Take in Waist Pleats to Give Your Skirt a Better Fit

To take in waist pleats on a skirt does not use a lot of sewing skill. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to extend the life of those school uniforms and cheerleading outfits as well as keep them fitting properly.

You'll need to do a little math to start with, so grab a ruler and a pencil and paper and let's get started!

Here's What we Need to Question:

  1. How much does the skirt need to come in?
  2. How many pleats are we going to alter? 
  3. What kind of pleats are we working with?

Here's How We Answer Those Questions:

  1. Put the skirt on. With thumb and forefinger, pinch out enough of the waistband that the skirt feels comfortable. Write down that number. We'll call it the Total Amount.
  2. If you want to take the full amount in the front only, count those pleats. If you want it to come out of the back only, count those pleats. In this case we have counted all the pleats.
  3. The uniform skirt in this tutorial has inverted pleats (This is the easiest skirt to take in waist pleats). Yours also may be accordion or box pleats. 

Tools You Will Need to Take in Waist Pleats on Any Skirt...

Seam ripper Razor Blade Needle Hip Curve Ruler
Seam Ripper
Razor Blade
Hand Needle

And now for the math! We'll do it in 3 steps.

1. What is the Total Amount?

2. Divide the Total Amount by the number of pleats you are taking in.

3. Take your answer for #2 and divide it in half. That's it!

Here's an example: 

1. I want to take my skirt in 2"

2. I am taking in 4 pleats. 2 divided by 4 is 1/2. Each pleat gets taken in 1/2"

3. Since the pleat has 2 sides, I divide 1/2" by 2 and get 1/4"

Each side of each pleat gets take in 1/4"

A Note About the Terms I've Used...

There are not too many technical words associated with learning how to take in waist pleats. It may help you to know these terms, though...

The waistband will be a separate piece of fabric, attached to the top of the skirt. You may have to remove nearly the whole band, or just the ends, depending upon where your pleats are positioned.
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Once your waistband is off, you will see that its underneath side is 1/8" or so wider than the front side. This will ensure that you ‘catch’ both sides of the band when you top stitch the waist back into place, right side up.
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Here's what is left of the topstitching on this pleat. The waist of the skirt is on the left, the hem is on the right. Leave that stitching there. We will ease the adjusted waist into the pleat at this stitching point.
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Now you need the math you calculated above. Divide that number in half. The remaining number is the amount you are going to fold under the existing creases on each side of the pleat. We’ll start on the right "leg".
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Grasp the crease between thumb and forefinger. Roll that amount from Step 4 under the pleat. Pin. Drag this new fold to the center of the pleat. Taper your crease into the topstitching, forming the new right leg.
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Here you see I’ve added pins to the right leg. I have the pinched amount for the left leg in between my thumb and forefinger. See the original crease tucked under my thumb? Drag the pin till it touches the right leg.
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Both legs should now be pinned down to the pleat fabric underneath. Try to match stripes as best you can. Adjust your fold until it is not bunching. This is easier to do on the ironing board or sleeve board.
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Here’s a close up of the new pleat, ready for pressing. The two new folded edges have been eased into the existing pleat stitching, seen toward the bottom of the photo.
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The full view here shows that the skirt will lay smoothly. There are no puckers. Lay this on your sleeve board so you can shape the curve with some steam.

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Remove any puckers under pleat. Press flat. Remove pins and steam again to set pleat. Now move the waistband into place and steam it also. Steaming will shape the new curve and make reattaching it easier.
Finished front bra and strap

Attach the waistband to the skirt using pins. Maintain the curve. Stitch, right side up, catching the under side of the band as you sew.

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Topstitch the pleat. Stitch about 1/8" on one side of the folded pleat edge. When your needle gets to the existing topstitching, pivot, take 2 horizonal stitches, then come up the other side, toward the waist.
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Zip the skirt up and mark where the button should now be located. We’ll be moving it in 2 inches on this skirt. Keep the rest of the waistband intact, in case you need to let the skirt out later.
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Remove the button and attach it at the marked spot. Press. If you want put a snap or hook and eye on the inside to keep the waistband from flapping around underneath.

Now once we got the math calculations out of the way, that wasn't so difficult, was it?

Often, when you first look  at a project like this it looks impossible. The first thing you need to do is to is observe the problem. Once you figure out the first step, it is much easier to move on to completion. To take in waist pleats on a skirt of any kind has more to do with taking off the waistband and repositioning it. The key is getting a good measurement for the waistband. If the pleats don't exactly match each other, it will not show.