How to Make a Garter

Five Parts:Selecting the ribbonSewing the casingAdding the lace edgeInserting the elasticDecorating the garter

A garter is a traditional garment worn by the bride at a wedding. In the past, garters were narrow bands of fabric used to keep stockings or socks held up and were worn by either men or women during different eras. In some cases, garters have been used to stow everything from weapons to alcohol, to avoid detection. Since stockings and socks tend to be held up by other means these days, the garter has been relegated mostly to the wedding or homecoming role, costumes and just for fun. If you'd like to make one, it's a fairly straightforward piece of sewing.

Part 1
Selecting the ribbon

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    Choose the color and texture for the garter. This pattern uses wide ribbon, making it easy to put the garter together. You'll need to decide what color is suitable and the texture of the ribbon.
    • If it's for a wedding, the ribbon should probably be satin or velvet, although any quality ribbon will be ideal.
    • As for color, this could be themed with an outfit, it could be blue for the "something blue" in a wedding or it might be cream or beige, which is neutral enough to go with any outfit. The "something blue" for the garter is actually traditional, and dates back to the fourteenth century––blue symbolizes love, purity and faithfulness.[1]
    • For a stage costume, brighter colors are useful, especially if the garter is meant to be seen by the audience.

Part 2
Sewing the casing

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    Place the ribbon strips together. The wrong sides should face each other so that they end up inside the garter, with the right side facing out.
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    Join the ribbons together. Use straight stitch and sew along the edges. It's important to keep as close as you can to the ribbon edging. Once you've stitched down both sides, the result is a casing.

Part 3
Adding the lace edge

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    Pin the ribbon down one side of the lace edging.
    • An alternative method involves simply stitching the lace straight around the middle of the garter. This requires careful hand stitching to avoid sewing the casing and elastic together though.
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    Sew the lace in place. Use a zigzag stitch to keep the lace edging in place.
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    Repeat with the remaining side. You should now have both sides of the garter casing edged with lace.

Part 4
Inserting the elastic

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    Thread the elastic through a drawstring needle. Pull this needle through the casing and tie the elastic in a small knot. This will bring the garter together in a round but the ribbon casing won't yet be sewn together. The ribbon should now bunch up around the elastic.
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    Trim off any excess elastic.
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    Sew the ends of the ribbon together by hand.

Part 5
Decorating the garter

Although optional, this makes a nice finishing touch on the garter and helps to disguise the join made by sewing the ribbon casing together.

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    Sew a gathering stitch down one 20 centimeter (7.9 in) side of the tulle strip.
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    Draw this thread up. Hold in place tightly, to gather the tulle into a rosette shape. Stitch the rosette in place on the garter where the two pieces of ribbon were joined together, facing outward.
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    Tie a small piece of satin ribbon into a little bow. Sew into the middle of the rosette.
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    Done. The garter is now ready for wearing.


  • Pretty fabric can also be used in place of ribbon; simply use the same measurements as suggested for the ribbon.
  • For legs that are larger or smaller than a standard adult leg, measure first before cutting the ribbon and elastic lengths and make adjustments as needed.
  • For the outdoorsy types, garters can be made from stronger, waterproof fabric using the same technique and are suitable for holding up pants when cycling or wading through water. Obviously, leave off any decorative elements like lace or bows.
  • If you would prefer a flower in place of the bow, purchase or make a small fabric rose or other flower. Stitch this onto the rosette instead of the bow. (Ribbon roses are an excellent decoration for garters.)
  • If using the garter for a wedding, the tradition is for the groom to remove and toss the garter into the male guests; the first one to catch it is meant to marry next!

Things You'll Need

  • 2 x 80cm x 1.5 centimeter (0.6 in) strips of suitable ribbon, in color of choice
  • 2 x 80cm x 1.5 centimeter (0.6 in) wide cotton lace edging, in a complementary color
  • 80 centimeter (31.5 in) x 1 centimeter (0.4 in) wide elastic
  • Matching thread
  • Scissors, needles (including drawstring needle) and pins
  • Flat, clear work surface

Rosette: (optional)

  • 20 centimeter (7.9 in) x 3 centimeter (1.2 in) wide strip of tulle
  • Bow made from a small piece of satin ribbon in complementary color

Sources and Citations

  1. Better Living, Beautiful Things to Make for Brides, p. 57, (1990), ISBN 1-86434-006-7

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