How to Make a Shirt Bigger by Adding Side Panels

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About: I love DIY! I enjoy trying new projects, dyeing, weaving, cooking, crafting, and doing fun projects with my kids.

Whether you've outgrown a shirt, ordered the wrong size, or find a shirt you love but it doesn't quite fit, here's an easy way to make a shirt bigger by adding coordinating side panels.

So Women's clothing is tricky! Sizing at one store is different than at another store, and different depending on the brand, which can make ordering online a little hard.
I recently won an Instructables shirt and was so excited! I ordered my regular women's size, but when it came it was way too small. Bummer right. I really like the shirt, and want to wear it, and therefore am making this tutorial to show how I made it bigger, hooray!

(P.S. I secretly think that Instructables Women's shirts are actually Juniors sizing. That or my family reunion eating is totally catching up to me ?. So keep this in mind when ordering a shirt.)

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Supplies Needed:
-Shirt that's too small
-Coordinating knit fabric (I cut my fabric from an old sports shirt)
-Sewing machine
-Measuring tape
-Scissors or Rotaty cutter
-Thread that matches your shirt

It took me about an hour for this whole process.

Step 2: Prepare Panels and Shirt

-Measure the side of your shirt from the bottom of the hem up through the hem of the underarm.
-Add two inches to your measurement for the hems and that will be the length you'll cut your panels.
-My shirt measured 20 inches long, so I cut my panels 22 inches long.
-Decide how much extra you need to add on the sides of the shirt for it to fit. That will be the width of your panels. Add an extra inch to the width for seams.
-Cut two panels length by width from your coordinating fabric.
I wanted to add 2 inches to each side so I cut my panels 3 inches wide by 22 inches long.
-Cut open the sides of your shirt along the side seam from the bottom hem up through the hem of the underarm.
The way my shirt was stitched made it so it was easier for me to cut off the seam rather than deal with unpicking. Do whichever is the easiest way to open up the side of your shirt.


Step 3: Sew the Panels to the Shirt

-You can choose to hem the ends of your panels before you sew them into your shirt, or hem it as you sew. I chose to hem as I sewed.
-Pin your panel to one side edge of your shirt with the right side of your fabric against the right side of the shirt. Fold up the end of the fabric on each end to match the hem of the shirt and hem of the underarm.
-Baste stitch the panel to the shirt using a long basting stitch. Sew 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch from the edge of the fabric.
-Flip the shirt and baste right sides together on the other edge.
-Baste the other panel into the other side of the shirt following the same procedure as above.
-Try your shirt on to check the fit. If it fits right, awesome, nice job! If it's still too small take the panels out and cut wider one and sew them in. If it's now too big, make your panels thinner and re sew them back in.

Step 4: Finishing Up

-Once your shirt fits how you would like it, sew over your basting stitch with a regular length straight stitch.
-Sew the bottom hem and underarm hem to match the hem of the shirt.
-Hooray, you're done! Enjoy wearing your new shirt!

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    29 Discussions

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    Bonnieramsey

    1 year ago

    I was most excited to try this. The only problem I had was your sample showed short sleeves and my blouse was long sleeved. So I had a problem figuring out how to stop the insert when I reached the sleeve. Not real pleased with how it ended up but no fault of the instructions.

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    Ducks Angel

    2 years ago

    What an awesome idea! I wish I had thought of this a long time ago. I buy from online auctions and have had to pass up many cute shirts because they were too small for me. From now on I'll keep this idea in mind when I see a shirt that I like on an auction site. I just might be able to adapt it to my super-plus size.

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    Laurpud

    2 years ago

    I've been doing this to my smaller shirts too! To make working with knits easier, spray your cut lines with starch first, then iron them dry- they won't curl under & will be easier to sew. Store bought, or homemade starch- it doesn't matter except for price, it washes right out. Now I'm off to vote for you

    *Homemade starch is 1 cup water, 4 teaspoons cornstarch. Stir/shake well

    2 replies
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    catkinson54Laurpud

    Reply 2 years ago

    Good suggestion. Thank you. I have always had trouble with curly ends.

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    cfremmingLaurpud

    Reply 2 years ago

    Awesome, thanks for the suggestion about the starch, I'll try it with my next shirt.

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    cnludwig

    2 years ago

    I've been thinking of making this modification to a concert T-shirt for a while now. Based on your description, I think I can do it, even with my limited sewing skills. I voted for you (2x). Maybe you'll get another shirt that's too small.

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    cfremmingcnludwig

    Reply 2 years ago

    Awesome, try it out. Let me know how it goes.

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    LavonneW1

    2 years ago

    I have been doing this for years - your instructions are really great. Since I'm a plus size woman and all the cute shirt styles are for smaller people. I always buy two shirts and then modify one to be my size in the same manner that you describe.

    Glad you posted this.

    1 reply
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    cfremmingLavonneW1

    Reply 2 years ago

    That's so smart to buy 2 shirts and then modify one using the other!

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    Carpenter Guy

    2 years ago

    Like everyone else said, this is awesome! I recently got a prize pack, it is coming soon. I will tell you if I need to make the shirt bigger!

    2 replies
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    Carpenter Guycfremming

    Reply 2 years ago

    It fits well, it isn't like anyone else's, though. It is white with black writing, that says 'Instructables EST 2005'.

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    craft-and-crochet

    2 years ago

    I'm going to try this on a shirt that is too small.

    I voted for you in both contests you are in with this Instructable!

    Super cool!

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    ColleenW3

    2 years ago

    Great idea!