How to alter a strapless dress to make it modest

Written by laure justice Google
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How to alter a strapless dress to make it modest
You don't have to wear your hair long to make your strapless dress look modest. (Bridesmaid image by Tracy Martinez from

Look for basic sewing notions when you need to alter a strapless dress to make it modest. Keep the alterations simple for the best result. Changing more on the dress when making alterations means more things can go wrong. Look for ribbon for making shoulder straps and lace for raising a plunging neckline in matching or complementary colours. Hand-sew using a hidden, or blind, stitch instead of machine sewing so you don't have to rip out the dress lining.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Tailor's chalk
  • 2 pieces of 2-inch wide ribbon, each approximately a foot long
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Straight pins
  • Hand-sewing thread
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • 1 piece of matching lace (optional), approximately 1 foot wide and 4 inches deep

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  1. 1

    Put the dress on, and lay the tape measure over each shoulder to measure the needed strap length. Measure from the top front edge of the dress, over the shoulder, and the top back edge of the dress. Add 1 inch to each shoulder strap measurement. If the lengths are different, make a note of which one is for the right shoulder and which one is for the left.

  2. 2

    Make a tailor's chalk mark on the wrong side, of each side, of the bodice front and bodice back to show where the straps will be placed. Turn the edge down about 1/2-inch to make the marks on the back of the fabric. Remove the dress.

  3. 3

    Cut the wide ribbon to the lengths you just measured and calculated. Fold the ends under 1/4-inch, with the right side facing up, and zigzag across the folded ends using the sewing machine. This will reduce the likelihood of your straps fraying.

  4. 4

    Thread the hand-sewing needle and tie the thread ends. Pin the ribbon straps to the marks on the inside of the dress bodice. Poke the needle through one of the folded, zigzagged ends of either ribbon.

  5. 5

    Sew making an nearly invisible line of stitching to attach the straps just inside the dress. Make small stitches, 1/8-inch wide or less, to make sure the ribbon straps will stay put. Hold the needle straight out at 90 degree angle from the wrong side of the fabric. Poke it through the fabric, just hooking a few fibres, and poke it straight across into the ribbon strip. Move the needle and pull the thread through the folds to hide the thread inside the strap and the dress bodice.

  6. 6

    Put the dress back on. If the neckline is too low for your comfort, position the matching lace over the centre of the neckline. Pin it in place, remove the dress, and hand sew it in place using the same hidden stitch you used to attach the ribbon straps.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider adding a lacy shawl or delicate sweater if you feel the dress is still too immodest.
  • Consult a hand-sewing needle guide before sewing to make sure the needle you use won't damage your dress.

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