I like a bargain AND I like a ton of variety in my wardrobe. This is a tricky combo when I’m pregnant, but I’m finding creative ways to make it happen. One of my strategies is to modify non-maternity clothes to flatter my bump. Take, for example, this XL sleeveless blouse I got for $6.00 at Target. I bought two in different prints, figuring I can throw a long cardigan over them in the fall. Although the tops are really roomy, they aren’t the most flattering shape. I’d normally just add a belt, but it didn’t work in this instance because of the bow at the neckline. Instead, I added a gathered empire waist. Voila – a little more shape!

The change is subtle, but it’s just enough to pull the shirt in under the bust and highlight my bump. Yes, you’ll probably need a sewing machine, but there’s not a lot of fancy technique involved – it’s actually really easy – think 20 minutes or less to modify a shirt. You’re best working with a woven fabric rather than a knit that’s stretchy – it’s just easier.

Step 1: Put the shirt on, look in the mirror, and pin the shirt under your bust where you’d like the gathered empire waist to land.

Step 2: Take the shirt off and lay it flat on the ground. Place a piece of masking tape horizontally underneath the pin to make a straight line. After placing the tape, you can fold your shirt down the center to make sure the ends of the tape line-up. It’s a little easier to get the tape in a straight line when the shirt has a horizontal pattern like this one.

3. Head over to your sewing machine. Pick a thread color that you think works with your fabric. I stuck with plain white, as there’s lots of variation in the pattern. You’re going to baste two rows of stitching parallel to the masking tape. Basting just means your stitches are really long and loose. To get basting stitches, change the stitch length on your machine to the longest length possible. When you baste, don’t back stitch at the beginning or end of a row. Use the masking tape as your guide for the first row, and then use the first row as a guide for the second row, about a 1/4 inch above the first.

4. Now put the shirt back on, and return to the mirror. Pull on both ends of the string to tighten the top to your liking. Don’t worry about getting the gathering even – you’ll do that in the next step. Once you’re happy with the tightness, take the two threads on one side of the shirt and tie a knot that lies tightly against the shirt. I just do it like the first step in tying sneakers, and then repeat that a second time. Tie off the other side of the shirt in the same way. This will prevent the gathers from spreading out when you take it off.

5. Take the shirt off again, lay it on the floor, and gently pull the fabric to evenly space out the gathers along the width of the shirt. You’re going to be moving gathers from the sides towards the middle to make it even.

6. Now it’s time to stitch down the gathers. Return to your sewing machine and adjust the stitch length back to normal. You’ll want to stitch about a 1/4 inch below your lowest line of basting, remembering to back stitch at the beginning and end of each row. Once you’ve got one row of tight stitching, use that as a guide to add a second row below it. You should now have four rows  – two of regular stitching, and two rows of basting.

7. You’re almost done! The last step is to remove the two rows of basting. Cut out the knots you tied in step 4, and pull out the threads. That’s it – you’re done! Admire your new empire waist.

I made the other top tighter under the bust, which I think I prefer. This one is still a little loose – it’s an improvement, but if I were going to do it again, I’d make it tighter with more gathers. Play around and see what works for you.

Have you altered any non-maternity clothes to make them bump friendly?