How to make an ill-fitting vintage dress fit in all the right places without alterations

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression before, “A little goes a long way”. This wise old adage holds true with vintage clothing as well. If you happen to find yourself falling madly in love with a vintage garment, but sadly it’s too big for you or it’s not “hugging” you in all the right places, chin up my dearies! Don’t pass up a fabulous dress, just because you think it won’t fit or that you’ll have to spend too much money on tailoring. The answer may just be something you already have at home.  Here are some  examples of how to make a dress fit in all the right ways.


Add a belt to flatter curves and give the illusion of an hourglass figure 

This is an adorable shirt dress from the 1950’s to early 60’s by Mode O’ Day. It’s a size medium to large, so if you’re petite, like me, the dress on it’s own would be too overpowering on your figure. Even if it is the right size for you, the dress is cut more or less straight, which might not be that flattering on most figures. 

A quick and easy solution is to add a belt. A skinny one would suit this dress better. If you don’t already have a skinny belt, we suggest investing in one. It can be used with so many outfits! This one was only around $5 from Forever 21, so it’s not like you have to break the bank to own one!

Use safety pins to make a chic wrap dress 



Safety pins? Yup that’s right. You may already have collected a few safety pins from your previous purchases, in which case this won’t cost you a penny. 

This works great with shirts, dresses, or light jackets that are just too big and baggy. Transform an ill fitting garment into a cool and chic statement piece. Simply wrap it around your curves and pin it in place with safety pins. 

The pins we’ve used are small and discreet enough to go unnoticed, but why not be creative and work your inner crafting cleverness and show it off. Use colored safety pins or large gold safety pins a la Elizabeth Hurley’s Versace gown and get ready to turn some heads!

Pinning may lead to puckering of the fabric in the back. If it doesn’t look as flattering in the back as the front, loosely gather the back into pleats and pin those together. You may need a friend to help you on this one 🙂

Use a ribbon to create an empire waist line



A large maxi dress, like this one above, can make you feel like a sack of potatoes. Take a tip from Edwardian fashion and add a ribbon just under the bust to create an empire waist line. It’s uber-flattering and covers any lumps and bumps around the tummy area, which I think most of us can agree we can do without!


All items can be found in the CutandChicVintage shop on Etsy.