Whether a seamstress has cut your wedding dress too short, or you’ve discovered the length is wrong after purchasing it online, there’s no need to panic.
Although shortening a dress is typically easier than lengthening it, you have several ways to go about the problem.
Some wedding dress lengthening methods require a high sewing expertise level; others are DIY-friendly or don’t require any sewing.
You may insert a fabric panel, add a ruffle, let out the hem, or wear an underskirt. At the end of the day, you can always wear a lower heel.
The best suitable method depends on the dress fabric, design, budget, and timeline. Consider consulting with your local seamstress – it’s often free, even if you end up doing the alterations yourself.
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How Long Should a Wedding Dress Be?
Before you head to the local seamstress or take a sewing ripper, consider which wedding dress length you prefer and how much fabric you need to add.
There’s no universal rule about how long a wedding dress should be. Some brides prefer floor-length gowns with a hemline reaching the ground and entirely concealing shoes.
Others opt for more practical full-length dresses that end about an inch above the floor, opening the tips of the shoes. Maxi-length dresses are even more comfortable, ending at the ankle.
Finally, you can always consider tea-length if your dress is way too short. Often, shortening the hem is easier than lengthening it, and the 1950s’ trend is on a surge.
Let Out the Hem
Many wedding dresses have a hem allowance, particularly those made from thick, opaque fabric. Thin, delicate fabrics such as satin, lace, organza, and silk usually have a raw or rolled hem unsuitable for this method.
If your wedding dress has a wide hem, lengthening it is simple even with minimum sewing experience. However, if you’ve never attempted sewing before, it’s better to opt for professional alternations.
To let out the hemline yourself, you’ll need a sewing ripper, measuring tape, iron, chalk, and a sewing machine. First, measure how much fabric you need to let out and whether you have sufficient seam allowance.
Ask someone to help, as you won’t be able to measure the required wedding dress length correctly yourself. Then, remove the hem seams using a ripper and mark the new seam line with chalk.
Fold up the hem by the new seamline, pin it, and iron it to ensure the new hem fold is straight. Then, remove the pins and sew the hem along the new seamline. Use a matching thread.
Another option is to let out the seam from the waistline. Yet again, the suitability of this method depends on your dress’ fabric and design.
Add a Ruffle
Some wedding dresses are made from sheer or delicate fabrics without hem seams, so you can’t simply let out the fabric. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make such a dress longer.
In this case, a sewist may add a ruffle from a suitable material. It will make the dress appear longer and add a romantic, whimsical touch to the overall look.
The ruffle can be made from the same material as the skirt or a different fabric. For instance, you may combine tulle with silk or lace with cotton.
Adding a ruffle to the dress yourself is not much more complicated than letting out the hem. Find a suitable fabric and cut a long fabric panel.
Then, ease-stitch the panel from one side. Ease stitching is achieved by using the widest sewing machine stitch and not knotting the end stitches.
Afterward, pull the thread from two sides to gather the fabric, creating a ruffle. Finally, sew the ruffle to your wedding dress’ seamline.
Insert a Panel
If your dress doesn’t have a sufficient seam allowance and you don’t want to alter the style by adding a ruffle, you can lengthen it by inserting a fabric panel.
The panel will be visible in any case, so the key here is to find fabric that precisely matches your wedding dress to conceal the seam. Such a panel will look the best on minimalistic dresses from an opaque material.
If your dress is layered, featuring an opaque underskirt and sheer tulle or lace top skirt that will conceal the seam, you may not have to worry about fabric shade or texture difference.
Cut a fabric panel twice the length required and fold it in half with the wrong side together. Iron-press fabric fold, sew the upper parts together, and sew the panel onto your dress’s lining.
Alternatively, you may add a lace panel that doesn’t require any folding and stitching. Simply sew the lace to your dress’ hem seamline.
Wear an Underskirt
The easiest wedding dress lengthening method that doesn’t require sewing is wearing an underskirt.
Plus, a crinoline or hooped underskirt can change your dress’ shape, making the skirt appear fuller, and holding the hem away from your feet.
But if you’re happy with your dress’ shape, you can find an underskirt without a crinoline.
Depending on your dress fabric and silhouette, you may opt for a tulle underskirt with ruffles or find one from an opaque material.
The former is better for A-line, ball gown, mermaid, and trumpet dresses with sheer skirts. Meanwhile, opaque underskirts are better for dresses from thick, heavy fabrics.
A common misconception is that you can’t wear an underskirt with a figure-hugging dress, as it will be visible. Thankfully, today, you can find seamless underskirts that only flare at the bottom.
Alternatively, you may sew a custom underskirt onto your dress’ inner part instead of wearing a separate piece. This option is great if your wedding dress has a non-standard color and you can’t find a suitable underskirt.
Note that you may perspire in a layered synthetic underskirt on a hot summer day. Thankfully, you can easily take it off under the ceremony.
Consider changing your high heels for flats to make the dress appear longer if you plan to take off the underskirt.
If your wedding dress allows different lengthening methods, you may be wondering which one is the right for you. Unless you’re planning DIY wedding dress alterations, the price can be important in decision-making.
Typically, buying an underskirt is the cheapest way to lengthen a wedding dress.
You may find decent options with hoops or crinoline for as low as $20, although underskirts from luxurious fabrics or with intricate designs can cost over $200.
The price of wedding dress hemming varies drastically depending on the design and fabric. Hemming of dresses from opaque, thick fabrics suitable for machine stitching can cost under $80.
Meanwhile, some sheer, delicate fabrics must be hand-stitched. Even if your silk wedding dress has a sufficient seam allowance, hand stitching is a labor-consuming process that can add another $100 or more to the bill.
Sometimes, the price of wedding dress hem alterations may exceed $250 – that’s especially common with layered gowns.
The problem is that you can’t always let out only one layer’s hem. Typically, the seamstress must alter all layers, which means extra work.
The price of adding a ruffle or inserting a panel also varies depending on the fabric and work complexity.
Adding a synthetic panel to a dress from opaque, thick fabric may cost less than letting out the hem. On the other hand, if you choose expensive, delicate fabrics, expect to pay over $200.
Sewing in a custom underskirt may be considered bespoke customization and cost multiple hundreds of dollars.
Another point to consider when choosing how to make your wedding dress longer is the timeline.
If you still have over six months to go, safely choose any preferred method. However, some lengthening methods aren’t an option if the time is tight.
If your wedding dress has a sufficient seam allowance and is sewing machine-friendly, a professional sewist can alter the hem in under a week. Note that the timeline also depends on the sewists’ workload.
In cases where a wedding dress has multiple layers of delicate fabric, hem alterations may take over a month.
The same applies to cases where the seam is let out from the waistline. Allow a couple of months for your fittings, as this alterations method can impact the overall dress fit, and the seamstress may have to make other changes.
Adding a ruffle or inserting a panel usually doesn’t take more than a couple of weeks. As for the underskirt, taking it on takes a few minutes, but you should estimate enough time for shipping if you order it online.
On the other hand, if you want to make a custom underskirt and sew it into the dress, expect to wait for at least a month.
Note that each wedding dress is different, and this is only an estimation. Consult with your seamstress to ensure you have enough time to lengthen your dress and make any additional alterations needed.
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