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How to Hem a Dress

You've found the perfect dress for your prom or party, but it's an inch or two too long. Don't return it to the rack just yet—a dress hem is easy to add, even for the beginner seamstress. Follow these simple steps to get a perfect fit or to repurpose a long, formal dress into cute, cocktail-ready attire.

What you'll need:

  • Chalk
  • Sewing shears
  • Sewing pins
  • Iron
  • Measuring tape
  • Needle and matching thread
  • Seam ripper (optional)

Step 1: Measure the new hem.

The person who will be wearing the dress should try it on with the heels she plans to wear while a second person measures the new hem. Use a tape measure to ensure that your hem is even the whole way around. Mark the intended hem with a piece of chalk or a fabric pencil.


Step 2: Trim the excess fabric.

Take the dress off and remove the excess material, leaving about half an inch of fabric past the length of the intended hem.


Step 3: Fold, press and pin the hem in place.

Turn the dress inside out to see the hem better. Fold the bottom edge of the fabric up a quarter of an inch and press it with a warm iron. Then fold any remaining excess fabric under this first crease and iron it again. If the hem doesn't lie flat, pin it down with fabric pins.


Step 4: Sew the hem.

Hand sew or use a sewing machine to sew horizontally along the hem, picking up only a small amount of fabric on the front of the dress so the thread doesn't show. Pull tight enough to hold the stitch together but not so tight that the material bunches up.


Step 5: Try the dress on.

If the hem looks good, you're finished. If it's uneven, use a seam ripper to take it out and try again. Slippery fabrics such as silk or satin can be difficult to work with and are best taken to a professional tailor.