix for your shirt and something that will last multiple wears, then you will need to use stitches to adjust the size of the shirt.

There are several different sewing methods you can use to make the shirt smaller or shorter- side seams, darts, tucks, and gathering stitches.

They require various levels of skill and equipment. We will take you through each option so you can decide which one is best for your shirt. 

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Side Seams 

This resizing method will require a sewing machine, pins, and thread. You will also need some prior sewing experience.

It takes a bit of time but it will give you a long-term solution and will look very neat and professional when it is finished. 

If the shirt is sleeveless then the process is much more simple.

Take the excess material on either side of the shirt and fold it to create a new seam, then stitch the new seam into place on the inside of the shirt so it is not visible.

Make sure the underarm seam and the hem of the shirt are lined up before you begin stitching. 

If the shirt has sleeves then the process is a bit more complicated. First, you will need to lay the shirt out on a flat surface, like a kitchen table.

Take a shirt that fits you perfectly, and place it on top of the shirt that is too big so that it is centered. 

Use chalk or a washable fabric pen to mark an outline of the smaller shirt onto the bigger shirt- the outline needs to be 1 inch away from the smaller shirt to allow you enough fabric to make a seam. 

Next, you will need to remove the sleeves. Depending on the shirt, you can either cut them away or you can carefully unpick the stitches.

If the neckline of the shirt fits you then you can leave the neckline and collar in place. Once you have done this, you can cut along the lines that you drew on the fabric. 

Now it is time to create the new seam. Use pins to hold the fabric together, making sure it is as neat as possible.

Sew the new seams, stopping at the armholes. Once the seams are sewn, you can re-attach the sleeves.

If you need to resize the sleeves, use the smaller shirt as a guide and follow the same process as above to make them smaller before re-attaching them to the main shirt.

Remember to always turn the material inside out and sew the seam on the inside. 

If you make any amendments to the length of the shirt, make sure you finish off by sewing a neat hem.

Clip any loose threads off the shirt and iron or press it to make sure it looks smart, then you are ready to wear it! 


The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

Darts can help a loose-fitting shirt become more shapely and fitted. This is perfect if the shirt is the right length but not the right shape.

Adding darts is not as complex as side seams, but you still need to be fairly confident with sewing and have the right equipment. 

What is a dart? A dart is a triangle-shaped fold that is sewn into the shirt to give it a more three-dimensional shape.

The shape of the shirt at the end will depend on where the darts have been added. For example, if you add darts to the bust or bodice area then the shirt will be tighter fitting across the chest.

If you add darts to the waist and under the arms then the shirt will fit closer to the body and accentuate the waist.

If you add darts to the back then the shirt will be tapered and will fit tighter across the back. 

The easiest way to figure out where you want to insert your darts is to wear the shirt inside out.

Look at where the shirt is too loose, where the gaps are between the fabric and your body, and where you want to be more fitted.

The waist and under the arms are common places for darts to be added. 

When you have found a spot where you want to add a dart, pinch the loose fabric to create a fold, then carefully pin it in place.

Be careful not to injure yourself with the pins. Once the fold is pinned, remove the shirt gently so you don’t knock the pins out. 

Lay the shirt on a flat surface so it is easier to make the triangle. Take the folded edge of the fabric and smooth it down so that the fold is lying to the right of the shirt.

To make it a triangle shape, one end of the fold needs to be narrower and one needs to be wider. 

Use a pin or some chalk to mark the narrow side that will end in a point. The base of the fold will be half of the width of the fabric that you pinched.

For example, if you pinched 2 inches of fabric then the fold will have a one-inch base, as the material is folded over. 

Draw a line along the edge of the fold from the narrow end to the base, and sew along the line. knotting the loose threads at the end.

When you iron the shirt, press the fold flat against the inside of the shirt. 

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Tucks are similar to darts in that they create a more fitted shape to the shirt. However, they are straight rather than triangle-shaped so they are more simple to create.

They are similar to pleats, but they are sewn in a slightly different way. 

Begin in the same way you would to add a dart – wear the shirt inside out to determine which areas need to be more fitted.

Pinch the loose bits of fabric and secure them with pins. Once you have decided where to place the tucks, carefully remove the shirt. 

Once the shirt is removed and laid flat, fold the pinned areas neatly to create a pleat. Sew along the folded edge to secure the tuck in place- simple!

Remember to sew on the inside of the shirt, and to cut off any loose threads.

Tucks usually work best if they are around one inch wide, but if the shirt is still too big you can create multiple tucks parallel to each other. 

Gathering Stitches/Shirring

If the shirt is very large and there is a lot of loose material then shirring could work well. Fine elastic thread is used to sew parallel lines of gathering stitches into the fabric.

This creates a ripple effect that is decorative but also takes in all of the excess, loose fabric to create a more fitted shirt. It works best on long shirts. 

A lot of sewing machines have a shirt option, as it is a popular style of stitching. It can be quite fiddly so it is best to use a sewing machine if you can.  


The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

If you have an oversized shirt that doesn’t fit you very well, you could make it into a peplum-style shirt by creating an elastic waistline.

This will give the shirt an interesting style, and it is fairly simple to do. 

Start by measuring your waist, then cut a piece of elastic that is 1 inch shorter than your waist measurement and about one-quarter of an inch wide.

Use a zig-zag stitch to join the two ends of the elastic together to create a close circle. 

Use a fabric pen to make four markings on the elastic that are equally spaced. Measure the waist of the shirt, and mark four equally spaced points on the inside of the shirt.

Match the four markings on the elastic with the four markings on the shirt, and pin the elastic into place at these points.

Use a zig-zag stitch to sew the elastic into place both along the top edge and the bottom edge of the elastic. 

How To Hem Your Shirt

If you like the fit of your shirt, but it is just too long for you, then you can shorten it fairly easily by sewing a new hem.

It is best to use a sewing machine for this if you have one, as the final result will be much neater.

This is particularly important for smart clothes that you wear to work or for formal occasions, as you will want to look professional. 

You can take your shirt to a tailor and they can shorten it and add a new hem, but this could cost you up to 30 dollars (depending on the tailor and where you live).

Learning how to hem a shirt is a useful skill that could save you a lot of money over time. 

Most shirts tend to use a double fold hem or a rolled hem. You can recreate either of these with a sewing machine after you have cut your shirt to the desired length. 

First, you will need to try on the shirt to decide how short you want it to be.

Remember to put your arms above your head to make sure that the length is still appropriate as you move around in the shirt.

Once you have decided what length shirt you want, make a mark on each side seam that is two inches below where you want the shirt to fall. This will give you enough material to make a seam. 

Take off the shirt and lie it on a flat surface like a kitchen table. Use a ruler to draw a straight line along the front and back of the shirt in line with the mark you made.

Make sure you use chalk or a fabric pen. Carefully cut along the line and discard the excess material. 

Turn the shirt inside out, as the hem should always be on the inside of the shirt. Fold the material up one inch all the way around, using pins to keep it in place.

Do not rush this step- the fold must be neat and even. Sew the fold in place and remove the pins. 

Next, fold the material up again one more inch. It should be easier this time as you can use the first fold as a guideline.

Pin it in place, then sew along the top of the fold to secure the fold. You now have a double-fold hem on your shirt! Clip away any loose threads for a neat finish. 

It is worth noting that the double fold hem will only work well on shirts with a straight hem. If the hem is curved, it will be much more challenging. 

What About Hem Tape?

The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

If you don’t feel confident sewing a hem into your shirt, you could always use hem tape. The downside is that it is not a permanent solution.

However, it is easy to use and readily available at craft shops and fabric shops. 

But is it tape? Hem tape is a double-sided adhesive strip that is heat-activated. It sticks to the fabric, making it easy to create a neat edge.

You can wash the item of clothing multiple times before the hem tape will start to deteriorate, but it won’t last as long as stitches. 

Hem tape is only suitable to use on fabrics that can be ironed at a high temperature without being damaged.

It works best on thicker material that is not see-through, as the tape is visible through translucent fabrics. 

Decide on what length you want the shirt, as described above. Measure the circumference of the bottom of your shirt, then cut a length of hem tape that is about half an inch longer.

Instead of folding up the material, place the hem tape on the inside of the shirt.

Fold the bottom of the shirt over the hem tape, then iron the folded edge to activate the adhesive properties of the hem tape. 

You need to be patient, ironing a small amount at a time, keeping the material taught and smooth so you don’t cause it to pucker.

Once you have ironed all along the hem, hang up the shirt and let it set for 24 hours before you wear it.

Once the hem tape is set, you have the option to add some additional stitches to keep it in place and make it last longer. 

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Can You Use Hot Water To Shrink Your Shirt?

You have probably accidentally shrunk clothes before by washing them at a temperature that is too high.

But did you know that you can use this method to deliberately shrink clothes that are too big for you?

If the shirt is only slightly too big for you, put it on a hot wash several times and you will notice that it has shrunk by an inch or two.

If you want to shrink your shirt more than this, you will need to soak it in hot water. 

You will need a heat-proof container that can hold a large amount of hot water. Fill it to two-thirds of capacity with water and bring it to a boil, then add your shirt.

Keep the water at a high temperature and soak the shirt for 30 minutes. You can then put the shirt through your washing machine at the highest temperature as well if you want to. 

To dry the shirt, put it in a tumble dryer in a hot setting. 

There are a few downsides to using hot water to make your shirt smaller. Some fabrics could become damaged by the heat, or the color of the shirt could become faded.

It is also not an accurate way to shrink your shirt – it’s hard to tell how much it will shrink which means it could end up too small.  

 How Can You Make Your Shirt Smaller Without Cutting It? 

If you don’t want to make permanent changes to your shirt like cutting and sewing, you can still wear it. You can use safety pins, tie a decorative knot, or try this method:

Put on the shirt, and fold up the bottom of the shirt so the excess fabric is underneath the shirt. Make sure the fold is neat and the shirt is smooth.

Next, gather up any loose material at the back of the shirt and twist it into a spiral.

If you tuck this spiral of material into your waistband, it will keep the shirt pulled tightly to your body in a more fitted shape. 

How Can You Resize A Big T-Shirt?

The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

If you have an oversized t-shirt that doesn’t look very flattering on you, there are things you can do to change the style and make it work as part of your outfit. 

If you are good at sewing, you can easily make the t-shirt smaller. Cut away the excess material on either side of the t-shirt, then create new side seams.

Make sure you line it up properly so the shirt is straight. You can use pins to keep the material in place as you sew the seam.

Remember to sew the seam on the inside of the t-shirt so it isn’t visible.

You should also use thread that matches the color of the t-shirt to make it look more professional.

Once you have finished sewing the seam, snip off any loose bits of thread to ensure you have a neat finish. 

Another way to make a large t-shirt look smaller is to gather the excess material and tie it into a knot. You can tie the knot on the front of the t-shirt or to one side.

This will make the t-shirt feel tighter and cause it to fit closer to your body. 

You could try experimenting with different cutting patterns to create a fun, cropped t-shirt.

You can cut in a straight line to make the t-shirt shorter and then add a hem if you want a standard crop top.

Alternatively, you can cut vertically instead of horizontally to create a fringed edge along the bottom of the t-shirt.

You could even add beads to the fringes and tie knots on the end to keep them in place. 

This is a popular way to personalize festival t-shirts and event t-shirts.

You could try creating a diagonal hem that is shorter on one side than the other, or a dipped hem that is longer at the front than at the back. 

If you have good sewing skills then you can use tucks, darts, or gathering stitches to make the t-shirt more fitted.

This can also add style and shape to the t-shirt, so you can adjust it to suit your style. 

There are also ways for you to style the oversized t-shirt without needing to cut it or make permanent changes.

If the t-shirt is long enough, you could wear it over tights or leggings like a dress.

You could try tucking it into a pair of high waist trousers or a skirt, then pulling some of the t-shirts back out to create a baggy effect.

You can also put a belt around your waist on top of the t-shirt, which adds an accessory to your outfit as well as creating a more flattering shape. 


The Complete Guide To Resizing An Oversized Shirt

There are lots of ways to resize a shirt that is too big for you. Some of the methods are quick fixes that can be done in a hurry.

Some are temporary changes or style choices. Others are permanent changes to the shirt that involve cutting or sewing. 

Whatever your experience level with sewing, there will be a re-sizing method to suit you.

However, the different stitches and folds you can use to re-shape a shirt often produce the best, most long-lasting results.

If you aren’t very experienced at sewing but you want to have a go at adjusting your clothes, you should practice on some old clothes first so it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes.

Once you feel more confident, you can move on to your other clothes. 

Even if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can still have a go at adjusting your clothes to make them smaller.

You will need to be patient and take care when it comes to the even spaces between stitches and making sure you are sewing in a straight line.

If you do have access to a sewing machine it will be a lot easier for you to achieve a neat and professional finish. It will also speed up the process for you. 

Remember to think about the price of the clothing when considering how much time and effort to put into making the shirt smaller or shorter.

There isn’t much point in spending several hours resizing a shirt if you only spent a few dollars on it.

You should also think about the type of material the shirt is made from and which re-sizing method would work best.

For example, you shouldn’t use hem tape on translucent or transparent material. 

Whichever method you choose, you should now be able to make use of those oversized shirts and create a piece of clothing that you feel much more comfortable wearing. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What If You Don’t Like The Alterations You Have Made?

If you are cutting the shirt, then any alterations you make will be final. If you don’t get the result then the only option you have is to keep cutting and try to change the design.

If you are sewing, then you can use extra-long basting stitches initially to keep the fabric in place.

Try the shirt on with the new amendments, then if you don’t like it you can easily remove the stitches.

If you aren’t sure about the changes you are making, it is best to stick to non-permanent methods like tying knots or using safety pins. 

How Do You Remove Shirt Sleeves?

Removing and re-attaching shirt sleeves is one of the most challenging parts of amending clothes.

You can cut the sleeves off if you are very careful, but you will always lose a little bit of sleeve length this way.

If you have the patience and the skill, the best way to remove the sleeves is to unpick the seams. You can use a seam ripper tool to do this. 

Can You Re-size Shirts By Hand?

The sewing methods we have described to make your shirt smaller tend to work best when you use a sewing machine.

This is because the stitching is generally neater and there is less room for error with spacing and uniformity. Sewing machines are designed to make jobs like hemming and seams much easier. 

However, it is possible to do this by hand. You will need to have a steady hand and make sure that you space the stitches out evenly.

Use pins to keep the material in place as you sew to ensure that the lines are straight. 

How Can You Make A Shirt Smaller Without Sewing?

If you are not very good at sewing there are still things you can do to make your shirt smaller. You could use safety pins on the inside of the shirt to gather up excess material.

You could also tie the loose material or tuck it into your trousers. You can also try shrinking the shirt in hot water. 

What Should You Use To Draw On Fabric?

Some methods for resizing garments require you to draw lines onto the fabric so you can see where you need to cut it or where you need to sew.

If you use a normal pen, then you could stain the fabric. Some pens also don’t show up on fabric very well.

The best thing to use is a fabric pen, as it easily comes off when the fabric is washed. Fabric pens are available from most craft stores or fabric stores.

You can also use chalk. White chalk is best, as some colored chalks can stain. 

Should You Get Your Shirt Re-sized By A Tailor?

You can take your shirt to a tailor to get it resized professionally. This means that you don’t have to put the time and effort in yourself.

If you choose a reputable tailor then you know that they will do a good job and the finish will be professional. However, it will cost you money.

If you can learn to sew and make adjustments to your clothes yourself then it will save you a lot of money long-term. 

Which Thread Should You Use?

If you are making adjustments to your clothes and it requires stitches, you should try to find a thread that is the same color as the shirt.

This means that the stitches will blend in and won’t be obvious.

Hems and seams should always be sewn on the inside of the shirt, but some of the stitches will still be visible from the outside.

For certain types of stitches like shirring or a gathering stitch, a stretchy thread with a bit of elasticity works best. 

Amanda Brown
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