How to shorten a high low hem maxi dress

fashion over 50 woman in office outfit
Contents
  1. How to alter a high-low hem
      • What you need
      • How to shorten a maxi dress to knee-length
      • Infographic of tailoring a high-low hem
  2. Styling a midi high-low hem wrap dress for work
  3. Final tips

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How to alter a high-low hem

I got this high-low hem velvet dress for the Forty Below Ball that took part in January. Since the ball was not announced as black tie I picked a maxi dress (see photo below) that would be “formal” enough to fit the dress code at the ball (upscale Fairbanks formal), but that I could change to get more wear out of it. In a small town like Fairbanks, the people attending a ball are more or less the same crowd year after year. Thus, you can’t wear the same dress to a ball twice. 🙁

In this post, I share with you how to shorten a high-low hem yourself. The photo below shows the dress used in this example tutorial prior to the alterations.

Stylist in high-low hem velvet maxi dress illustrating the twirl
Shein green velvet wrap dress with Stephanie Professional dance shoes (all own)

What you need

Here is a list of what you need:

  • Tailor scissors
  • Yarn in the color of the dress
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Pins
  • Full length mirror
  • Either an adjustable mannequin set for your height with your best hemlines marked or a friend helping to stitch/hold the hem  to find the best length in the front and back
  • Tape measure
  • Iron
  • Needle or sewing machine

post banner how to shorten a high-low hem tutorial showing tailoring material

How to shorten a maxi dress to knee-length

Here are the steps:

  • Put the dress on inside out to mark the desirable length at the front and back.  This can be done best with the help of a friend.
  • Use the tape measure to determine how long the skirt has to be in the back and front measuring from your natural waist. Add 1 inch (2.5 cm) for the hem and mark the points on the inside of the fabric. Alternatively you could determine how much has to be shortened. In this case, you would have to withdraw 1 inch from the number to account for the length. Note that the first method is more reliable as you probably know the lengths of your most flattering skirts.
  • Now  create a curved line that combines the points marked in the front and back. Make sure that at same distance from the mid back point and mid front point the curves on the left and right have same distance from the old hem and your natural waist.
  • Cut along your final curves. Tip: Once done fold along the line of the front and back point. Ideally, they should match. Make adjustments if needed.
  • Pin the hem by folding the fabric so that no open end remains.
  • Put the dress on carefully and check the length in the mirror for symmetry and length. Make adjustments, if needed.
  • Sew the pinned hem. Iron, if needed. Tip: When working with velvet or corduroy, do not use an iron! It would leave the fabric flat! If you absolutely have to, you may try at low heat to press slightly with a moist piece of the cut off fabric facing with its the outside the outside of the hem. The structure on structure surpresses a bit the flattening. But test this first with two pieces of the cutoff fabric before you do it on your dress.

Infographic of tailoring a high-low hem

The following infographic shows in photos and instructions how toalter a high-low hem to turn a maxi wrap-dress in a knee-length work-appropriate warp dress. Note that when shortening a high-low wrap-dress, you have two “front points” to consider.

tailoring infographic how to shorten a curved hem maxi dress to knee length

Styling a midi high-low hem wrap dress for work

Since velvet is a trend right now, it is easy to wear the shortened gown as a wrap dress at the office. All you have to do is to keep the accessories and shoes in the classic work appropriate style. The reasons to accessorize with a scarf were to up the style factor and to stay warm. It was still cold in the spring transition season. The v-neck of this wrap dress is quite modest, i.e. there is no reason to use a scarf to cover the cleavage.

fashion blogger in wrap dress

older woman in shortened asymmetric hemline dress
Shortened Shein dress with Salvadore Ferragamo pumps, Coach bag, Banana Republic silk coat (all own), and hand-painted swirl scarf c/o Uno Alla Volta

Final tips

Bookmark this page in your browser or pin the post banner or infographic to your sewing or DIY pinterest board so you find it when you need it. When you are unsure which color of yarn is best, buy the yarn after cutting the dress/skirt. Shop for the best match by holding a sample to the yarns available at the store. #alterations #sewingfashionista Click To Tweet

Which version do you like better? The short knee-length or the long maxi version? Do you shorten your gowns to wear them for another purpose and/or get more wear out of them?

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Photos of me: G. Kramm
Photos of the infographic and infographic: N. Mölders

© 2013-2020 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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