How to Shorten a Dress


An easy way to update an old dress is to shorten it. You can shorten a dress just a little or take it up several inches for a totally new look. For most dresses, shortening the hem is something you can do yourself. However, there are some types of dresses that will require a professional’s touch.

Part 1
Identifying the New Hem

Identifying the New Hem on How to Shorten a Dress

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Using a dress that is already the length that you would like to shorten your dress to is an easy way to ensure that you will get a good result. Check your closet for dresses that are the ideal length to use as a guide.[1] Try to find a dress with a similar cut to your dress as well. For example, if your dress has an A-line skirt, then try to find another dress with an A-line skirt that you can use as a guide.

Identifying the New Hem on How to Shorten a Dress

2
If you do not have a dress that is the length you want, then you can also try on the dress and use a measuring tape to find the length you want. Do this while you are standing up. Extend the measuring tape from your natural waist to the place you want the hem to end and mark the length using a piece of chalk. Then, repeat this all the way around using the same measurement. If you have a friend who can help you, then you might also ask them to do this for you. It can be difficult to get the measurements while you are also wearing the dress.

Identifying the New Hem on How to Shorten a Dress

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When you have identified the length you want, you will need to trace the new hemline onto your dress. If you are using a dress as a guide, then lay it over the top of your longer dress and use a piece of chalk to trace the hemline of the shorter dress.[2] If you are using the chalk marks you made while wearing the dress, then you can just connect these marks. If you are using another dress as a guide, then make sure that the two dresses are lined up at the shoulders. This will help to ensure that your new hem will be the same length as the one on your other dress.

Identifying the New Hem on How to Shorten a Dress

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5cm) from the line for seam allowance. You will need to cut your new hem a little lower than the chalk line you made on your dress. This is because you will be folding the fabric up and sewing to cover the raw edges of the fabric. To make room for the hem fold, measure 1” (2.5 cm) from the line you marked on the dress and draw a new chalk line that is parallel to it.[3] Mark the distance from the line in a few different places to ensure that you get an even line.

Part 2
Creating the New Hem

Creating the New Hem on How to Shorten a Dress

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After you have marked the fabric, cut along the seam allowance to remove the excess fabric.[4] Make sure to cut right along the line you have marked, and not inside or outside of it. Cut as evenly as possible with the scissors.

Creating the New Hem on How to Shorten a Dress

2
Next, you will need to secure the hem fabric under the dress using pins. Fold about ½” (1.3 cm) of the fabric under so that the raw edges of the dress are lined up with the first chalk line that you made along the hem. Pin the edges under all the way around the dress.[5]

Creating the New Hem on How to Shorten a Dress

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After you have pinned the edges in place, you will need to sew around the edges of the fabric to secure the hem. Sew a straight stitch along the folded edge to secure the hem. Make sure that you sew through both layers of fabric to secure the raw edge of the fabric to the underside of the dress.[6] Remove the pins as you sew. After you finish sewing the hem, cut the excess threads and try on your new shortened dress!

Part 3
Getting the Best Results

Getting the Best Results on How to Shorten a Dress

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You can probably hem most dresses on your own as long as the dress is a simple design with fabric that is easy to work with. However, some dresses may be difficult to hem on your own. Dresses that are made from delicate fabrics, include beaded embellishments, flare out significantly, or have multiple layers may be difficult to hem. For dresses that pose these kinds of challenges, consider hiring a seamstress.[7] You may also consider using a rolled hem for delicate fabrics or flared skirts.

Getting the Best Results on How to Shorten a Dress

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If you are using an existing dress, then you do not have to worry about putting the dress on. However, if you want to ensure that the dress is going to end at a certain place on your body, then you will need to put it on and measure it. Getting the measurements just right for shortening your dress will be easier if you have someone to help you, so ask a friend to help you.

Getting the Best Results on How to Shorten a Dress

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To ensure that your hem will be flat and straight, you may want to flatten it with an iron. To iron your hem, pin it in place, and then remove a few pins at a time to iron the hem in sections. Replace the pins after you finish ironing each section.[8] Keep going until you have ironed all the way around your hem, and then sew your hem.