How To Shorten Your Dresses And Skirts So That They Look Best On You

Advice by an experienced seamstress

Dress shortening is one of the most popular requests I get from my clients. In my decades working as a seamstress, I have adjusted hem length on thousands of garments. People usually ask to shorten skirts, pants, and dresses. What many people don’t realize is that there is a quick way to do it, and the right way to do it. The result may look very different on you.

The Quick Way to Shorten A Dress (Hint: Don’t Use It!)

Most people start by standing in front of the mirror, and making the mark where they want their hem to be. They then take their garment to a nearby alteration’s shop.

Many alterationists at drycleaner’s use the quick way. They just shorten a skirt or a dress according to your mark. They would use the mark for drawing a line from the bottom up as many inches as you want, then they would cut your skirt and hem it. This is cheaper for you, and easier for them. But is it better?

Be prepared to one or two big surprises.

Surprise #1 is that hem on ready-made skirts and dresses doesn’t usually look even on most women.

  • Sometimes, this is due to a defect of the production line.
  • More often, this is because most of the skirts, except column style, are cut in such a way that the front follows the grain line of the fabric, and the sides cut on bias. Hems are likely to be uneven because bias easily stretches, and grain line doesn’t. Even expensive, exclusive dresses are subject to this.
  • Another reason is that dresses are made for standard figures, and only 5% of women match that standard. If you have beautiful curves, you are likely to be outside of that 5% group. The dress that looks even on a standard mannequin won’t look even on you.

Let me ask you, how important is it FOR YOU that your dress looks even on you? Are you OK with back or front being shorter , or sagging longer a bit? Most women like their skirts and dresses look even, and some don’t care as much.

The Right Way To Shorten A Dress

Say, you really care how that dress looks on you. Then, you want to do one important step before your skirt or dress is cut. You need to try it on, and let the seamstress straighten the hem before cutting.

A professional seamstress measures the distance from the floor to the hem of your skirt, and marks it around.

Another important point is to wear the heels as the seamstress is marking your dress, if you intend to wear them with this garment. This is because your posture changes when you are wearing heels, so your skirt looks a little bit shorter on the back and longer on the front. For many, it is not a big deal, but if you are already spending your money on shortening your dress, why not make it look its best?

Back to hidden surprises.

Surprise #2 is that most of the garments these days have lining. Formal gowns, such as bridesmaid dresses, evening or prom dresses, usually have more than one layer of lining.

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