How to Shorten a Dress

The task of shortening a long dress can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools and patience, anyone can learn how to shorten a dress quickly and easily.

Whether you purchased a dress that needs to be altered or simply want to adjust an existing one in your closet, this guide will walk you through the process of adequately shortening your dress. 

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to achieve a perfect fit without worrying about messing up the look of your ensemble.

Easy Methods to Shorten a Dress:

Hem by Hand

Hemming by hand is one of the easiest ways to shorten a dress. You only need fabric scissors, a needle, thread, and pins. Start by measuring the dress length from the waist down to where you would like it to fall. Cut off the excess fabric, taking care not to cut off too much. Pin the hem of the dress and sew it securely in place.

Hem with a Sewing Machine

Using a sewing machine is an even easier way to shorten a dress. Start by measuring the length of the dress from the waist to where you want it to fall, then cut off any excess fabric. Make sure to use a stabilizer line and pins when hemming, as this will help ensure the fabric won’t shift while sewing. Once you have finished, check that the stitching is secure before wearing your dress.

Cutting with Fabric Shears

Another simple way to shorten a dress is by cutting it with fabric shears. Start by measuring the length of the dress from the waist to where you want it to fall, then use fabric shears to cut off any excess fabric. Make sure that when you are cutting, your scissors remain parallel with the hem of the dress and that you take care not to cut too much.

Turning Up a Hem

Turning up a hem is easy to shorten a dress without sewing or cutting the fabric. Start by measuring the length of the dress from the waist down to where you would like it to fall, then use a ruler and pins to mark the new hemline of the dress. Once you have pinned in place, iron over the hemline for an even finish.

Adding a Pleated Hem

Adding pleats to the hem of a dress is an easy way to shorten it without having to cut or sew. Start by measuring the length of the dress from the waist down to where you want it to fall, then use pins and a ruler to mark out how many pleats you would like to add. Once you have finished pleating, iron the hem for an even finish.

Adding a Lace Trim

A great way to shorten a dress without sewing or cutting is by adding a lace trim around the hemline. Measure the length of the dress from the waist to where you want it to fall, then cut the lace trim to fit. Pin it in place and use fabric glue or a needle and thread to secure it.

Adding an Elastic Waistband

Finally, adding an elastic waistband is a great way to shorten a dress without sewing, cutting, or turning up the hem. Start by measuring the length of the dress from the waist to where you want it to fall, then cut an elastic waistband that is slightly smaller than your measurement. Use a needle and thread to secure the waistband and adjust as needed for a custom fit. 

Now that you know how to shorten a dress, why not try one of these methods? Whether you’re hemming by hand, cutting with fabric shears or adding an elastic waistband, you can easily customize your dress for the perfect fit.

Determining the Right Length For You:

Determining the desired length is the first step when altering an existing dress. This involves measuring from the top of the dress to where it will fall on your body and marking that spot with a tailor’s chalk or fabric marker. If you are shortening a maxi dress, for example, you may want to measure the length of your legs and determine where you want the dress to fall, such as just above the ankle or mid-calf.

This will give you a visual marker to use when cutting the fabric. Consider what type of shoes you plan on wearing with the dress since this will affect how long it needs to be. Once you’ve determined the desired length, it is time to gather supplies. 

What You'll Need: 

After marking the length at which you feel you need to alter your long dress, here are some of the things you may need:

  • Scissors or Dressmaker's Shears 
  • Seam Ripper
  • Thread
  • Needle

That's pretty much It :D

Steps to Shorten a Dress 

Here are some easy steps to help you shorten your dress to the length that you'd want. These are easy to do and you don't need to be an expert tailor to perform them.

  • Begin by laying the dress on a flat surface and using a measuring tape or ruler to mark where you want to hem the dress. Make sure you also consider any extra room needed for seams, darts, and gathers before making your final cut.
  • Cut the excess material off the dress's bottom with sharp fabric scissors, taking care to cut straight and in line with the markings you made earlier.
  • Use a tailor's chalk to mark a 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) hem allowance on all sides of the dress before folding it over once so that the raw edge is hidden inside, pinning it in place as you go.
  • Sew the hem in place using a straight stitch, making sure to keep your seam allowance consistent throughout the entire length of the dress. Remove any pins as you go, and ensure that you backstitch at both ends for extra security.
  • Finally, press the seam with an iron to ensure that it lies flat and looks neat.

With this guide, you are now on your way to creating a beautiful new look for your favorite dress. 

Hemming & Pressing: The Finishing Touch 

Finishing touches are essential when shortening a dress. Hemming and pressing the dress will give it a professional look, ensuring that all edges are smooth and straight. Hemming is done by folding the fabric up twice at the desired length and stitching along the fold to create an invisible hem.

For best results, use coordinating thread to the fabric and a narrow zigzag stitch to ensure that the hem is solid and secure. After hemming, press the dress using an iron set to the correct heat setting for your fabric type.

This will help smooth any wrinkles or puckering, creating a crisp and neat look. Finally, use tailor’s chalk or pins to mark the original hem and check that your stitching is in line with it. This will help you to ensure a professional finish.  Once you have completed these steps, your dress should be ready to wear.

Tips for Shortening a Dress 

When shortening a dress, it is essential to follow specific steps to ensure that the final product looks as good as possible. Some of them include the following:

Measure Twice, Cut Once:

Before cutting the dress material, measure twice to ensure that you are cutting off the correct amount.

Pin and Mark:

After measuring and marking the length of the dress where you want to shorten it, use a pin or chalk to ensure it is marked correctly. 

Cut the Dress Material:

Once you have marked and pinned the dress material, use a pair of scissors to cut it along the line. Make sure to cut it evenly and lightly so that you don't end up with an uneven hemline afterward. 

Hem The Dress:

After cutting off the extra fabric, use your sewing machine to hem the dress. Make sure to fold the cut edge twice and then sew it in place. Be careful not to over-stretch the fabric while sewing. 

Following these simple tips will help you shorten a dress quickly and easily. With some practice, you'll be able to do this like a pro.

What to Do If You Make a Mistake Shortening Your Dress: 

Panic Stations? Not quite. In this situation, it is vital to remain calm and take the necessary steps to fix your mistake as quickly as possible. Such as:

Identify the mistake:

If you have identified a mistake in your alteration, it is essential to understand what went wrong and take steps to rectify it.

Take measurements:

Before making any corrections, take new measurements of the dress from the hemline up. This will help you determine how much fabric needs to be taken in or taken out.

Re-measure and re-mark:

After taking measurements, it is crucial to make a new mark on the hemline and fabric that will serve as a guide when adjusting the dress length.

Adjust garment:

Depending on how much fabric needs to be taken in or out, use pins to adjust the material until it is even. If you need to take it out, ensure that you leave extra room in the hem so that it won't be too tight and uncomfortable when worn.

Secure edges:

Once you have adjusted the fabric, carefully hand stitch around the edges of the new hemline to secure them in place.

Remove pins and press:

Once the stitching has been completed, carefully remove any remaining pins holding the fabric in place and lightly press it with an iron to help everything stay put. 

Following these steps should help you fix any previous mistakes when shortening a dress and have a finished product that looks professional.  By taking the time to troubleshoot and make corrections, you will be able to achieve a beautiful outcome.  With patience and practice, you can become an expert at shortening dresses.


Hopefully our permanent and temporary solutions to shorten a dress help you whether you're looking for a party wear or just a casual night out with friends.