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How To Make A Shirt Bigger? Learn More Here!

Our Guide To Making A Shirt Bigger

If you’ve just brought a new dress shirt or maybe you’ve been putting in some work at the gym and your shirt doesn’t fit you anymore. you might be wondering how to make your shirt bigger. 

To make a shirt bigger you can use a stretching method, washing machine method or sewing in side panels to give more room in the shirt.

Down below, we’ve discussed in more detail how to sew side panels into your shirt as well as how to stretch shirts without a sewing method for a better fit. 

Why Has My Shirt Shrunk? 

Before we get into how to sew and stretch your shirt to make it bigger, let’s first discuss why your shirt has shrunk, to begin with, to understand how to fix it. 

It’s Poor Quality

Unfortunately, with a dress shirt, the lower the price you pay then the faster the shirt will shrink overtime cheap cotton shirts with poor t-shirt material will shrink as soon as they are exposed to a decent amount of sunlight, so in the long run, it pays off to buy an expensive shirt.

You Are Washing It In Hot Water 

Over time, if you keep washing your shirts in hot water they will eventually shrink, materials like cotton, linen and wool are most vulnerable to this. Washing your shirts in cold water is a way to prevent this from happening in the future.

Sunlight Exposure

Repeated sunlight exposure will fade and shrink shirts in the long run, this could be from wearing your shirt outdoors all the time or storing it where the material is exposed to ongoing sunlight.


Standard washing detergent from the store is typically fine to wash shirts with, but the problem happens when we use strong chemicals like stain removers, these harsh products can damage material causing it to shrink, as an alternative, we suggest using vinegar and water.

They Were Not Pre-Shrunk

Most manufacturers will wash their shirt products in warm water before selling, this is to try and prevent the shirt from shrinking once purchased, however not all manufacturers do this which can cause the shirt to shrink once purchased.

How To Make A Shirt Bigger (Sewing Method) 

If your favourite cute shirts have become too small, there’s no need to throw them away, if you’ve got a sewing machine on hand you can simply sew side panels instead to make them fit you again. 

We’ve listed our step-by-step guide on how to sew your shirt to make it bigger down below. 

Supplies Needed

  • Your small shirt. 
  • Sewing machine. 
  • Thread matching the shirt
  • Measuring tape. 
  • Scissors. 
  • A coordinating fabric.

Step One – Make Your Panels & Set

Begin by measuring your shirt from the bottom of its hem up to the hem on the underarm, add on two inches then this will be the length you cut and measure your side panels too on your other fabric. Figure out how much extra width you want to add to the shirt through the side panels, and make sure you allow a little extra for the seams. 

Cut open the sides of your small shirt through the hemline on the sides, you might have to unpick the seam depending on the shirt.

Step Two – Sew The Panels 

Now we get into the sewing part of the project, you can either choose to hem the shirt with the panels first or as your sewing. Pin your panels to the sides of the shirt then fold up the ends so they match the length of the shirt. 

Using a long basting stitch on your machine, sew the panel to the shirt, and do this around 1/2 an inch from the edge of the fabric. Then flip the shirt over and baste the other sides from the edge. Using the steps before, repeat with the other panel on the edge of the shirt.

Try the shirt on to make sure it fits well, if too tight or too loose, take the panels out and adjust the measurements again.

Step Three – Finish The Shirt

Once you’ve decided the measurements are right for your shirt you can sew over the basting stitch with a regular straight stitch then the bottom hem and underarm hem to match the shirt.

Can You Stretch A Shirt To Make It Bigger?

If you don’t want to sew your shirt, you might be wondering if you can simply stretch it to make it bigger, the result of this will depend on the material that the shirt is made out of.

For cotton shirts, you will likely be able to stretch it a couple of inches wide, but for a polyester shirt or any made out of synthetic materials you will struggle more, it’s also worth noting that linen shirts do hold on to stains more easily.

How To Make A Shirt Bigger (Stretching Methods)

If you are looking to make a shirt bigger without having to sew it, or you want to sew as a last resort, there are a few ways to make a shirt bigger without having to get your sewing machine out.

Washing It 

  1. Set your washing machine to anything below 30 degrees then wash your shirt on a cold wash, or you can submerge the shirt in water, the idea here is just to make it wet so that the shirt fabric will be able to stretch easier. 
  2. Next, take a towel and lay the shirt flat on top, stretch the material in the places you want it to be bigger, this could be up to 3cm on the arms and 5cm on the chest for a tight shirt.
  3. Leave to dry and voila, a simple shirt alteration!


Another way to stretch your shirt fast is with hair conditioner, we know! Just make sure that it’s a good brand. 

  1. To start, fill up a sink with some cold water and around 60ml of conditioner, and add around two spoons of vinegar.
  2. Now let the wet shirt soak in the water for around 15 minutes, trying to keep it as flat as possible. 
  3. Drain the water out of the sink or bath then squeeze out the wet shirt to remove as much conditioner as possible, fill the sink again with water and let it sit for five minutes. Repeat this until all the conditioner is removed from the shirt.
  4. Squeeze the shirt in between two dry towels then stretch it in the areas where it’s too small, iron as soon as it’s dry and repeat if the shirt is still too small. You can also use paperweights during this stretching process to make it bigger.

How To Sew A Shirt Pattern

If you can make your shirt bigger by sewing, you might be wondering what other sewing projects you can do with your old small shirt to repurpose it.

Down below, we’ve made a short step-by-step guide on how to sew patterns onto your stretched shirt for a unique design and to help other clothes fit you right.

What You Need

  • Tracing paper. 
  • Markers. 
  • Long ruler. 
  • The shirt. 
  • Thin pins. 
  • Foam poster board.


  1. Begin by folding the shirt in half, get your foam board on a flat surface with tracing paper on top then take the folded shirt and place it on top. Following the shape of your shirt, place small pins around it. 
  2. Repeat the pinning method with tracing paper for the back of your shirt on the other side of the board. 
  3. Trace all the parts of your shirt with a pencil, then go in with your markers and ruler making sure every curve is accurate. Mark the essential points like where the shirt is folded, and which side is front or back. 
  4. Make sure everything matches then you’ve got your shirt pattern which can be used for repurposing other materials and cute shirt styles to fit you the way you want!

Frequently Asked Questions About Making Shirts Bigger

Why will my polyester shirt not stretch? 

Polyester shirts are harder to stretch due to the material, cotton shirts are easier to stretch with proper methods like water soaking.

Should I wash my shirt in cold or hot water? 

We recommend washing your shirt in cold water not hot water to avoid it shrinking, cold water will wash stains just as well without issues.

Can I use weights to stretch a shirt? 

Yes, paperweights can be used to stretch a shirt, but this method is a hit or miss in comparison to soaking it in water.

What are some alternative ways to stretch a shirt without sewing?

You can make the shirt wet, soak it in conditioner or use paper weights to help stretch the material out over time.

Why do cotton shirts shrink? 

Cotton shirts can shrink from direct sunlight, hot washes or simply age, lower quality polyester clothes also tend to stretch easier.

Does conditioner help a shirt stretch?

Yes, by soaking your shirt in the conditioner method you will be able to help soften the fabric fibres allowing for more stretch in the cotton thread.

How many extra inches can I stretch my shirt?

By following the methods above, you should be able to stretch your shirt 1-2 inches on the arms and waist, this will change according to the material of the shirt however, cotton will have more give than materials like polyester.

Last Words

Overall, to make a shirt bigger, you can either sew side panels in with a sewing machine or try and stretch the material by soaking it in water using the washing method or soaking it in conditioner and then stretching it out on a flat surface. 

Do keep in mind that some shirt materials stretch easier than others, expect low-quality shirts to be harder to stretch.

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter is a freelance content writer who specialises in writing about travel, technology and health. When she's not traveling between her home of Tanzania and England, she writes for her blog Rightminded Travelling and features on a variety of different travel and technology sites.View Author posts

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