How To Put Gussets in Pants or Shirts

When a garment is really too tight in the crotch area of a pair of pants or in the underarm area of a shirt, you might want to add a gusset.

A gusset is typically a diamond or triangular shaped piece of fabric that is sewn into one of those areas to give some extra room to the clothing.

(If you need extra room in a strapless dress or a dress or top that has straps, you’ll want to look at the post on How To Put Gussets In a Dress or Top.)

However, this post will focus on diamond shaped gussets that are inserted into an area where four seams intersect. They are usually found in pants or the underarm area of a shirt that has sleeves.

For this type of gusset, you’ll need to make a diamond shape gusset, and I’ll show you how.

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The gusset shape and size will be determined by how much extra room you need in the crotch area or the under arm area.

To be more specific, in a pair of pants, the gusset is sewn into the intersection of where the inseams meet the center front and center back seams of a pair of pants. It is the lowest point of the pant before you start into the leg area.

This is a view of the underside of a pair of pants after a gusset is put in so you get the idea of what they look like:

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In the under arm area, the gusset is sewn into the area where the under arm seam and the side seams meet the sleeve seams. It would look basically the same as the photo above only it would be located in the armpit area and there would be no zipper!

(You may have guessed by now that I am going to use diagrams exclusively on this post because I think they might be easier to follow than actual photos.)

Read through all the instructions before starting. This is not a difficult alteration, but you will want to be familiar with all the steps before you start.

To begin with, have your customer try on the slacks and then provide a mirror so they and you can see what you are looking at. (If this alteration is for your own pants, you also should try your slacks on in front of a mirror.)

If the pants are too tight in the crotch area, the fabric will bunch and pull and you’ll see horizontal lines or folds of fabric that seem to originate from the crotch area.

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A rule of thumb here for any garment:  tight “pulls” of fabric always “point” to the problem. So, in this case, the tight pulls “point” to the crotch area.

Measure from the lowest “pull” line on the left side of the pants to the lowest “pull” line on the right side of the pants. The diagram below illustrates where to measure. That will give you one measurement of the gusset. Let’s say it is 3″. Write that measurement down.

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I used to also measure the crotch length of the customer which looks like this:

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But, I have found that pants do not sit at the natural waistline very often anymore and each customer likes their pants or slacks to sit at a different place in the front and in the back. So, ask your customer to tell you how much more they want in the front and the back to make the pants fit and feel better.

Let’s say the customer wants 2 more inches in the back and 1 more inch in the front.

You’ll need a total of 3″ for the vertical measurement of your diamond shape.

The same rules apply if you are measuring for an under arm area.

The first measurement in the under arm area is how much more they need in the arm circumference and then how far it is between pulls:

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Once you get those two measurements, (for either the crotch area or the under arm area) you are ready to draw a gusset pattern on paper.

Even if you don’t want to add any to the crotch length, (or the arm circumference), you’ll need to, in order to make the diamond shape. In that case, it could be a skinny diamond by only adding 1/2″-1″ to the crotch length area. (I will only be referring to the crotch alteration from now on, but apply the principals to the underarm if that’s your alteration.)

Let’s say you need to increase the crotch length by 2″ and the width by 3″. (Again, you could have any combination of measurements, based on the measurements you need, so your gusset shape most likely will differ from mine. Yours could even potentially be a square shape.)

Here is how I would make the gusset. Mine needs to be 2″ high by 3″ wide.

So, I get out a ruler and a piece of paper and draw 2 dots representing the increase of the crotch length measurement (shown below by the red dots..mine is 2″). Then, I draw a vertical line between those two dots (below).

Then, I use the ruler to find the middle point of that line (In my case, it is 1″). Because the measurement along the inseam from pull to pull is 3″, I draw a black dot 1 1/2″ to the right of the midpoint and a black dot 1 1/2″ to the left of the midpoint. Next, draw a horizontal line connecting the 2 dots (represented below… mine is 3″ total).

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Then I draw the diamond shape by connecting the dots like this:

 

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This diamond shape is the base of your gusset shape.

Next, I add seam allowances to the diamond shape. This is very important. If you don’t add them, your gusset will be too small.

If you are feeling a little unsure of the size of the gusset you made, or this is your first time making gussets, add 1″ seam allowances all around the gusset shape. Doing this will give you some added room to adjust it later, if you need to, without having to make another gusset.

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(Just so you know, on the garment itself, you will be using the original seam allowances to stitch on when we get to that point.)

Cut out your paper pattern.

Next, cut your gusset out of any scrap of fabric that matches your garment, as close as possible. It may be difficult to get it to match exactly, but get it as close as you can.

Mark the stitching line (1″ in from all the edges) on your gusset. You can use a piece of chalk, washable marker, or hand stitch a running stitch to mark it.

Finish the edges of the gusset with a zig zag stitch or use your serger. This will prevent the gusset from fraying as the garment is worn and washed.

Next, you will open up the seams in the garment where you will put the gusset in.

In the diagram below, I’ve marked off the 2″ along the crotch length and 3″ along the leg inseams. Mark each of those points with a pin or a tailor tack. If you are comfortable with a washable marker, you could use one of those. Test it on your fabrics first to make sure it will wash out. I’ve made the mistake before when I thought the marker would wash out and it didn’t.

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Only open up exactly the amount you need and back stitch those openings well with your sewing machine so that they are anchored well and they don’t open up any more.

Next, you will stitch one continuous side of the diamond to one side of the pant opening. Right sides together!

Make sure you line up the correct side of the diamond to the correct side of the pant (center front, right leg, center back, or left leg). You want your diamond to be in the correct position when you’re all finished sewing.

Also, be sure to line up the drawn stitching lines on the gusset to the original stitching line on the garment. The seam allowance on your pants may be 1/2″. If your gusset has 1″ seam allowances, the edges will not line up evenly and that’s ok. Just be sure to match up the gusset seam allowance to the pant seam allowance and pin well or baste between the dots on the gusset. This will be explained further below.

Use the original stitching line of the garment to stitch the garment and the gusset together being sure not to catch any part of the gusset in the stitching as you go.

Be sure and stitch only from dot to dot. Do not stitch the diamond piece all the way to the gusset edges. The corners of the gusset should always be loose. If they aren’t, the gusset will not fit properly.

In the diagram below, the wrong side of the gusset is facing us while the right side of the pants are facing us.

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Stitch the next side of the diamond in the same manner:

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Both seams should be sewn tight. If there is any open area, stitch it up being careful not to catch the gusset in the seam.

Now, you should have a perfect gusset!

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If the gusset is too tight, take out the stitches and use a smaller seam allowance on the gusset which gives you more room in the gusset.

If the gusset is too large, take in more of the gusset with even larger seam allowances on the gusset.

Once you get the fit correct, stitch over the original seam again. This will secure it and keep it from coming undone in the future.

Update: February 1, 2018: I’ve received some really great questions about specific situations concerning gussets….

First, the reader asked if you need to pay attention to the grain line of the fabric when cutting out and sewing in the gusset. Here’s my answer:

Personally, I don’t think it’s critical to pay attention to grain lines unless you are working with a stretchy material. The lengthwise grain of the fabric has the most stretch and should be placed in the same direction as the inseams (side to side in the diagram on the post.) Don’t use the bias as the bias is too stretchy and the weakest part of the fabric. It will stretch too much, and in some cases leave a bulge in the gusset over time.

Second, the reader asked how to stitch over the thick intersection of jeans where the inseams meet the center front and back seams. Here’s my answer:

There is an amazing tool called a Jean-a-ma-jig and it makes this job so much easier. Check out this link on How to Use a Jean-a-ma-jig. You must also know how tough your sewing machine is. If you are having trouble sewing on denim, you may want to hand walk your needle over the thickest part of the intersection. To do that, just stop sewing right before you get to the thickest part and use the fly wheel located on the right side of your machine and turn it toward you until you’ve “walked” it over the hump. It should still be pretty secure and that way you don’t break a needle. If you need to trim the seam a bit before you sew, just be sure you’re not taking out too much fabric and not leaving enough to hide the raw edges inside the seam. Top stitch over the original stitching line.

Congratulations, you’ve just accomplished making and inserting a gusset!

Now, for those pants that are too baggy in the crotch area, here is a post on How to Take in the Crotch Seam on Pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Put Gussets In a Dress or Top

Do you know what a gusset is?

It’s an inverted triangular (or diamond shaped) piece of fabric inserted into a garment to make it fit more comfortably.

If you’d like to put gussets in pants or a top that has sleeves, look at this post on How To Put Gussets in Pants or Shirts.

This post will cover how to put gussets in an area where two seams intersect. These triangular gussets are usually found in a strapless dress or a dress or top that has straps.

When adding gussets to a strapless dress or top, you will usually have two gussets….one in each side seam, even if you have a zipper on the side.

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 teaches you how to put in a corset back in your dress, but not every dress needs a corset back.

If you need to enlarge a bridesmaids dress, for example, and you want all the dresses to look the same from the back, you’ll want to put in gussets instead of a corset 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.

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 bridal store, but the one that came in didn’t fit the same as the one she tried on. Unfortunately, this is a common problem.

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

You guessed it: gussets.

This is what one of them looks 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, because I was in a hurry to get them done before the wedding.

So,  today I’ll show you how to make these gussets using mostly diagrams.

Read all of the instructions before you begin so you are familiar with the process.

Here is a diagram of the back of a dress and what this dilemma looks like. She was only able to zip the dress up part way:

To do this alteration, you’ll need to take two measurements.

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

Let’s say that the opening 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 (shown in the diagram below).

This mark will symbolize the center back of the dress.

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 of the dress, 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. Adding them up equals the 4″ total that you need to make the dress fit.

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 horizontal, 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 dot 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 place 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 of paper 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 inside of the back piece of that triangle (which, if you unfolded the triangle, would look like a big diamond shape.)

The interfacing will add some stiffness and body to the gusset piece. I don’t iron on interfacing to the front of the triangle piece because many times it gives it a very stiff look, instead of the soft satin look.

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 horizontal 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 and mark which way the boning came out. You don’t want to get it in backwards or upside down when you put it back in.

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 matching and sewing 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 restitch it, it won’t lay flat 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 and 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, have them try it on and you’ll be the new hero because they can zip it up!

It looks great and they can now breathe!