How To Put In Gussets

Do you know what a gusset is?

It’s an inverted triangular piece of fabric used to enlarge a garment so it will fit.

Usually, you have two gussets….one in each side seam.

You know you need a gusset, when you are zipping up a dress or skirt and it won’t zip up all the way.

(There are other instances where they are needed, but we’ll focus on this problem for now.)

I’ve written a post that tells you how to put in a corset back in your dress, but not everyone wants a corset back.

Especially, if you’re enlarging a bridesmaid dress and you want all the dresses to look the same from the back.

Or, you need to enlarge a bridal gown or formal dress and there’s no other option.

I have had a few e-mails asking how to enlarge a garment that’s too small.

And I get several customers each year that need this alteration as well.

I have been meaning to write this post for over a month.

In August,  my daughter came back home to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding and the bodice of her dress was too tight to be comfortable.

She ordered it in the same size as the one she tried on in the store, but the one that came in didn’t fit the same.

Sound familiar?

I know it does. So many gals have the same trouble.

So, with about two hours to spare, I knew what it needed.

You guessed it: gussets.

This is what one of them looked like:

Just so you know, the gathered fabric to the right of the gusset is a tie that was sewn into the dress and it tied around the waist.

Here’s what it looks like with the ties pulled away from the bodice:

Chances are, your garment won’t have ties like this, but if it does, you don’t have to take them out.

Just ignore them and forget they are there.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the gusset-making process when I added these to her dress, so today I’ll show you how to make these gussets using mostly diagrams.

Here is the back of a dress and what this dilemma looks like:

The area above the zipper is where the problem lies and where we’ll concentrate.

You’ll need to take two measurements.

They are marked in the diagram below by the dash lines:

Let’s say that the measurement across the top is 4″ and the measurement down the side of the zipper to the zipper pull is 5″.

Jot your measurements down.

Grab a piece of computer paper (or something of similar size.)

Make a big dot at the top middle of the paper.

This mark will symbolize the center back.

Take the top measurement (in this case, it was 4″) and divide that number in half.

You’ll be making two gussets: one for each side seam, so that is why you divide the number in half.

In this case that means 2″.

You are basically going to add 2 total inches to the left side of your dress and 2 total inches to the right side.

Measure out to the left of that main dot one inch and make a second dot. Now, measure out one inch to the right of that first dot and draw another dot, just like in the photo below.

Then, measure down 5″ from the first dot (or whatever your second measurement is) and make another dot.

Connect the dots with a ruler like this:

As you can see, the measurement that is horozontal, represents half the opening you have in your dress along the top.

The vertical line represents the opening you have from the top of the dress down to the zipper.

Make sense so far?

Ok, now draw a line from the bottom dots up to the outer dots like this:

This represents your gusset without seam allowances.

Now, we’ll add the seam allowances.

I add a half inch to the sides and bottom of this triangle, like this:

Whether you have lining in your garment, or not, you’ll need to place the top edge of this triangle on the fold of the fabric scrap you have chosen to make your gusset out of.

Otherwise, if you didn’t set it on the fold, you’d have a raw edge at the top.

(Sometimes, when the garment has a seam in the armhole, then I’ll add a seam allowance to the top edge and cut two pieces out and seam them at the top edge before inserting the gusset into the garment.)

But I try to avoid that step if at all possible.

If I don’t have to add the seam allowance at the top edge, I’ll cut this triangle out like this:

To me it’s much easier to have a fold at the top edge of the gusset I make.

This means you need to pay attention to how much fabric you need to make the gusset out of.

I try to match the gusset fabric to the main fabric of the garment as best I can, from the scraps I have around the house.

Many times my customers think that if I take a few inches off the hem of the dress, I’ll have enough to work with, but many times I don’t.

Many times that hem scrap is curved and I don’t get a full triangle piece when I place that pattern on the fold of the scrap.

You may have to go and buy a small piece of fabric (a quarter yard is usually plenty) that matches.

Once you do that, place the top edge of the pattern you just cut out on the folded edge of the fabric and cut it out along the lines.

Press the top edge of the gusset piece with an iron to set that fold.

Many times, I’ll iron on interfacing on the underside of the back piece of that triangle (which, if you unfolded it, would look like a big diamond shape.)

The interfacing will add some stiffness and body to the gusset piece.

Now, mark the seam allowances on the gusset pieces.

Mark those dots on the gusset piece too (except you don’t need to mark that center back dot.)

Now, set aside the gusset pieces and pick up your garment.

Looking at the garment where the side seam meets the underarm, you may have understitching there.

See the horozontal stitches in the photo below?

I’ll take out twice as many as I think I need to work in that area.

Take apart the side seam.

You may have boning in there.

Remove it.

Then, take out the side seam stitches, only and exactly to the 5 inch mark (or whatever your measurement was…no more!)

Lay the gusset (right sides together) to the right side of the dress, matching the seam allowance line of the gusset to the stitching line of the dress.

Match the top dots to the top edge of the dress.

Match the bottom dot to the 5 inch mark, right at the point where you stopped when you took out the side seam.

You’re only doing the front edge of the gusset right now. 

Using the original seamline as your guide, stitch along one side of the gusset, starting at the fold area and sewing down to the 5″ spot.

Backstitch and cut your threads.

Now, stitch along the other edge of the gusset from the top fold down to the 5″ spot again.

Check to make sure you dont’ have any bumps or haven’t caught any stray fabric in that seam.

If you have, rip it out and restitch it.

If you don’t it won’t look good on the outside of the dress.

Next, pin the other end of the gusset to the lining, matching it in the same way you did the original end.

 Stitch. Then, double check your stitching again.

If you need to put boning back into the dress, add it to the side of the gusset that is closest to the back of your dress.

You can stitch through the boning (if it’s not the heavy plastic kind.)

If it is the heavy plastic kind, you can make a casing in the side seams by stitching the outer edge of the gusset and that back side seam.

Then, slide that boning right down into that casing.

Then, I push the seam allowance to the back and tack that casing to the lining, if necessary, so it doesn’t move.

The gusset should look lay flat.

You shouldn’t need to iron it at all.

I like that, because many bridal or formalwear garments are made of un-iron-able (is that a word?!) fabrics.

Now, sew the other gusset into your garment.

If you measured correctly, this dress will be perfect!

So, here is the photo of it again:

If the top edge of your gusset looks a little wavy, don’t be alarmed.

When you, or your customer, or family member puts it on, that waviness will disppear.

Most likely it’s wavy because it is a fitted garment and it’s not on the person yet.

Now, try it on, or have them try it on and you’ll be the new hero because they can zip it up, it looks great, and they can breathe!

54 Responses

  1. I used a similar method on a dress that fit everywhere except the waist (sucks to be a ‘rectangle’ shape). The gusset was diamond shaped, with the widest part (horizontally) at the waistline and one point towards the underarm and the other towards the hemline.

  2. I would never have thought using gussets for this purpose. I’ve used them in underarms and in jeans crotches (for bikers). I love this! I can remember at least two dresses I’ve turned away because I hadn’t thought of this. Thanks!

  3. GREAT blog on gussets! They are the best kept secret/magic trick in the sewing world. I have used them for costuming to enlarge items and after the show I can take it out and return to the original size! Sometimes it is a very hard thing to explain, but you really did such a GREAT job!
    Thank you, thank you!!!

    • I think you made a great point, that I didn’t think of…you can put the garment back to its original size again, if needed. Thank you for your sweet comments!

  4. Sewing over and over again in the crotch of a pair of men’s suit pants has left a ton of stitches going every which way and it is very unsightly. Could I cut out the over-stitched fabric an replace with a gussett more or less to “replace” the fabric and sort of “start all over again”? Thanks…

    • Yes, you sure could. In the crotch area, as you probably already know, you’ll need to make it a diamond shape, instead of a triangle. Don’t forget to add enough seam allowance to that diamond! (That is usually the part I forget and then I have to start all over again.)

  5. how could i adapt this to when making a corset that doesnt fit in the bust area

  6. I did a diamond gusset on a long sleeved wedding gown that was a perfect fit except that the poor bride could not raise her arms because the armholes were too tight! She needed 4″ added at the armhole.

    In this case, the gusset point started near the waist and extended into the sleeve nearly to the elbow. Had to take the sleeves mostly out then inserted sheer covered solid gussets in the bodice and sheer gussets in the sleeves. Then reinstalled the sleeves. Fortunately, there was enough fabric in the hem to do all this.

  7. the traditional belt closing on a winter jacket will not stay buckled. The little “stick” will not stay in the gromets. Replace buckle ?? or could I find a plastic locking type for a 2 – 3 ” belt?

    • could you sew the buckle “in place” and put some large press studs on the back in the appropriate spot. That way you get the look of the original buckle fastening but without the headache of it coming undone all the time.

  8. I did something on a grander scale for a vintage evening dress that was perfect apart from being two sizes too small for me! I put panels of toning bridal satin/matte on alternate sides fabric (I can never remember the name of it) all the way down the dress and used the surplus to renew the decorative facing round the top so it all toned. A new evening dress for a bit of time and total cost of less than £20!

  9. I need such easy directions for inserting an underarm gusset – this one was easy, underarms not easy. Any chance of getting another article on inserting underarm gussets?

  10. thank you! saved my daughter’s halloween costume! :)

  11. I have a dress that has the zipper on the side. Can I still use the gussets with a zipper there? How would I do that? Thanks in advance!

    • I would only alter on the non-zipper side, personally, following the wonderful directions above. Check the hem for spare fabric or go for a ‘best match’ to tone in with the existing fabric.

    • Yes, you can. I f you look at the diagram I drew on that post, you can see that a gusset would fit in right next to the zipper. Just treat the zipper as if it were the side seam. Does that make sense? Your gusset will be right next to the zipper.

      Hope that helps, Linda

      On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 4:53 PM, Sew for dough

      • Thank you! Now You mentioned it, I realize the zipper didn’t need to be in the center. Somehow I just had the idea that everything need to be symmetrical and I was even thinking that I need to split the zipper side of the gusset in 1/2 and put the zipper down the middle.
        Thanks you again for the wonderful tutorial! It makes my day knowing I can wear my dress after all.

  12. I need to add space in the hip area of a long evening dress. Would you suggest a corset back, a gusset, or something totally different? From looking at your tutorials it seems that both the corset and the gusset work best when the bust is too small, but I have the opposite problem.
    I thought about adding a long, narrow diamond – shaped insert at each side seam, but I don’t know if I will need to cut the original dress and, if so, how! I’ve also thought of inserting fabric all the way down, like Lizzychimp mentioned in her post, but don’t really need the extra width above or below the hips. Any suggestions or guidance? (I’m not a professional seamstress!)
    Thank you.

    • Pat, you are right on target! Don’t do the corset as those are generally for above the waist problems. The long narrow diamond shape gusset is the answer! DON’T cut the dress at all! Just open up the side seams and use the original seam lines as guides when you sew the gussets in. I do have a post on how to put gussets in. Just type in “gussets” in the search box on my website. I’m sorry I am not able to send you the direct link right now. Let me know if you have trouble finding it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a professional seamstress to put gussets in!

      Thanks! Linda

  13. Do you use the same gusset method for a sleeveless dress? (Inserting the gusset under the armhole). Or is there an adjustment that must be made in the shoulders?

  14. My daughter bought a wedding dress last year… Decided to get married this just but there’s one problem …. She will will be 8 months pregnant … She wants a corset but never did one… Should I leave the sides out or do you have a better idea for me?

  15. You are a lifesaver! I live in Egypt and have started to make a lot of my own clothes by hand, like I learned in the convent in Ireland when I was 8 years old! The women here keep breaking my sewing machine I decided to hand sew instead. I have a few arongs I bought in Spain about 15 years ago and decided to turn them into light tops, (it gets pretty hot here!) but I keep misjudging my bust width. A case of denial probably! (They can’t have fropped THAT much. I’m only 51!).So I had to undo seams to enlarge them. Spent the whole day sewing and trying to reinvent the wheel and then found your blog!!! Even the comments were great. Gussets and diamond gussets. Just what I needed. Thank you so much!

    • Oh, I’m so happy to hear that it helped you all the way in Egypt! I am amazed at how many people log in from all over the world each day, even from countries I have never heard of. If you can’t find a post, type the topic into the search bar on any page and hopefully you’ll find most anything you need.

      Happy sewing!

  16. Hope you are still checking this page. I’ve copied a famous brand name of yoga pants to make as a present for my neighbour’s daughter who is over 6 ft tall and wears a size 4T but they are still too short (gorgeous legs that go on forever!). I’ve given the original pants back after I made my pattern but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to insert this diamond shaped gusset. Help!

    • Hi Starr,
      I don’t have time to write a post on it, but if you open up the seams at the intersection of the crotch area, you’ll have four “surfaces” on which to pin this diamond shape gusset to. Pin each side of the gusset to each section of that opened up crotch area and you’ll have it. I won’t be able to spell it out for you until Monday, so if it is still confusing to you, write me back and I’ll write it out on Monday (hopefully, or Tuesday for sure!)


      • Oh, many thanks! I’ve been trying to attach the gusset to one inside leg before I sewed the leg seams and of course I have no notches and it’s very confusing as to placement. What you’ve said makes sense so I’m going to try that now. Why do I always make things so complicated???

  17. I’ve tried to put a picture of my finished gusset on here but I don’t seem to be able to do that. I did, however, finish the gusset and although it’s not perfect, it’s functional and not bad for my first attempt. I thought I couldn’t do it until I put the crotch of the pants over my pressing ham to help support it as I pinned the stretchy fabric to the stretchy skinny legs. Thank you for your help!

  18. A huge thank you for this easy to understand tutorial. My friend is getting married in three months. She gave me a dress for the occasion that she had decided against. Gutted it was too tight up top and there I find your fabulous tutorial. I shall go to the ball in a stunning dress. Thank you so much xx

  19. Excellent website and clearly written for even amateurs like me. I wanted to ask if a gusset would be possible to add to a bridesmaid dress that will not fit the bridesmaid as she will be 6 months pregnant on the wedding day. Thank you

    • A gusset is one way of adding room to a garment, so if a gusset makes sense in the spot you need it, then, yes, it is possible. Have you read my post on putting in gussets?

  20. Hi! Thank you for the post. Pretty simple to follow for someone that is just learning about gussets. I just bought a dress online without trying on first, uh oh, and now think I will have to make some alterations if I want to wear it. It is a strapless, empire waist dress that has elastic around the top part of the dress to make the strapless stay up. I am finding it tight in the bust but also where the seam is placed to create the empire waist. I would like to add gussets to make the tight fitting top a little less constricting. How would the elastic effect putting in the gussets for added room? I am actually thinking of taking the elastic out all together and either replacing it with a thicker elastic (as I feel the tiny elastic makes me bulge over the top of the dress) or just making the top fit correctly with the gussets, taking out the need for an elastic anyways. As a newer sewer, do you think adding gussets would help and what do you think about my elastic situation? I am adding a link to the dress but if this is against your blogs policy I apologize and will remove it. The picture might help to show you what I am working with. Thanks!!

    • Cute dress!!! Yes, take out the elastic first and see if you can out in a larger piece of elastic that isn’t so tight. That is an easier fix. If that won’t work, then put the gussets in without elastic. Hope that helps!

  21. I have a dress that I need to expand from the top to the hips, should I make a big long gusset, or put one at the top and one by my hips?

  22. Also, would it be easier to just add a panel to each side of the zipper since I need it to go down so far?

  23. Thankyou so much for posting this up, I was thinking the only way I’d be able to ever fit in my dress would be to have the back cut out and use some stretch jersey but you made me have at the side seams to try and work out some gussets and much to my delight there was just enough excess side seam so got away with having to do none! Your easy to understand instructions through gave me the confidence to try and do it myself (rather than rely on a dressmaker) and to even hand stitch it, so pleased with the result.:)

    • Thank you, Katie, for letting me know how this helped you. I’m glad it turned out so well. I love these kind of comments because your success builds confidence in your work and that’s what I’m striving to teach, along with the techniques.

  24. so very happy I found your blog. I am new to the alterations business (but have been sewing since I was a girl) and my first customer needed a dress made bigger. Internet search here I came. I remembered my mother doing this but could not remember the name. Bless You for coming to my rescue. My customer was so pleased.

  25. I have a sleeveless dress that is too tight from the underarm to just past my hips. Is it ridiculous to add a 3″ piece of matching fabric to the entire length of each side with the triangle bottom at the bottom of the addition?

    • It is not ridiculous if you don’t mind what it looks like. But you are correct in your thinking, because that is what you’ll need to do. I’m not sure about the 3″ measurement. You’ll be the best judge of that, but your thinking is spot on!

  26. Thank you for such a detailed explanation! I have yet to do this, but now I have a need. I have to alter my own bridesmaid’s dress that fits really well everywhere except the bust. This is exactly what I had in mind, but wasn’t quite sure where to start, thanks to you, I’m looking forward to giving this a try.

  27. hi, i bought this dress online and the waist is too tight, i feel i need about 1/2-3/4 for it to be comfortable, it zips up but its a bit tight, do u think if i rip the lining inside it will have extra for the dress to be let out.

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