How to shorten a dress

Updated February 21, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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


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.

Things You'll Need

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

Colleen Morrison has been writing professionally for two decades. She holds an M.A. from the University of Wyoming and a Ph.D. in history from Arizona State University. She ghostwrites articles, blogs and Web content for her clients. Articles under her name appear at M&M, eHow, Golflink and other sites.