How to shorten a dress

Written by colleen morrison
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It’s one thing to purchase a dress at an exclusive boutique that offers complementary alterations–if the dress you love is just a bit too long, a seamstress will shorten it for you. You can pick it up in a few days. If you shop in less exclusive settings, however, you may need to learn to shorten a dress to get the exact look you want.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Long Dress
  • Chalk
  • Dressmakers' Pins
  • Measuring Tape
  • Scissors
  • An Iron
  • Mirror

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  1. 1

    Put on the dress in front of a full-length mirror. Decide how much shorter you want to make the dress. Place two pins in the dress to mark the length. Measure it.

  2. 2

    Fold the hem of your dress to the inside to create a new hem line for your dress. Use a ruler or seam gauge to measure a precise line.

  3. 3

    Pin the new hem in place and put on the dress in front of a full length mirror. Make certain this is the correct length. If you are satisfied, press the hem. If not, start again.

  4. 4

    Mark a cutting line in the excess fabric and remove excess fabric. If you are sewing your hem by hand, leave approximately 2 ½ inches of fabric to put a new hem in the dress. If you are making a machine hem, you will need about an inch of fabric to work with.

  5. 5

    Turn under the raw edge 3/8 inch; press to create a nice finished edge to work with.

  6. 6

    Hand-stitch a blind hem or use your machine to create a flat, narrow hem.

Tips and warnings

  • Take your time. You want it to be just right!
  • Don't buy a dress that doesn't fit on any level. Make sure all you'll have to do is shorten the dress.

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