Home Sewing 101Sewing TechniquesOther Sewing Techniques Hemming Formal Dresses Doesn’t Have to be Hard!

Hemming Formal Dresses Doesn’t Have to be Hard!

by Beth Cooper

When it comes to bridal gowns or formal dresses, it is not uncommon for them to need altered – especially the hemline. As we all know, dresses off the rack are not custom-made and it is difficult to find one that fits anyone perfectly. Enter the seamstress. If that’s you and need some help with hemming one of these formal dresses, here you go!

Choosing the Dress

First of all, the wearer should choose a dress that needs only slightly altered or hemmed. When faced with cutting off and hemming a large amount of the dress, it can completely change how the dress hangs and fits. Hemming more than 4 inches off of the dress can be problematic on certain styles and hemming more than two inches can be problematic with certain styles. It really depends on the dress! So, the best thing to do is to pin the dress about where the wearer wants it and then decide if it will work out or not.

What You Will Need

Second, gather the tools you’ll need: To hem a dress, you’ll need a few essential tools such as sharp scissors, a measuring tape, pins, and a sewing machine. You’ll also need a dress form or a live model to help you get the hemline right.

Next, the fabric of the dress is also important when it comes to hemming. Delicate fabrics like silk or chiffon require a different hemming technique than sturdier fabrics like cotton. It is essential to choose the right needle for that fabric. Read more about choosing the right needle here. It is also important to choose thread that matches the fabric type to ensure the hemline is neat and clean. Read more about choosing thread here.

Measure Carefully (And Cut Even More Carefully!)

Take measurements carefully. Before hemming the dress, it is essential to take accurate measurements, including the width of the hem and the distance between the hemline and the floor. Taking these measurements carefully will ensure that the hemline is even and sits at the right length. You will need to decide on the length. Have the wearer put on the dress and stand on a level surface, while wearing the same shoes they plan to wear with the dress. Use a measuring tape to measure the length of the dress from the waist down to where you want the hemline to fall. Mark the spot with a pin and repeat this process all the way around the dress. Trim the excess fabric. (Be super careful! Don’t cut too much!)

Every good seamstress needs one of these! This is a self-measuring tape. Simply wrap the tape measure around your body, stick the end of the tape measure into the opposite side of the device, lock it in place, push the button so the tape retracts and let it contour to the shape of your body. This will allow you to look into the mirror and ensure the tape is level and in the right spot. You can find it on Missouri Star Quilt Co. or by clicking here.

Time to Pin!

Then, it’s time to pin the hemline in place. Start by folding the hemline up to the desired length and pinning it in place. Work your way around the dress, pinning as you go. If you’re hemming multiple layers, start with the bottom layer, pin in place, and then go to the next layer and so on. If it is a floor length dress, the bottom layer should fall about one inch from the floor. Each additional layer should fall slightly lower than the previous. If some layers are tulle, it is not necessary to hem those and they can just be cut to the appropriate length.

The Technique

Choose the right hemming technique. There are different hemming techniques that can be used depending on the type of dress and the desired style. For instance, a rolled hem can be used for lightweight fabrics, while a blind hem or hand-stitched hem is ideal for heavy fabrics. It is recommended to finish the seams with a serger or zigzag stitch, if you’re concerned that the fabric will fray. Finish by lightly pressing the hemline with a warm iron to make sure that it is even and smooth.

These 8″ Dressmaker scissors from Prym are perfect for trimming up those dress hems! Find them here!

Use a Model or Dress Form

Here’s the most important part: use a dress form or live model. Most seamstresses prefer to have the wearer try the dress on prior to hemming and again afterwards. Sometimes more than one fitting is required. The first fitting is the best time to pin the dress at exactly where it needs to be hemmed. Accurate fittings involving the wearer will help ensure that the hemline is even and falls correctly. It will also make it easier to determine the right length and style of the hem.

You Can Do It!

Hemming a formal dress can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done smoothly. Remember to take your time, work carefully, and measure accurately to ensure that the hemline is even and falls perfectly on the wearer. With these steps, you can hem a dress, even one with lots of layers, and have it looking beautiful and polished in no time.

Want to learn about hemming jeans? Click here!

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