Just like in the Doing Your Own Alterations page, I can't always give great advice on how to hem a gown I can't see on the bride and I can't give you step-by-step sewing lessons by email, but I may be able to give you enough to think about that may lead to you figuring out what you need to do.

added October 2010

Dear Leanna,

I have quick question.  My Chiffon gown needs to  be hemmed (well cut & hemmed) . I noticed in the picture of which the dress was displayed ... the inner slip was  about a 1/2 or 1 inch shorter then the chiffon.  Is the right proper  way that my tailor should do it? Or should the inner slip and outer chiffon be the same length?  Thank you



Hi Angela,
It is normal for a chiffon lining to be shorter then the chiffon. It is extremely difficult to get them both exactly the same so most hems are done so the chiffon is a little longer, sometimes up to 2" longer. This picture looks about 1 1/2" difference to me. I try for a 1/2" difference when I do chiffon hems. I like that look.

added June 2010

I love your site, and have been using it as a guide in looking for a wedding dress.  Since I'm trying to find a used or sample dress, your tips on alterations and smart shopping have been particularly helpful! 
I found a dress that I really like used, but the original owner is a lot shorter than I am-- she was 5'5'' in heels, and I'm 5'7'' without.  She measured the dress from the top of the bodice to the floor, and I would need to add 3-4 inches to the length for it to fit correctly.  The dress has lace offset tiering, and was probably taken up at the waist rather than at the bottom, so I wonder if it would be possible to let it back out, or whether the extra fabric would have been removed during the first alteration?  The previous owner asked the place that did the alterations, but they said they couldn't tell her how the hem was altered.
Here is a link to the dress picture:
I'd really appreciate your advice, because I love the dress, but obviously am afriad to purchase it without knowing whether it could be altered. 



Hi Emily,
Very lovely! I really like that vintage look. 
I seriously doubt the fabric from the hemming is still there if it was done at the waist. It would have made the waist area very bulky and it looks rather slimming in the picture. I would not have done the hem at the waist, though. I would have taken up each layer a small amount to keep the whole asymmetrical layering even.  If it was done that way it is possible the fabric is still there, but someone will have to know how to look under the skirt at the seams to tell if it is. It sounds like your seller is not knowledgeable enough to do this.
It's hard to tell because of the asymmetry, but comparing her pictures to the model it looks to me like only the last layer was shortened. Depending on how the layers are constructed the fabric might still be there and could be easily let back out. I make it a policy of not cutting anything that is not totally necessary. I can't guarantee the gown was done the way I would do it but it is possible.
If you really love this dress, I would ask her if she'd ship it to you on approval. Maybe offer to pay her half and the rest if the dress can be altered. If it can't you send it back for a refund. Part of the price of buying a bargain is not monetary. It's the risk that you both have to trust that the other person is being honest and will pay or refund as promised.
$200 is a great price. If you do buy the dress and find out it won't work for you, you can list it for re-resale. I know of brides who have done this and sold the gown for more than they bought it for. The resale bridal market is huge!

Good Luck,


Hi Leanna-
Thanks so much for your quick and very helpful response.  I hadn't thought to compare the pictures of the dress before and after alterations, but I think you might be right about the bottom tier looking noticeably shorter...potentially good news. 
I'll also see if I can work something out with the seller along the lines you've suggested.  I really appreciate your advice!

added June 2010

Hi Leanna,
First I wanted to thank you for reading and responding to this as I'm sure you get many emails and are very busy!
I just had my first dress fitting yesterday (LOVE my dress) and I have a question on the proper hem length for this dress.
I am just shy of 5'3'' and was advised to get a hallow to hem for this gown which I did. I wore 4 inch heels when the bridal salon measured me as I wear heels every day and plan on using a fabulous pair of couture shoes with the gown for my big day (not to mention my husband to be is 6'4'' so I can use some height). The salon measured a 51.5 inch hallow to hem.
I brought my 4" heels with me to the seamstress who is taking the dress in (chest, waist, hips, etc) and she said that 4" would be way too tall for the dress. She suggested 2" heels which puts the gown touching the ground. There is also tulle underneath the dress that seems much more stiff than the sample I've tried on several times so I'm hoping that after steaming and hanging that the dress will fall flatter.
So my dilema. The bridal store said that the peep of the toe of the shoe should be shown in this dress but the seamstress advised on just touching the ground. I don't want the dress to appear "too short" so i'm torn on the heel height. Although i've had my heart set on 4" heels I want to ensure I look appropriate. How many inches off the ground do you think this dress should be?
Thanks in advance,

Hi Melissa,
I am 5"6", so the 51.5 hallow to hem they measured on you should be 3" too short on me. I held a tape up to me and it was about 1" too short. Now, figuring your 4" heals, I'd say they didn't order you the correct hallow to hem measurement. They may have decided for you that the hem has to touch the floor which is not their right to decide. Many brides do want this but it is certainly not a matter of properness. Hem length is a matter of your comfort level for walking ease and gracefulness. If you have the experience to walk in a gown that touches the floor with grace than I would recommend that you can have your hem touch the floor. If you can't than it is much better for you to have it up a little bit. Aside from what all the TV shows are saying - - - No one is looking at your feet. They are all wanting to see your smiling face. If you can't smile while walking in a awkwardly hemmed gown, than you are not going to look good.
Most of my brides have been comfortable with their hem 1" above the floor. In the picture you sent it looks like the hem may be a bit higher than 1", maybe 1 1/2" or 2". I don't understand why they are telling you that this dress has to have a hem touching the floor other then they goofed at the hallow measurement and are trying to get you to accept the hem as is. There is not much that they can do to change the dress at this point. If they knew how, lace can be added seamlessly to the bottom to make it longer. Lace is cool in what you can do with it and since your gown is all over lace design already it would be easy to make the hem a tiny bit longer so you can wear your 4" heals. Though I'm sure they measured your hallow to hem wrong and should do anything they can to fix it, I'm also sure the store will charge you for changing the hem.
Two inches sounds like a lot but it's not. Since your lace has a scalloped edge it's hard to tell exactly how much above the floor it is so you can fudge it a little and no one will know. No one is going to take a ruler to you at your wedding anyway. Like I said, they are all focusing on your face, not your feet. They look at the dress a bit, but only people like me look at hems.
I'm rambling a bit and I don't know if any of my thoughts are helping you decide what to do. I don't think they will cooperate if you do want to do something to change the hem. They sound like they are set in their ways and not caring about what the bride wishes for her vision of her special day. I have rules but I also  understand that you have to be willing to listen to brides and help them get what they want, not what the store thinks is appropriate. Today's bride has her own ideas of what she wants and the industry needs to be flexible instead of insisting that brides adhere to the old standards.
What do you think about 3" heals? That might make the length just right. You do not have to tell them you are doing that either. Just bring a nice pair of 2' heals to your last fitting and say nothing.

Hi Leanna!
THANK YOU SO MUCH for your advice, it all makes alot of sense.  I would agree that the hem is 1 inch shorter than it should be. I think they made the decision that the hem should be shorter and now I can't wear the shoes that I want!
That being said, I was also thinking to go with 3" heels. The seamstress had me try on
 2 3/4" heels and since it wasn't touching the ground said they were still too tall (however I thought it looked fine). I did think the 4" was too tall. I am going to see if I can find a 3" pair so that it's a balance in between. I'm not one to make a stink but my couture shoes were like what diamonds are to other girls! I so badly wanted to rock a pair of christian louboutains in red, purple or blue, especially since I wear 4-4.5 inch shoes daily. I even made sure I had them with me when they measured me!
Anyway, I appreciate your ideas and I think you're right on point. I have a second fitting on August 4 to see how the bust/waist, etc look so i'll bring the shoes with me. I'll bring along a 2 inch pair as well as a 3" to see what looks best........
THANK YOU again for your input, it's really made me feel much better about this whole thing. At the end of the day there are many more important things than my hem and i'm happy to have so many blessings so I should be happy that the worst thing i'm dealing with is that and not something else. :)
take care!

added June 2010


I have a ballroom gown that was made in Hong kong and unfortunately was too long…a friend made it shorter for me but the effect that was originally there with the fishing wire in the bottom to make the fabric curl out is not the same.

I was going to try again. Is there a specific technique I should use to try do this?

Any advice is great appreciated.


Hi Yvonne,
I find 30 lb test line works well for most light fabrics like taffeta and organza. I use a rolled hem foot and a zig zag stitch. Pull the fabric slightly as you sew to get it to curl. The more you pull the more curl. You have to be careful with some fabrics to not pull too much as they will distort or even tear. It would be very helpful if you have some of the fabric that was cut off to practice on. 

Thankyou Leanne for your quick response. I will give that a try. I am not sure if I have a rolled hem foot I have a couple of different feet and will look to see if I can purchase one for my brother machine!

Kind Regards


Here's what you want: 
It folds the fabric edge as you sew. Very handy for many applications, so I'm sure your investment can be used for later tasks. Here, it's gonna fold over the fish line as you sew the hem. It's a little tricky at first guiding the fabric and fish line into the foot, but I'm sure you will get the hang of it with practice.

Dear Leanna

I thought I would let you know that I bought the foot and managed to do a reasonable job on repairing the dress, it looks much better, started on the under layers first and did the top layer last when I got more comfortable with it.

Thanks for your assistance


added March 2010

Hi, Leanna,
First, I love your website. There is SO much good information on it! I wish to high heaven that you were in my area so I could bring you my dress, for the help it so desperately needs.
This is my dress:
(I didn't get it through them, but that's the dress.)
If I had found your site before dress shopping, I probably would NOT have bought the dress. It looks terrific on me, and I feel quite lovely in it... but my fiancé and I dance Argentine Tango, and have planned that as our first dance. And while the shop assured me it could be bustled up enough so I could dance in it, it apparently can't be done.
The seamstress from the shop did three things, and two of them need re-doing. I hate my dress right now, and I'm fairly upset with myself: I can't afford a different dress, and I am angry at having to pay for more alterations on top of the $300 I already spent.
When I picked up the dress, I was late getting to the shop, so they didn't have time for me to try it on. I got home and put it on, and the bustle is too long; the hem still drags on the floor. And the 'bra cups' that the seamstress put in are placed wrong; they stick out at the bottom and buckle the smooth line of the bodice; and they're inside the lining so I can't get at them to reposition them without ripping the dress apart. The only thing she got right was the taking in the sides by about a half-inch; it fits fine now.
Sorry. That's a bit of a long rant to get to my questions, which are:
* Are you by any chance familiar with this dress? If you have worked on one, I would love to see how you bustled it, to see if I can duplicate it. Also on the bustling: any advice on bustling not only the train, but lifting the front of the dress a few inches as well, so I can dance in it?
* The dress has a lining, with tulle for fullness; plus the satin of the dress and two sheer decorated overlays. Since I have a petticoat, I am considering cutting off the bottom of the lining, and hemming it to knee length, to eliminate bulk from underneath and make it easier to move in for the dancing.
Or should I stop being obsessed with making it work and just get a second dress just for our first dance? Our wedding will be a garden wedding, and the reception immediately after -- I hate the idea of only wearing the dress for 20 minutes + pictures.
Anyway, I'm sorry this is so long... But your website is so tremendous, I thought you might have some wisdom/advice for me. Again, if I weren't on the other side of the country, I'd just have brought the dress to you!!
Thank you for reading it, and for any insight you have!



Hi Shelley,
That is a lovely gown. I'm very sad this situation has caused you unhappiness with it. Having the fitting corrected usually makes things better, lets the skirt hang smoother and the bustle design easier to do. I do ballroom also, so I totally understand your dancing needs. Argentine Tango has lots of knee bending moves so it is usually recommended that the hems of the gowns be taken up about 2 to 3 inches more than for a normal gown. If your gown is set to touch the floor as many bridal gowns are it is going to be very difficult for you to Tango. There is no reason why your gown can not be hemmed in the front to allow for this and a bustle designed for this need also.
The closest gown on my site to yours is on this page:
The 4th dress on that page has much the same train shape and length. The bride liked the French style bustle but a ballroom style would also look good depending on what you like. It would simply need to be created to sit a little higher off the floor for your dancing needs. I don't know of any way to bustle a dress in the front that won't look odd.
I don't see any need to shorted the lining so much plus it might make the overlay hang funny. 2 inches shorter than the outter layer is sufficient. Tango dresses are usually skinny in the leg area but I have seen lovely dancing with full skirts too.
Getting a second dress for your reception is a grand idea. Many cultures have a tradition of changing garments during the different phases of the wedding. I once did a bride with three dresses for her traditional Oriental ceremony. Create your own tradition and have a lovely Tango dress for your reception. Tango is such a passionate dance. Maybe a deep red to represent your passion for each other. I love it!
I like to tell brides that tradition is a good thing but it's so important to bring something of your own self to your wedding ceremony. Simply following stuffy rules and other people's ideas of what is proper does nothing to give you and your groom that "married" feeling.
I hope this helps,

Hi, Leanna,

You are an angel. :)

You just made me feel a lot better. Thank you for taking the time to write me back! The brides in your area are so lucky to have you! 

And I think I can do that bustle!! It's close to what I'd come up with playing around with it. Helps to see that visual, though. Now I'm looking at it figuring out how to hem it -- the seamstress told me it wasn't possible to alter the length of the dress; that I'd just have to wear platform shoes if I wanted it shorter. But the lace embellishments seem to be removable with careful stitch-picking, and I can shorten it a little and put the decorations back on... kind of a pain, though.

Maybe I will just look for a great new tango dress for the reception, and not even tell him I'm going to change. Then I get to "wow!" him twice in one day... that's kinda fun.

Anyway, most sincere thanks for the input. :D
Much joy and success (and happy dancing!) to you!


added January 2010

Hi Leanna,
I found my dream dress - but of course it was over my budget.  So after some research I discovered I could order it on-line at a price that was well within my budget and this is what I did.  The size that the sizing chart indicated i should order was 2-3 sizes bigger than my normal size (normally a street 2-4 - dress i ordered was an 8).  But I knew wedding dresses were sized small and thought it would be fine.  The dress came yesterday - and it is too big everywhere (even the area that required I order the size 8 is noticeably big!). I think I could have safely went with a size 6.  I have been a little concerned about this ever since the dress arrived - but finding your sight has made me feel much better.  I have read a number of previous questions and responses you have provided and it seems that altering down one or two sizes should not be a huge problem. 
However, I just wanted to check in and see if there was any caveat to this when the dress is Alencon lace?  My dress is a Watters 1048B 
I am specifically concerned about the chest area - as you can see from the photo (I hope) there is an underlining that covers the breasts - and because my dress is a big - I am afraid that once altered to fit properly - they will sit way too high and look bad.  Is this something that can be fixed?
My other question is about hemming - I actually would like to hem the dress so that there is no train at all... just a normal floor lenth dress... is this alot more work/money than the usual hemming/adding a bustle?  I am 5'3 and don't plan on wearing shoes any higher than 2inches - so I think I will lose most of the train anyway.
Thank you in advance for help!

Hi Heather, 
Most gowns are taken in at the side seams. This should work for this gown but I can't be certain without being able to see the seams. You said you are concerned that the breast will be moved too high. Sewing any gown in at the sides does not effect the placement of the bustline. That can be changed by adjusting the halter at the back of the neck but you have not said that needs to be done.
Now, the side of the bodice where the lace edge travels under your arm may be effected by taking in the sides. Depending on how much is taken in, this edge will move under your arm more and may move so close to the side of your arm that you may feel irritated at it's rubbing the side/underside of your arm. This can be adjusted if you need the bodice taken in so much that this happens. Am I making sense?
The hemming can be done as you are wanting and I have done this for many brides. It does cost more than a regular bridal hem that is done only on the front of the dress. It usually doubles the cost. You do have an option to permanently bustle the gown. This looks perfectly natural and is a great way to lower the cost.

added January 2010

Dear Leanna,

My mother and I just watched your bustle dvd, and we loved it. 

I've attached a couple photos of my wedding dress.

We would like to know how you think it would be best to (1) shorten this dress a few inches, (2) which type of bustle you think would look best on this dress.

My mom will be doing the sewing herself.  She's had a lot of experience altering my clothes.

Thanks so much.  Again, great dvd!  I'll be sure to recommend it to my friends who've recently gotten engaged too.

Thanks again,
Hi Jessica,
You can hem this several ways but the easiest is to gather up more fabric at each tuft in the front to make them deeper and thus shortening the hem in the front.
There are pictures of several bustled gowns on my site that are like yours here: 
I usually do this type of gown French unless the bride wants something else. There is also a tufted bustle here:

added January 2010

Hi there.
My name is Michelle Murlin.  I'm a professional singer.  I have a beaded gown that I'd love to have made into a knee-length dress...  but it's FULLY BEADED.  The type of beads that you can't ever stop from unraveling if you cut them.  Basically, the dress can't be altered (I've been told.)  I was wondering if you've ever tried to alter a dress like this and how much you think it would cost if I did this.
Is there any kind of a sewing tape that you could put along the "new" hemline -- and then cut the dress BELOW where the tape is and sew that to the lining?  I was even thinking of trying to do this myself.
I have things altered constantly...  been in the business for over 25 years (singing.)  I'm very familiar with what can be done to MOST articles of clothing (always customizing dresses for costume purposes.)  However, these fully beaded dresses are a NIGHTMARE to deal with and I know most seamstresses won't touch them.  (Mine won't.)  Any advice?
I'd be happy to send the dress to you if you think you could shorten it.  That is if the estimate wouldn't be too expensive.  Please let me know.  Thanks!


Hi Michelle,
There is seam tape. That might do what you are trying to accomplish. It comes in packages in most fabrics stores. It's 1/2 inch to 5/8 inch wide, very thin and comes in many colors. I can't guarantee that it will securely hold all the thread ends of the beading, but it's good for a quick hemming. The best thing to do is sew each beaded line to secure it before cutting the fabric of the hem. It does take a long time but these gowns are worth it.
Often seamstresses won't touch this type of hem but I have done hems like this. It's takes a lot of time to do it correctly. I don't give a set price for such work. The customer has to agree that how ever much time it takes me, it takes me. My hourly rate is $30. Depending on the patterning of beading, a hem like this can be over $200.00. 

added January 2010

What a great website you have! I'm doing a lot of research before I actually start dress shopping, and your site is a great resource for tips.

I haven't even tried on any dresses yet, but I am already anticipating a potential problem. I'm only 5' 3", with a 36" bust. Normally, it isn't an issue. I usually wear a size 8 in most tops. Bottoms, however, are another story. Every skirt and pant I ever buy is obviously too long, sometimes even in a petite size. Even with heels, it's usually obvious I'm wearing something too long (though most of the time it isn't a huge problem, for things like jeans). I have seen that, at least online, there are not a lot of specifically petite-sized gowns available. I have not decided on a dress style yet, but I'm worried about any detail at the bottom hem. Depending on the dress, is it fairly likely that I'll just loose any bottom detailing when the hem is taken up, or can it sometimes be salvaged buy someone with talent? I do realize that the answer may vary, depending on the style... but would it just generally be safer to try and avoid dresses with much detailing around the bottom hem?

Thanks, Heather

Hi Heather,

It would make hemming easier for you if you select a gown with no hem decoration. But, I have done hems for brides with your situation and had them look great, so don't be too worried.

Ask lots of questions when you try on different gowns from different makers. Each one has options that may give you advantages. Sales people do try to sell dresses but they are also the ones with the information you need to make a wise choice. Ask about "hollow to hem" measuring. Some companies give petite brides the option to receive the gown proportioned to their shorter height. It costs extra but it's usually about what a hem would be anyway.

added January 2010

Any suggestions to hemming a tiered satin dress? The tier get increasing wider down the length of the dress. The last tier would need a hem that would make it narrower than the tier above it. Would this be fine or is there another way to shorten the dress?

Hi Teresa,

Gradient tiers can be difficult to deal with because of the narrowing but that might work to your advantage. You might be able to hem just the last layer and no one will notice the change because of the gradient. If it's just an inch or 2 that needs to be shortened I'm willing to bet you can hem just the last layer and no one will notice. If you need more, than you might need to look into dividing the amount to each layer. It will cost much more than a basic hem, but if gives you the look you want then it will be worth it.

I'd need to look under the skirt to see how the layers are designed to give you any more options. There might be something that can be done to the top layer that lets the rest keep the gradient.


added November2009

Hi Leanna,

I am a veil maker and because I sew something dealing with weddings,
ladies keep asking me to alter their dresses.  This has turned into
much more business than the veils.  Because I keep being asked to
alter dresses, I am thinking about buying a special foot for my
Bernina sewing machine that turns and stitches a double rolled hem in
one shot.  It is recommended for bridal fabrics.  Do you use such a
foot and do you find it easier than rolling the hem by hand?  One more
question.  I have someone wanting me to do a hem with just a pin put
in the dress where she wants the length.  Should I just shorten it the
amount they want all the way around, or should I require the girl to
drive an hour to come in and get fitted?  My mom always made us stand
there and do the little pin thing all the way around.  This seems very
time consuming, but I want to do it right if I accept the job.  Thank
you so much for your advice.  Deb

Hi Deb,
I have the foot you are describing but I don't use it much. It works for some fabrics but not all. The finer the fabric the less likely it is to work well. I find it easier to just do it manually.
I NEVER accept a hemming job without being able to pin the hem on the body with the correct shoes on. If a bride, maid, or Mom shows up without the exact shoes she will wear to the wedding I refuse to take the job. I even tell each person on the phone this policy and some still show up with no shoes or  shoes that are "the same heal height as the ones I will buy". I politely say, "I'm sorry but you were told on the phone that you have to bring the exact shoe that will be worn on the wedding day in order for me to pin this hem." I get ladies leaving in huffs but I just want to get it right like you are saying. I have done this for many years. The word gets around and I have a great reputation for quality that I won't trade for one silly girl who thinks she can get me to lower my standards.
Most of my clients love it that I am this picky. Working on wedding garments is not for the faint at heart. All brides want to look their best for their special day. My reputation assures them that that's what they will get from me. It's hard to say, "No" but so worth it.

added November 2009


I have chosed bridesmaid dresses that are on the knee and I wanted to know if it is important for their hem lenghts to be in line when they stand side by side.
I have 3 bridesmaids, which all live in different parts of the country and it will be near impossible for them to be in the same place at the same time except for the wedding.
Do they all need to be measued together or can it be done anothe way?

Hi Danielle,
It's not hard to get what you are describing without  the maids having to be in the same place. Decide where you want the hems to be by measuring one maid with her shoes on. Measure from the floor to the desired hem placement. Then tell the other 2 to have their hems done to that measurement. Remember to tell all 3 to measure with their shoes on, especially if they will have different heals heights.
One thing to think about before you do this. If the ladies are very different in height this may not look good. Picking a placement that is flattering to each ladies' legs is not always easy. If the maids are of different heights you will get some knees showing and others covered by the hem fabric. Hems like this are often done by telling the maids to have the set at 2" below the bottom of the knee or right at the center of the knee. It's much more flattering then the same level when they stand together.
If the hems end up being an inch or 2 different, it won't be noticed by any guests. Plus 3 maids are not hard to get the hems close in length. I once had a wedding with 6 maids, 3 juniors and 2 flower girls, all different heights and sizes, and the bride was very sure about wanting the hems like you do. So, don't let this stress you.

added September 2009

I hope you can help me with advise on hemming a ball bown. There are layers and layers of tulle. This dress is huge!!!! There is also two slips under the dress. Would I pin the dress as it is full and fluffy or do I straighten it and pin it that way. Help

Hi Mari,
If you will be wearing it fluffy, pin it fluffy. If you will wear it straightened, pin it straightened.

added September 2009

Thank you for considering my question.  At my daughter's request, I have
purchased a floor-length dress for her wedding, which will be held
outside on grass.  I cannot find any advice on factors to consider when
determining how far off the ground a long gown should be when the gown
will be worn outside on grass.  I would appreciate any suggestions you
can give me.  I do not want to end up with a dress that is so long that
it is dragging on the grass.
Thanks for your help, and all the great information on your website.

I usually advise that a grass hem be at least 2 inches from the floor with your shoes on. Depending on the grass, you may adjust this level. A more manicured, short lawn can have a 1 inch hem, where a more sparse grass where you sink into the dirt may need a 3 inch hem. You may also need to consider if you will be on a patio during some of the day.

added July 2009

I have agreed to make bridesmaids skirts for my niece.  I was lucky and she chose a simple pattern for the skirts.  They are made from silk dupioni and simply gathered at a 2 to 1 ratio onto a yoke.  The problem is the hem.  The bride has her heart set on a look that she has seen where the dresses appear "almost too long."  When looking at the skirts and marking the hems, she likes the look of at least 1" longer than the floor so that the dress noticeably drags..  I have seen this look on many internet photos, but I can't find any explanation on what keeps the girls from tripping on the dresses.  Any hints would be appreciated.

Hi Reba,
I see no way to prevent tripping with this very silly style. You need to explain to them this factor before you do any work on this project to protect yourself because someone will be tripping at the wedding or reception or sometime else. I flatly refuse to do a hem this way

added July 2009

Hi Leanna:
Could you tell me what a bagged hem is?
Please, would you share you price list for alterations. I promise no to give it to anyone else.

A bagged hem is when the outer fabric is sew to the lining fabric at the hem with the seam edges inside the garment. This is also called a Hong Kong hem.

added July 2009

Dear Leanna,
Thank you so much for sharing your information and experiences.
I have a question on hemming a chiffon over satin [two-hem-layer] dress,
Such as Maggie Sottero STERLING.
When you are with the bride to address hem, and she wants it hemmed
side-seam-to-side-seam and tapered into train, and you are going to pin
up or mark the hem layers:
how do you do this?
It has taken me a long time on pinning the chiffon, especially.
For each layer, with the bride wearing the dress, do you pin up the hem
all the way across, off floor to desired length--or mark it with a
marking pen at desired length off ground--or how?  [Especially when the
horsehair braid in inside the satin, it is harder for me to get an
accurate amount off the floor when crossing it.]  Do you take out the
horsehair braid _before_ working with the hem at a fitting, or do you do
work with it _after_ you have already marked the hem with the bride at a
I am interested in streamlining this whole process if possible, as well
as doing the very best job I can on each actual hem.  I would appreciate
your input on an efficient means of marking/pinning each hem layer.
Thank you so very much,

Hi Rebecca,
Yes, it takes a long time to pin fabrics like Chiffon. Fabrics that are unruly need extra attention.
Sometimes I pin the layers together and sometimes I pin them separate. Horsehair is a factor. I do not take out the horsehair before pinning. I guess you could if that works best for you. When I have something at the bottom that would make pinning there inaccurate, like horsehair, I pin a tuck half way up the skirt so the bride can see how the hem will look more clearly than trying to turn up something like horsehair.  
I never use marking pens. They can leave a mark in some fine fabrics that will not come out.

added July 2009

Hello - I am thinking about purchasing a used Reem Acra "Daffodil" gown. The former bride bought it in a size 6 and had it altered - her street size is between a 2 and a 4 - which should be perfect for me. With heels on, she is 5'7", and I am 5'6" - so the dress could potentially ned to be hemmed. My concern is that here is embroidery on the hem so I'm not sure if it's possible to shorten the dress without losing that gorgeous detail. Here's a version of the dress on Ebay (this is not the seller I'm looking to buy from, but it is the same style as the dress and there are lots of pics.)$6.4K--10_W0QQitemZ350220619404QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxZ20090706?IMSfp=TL0907061210015r13344

Please let me know if it's possible to shorten this dress an inch without ruining the embroidered hem. I am hoping to make a decision today whether or not to purchase the gown.

Thank you!!

Hi Amy,
I took a good look at the pictures but they aren't telling me what I need to give you a definite answer. To hem this type of gown the lace at the bottom needs to be removable. If the beading was sewn to the lace, then the lace sewn onto the gown, it can be removed, the gown shortened, and the lace put back on the shortened hem. If the beads were sewn on after the lace, they will all fall off when you try to remove the lace making a big mess and many hours replacing the beading after the hem is done.

In some situations the lace trim can be carefully cut from the hem and sewn on at the higher lavel, but I can't say if this gown can be done that way from pictures.

You can ask the seller if the lace can be separated from the dress fabric or if the beads are sewn all the way through the lace and gown fabric. If the beads are sewn all the way through hemming this gown will be very expensive. 

One inch is not a lot. You could easily solve the problem with higher healed shoes.

added June 2009

Dear Leanna,

Thank you so much for your sharing your wisdom and experience! You have
Given a wonderful gift to so many, and I really appreciate it. I just
Bought your bustle video and it is very useful. The level of detail for
Sewing on the rigging is very helpful.
I have sewn garments since a child, and I worked for about 2 years part
Time as a seamstress in an independent bridal/formal shop while in grad.
School, 15 years ago. That owner/shop pretty much did only ballroom
Bustles, and that is basically all I knew about til now in bustling. I
Have continued to sew garments and do alterations for family and friends
But have not worked on bridal gowns since that time.
I have a bridal hemming/bustle question. I have been asked to do
Alterations for the July wedding of a daughter of acquaintances through
My church.
The dress is Mori Lee by Madeline Gardner Voyage/Destination 6144. Based
On measurements, the bride was told to purchase a sz 4. In reality, the
Bodice was large and I had to take it in 3" total on sides and taper to
Lower bodice, in the beaded area. The bride loves the fit now, and I am
Now to the hem.
The skirt train consists of two separate layers: chiffon over satin
With horsehair braid in hem of satin. The dress front needs to be
Hemmed 6 inches. The bride wants it just about "on the floor", she
Thought 1" off the floor was too high. I pinned satin at 1/2" off floor
And she liked it. She wants chiffon just slightly longer than the
Satin. With the dress on her, I marked the chiffon with pencil where
The bride wanted the hem. The bride said she does not want the side
Seams hemmed at all, so our agreement is to taper the 6" hem over to the
Side seams. I have not hemmed this type of bridal dress before, and am
Concerned about it. I used a rolled hemmer in the distant past on
Dresses, but have upgraded machines in the past year, and to be honest,
At this point I am not confident enough in using the one I have now to
Do this exact of a hem with so little room for error on this, where the
Plain drapey chiffon is really the interest at the front hem.
How would you advise doing this--by hand--with a tiny rolled hem? As
The dress came, the chiffon is about 1 1/4" longer than the satin all
The way around, and is anchored to fall this way at side seams. Should
I taper the 6" front hem [with chiffon about 1/4" longer than satin],
Slowly til it's about 1 1/4", like it came?
The second question is on the bustle. This dress has covered buttons
All the way down the train, and it seems very much like one of your
Examples where you used a pickup bustle. The bride loves the look of the
Pickup bustle (outer) with the one point. [She did not like the
Inverted pickup bustle.] In reality, when the bustle is rigged, the
Sides drag the ground since the side seams are not being hemmed. She
Indicated it was fine with her to have the sides drag ground. Given
That she did not want the sides hemmed, I was not sure anything else to
Suggest if she _had no_t wanted it to drag--there is no waist point or
Decoration to attach any other outer bustle anchor points to. Could
You suggest what to try here if the bride in fact did not want the sides
To drag?
Again, thank you so very much for sharing your time and wisdom. I
Really, really appreciate it.

Harrison, Arkansas


Hi Becky,
You have a lot of issues here. Let me try to hit them one by one.
Your bride might have been "advised" to purchase a size 4 because that was the smallest size the manufacturer makes.
The length of the hem is a bride's wish. I start at 1" because that's a comfortable length that many brides like. I do my best to teach the brides all the reasons why this is a good length, but in the end it's her choice that counts and if she says she can walk comfortable and gratefully in a hem that touches the floor, I do it that way.
I try to set the layers at 1/2 drop from satin to chiffon. I like that look better, but if the bride wants the original drop ratio I do that.
Chiffon is a nasty fabric that does not cooperate with seamstresses. I have found ways of dealing with it's character that work for me. To do a rolled hem I machine sew a folded line 1/8" lower than the hem pins, trim the fabric 1/16" from this line, turn the folded edge up 1/16" and sew another line right on the fold.
As you have discovered, the bride can make poor choices in her hemming wishes that cause problems for you once you get to doing the bustle. Not hemming the gown across the whole front is a major one. If a bride wishes to make this decision, she needs to be informed that the sides will drag when bustled before the hem is sewn. If she says this is ok, then you do what she wishes but protect yourself by making a big deal of it so she can't blame you for guests stepping on her dragging sides at her reception.
I have one example of a bride who wanted this in my bustle pictures. I set the whole train so it gave the same drag as the sides did. It's the second set of pictures on this page:
The only other thing I do to solve dragging sides is set more bustle points to bring up the sides. This is usually undesirable for it often creates funny pulling effects in the sides area of the skirt. Generally, I spend a lot of time educating the bride at the hem stage to convince her that dragging sides is not a good idea.
Good Luck with your bride,


added June 2009

Hi Leanna, thank you so much for your web site!   It has been an incredible help for me.
I am doing hem alteration on a wedding dress.  It has horse hair braid enclosed in the hem.  I am planning on removing it and replacing it at the new length.  My question is, the hem was sewn by machine and has no place of entrance (obviously the hem was completed before the skirt was attached to the bodice).  I was thinking that I would probably make an opening in the back or side seam lining to turn the dress inside out to replace the machine-sewed hem exactly how it was. 
Do you have any suggestions???

Thank you.


Hi Cheryl,
That's what I do. I usually open a front princess seam, do my hem work on the inside of the skirt and once the bride has approved the length, I trim the hem fabric I took up and close up the access seam I made by sewing on the outside edge of the original seam making a tiny bump that doesn't get seen from the outside.

added June 2009

I know you've heard a thousand times, your site is just so helpful.  Thank you for putting so much into it.  It has been a resource for me for a year now and I am still making my way around it. 
I have owned my own home based alterations business for 12 years now.  Before that I worked for three years in two separate alterations shops.  I am 35 now and I really love doing alterations and the flexibility it affords.  This year my business has expanded greatly and I was able to hire a 17 year old girl to help me.  She loves to sew and she's a "natural" at it.  She reminds me of me.
Anyway, I did have a question if you were willing and have the time.  Recently I have had a lot of chiffon gowns to hem, and I am not happy with how they are turning out.  The customer is happy, but I just want an easier method of pining and hemming to make things easier on me.  Chiffon is so moody and it likes to grow and shrink.  How do you mark your hems, how high from the floor do you go, and when there is a train, where do you hem the sides?  I would really appreciate it if you had any advice. 
Thank you, Wende
Chiffon is a nasty fabric that does not cooperate with seamstresses. I have found ways of dealing with it's character that work for me. To do a rolled hem I machine sew a folded line 1/8" lower than the hem pins, trim the fabric 1/16" from this line, turn the folded edge up 1/16" and sew another line right on the fold.  
The pinning is set for 1" off the floor for the lining/satin layer. If the bride wants it longer or shorter I do it the way she wants. Most brides end up liking the 1".
I try to set the layers at 1/2 drop from satin to chiffon. I like that look better, but if the bride wants the original (1 1/2") drop ratio I do that. I do this from side seam to side seam and taper into the train from there.
There are many ways to do chiffon hems. You need to find a way that works for you. Good Luck,

added June 2009

Dear Leanna,

Thank you so much for your sharing your wisdom and experience!  You have given a wonderful gift to so many, and I really appreciate it.  I just bought your bustle video and it is very useful.  The level of detail for sewing on the rigging is very helpful.
I have sewn garments since a child, and I worked for about 2 years part time as a seamstress in an independent bridal/formal shop while in grad. School, 15 years ago.  That owner/shop pretty much did only ballroom bustles, and that is basically all I knew about til now in bustling.   I have continued to sew garments and do alterations for family and friends but have not worked on bridal gowns since that time.
I have a bridal hemming/bustle question. I have been asked to do Alterations for the July wedding of a daughter of acquaintances through my church.
The dress is Mori Lee by Madeline Gardner Voyage/Destination 6144. Based on measurements, the bride was told to purchase a sz 4.  In reality, the Bodice was large and I had to take it in 3" total on sides and taper to lower bodice, in the beaded area.  The bride loves the fit now, and I am now to the hem.
The skirt train consists of two separate layers:  chiffon over satin with horsehair braid in hem of satin.  The dress front needs to be hemmed 6 inches.  The bride wants it just about "on the floor", she thought 1" off the floor was too high.  I pinned satin at 1/2" off floor and she liked it.   She wants chiffon just slightly longer than the satin.  With the dress on her, I marked the chiffon with pencil where the bride wanted the hem.  The bride said she does not want the side seams hemmed at all, so our agreement is to taper the 6" hem over to the side seams.  I have not hemmed this type of bridal dress before, and am concerned about it.  I used a rolled hemmer in the distant past on dresses, but have upgraded machines in the past year, and to be honest, at this point I am not confident enough in using the one I have now to do this exact of a hem with so little room for error on this, where the plain drapey chiffon is really the interest at the front hem.
How would you advise doing this--by hand--with a tiny rolled hem?  As the dress came, the chiffon is about 1 1/4" longer than the satin all the way around, and is anchored to fall this way at side seams.  Should I taper the 6" front hem [with chiffon about 1/4" longer than satin], slowly til it's about 1 1/4", like it came?
The second question is on the bustle.  This dress has covered buttons all the way down the train, and it seems very much like one of your examples where you used a pickup bustle. The bride loves the look of the Pickup bustle (outer) with the one point.  [She did not like the inverted pickup bustle.]  In reality, when the bustle is rigged, the sides drag the ground since the side seams are not being hemmed.  She indicated it was fine with her to have the sides drag ground.  Given that she did not want the sides hemmed, I was not sure anything else to suggest if she _had no_t wanted it to drag--there is no waist point or decoration to attach any other outer bustle anchor points to.    Could you suggest what to try here if the bride in fact did not want the sides to drag?
Again, thank you so very much for sharing your time and wisdom.  I really, really appreciate it.

Sincerely, Becky


Hi Becky,
You have a lot of issues here. Let me try to hit them one by one.
Your bride might have been "advised" to purchase a size 4 because that was the smallest size the manufacturer makes.
The length of the hem is a bride's wish. I start at 1" because that's a comfortable length that many brides like. I do my best to teach the brides all the reasons why this is a good length, but in the end it's her choice that counts and if she says she can walk comfortable and gratefully in a hem that touches the floor, I do it that way.
I try to set the layers at 1/2 drop from satin to chiffon. I like that look better, but if the bride wants the original drop ratio I do that.
Chiffon is a nasty fabric that does not cooperate with seamstresses. I have found ways of dealing with it's character that work for me. To do a rolled hem I machine sew a folded line 1/8" lower than the hem pins, trim the fabric 1/16" from this line, turn the folded edge up 1/16" and sew another line right on the fold.  
As you have discovered, the bride can make poor choices in her hemming wishes that cause problems for you once you get to doing the bustle. Not hemming the gown across the whole front is a major one. If a bride wishes to make this decision, she needs to be informed that the sides will drag when bustled before the hem is sewn. If she says this is ok, then you do what she wishes but protect yourself by making a big deal of it so she can't blame you for guests stepping on her dragging sides at her reception. 
I have one example of a bride who wanted this in my bustle pictures. I set the whole train so it gave the same drag as the sides did. It's the second set of pictures on this page:
The only other thing I do to solve dragging sides is set more bustle points to bring up the sides. This is usually undesirable for it often creates funny pulling effects in the sides area of the skirt. Generally, I spend a lot of time educating the bride at the hem stage to convince her that dragging sides is not a good idea.
Good Luck with your bride.

added June 2009

Thanks for all your advice.  My daughter purchased a Maggie Sottero Bliss-- it has an organza overlay over a sateen.  My daughter wants me to alter the dress-- I have done quite a bit of sewing for her, but I am debating the issue.  The dress needs to be shortened about 6-7  inches-- this is no problem since there is no detail work at the bottom of the dress.  I like the idea of only hemming the front of the dress, however it would be nice to hem the train to reduce some of the weight and bulk in bustling the dress (because she is so short the train is now cathedral length and really too long) .   If we hem the train do we just continue to take the 6-7  inches off all the way around or does that affect how the train flows?

Also she really wants an over-bustle.  However there is no waist in the dress to hide all the necessary hooks.   The lace comes down in a "v" shape along the corseted back.  Is there any way to do an over bustle in this case? She likes the look of a "pick-up - but there is too much weight.   How fay apart must the hooks be to support  the weight of the train and not create a "pulling"  effect on the bodice.  Also how do you determine if it should take 5 or 7 hooks. 

thanks, laura

Hi Laura,
The amount to hem a train is up to you. If you want it shorter, than you can hem it as much as you wish. I would never cut any fabric off any bridal hem once it's sewn until the bride tries it on again and says she loves it. 
All your bustle questions are answered in my DVD:

added June 2009

Dear Hemmin Gurus,
Regarding this dress (218279  Adrianna Papell Beaded Halter Dress  on Nordstrom site)  I haven't figured out how to copy it and show you, but
I believe this will bring it up                                                 

Do you have any suggestions on how to hem this dress?  It has a pinkish separate liner, and both the liner and the dress look like it is cut on the bias (as I dont see straight seamsm but curved ones.  I thought I could somehow take it up at the waist, but my daughter (prom) is saying to just leaving long and she'll lift it. (all night?!)

The hem is sort of a flaired (wrinkled looking) hem...and the beads and sequins are all run together with the stitching. The fabric is silk.  Would I have to remove sequins, and somehow lock down the new bottom sequin, and the cut it?  I'm afraid of ruining it in general, and also, if the edge-movement (if there is any) might also be destroyed.  If you can help please let me know.  I've ordered a second dress, one size smaller (and shorter I hope) and we're looking for taller shoes.

There's always something!

Thanks, Nancy

Hi Nancy,
You didn't say how much the hem needs to be raised. If it's only an inch or 2 I'd simply turn it up the needed amount and hand stitch it. If it needs more than you'll have to cut some of it off and finish the edge, securing beading stitching ends, and then stitch the hem, probably by hand. There is no waist seam so you can't take it up at the waist.

added June 2009

I am making my daughter's wedding dress from Vogue 8150, view B, out of double-sided silk. All is coming out well and I am now at the hem. The length is not critical as it is higher in the front and a small train in back. I was interested in the postings that say you don't hem the train... not even a rolled edge? It seems the material would get unravelled edges. I was thinking of either a two thread serged edge and a small hem (I ironed the hem first using a piece of heavy paper so the edge doesn't show through) or sewing a 1 1/2 inch piece of the silk lining (very light weight) and turning it up. I've had good luck using small stitches and fine thread so the stitching doesn't show.  Leaving the train unhemmed seems so unfinished as there is no lace or beading to cover it.

Another question is about hanging the dress when it's done. Should I sew long pieces of tape in the waist and use them as support on the hangar? It's a rather heavy dress. Dress will be done soon (right now the finished top is not yet sewn to the skirt until the hem is done) and wedding isn't until September. Thank you for any advice you can give. Marian


Hi Susana,

I think you have a little misunderstanding. I was not talking about sewing wedding gowns from scratch. I was talking about alterations to already made gowns that already have sewn hems. Therefore, I do not hem the trains. Only the front of the gowns get my attention for shortening. Most brides do not want their trains shortened.  
You can put hanger loops anywhere you wish. Most gowns have them at the underarm area.

added May 2009


Hi Leanna,

  You do hvae a wonderful website that has seemed to help many brides for at ease.  I wanted some alteration advice from you.  I have  Maggie Sotero gown seen here-

When I initially tried it on it was too big, but they ordered it in my size (a 4) and in petite to help with the length.  I was fairly upset after my first fitting because I was under the impression that the smaller size would fix some of the issues I had with it.  Attached are two pics from my first fitting.

I want to know if I would be able to shorten the torso some.  I am only 5 feet tall and I am wearing shoes in this pic, but I am wearing low heels (maybe like 1.5-2 inches).  I just feel like the dress is losing the effect of the flowing/flared part because she has to hem like 4 in off she said.  I thought if the torso was shortened, the flare part would start higher up like on the model picture (I know you can't always go by a model).  But do you get what I mean?  I though when the dress was in my size and petite that this would be fixed but I guess I forget how short i am!

The other issue is that the bustline sort of "floats" off of my chest.  The line under the bust does not touch my skin because the dress is backless, so my breasts so sort of jsut hanging in there.  She was going to sew in bra cups, but I didn't think this was going to help so I am going to find a backless strapless and I hope it fills it out more.  But do you have any suggetions with how I could get the bust to lay flatter against me?  The seamstress just didn't seem ti understand what I was talking about.  She said the only thing that could be done was to take the back in, which I though was sort of unreasonable.  Is the dress too intricate to take the cups in?

I hope that everything I said makes sense and I hope that you can offer me some guidance!  I am really worried now and told the seamtress not to touch the dress until I go back in to get the alterations just right.  I need to go back in better prepared this time.  Thank you!


I do get what you are saying. You have two issues that I'll try to answer one by one.

First - it is a very involved job to shorten the torso for this style of design. If you try to raise the middle at the seam under the bustline you throw off everything. The hips, waist and zipper area will all need to be reshaped creating a lot of work that your seamstress my not know how to do. BUT - there seems to be a seam around your knee area where the bottom flounce might be able to be raised. I'd need to see this from inside the dress, but I have done this type of alteration before to hem a dress and though it's more difficult than hemming at the bottom, it's not any where near as hard as raising it at the empire seam.  

Second - the floating bust. Due to the plunging back there is just no support to the front in the design. A long line bra should help to get your bustline looking better but it can't do much for the dress. You can take in the back to help this, but that will change the plunging line of the back to the point that you might no longer like it. There is a type of tape you can get to stick the front of the dress to your skin but I don't think that will get the look and feel you are going for. The model in the picture you sent is doing a couple of things to look so good. She is pushing her boobs into the front of the dress and arching her back a little. Not so much that it looks funny though. I tell my brides that these dresses are designed to make you look your best, but to accomplish that you need to learn how to stand with the posture the dress needs. Think of it as squeezing your shoulder blades together. This automatically sets your bustline in a flattering way. I know this feels really odd, but once you try it, I'm sure you will start seeing this dress in a different light.

added May 2009


Thank you so much for your website.  As with many of the other posts, I sure wish I had seen it sooner!!
My gown is currently being altered.  The tailor made the hem too short, and it was crooked and uneven.  Unfortunately he had already cut the material. Nonetheless, he promised he could fix it and make it right.  I told him NOT to cut any more.  I went back for another fitting and it was more even, but shorter still.  I would say 2" off the ground now.  He said he would let the hem out 3/4" all around.  Additionally the dress has a lace overlay, which in some areas ends at the edge of the underskirt, and in some areas is longer than the underskirt.  It makes the whole bottom look cockeyed and uneven.  Where should it lay, and should I see air between the edge of the lace and the bottom of the dress?
My question is, should I allow him to keep hacking at my dress until he gets it how I want it, or should I just cut bait and take it somewhere else at this point?  Is there a point at which I just need to go buy a new dress, since it is too short?  Also, do you think he should still charge full-price since it was messed up?
By the way, David's Bridal now said they won't do the free "aisle ready" steaming and spot cleaning service (or fix the alterations) because someone else "touched the gown".  I had called and asked about this prior to alterations and they said to bring it after alterations because it would get wrinkled again if they steamed it beforehand.  I wish I had just taken it to them in the first place.  This is such a nightmare and do stressful!
Thanks, Andrea 


Hummmmm. You called this guy a "tailor". I find that most tailors know very little about wedding gown needs. They are great for doing suits, but rather useless when it comes to wedding alterations. Yes, there should be some "air" between the edge of the lace and the lining layer. A 2" hem is not bad, but if it's not what you wanted than it can be changed. I do seriously doubt the person who messed this up can fix it. It is my general opinion that any sewing professional who doesn't do it right the first time usually doesn't know how to do it. And anyone who cuts a wedding gown before a bride approves of the result is totally unprofessional! There are always adjustments that might need to be made through the altering process, but getting a hem 2" too high is just more than I can label as a person who knows what they are doing.

What I would do for you is buy some lace like the type that is at the edge of your hem. There is a way to add this to the bottom of the hem so that it looks like it was meant to be there while adding length to the hem. Make some calls around your area and find someone who will know how to do this. I am very sure the guy you are working with will look at you funny if you even try to discuss this with him.
I don't approve of him charging you full price for a job not done to your desires, but you might not be able to get the gown from him if you don't pay what he is asking.
David's Bridal can refuse to steam a gown once a bride takes it elsewhere. They didn't make any money from doing the alterations so they have no incentive to give the added steaming. They are in business to make a profit and can't give out freebies just because it's a nice thing to do.
I can't say that you would have gotten better alterations if you let David's do them. So don't beat yourself up on that point. It's better that you take what time you have left to find a capable person to fix your hem.


added April 2009

I am making a dress for my daughter to be the flower girl in my cousins’ wedding  the dress has a large tulle skirt the patterns says to just leave the cut edge, but I want it to look really good and I think a finished edge would be better. Can you help?

I have not seen any finished edge on tulle that I thought looked "better" than a clean cut edge. There are many things you can try - satin ribbon, rolled surging, rat tail braid. I just prefer a well done cut edge. 

added February 2009

This band is in between the outside material and the inside material.  It's there for weight.  It was  put in the dress before the waist was sewn on.  Can I just turn it up and hand hem it?

This sounds like what is commonly called Horse hair braid. It is a stiffening agent to help the hem hang as the designer intended. You can take it out and not replace it but simply turning it up will look very unprofessional. I usually remove it, do the hem and replace it at the new length.  

added January 2009


I saw your website and wondered if you could give me some advice on how to hem a bridesmaid dress 2-1/2 inches without affecting the train. Normally I hem a dress all the way around, but the wedding show said they don't touch the train.  So, how do you hem just the front, but make a smooth transition where the train starts?  I should add that this dress has princess seams, no bodice that I can just lift the skirt and shorten.....Any advice?



Yes, that is exactly what you do.  Hem it to the side seam area and gracefully make a smooth transition through the side of the train.

added January 2009

I have a dress that needs to be hemmed and it has a band in the bottom of the dress.  It was put in from the inside and I can't get to it. Do I just turn up the hem and hand sew it inside or do I take it apart at the waist and pull it up that way?  Help!!

I will always try to do a bridal hem at the bottom, even when it is hard. It is more accurate and waist hems add problems that I usually decide are more trouble than doing it at the bottom. Even if I had to sew that trim back on by hand, I probably would want to do the hem at the bottom. I would need to see the dress and hem detail to say for sure. I do, on occasion decide to do a hem at the waist, but that is usually when the waist has gathers or other such design elements that will hide the extra fabric that will be there once the waist is raised.

added October 2008

Hi Leanna,

I just came across your website and I really appreciate all of the information.  I have a question about how my wedding dress should be hemmed.  Here is a picture of my dress:

The dress is extremely long on me.  How would you hem this dress?  The 3 rows of lace are all evenly spaced, so if one is moved, would all 3 have to be moved to keep the spacing even?  Also, the train on my dress is very long (longer than it appears in the picture).  I love how long it is!  Is there a way to keep the length of the train even when so much needs to be taken off the front?  Also, it is hard to see in this picture but there is beading and crystals in the lace as well.  

Thank you for your help,



Yes, it can be done as you describe, moving each lace layer a fraction of the total amount needed to keep the ratio of the lace space as it is now, BUT this will be very expensive. A much less costly way is is to move only the bottom layer. It's up to you as to the look you are wanting. There are no rights or wrongs here. It is your decision as to what you want and are willing to pay for.
I never hem a train unless the bride asks me to. Bridal hems are done only in the front of the dress.

added August 2008


I love your website!  It is nice to see someone with so much experience trying to help folks like me make a sound decision.  My concern is my dress has a “bubble hem” and I’m not sure if that makes my dress harder/easier to hem (I need probably 1-2 inches off) and bustle. 

Would you recommend going shorter on the hem if  you are getting married barefoot at the beach?  I plan on wearing the dress again to our reception a week later, but I will be wearing flats. 

I like the ballroom bustle but I’m afraid with that much volume on the dress near the bottom already it won’t turn out pretty.  My dress has a “sweep train” according to David’s Bridal website.  The lady at the bridal store told me that the small bit of poufy stuff at the bottom of the dress could be removed if I wanted it.  But I think it would take away from the dress since it is so simple.  I have attached a couple of pictures to give you any idea of what the dress looks like.  The last picture is not of me, but of a different girl wearing the same dress.  I am short like she is,  I am only 5’2.  I don’t want the dress to end up looking to bulky for my frame when it is bustled.

Do you have any experience with this type of hemline.  Can you offer any advice?



Yes, I will advice a bride to hem her gown shorter than usual if she will be in sand. You do sink into the sand a little and a shorter hem will be more comfortable for walking, unless you plan to hold up the gown to walk.
Bustles always add bulk to the back of the gown. The Ballroom styles usually add less than the French, but you will get some with either. The only way to make the bulk less is to not bustle the train. You do not have to bustle the train.  

added July 2008

Hi Leanna,

I didn't think to bring the camera until after we were there. This is a link to the dress.
Maggie Sottero Jorie Ann

The dress just touches the floor w/o shoes.  I'm sorry to bother you, she was upset and I just jumped on the internet to see if there was anything we could do. The dress has free alterations (is that because it is a MS?).  On the receipt it says she will be wearing heels,  it is fitted but tight around the bodice. My daughter is a size 0 and short, which is why she prefers to wear heels. The sales person really did not do a good job in measuring. I was watching her and she seemed (to me) not to know what she was doing. Of course we didn't know the right questions to ask.  We found the dress right away and ordered it last October.  It came in in June but the fitting was set up for today. I had a red light in my head but my daughter didn't think that was unusual. We're going back next week because she bought with her 1-1/2" heels so the seamstress could not do anything, the owner of the shop suggested a dart be let out to open the bodice a little as the line fell crooked against the waist or hip.

My daughter wants to cut the satin train out to make that part into an a line dress, so only the lace is the train and bustle the lace). We were planning to make a little jacket out of the material from the train, but now I don't trust the salon and suggested we go elsewhere for the jacket (church wedding). 

It is paid for (not by credit card-read that in your suggestions). I guess I was looking for the right questions to ask when we go back or find out if there is any recourse to this. The salon really has a good reputation, I just think we got a green salesperson.

Thank you for listening. Wish I found your website earlier.   Ann

From this picture it looks like the lace is the type that can be added to in a seamless way to add length. The main difficulties are finding the lace that matches the gown and a person who knows how to do what I am describing.  
I do most hems 1" off the floor because that is a good length for comfortable walking without a tripping feeling. Some people think this looks too short and that a wedding hem must touch the floor. If a bride can walk comfortably in this I will do it that way but it's really a rare situation. With a scalloped lace hem it's hard to decide where to place the scallop. Depending on this I may set the hem a little higher so the bride doesn't trip on the scallop bottom.
Also, the type of lacy hem you have does look shorter than it actually is because you can see through the lace at the bottom and it gives a deceiving illusion of the true length because of the scalloping edge.

added July 2008

I am shortening a tucked skirt. It is floor length-Is there any special way to do this and get the skirt even all the way around?

It depends on how much you have to take up. I sometimes add more tucks and I sometimes measure around the bottom as for a normal hem. Neither is going to be perfectly even. You just do the best you can.

Added July 2008

Hello there,

Your help would be greatly appreciated! I got my wedding dress and shoes and went for my first fitting. The dress was altered to 1" off the ground.  I called to find out the height of the shoes, as they were VERY uncomfortable and I wanted to get another pair.  Once I found out the height, I ordered another pair of shoes. They are very comfy, but one problem...they must have given me the wrong shoe height on the original shoes, because the new pair is 1/4 to 1/2 inches higher!
My question is, will the dress length still be ok, or should I purchase yet another pair of shoes that are the same height as the pair I wore when I went for my fitting?
The dress is a sheath style dress, shown here...
Thank you,

Whether the dress height is ok or not is up to you. Hems can be anywhere from touching the floor to 2" up for a full length look. 3' to 6" is called Waltz length. Tea length starts around 6" and goes to about 9". Street length is just below the knees. Most wedding gowns are floor length but what ever length you like is the correct one.

added May 2008

if cost is no object and this dress needs to be shortened what is the time estimate or best guess of how long the alteration would take?







I need to see the dress on the bride to decide where I will hem it. Depending on how the bodice fits I may decide to take it up from the waist. I also need to see the seams on the dress which I cannot see from a picture. I need to see how the lace is sewn, if the beads were sewn on before or after the lace to determine if hemming at the bottom is better. I also need to see how much length needs to be taken off. If it is a inch or less the way I do the alteration will be different than if the gown needs 6 inches taken off.
I also cannot tell you what the alteration specialist you get to do this job will charge nor should I. My prices do not translate to other ladies for they do not have my experience, and training and skills nor do you live in my area of living expense. She will need to see the bride in the dress. If she is willing to give you a price without this I would question her experience.

Depending on these factors this gown may be very simple to hem and not cost much even though this picture looks like it is a complicated situation.

This is an excellant dress to order Hollow to Hem. This is an option that some companies offer. You give them the measurement from the hollow of your throat to the desired hem and they make the gown at the proper length for you. You need to remember to consider the shoes you will be wearing when measureing. They will charge you an extra fee for this service but it is usually less than what it will cost to have a dress like this hemmed by a seamstress.

added May2008

Wow, what a great website!  I really enjoyed your information and answers on alterations.  You answered so many questions and had it very nicely organized.  The pictures were helpful too.

I recently purchased a dress that has a beaded lace hem.  My only concern is the hem and how and if they will be able to take it up to fit my 5'1 frame.  The salon assured me that they would, maybe at the waist or re-stitch the lace on the bottom which seems labor intensive.  Can you tell me if you think I will have an issue with this?  My other concern is that my wedding is in 4 months, with my dress expected in 2-3 months.  Any information would much appreciated and valued.  Thanks if you have time to answer.

Here is the website with the picture as well as one with me in it.

Sincerely, Jodi

I would hem this gown at the bottom. Remove the lace and move it up where you need it to be. Yes, it may be labor intensive, but that is what has to be done.
I would have no trouble doing this operation in your time frame. 

added March 2008

I have a prom dress to hem for my niece.  I was just doing a "simple" double rolled hem.  On the curves of the dress the hem seems to want to roll out and up.  Any thoughts on what causes that and what to do about it?   


This is common. You can try a longer stitch width and steam press it really good. 

added March 2008

Hi There! I was wondering if you could tell me how you would go about hemming this gown.  One person told my I could bring the gown up by adding more rusching on the side.  I'm not sure if this would work.  OR should I just remove the flowers and cut, hem and move the flowers up? 

The wedding is in five weeks and I really need to get started. 
Thanks, Sam

If the flowers can be removed without loosing the beads than I would remove then, hem where needed and replace them. If the beads fall off when removed you need to carefully collect them and sew them back on. It's not incredibly hard, just a tedious pain. Some of the flowers won't need to be replaced. It's up to you how far you want to go with it. No one will know what flowers were there and they won't be looking at the bottom of the dress that closely anyway.

added March 2008

We bought this really expensive gown at a consignment shop. It's about $1800 when it was new. It's about 4-5 inches too long, so it has to be hemmed. A retired alterations lady is going to hem it by lifting it and cutting it at the waist, because of all the decoration at the bottom. Here's my concern:

She said she altered model dresses in NY, but I don't know her experience level with bridal gowns. Plus she's hard to understand (heavy accent).

She said she's not going to hem the back because of the long train....

With a difference of 4-5 inches, will it have to be shortened at the back to get the bustle right, or just move the current bustle points?

(She's waiting till we find the heels before she hems it).

Thanks, Francie


When I hem a gown in this manor, I baste the waist back together - cutting nothing until the bride tries it on again. Once it is approved of I cut away the excess underneath. Yes, it is done in the front only. I sometimes have to taper it around the side and half way around the back to get it to gracefully fall at the sides, but the back is not included.

If you are not comfortable with the lack of communication find a different person who can converse with you in understandable English.

Once the hem is correct and done the bustle points can be set.

Thank you, Leanna. We really appreciate your advice! After receiving your message, I talked to her today and she agreed to not do anything till she sees us again, but we are also considering changing to a different seamstress who we feel assured will communicate well.

added March 2008

I have searched your site for a question regarding alterations but have not found the answer. I was hoping maybe you could answer it for me. I found a wedding dress recently that I just loved. It was from a sample sale & cost only a fraction of the original price. So I bought it. The size itself fits me however it is too long. It has a bustle as well as as a beaded design at the bottom. Can the length be altered or do I need to start looking for another dress? I am new to the area I live in and do not even know where to take the dress for the possible alteration. Do I just take it to a seamstress? Or a tailor?

Thank you in advance for any direction you can lead me to...










I can't see clearly in the picture but I think this is the type of gown where I would remove the decoration at the bottom and move it up the necessary amount to make it the right length. Then the lining and under skirts would be hemmed to match the top layer.

added March 2008

My daughter recently bought a pageant gown and it has a train built into the dress she wants to shorten the dress and the train but it is covered with beads if i cut the beads will they all evenually fall off. I sew but i am unsure of how to shorten the dress without losing the beads It is an A- line dress and has no seams at the waist please give me an idea how to do this soon She needs it in 2 weeks

I can not tell you if the beads will fall off or not without seeing the dress. Usually only a few fall off in the area where you cut. Often the place were they fell off ends up being inside the hem and it's no problem, but if not you just sew them back on once the hem is where you want it to be.

added March 2008

I have a prom dress to hem for my niece. I was just doing a "simple" double rolled hem. On the curves of the dress the hem seems to want to roll out and up. Any thoughts on what causes that and what to do about it?


This is common. You can try a longer stitch width and steam it really good.

added March 2008

Hi Leanna,

I am making bridesmaid dresses for my granddaughters wedding in December....To have a little flare, I need to use either horsehair around the bottom or tulle netting attached to the lining or both.......any suggestions would be appreciated!

Thank you, Darlene

Horsehair adds stufness, so it depends on the type of fabric you are using and how much flare you want.

added February 2008

Hi Leanna,

I have a bride that purchased a used gown that is 4" to short in the front. The bottom of the gown has a lace trim at the hem. The fabric is satin. I am thinking that I can add satin to the front at the bottom and place the trim at the hem of the new fabric. Is this a correct way to add fabric to the front of the gown. There will be a seamline in the front.

Thanks, Barbara

There is no correct way to do this. There are many ways to camouflage this seam. You can add more fabric than needed and pleat the front to hide the seam. You can buy more lace and applique it over the seam. How about leaving the lace where it is and add the fabric below it and maybe place more lace under this?

added February 2008

Dear Leanna,

I love your website! It's so informative and really makes me feel like I can buy outside a salon with confidence. I have an alterations question for you - I found a maggie sottero "grace" dress for sale by previous owner online.
It's the right size (I've tried it on in stores) but not the right length - it's about 3 inches too long! Do you think given all that lace detail, it would be really hard/expensive to take it up a bit? Would a larger crinoline make the dress poof out more so I don't need the alterations? The dress is for sale for about $250, or I can buy the dress new, in petit length for about $550.

Thanks so much! Lisa

Adding a crinoline will take up the hem some, but I can't say if it will be enough for you to be comfortable. This gown can be hemmed. My hemming prices start at $90.00. I don't know what the prices are in your city. I doubt it would be much less and could be more.

added February 2008

Hi Leanna-
I am going to hem my daughter's bridesmaid dress and she will be wearing flats for shoes - what is the rule of thumb for length - is it at the top of shoe or do I measure from the floor up - Also their was a bustle in the back and the bride has now requested that these girls have them cut away the fabric at the bottem and no longer have a bustle - with all this excess fabric should I again just cut away and hem like the front - every bridesmaid(8) will be going to different locations at they are all spread around the country so I am guessing no one's dress is going the be the same - the bride seems okay with this.
Thanks for your help

If the bride does not give any instruction, I do floor length gowns at 1" off the floor with shoes on. If the bride does not want the train, yes, you simply let the bustle down, and treat the back just like the front.

added March 2008

Hi Leanna,

I have found your site very helpful and wish I had read through it before I bought my wedding dress. I just purchased a simple, satin dress for my destination wedding for May 2008. It is a size 6 and was off the rack- the saleswoman took my measurements, found my bust and hips to be a size 2, but my waist a size 4-6. She suggested buying the gown on the floor, since she says they always "order-up"- thus, based on the largest measurement. Considering I am in a bit of a time crunch, I agreed that buying the size 6 made sense (they said it would take 12-16 weeks for the ordered dress to get to the store).

I just found out that the store charges a flat baseline fee of $95 for a hem and about $50 to do basic taking-in-sides to make the dress smaller. I know that alterations are expensive, but considering how simple my dress is the hemline price seems very high to me.

a)how much do you think is a reasonable price for the hemline.
b)did I make a mistake on getting the size 6? As you can see on the attached photos (in the front view I have a friend holding in the back) a sizeable piece of material will have to be taken in. Will this affect the shape of the dress?
c) I have used a local tailor for a few sundresses and have been happy with their work. However, do you think I should take it to the bridal store just because they may be used to wedding dresses versus other alterations?

Lastly, I will be getting married on the beach barefoot. I have ordered heels that are 2 1/4 inch high to wear on the dance floor (I usually wear 3 inches and above)- where to you suggest the hemline be? I know your site says 1 inch above the ground, but is there a way I can compromise between being barefoot and in heels?

Thank you very much! Cara

A) The prices they are quoting are reasonable.

B) I can not predict this. Dresses have to be ordered for the largest body measurement because it is very hard and sometimes impossible, to let out areas that are too tight. It is a better situation to have areas to take in.

Did you make a mistake? No. Many brides feel they didn't do something right because the gown needs alteration when in fact most gowns need something adjusted. It's normal. Brides don't like spending the extra money for this but it is not caused by poor decisions. When I was working in a bridal salon I saw only one gown a year that needed nothing done to it. The gowns are in stock sizes and brides bodies don't come stock. It sounds to me like you did the best you could do with the information you had.

C) You need to ask her this question. I do not know her or her experience. She may have bridal experience and be just a right situation for you because you already know her and feel comfortable with her, but if she does not wish to work on wedding gowns than that is for her to say.

As for the hem. It is generally impossible to compromise between high heels and flats with any dress hem. If you try to find an in between length, the hem will look silly with both. Your situation has a big difference though with the sand factor. When you are barefoot in the sand you will be sinking into it. I normally do a sand hem much above the usual 1" for this reason.

Your choice is either get a lower heeled shoe or hem the gown longer and hold it up when you walk in the sand. Then it will look better when you put on the heels.

added December 2007


My mom is hemming my wedding dress and is having some issues because of the gatherings on the hem. I have attached the web site with a picture of it. Do you have any recommendations that I can give her?

Thanks so much!


I need a lot more information. What issues is she having?

Mostly she doesn't know how to get started. She thought about putting more of the gathers in the dress but I am not sure I want that. But to cut the bottom is going to be very difficult since both layers come together at the bottom and you can't really see a hem.


added September 2007

Good Morning,
Do you have any advice for hemming a straight gown that has almost no train? I pinned the dress and hemmed it , and shortened the crinoline and then when the Bride returned it was still a little long in the front. She had on the same shoes so I was wondering if I took a little to much off of the underskirt netting.
Thank you so much fro your time, Judy

I don't think you took too much off the netting, but what you did need to take off might be letting the hem hang longer than you pinned it. Your bride could also have lost a little weight or had eaten a big meal on her first visit and not the second. Both situations influence how fabric hangs sometimes. It's not a big problem. All you need to do is hem it again a little bit higher.

added August 2007

i have a wedding dress that needs to be hemed adn i am bringing it up two inches and i need to know if folding it from center front to center back and then pinning it will allow me to get my even cut...well my two inches..there is a train and it needs to be brought up the two inches as far i have centered the front to the back matched all seams and pined it and am ready to cut so i think. i have hemed skirts before but not sure about this on cause of the train. so i guess what i need to know is did i pin it right am i cutting it right ..thanks alot

Normally, wedding gowns are hemmed only in the front. If the hem has to be done at the waist, I take that area apart and put the front section up and resew the seam. I never cut anything until the bride has tried the gown on and approves of the length and the flow of the gown.

added May 2007

I am hemming a bridal dress which has no waist and needs to be shortened approximately 1 1/2 inches. I plan to hem just the front part of the dress from side seam to side seam. However, the horsehair braid used for the original hemming is 2 inches wide. Do you have any suggestions on how to work with this? I don't want to cut the dress. One thought was to open the lining and slice the braid in half and fold up the alotted amount, but I was afraid this may make the front look bulky. The fabric is a heavier fabric. I would appreciate any help you can give.
Love your sight. I do costuming for a Christmas production and have sewn for over 35 years, and your tips will definitely come in handy for many of our applications.Thank's!

When there is horsehair, no matter what width, I remove it and move it up the amount needed for the hem. It's a tedious pain sometimes, but worth it. Do not cut the braid in half. It will unravel and be totally useless.

added April 2007

Hello there,

I am pulling my hair out right now – my daughter’s wedding dress with “tucks” or “pull-ups” is too long and I need to shorten it 4-5 inches. I tried to pin it up the same hem length and it then hangs uneven, so I then tried to “eyeball” it with her modeling it and then pinning it up and got nowhere. It is taffeta and I think the hem itself is already uneven. Any help or advice or where to look for help on the internet would be greatly appreciated!


I had a gown like this last week. I added to each tuck in the front. I just pinned more folds into each one until I got a length the bride liked. It's not going to be even across the bottom. You can make the tucks as deep or shallow as you need in the places where the hem is dragging. The unevenness is natural for this type of hem that has dips and curves. Where the tucks are will be a little higher than in between were the fabric curves down. It may take a little finagling of the tucks but you should be able to get the front looking nice.

added February 2007

Dear Leanna,

I have a problem involving a dress, and although I am not a bride, I will be attending a wedding in it!
The dress is floor length and a polyester/rayon blend fabric in a single layer. I received this gown for free and am on a tight budget, and therefore do not wish to purchase another gown if it is possible. Although it fits perfectly in the bust, waist, and hips, I do not wish for it to be a floor length gown (there’s a large wine stain at approximate ankle height). The skirt line is a simple, straight skirt, perhaps a slight a-line…do you believe it would be possible to simply cut the dress at knee length and hem it that way? Is this impossible? Would it be easier/less expensive for me to merely buy a brand new cocktail dress?

I’ve seen the advice you’ve given on your website, and I think it is simply fabulous! It’s wonderful that there’s someone out there looking out for brides and not merely exploiting them…I would be very grateful if you would take the time to respond.

Hemming one inch or 12 is much the same. What you might need to do different though is cut the dress to about 4 or 5 inches longer than you want it because the weight of the fabric will effect how the skirt hangs. Once that weight is gone the fabric might slack up and seem shorter than where you cut it. If that happens, you still have the 4 or 5 inches to fine tune it. This is not very important for cocktail dresses for the one layer of fabric probably won't create this effect, but I have shortened trains on wedding gowns to make them ballgowns and it makes a big difference.

Everyone tries to get the most bang for their buck. I don't think the hem will be so costly it would be better to buy a dress. If the fabric is satin I'd do a rolled hem and they are usually $30 for a single layer.

Thank you for the kind words and a question that is unique. I often get to thinking I'm saying the same thing over and over again. I put up stuff I've written so folks in similar situations can see what I've said and realize that they are not alone in their problem. I sometimes wonder if anyone is really reading any of it for they write the same questions that are there.

Well, thank you again. You have brightened my day!

added February 2007

Hi Leanna,

My wedding gown is made of heavy silk shantung and the seamstress would like to change the original hem and instead do a machine roll hem. I trust her completely but wanted to get a second opinion on the way she is doing the hem. She showed me on another dress of lighter weight and it looks great but I'm not so sure how it will look on the heavy silk. She said that it will give it a softer look. The current hem is folder over and looks like it is handstitched. You cannot see any stitching on the outside of the dress. If you could let me know your opinion on this, that would be great.

Also, she cut the crinoline to my ankle...I didn't notice any change in the flow of the dress but I am now having second thoughts. What are your thoughts on cutting the crinoline to the ankle? (The dress is somewhat of a trumpet silhouette and flares out at the bottom. There is only one layer of crinoline that begins below the knee.)

My opinion is flawed because I can not see the gown, but I make it a general rule to put back the type of hem that was there because the manufacturer had a good reason to do it that way. Changing it might create problems that I will not see until it is too late.

Another problem you have with changing the hem type is the train. Bridal hems are done only in the front and tapered to the train. Changing the front will make the back look odd and the place were the 2 types meet will be really weird.

That said - I do not see where a rolled hem in heavy shantung will look better than the blindstitched hem that is there. Rolled hems are for light fabrics like chiffon, taffeta and organza. I certainly do not see how it can look "softer". Rolling a hem generally gives it more stability, thus the reason to use it for thin, fine fabrics. Rolling a heavy shantung will look bulky. If you need a skinny hem you can serge the edge and turn it under just once and stitch it, giving a rolled look without the bulk of the 2 turns.

I think she is suggesting this type hem because it is the type she knows how to do well and she may have never done the type that is on the gown now. Insisting that she recreate what is there may be a mistake if she has no clue how. Also, a hand stitched hem will take more time and thus cost you more and maybe she doesn't think you want the extra expense.

I don't see a problem with the crinoline being cut to the ankle. Many come that way. Since your flair is at the knees it makes sense to me for her to do it as she did. The other way to do it is to raise the seam at the top of the crinoline, but this would probably put the start of the flair above your knee where it would look goofy.


Thank you so much for your thoughts. This helps me a lot and I was able to get a hold of the seamstress and I told her that I prefer the original hem. It costs a lot more b/c it's hand sewn but I prefer the original hem.

Thanks again for your advice! Your website is great and if I lived in Cincinnati, I would definitely use you for any alteration needs.

added February 2007

Hi there, I am hoping you can help me. I am considering purchasing a dress that I would want to shorten into a hi-low hemline. I would like the gown to be tea length in front and transition to floor length in the back. The dress has a chapel length train which I would think I would just bustle since I don't think it would be possible to just cut it shorter but I have no idea. The dress is overlace over satin. You can see a picture at

The bridal shop is telling me that they can do the alterations but I am worried that it will not be as easy as they make it sound, and I am really scared to purchase a dress that isn't exactly how I want it to begin with. Please let me know if you think this will be possible.

thank you!

It can be done, but for your dress the lace pattern might look chopped off. They can rearrange the lace so it looks better, but it will add much to the cost.

Added February 2007

I have a new polyester satin communion dress that I would like lengthened. If the original hem is removed, will the crease at the bottom be removable, and will the holes from the old hem still be there (or do the holes in the fabric close up)?

Since it's new the odds that it will look just fine are great. The crease might show just a little, but most people won't notice it. Same goes for the holes. They should close up, but if they don't totally they should be very small and insignificant.

added December 2006

Hi, I just want to know if it is possible to get a dress like this hemmed? My dress has a lace all around the bottom, I will attach a picture of it. Can you let me know if this is something that can be done? If so about how much do you think this kind of work would cost. I really appreciate any help or Ideas.
Thank you, Lisa

I just put up some pictures of a gown much like yours. It's on a new page:

This can be hemmed but it might be very difficult. Depending on how you choose to do it will determine how much it will cost. The gown hem in my new pictures was $80.

added October 2006

Good morning,

I have a wedding dress that is in two pieces. The skirt needs to be shortened about 3 to 4”. The bottom of the skirt is embroidered so I guess, it needs to be shortened from the waist. The skirt has a waist band with zipper in the back and is lined. The skirt is A- line.Can you tell me if this can be shortened and about how much that would be?
Thank you in advance for your response, Melita

Yes, it would need to be done at the waist and that is not a problem being 2 pieces. Unless you want the back shortened, the zipper is not a concern. Usually wedding gowns are only shortened in the front. The train is left the same length. If you don't have a train and want the skirt shortened all the way around it will cost much more.

Wedding gown hems at the waist start at $90 on my price list. I would need to see the gown on you to tell you if it would be more and I can not tell you what a seamstress in Georgia would charge for this type of alteration. There are many factors that go into pricing. Two gowns that look the same may be constructed very differently and take very different amounts of time to do the same alteration. Also, prices very greatly depending on if you have the alteration done by the salon where you purchased the gown or use an independent professional.

Thank you for your quick response. Since I am a seamstress on the side I would like to do it myself. However, I never done alterations for a wedding dress (with train) before. I would like to get some advice on how to do this. If you rather don’t get into advising people how to do this, I do understand. Maybe you know some who would.

Thanks again! Melita

It's hard to advise when I can not see the garment. There are many things that could be different in the way your gown is constructed than any gown I have worked on. In general, you open the waist seam pull up the skirt the desired amount basting it back on from side seam to side seam, taper it back to original length from side seam to the back dart area. DO NOT CUT ANYTHING, until you try it on again. The drape of the fabric might make you change your mind on the amount you want shortened. If you don't cut anything you can adjust it up or down as desired. Once it is in the right place, trim and finish the seams.

added July 2006

Hi, I was looking at your great website about bridal bustles and I had a question that I hope you could answer. I just bought a bridal gown a few months ago and my wedding is not until next June. The dress has a few permanent bustles or "pickups" throughout the skirt. (gown by Jim Hjelm) Is is possible to remove a few pickups if I decide that I don't like them in the front of the skirt? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks! Cameron

These are usually sewn with simple tackings that can be easily removed. You will be adding length to the skirt where you remove the tacking, so do this before you hem it.

added June2006

Dear Leanna,
A friend of mine has brought her wedding dress to be shortened. The skirt and the train are one piece. There is an underskirt or slip with two crinolines attached to the slip. It is not a full skirt but one that drapes nicely in front and the crinoline looks as if it is there just to give definition and body. The main skirt and lining are are sewn together at the hem with the herringbone inside the hem of the skirt. There is a side front and side seam . The hard part is that the skirt needs to be shortened almost 8 inches!! It had been suggested just to shorten it from the area of the side seam forward but I feel that will look very odd and wondered if it should not be graded out slightly towards the side back seam. I do not want to touch the train as it flows nicely. Do you have any videos on this? I was thinking the crinoline should be shortened first so that we can really see how the skirt will fall at the front before we tackle the main skirt and lining. But 8 inches seems too much to take off the front without adjusting the side length as well. What would you do??

Your instincts are good to want to hem the crinoline first. I'd make a tuck at the top of where the netting is sewn. If that brings it up too far, you'll have to cut off the bottom which can be a big job if the netting is full.

I do bridal hems from side seam to side seam, tapering down the sides of the train gradually until it molds into the curve of the train side. Sometimes you don't have to go far to get a nice taper and sometimes you have to go well into the train back. With 8" I think you will be carrying the taper quite far.

I don't have a Gown Hemming DVD, but hope to some day.

One other idea that I have after checking with the bride's mother and sister is that:
the gown does have a set in skirt to the bodice and has a diagonal gather across the front.(concealing the waistline) I was thinking that I could also take the gown up about 3 and one half inches at the waistline (adjusting the side seams and zipper of course to fit) and then adjust the length about 4 inches which would mean that I might only have to start at the side back seam to taper it in towards the front. I am thinking this would give a gown that was more pleasing to the eye and though it would be a lot of work to do both, in the long run it might in fact be easier to get the length adjusted using both edges. What do you think of this idea??

I'd really need to see the gown on the bride but I would not want to do it in both places because no bride would want to pay me what I'd have to charge for that. I would do it from the bottom and taper it quickly so not much of the train is lost. It's usually more accurate to do it from the bottom. I have done many hems from the waist, but that operation has added complications that don't often look the best.

You are doing this as a friend, right? If you are willing to do that much work for your friend it is a great gesture.

Yes, I am a friend of the bride's mom, Leanna, and this is definitely a huge job. I was hoping not to have to taper it back too far. but hopefully going forward from the side back seam would work as well.

You can do the hem to the Princessline in the front instead of the sideseam. Start the taper there, gradually angle it to the side seam to about 2" longer than the hem, then you have only 6" to taper through the train. This will look nice and she will be able to walk with ease, but it will create a problem when you get to the bustling. When the taper is through the side, the bustle is harder to design so that the sides are lifted off the floor. It can be done. I just find that most brides like the bustle formed in the back, not edging near the sides or having funny pull looking places at the sides.

added April 2006

Hello, I have a question about the length of the dress. I’m thinking about buying a dress that I love on ebay. She’s 5’4 and wore 3” heels. I’m 5’7” and plan to wear 1-2” heels. She says the dress measures 48” from center of bustline to the floor. I’m nervous the dress will fall too short. Judging by the pic of the dress, is this something that I can add length to if necessary (material is chiffon). Thanks for your help!


Adding length depends on how you want the hem to look. You can not add fabric and have it be invisible. Some kind of seam has to be used to add the fabric. You can use many things like a ruffle effect to add fabric if you are using the same chiffon fabric. Again it just depends on how you want the hem to look. If you want it to look like the picture, No, the dress can not be lengthened.

When you buy a used gown this kind of thing is what you have to deal with. You do have other options, like going with a lower heel on your shoes.

added April 2006

What is the hem for a bridal gown is it one inch off the floor? I don't care for the look of this that is why I am wondering. Prior to a finalized hem should the material be cut? thanks for any help.

Most hems I do are 1". That's what most brides want. It is a good length for not feeling like you are tripping and still looks full length. BUT - if you don't like the look put it where you want it.

I usually do cut off the excess once the bride has tested the hem length. Again, because the bride wants it that way. If the extra fabric is not pulling on the skirt and making the hem hang funny, you do not have to cut it off.

Thank you for responding, I went to get my couture gown altered and I'm 5'4 The seamstress had me try on her shoes and I ordered the same style shoes and she told me when my shoes came in she would finalize the hem. I went tonight for my second fitting because my shoes came in and hate the hem but she already cut the organza outer layer with the beading. She kept telling me it had to be that length or I would trip. Now I hate my $1200 gown and left in tears. Thanks for the info

I do recommend the 1" hem length, but I also never cut any fabric from any alteration to a gown until the bride has tested it and says it is good, but I do understand why the seamstress did the hem that way. Organza is very difficult to hem in the first place and it often gives a false look if the extra fabric is not cut out. The weight of the fabric will often make the hem seem longer than it will be once it's cut.

Why do you not like the length? Might it have something to do with the beading looking different and not necessarily the 1"? If she had to shorted the gown a lot than some of the design at the bottom might have gotten sacrificed to the necessary amount that had to be shortened. The seamstress should have warned you about it and not let you get shocked at the second fitting. AND she should not have cut the fabric until you gave the final ok.

I know you are feeling really lousy. Did you tell her what you don't like? Did she offer any alternatives? She doesn't sound very experienced to me or maybe just bossy. Can you explain more of what happened?

The trim work when she pinned the hem was an half inch to long, in certain spots. She had 4 inches pinned up. I purchased a moonlight ball gown. I left not liking the way it look I wanted the organza to skim the ground. Now the organza is higher than the underneath still pinned uncut satin. the whole flow of the gown the organza is longer than the satin by an inch. If I had a say prior to cutting I was going to ask her to make the organza a half inch off the floor to keep my trim work intact. In the meantime prior to the second fitting I found a three and 1/2 inch heel that came in wide. I purchased a 2 and half inch heel from her it was the highest heel her books had in wide she told me that was the highest heel I would be able to find in bridal shoes. I told her I wanted a three inch or higher since FH is 6' 1" but settled for the shoes since her books contained no higher heel for wide feet. I believed the higher heels would be fine since my shoes I had purchased had not come in and she was going to finalize the hem when I had my shoes. I came to the fitting and my dress had already been cut she did not leave any organza to play with she cut it on the first fitting pinned line. To me that was final she cant add the material back. She said she was sure of the hem so she cut it. Then even with the shoes I purchased from her the hem seem high you can see the top of my foot in the mirror. She told me to remove my petty coat that the dress place recommended and cost me $50 since my dress has a built in petty coat. I don't like the way my feet show under the gown. I dreamed of a Cinderella ball gown that touched the floor. That's what I purchased and worked hard to pay for. I just wish she had waited to cut it especially because I did not even have my shoes yet when she originally pinned the hem. Then the bustle I have one spot when she hooks it you can see my knee from the side. she told me when I dance it wont be noticed. It has to be that way to get the train part off the ground. I left hating my gown I don't even want to look at it till I have to wear it down the isle. She said she could put horse hair and hem the organza and it might add a 1/4 but it would be more work for her. She kept saying the gown looks fine you want the one inch hem I don't want you to trip. Then I finally after 15 min. herein the I don't want you to trip so it has to be this way all time I am thinking it has to be this way because you cut it that way. I said have you heard of fashion over function. I did not buy a ballgown for function if I was that worried about tripping I would have purchased a pantsuit. I left in tears and her telling me I was over reacting. She never once apologized for cutting my gown. I plan on picking it up after she hems it and not looking at it till I have to walk down the isle thanks for the advice.

I am so sad this is happening to you, but it is not hopeless. I really think this lady does not realize what she has done. She thinks you will come to see that she is right about the way the hem should be. My personal opinion that she ought to be hung out to dry is beside the point. I do have a suggestion for you that may get the situation back to the way you originally wanted it.

Now, I am really sure you are not going to like this suggestion, but just give yourself time to think about it. Ok, you are 5"4" and your groom is 6"1". That's a 9" difference. You planned on wearing 3" heels? Taking the difference to 6" - not a bad amount for pictures - but 7" isn't bad either. Just one inch difference in your heights will not look different to anyone, but it could gain you that 1" you are wanting for your hem to look great. What I'm saying is given the choice to have a 1" difference in height or a 1" longer hem can make you love your dress again. And if you love your dress, you will feel better in it and feeling better will make you look better for your groom, who I am sure thinks you would look great in a paper bag.

Your groom loves you at the height you are. There is no rule that says you have to try to look taller for the ceremony. Just be yourself. And in doing so, you can gain back what that stupid alterationist messed up.

added April 2006

I have a wedding dress to shorten for a client. The dress has an overlay of tulle with glued down lace appliques that are beaded and sequined. The hem is edged with glued down lace appliques and the client may need it shortened as much as 1 and 1/2 inches in the front. My 1st thought was to try to remove the glued appliques, but is that even possible? I would then have to rebead and sequin the appliques. My next thought is to cut around the appliques and move them up and reglue them to the tulle. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you, Joyce

I've tried both ways. Attempting to remove the glued appliques is frustrating and usually tears either the lace or the applique. I have had luck steaming the area to weaken the glue and then pealing off the applique, but this doesn't work with all types of glue.

It's much easier to cut around the edge and re-glue. It looks good, but be careful to use a glue that is flexible so it won't add more stiffness to the already glues area.

With some applique designs you can tuck the lace under the top edge of the applique and sew or glue it to the back of the applique.

added March 2006

I am worried my ballroom dress is to short. How short / long should it be? How much should my shoes show?


I like to do hems at 1" above the floor. Some people think that is too short and that the dress should touch the floor. I find that most brides like it up a little so they don't have a tripping feeling while walking.

Sometimes brides have the hem a little higher to show off their pretty shoes.

There is No set hem length. What is "right" is what you want it to be. If the length is comfortable to walk in then it's right.

added July 2005

Thanks for the great site. I am shortening a princess seam, a-line, no waist bridal gown with a long train from the hem and then will be bustling the train. My client asked if the train should be shortened as well. I usually only shorten to just beyond the side seam blending into the train. This got me thinking, for better proportion, should I shorten the same amount off the train? I realize this is subjective, just wondering your thoughts. Thanks, Deb

I never shorten a train unless the bride specifically asks for it. If she wants it that way do it, but be sure to charge enough. That's a lot of work. At least $150.

added June 2005

Hi Leanna,

So, here I am, up late at night worrying about alterations for my wedding dress. I'm starting to wish I had seen your site BEFORE I bought the dress.

Here's my situation. I went to a bridal shop and found a very beautiful dress that fit quite well, except it may have to be taken in a little bit. What I didn't think through was that it's at least three inches too long and it can't be taken in at the waist because their is no waist line. The dress is satin with a sheer overlay completely covering it. There is very intricate beadwork at the bottom, on the sheer overlay. As you discussed on your website, I am beginning to feel that the saleslady lied a bit about what could be done to it to fix the problem so that she could sell the dress. She, herself, offered to do the alterations. If there is beadwork at the bottom of the dress, are there ANY options for fixing it? The beadwork goes all the way down the train. The saleslady/seamstress said that she could do something that involved folding it up and sewing it down. I'm so worried about this that I can't sleep at night!

Any suggestions or ideas would be welcome.

I have taken a tuck under beadwork that would have been very difficult to move or recreate. It may look a little different from the original, but it should work just fine.

Did she say anything about your second fitting? When I do any wedding gown hem, I do not cut any fabric until the bride has tried on the gown and walks around some in it to test how it acts at the new length. It often looks funny with the extra fabric still attached, but it gives the bride a good idea of what the hem will look and act like and allows her to change her mind about the length if she feels different about how it is acting as she walks in it.

Altering a wedding gown is part science and part art. It's often a long process as the bride discovers things she had not thought of at the buying stage. Most brides are patient and understand at my asking them to come back several times for more fittings. I know it is not easy on their nerves. I'm sure your lady knows this too because she took the time to explain what she was going to do.

Try to not be too worried about it for now. I'm sure at your second fitting, you will be more relieved to see that the process is working.

Oh, cool, so you have more options. I usually advise that you find an alteration person who lives near you. It's such a hassle to drive out-of-town adding to your already stressful chores.

Hemming a bridal gown is usually done only in the front. I take up the needed amount from side seam to side seam and then taper it out along the edge about 18" to 2' of the train so the train is not shortened at all. I had a tuck type hem once that I did have to taper further down the train than I wanted to but it needed to go that far to look right. But she needed a lot of length taken up and her fabric was very heavy. You are dealing with a sheer fabric and less length.

It will cost more, but if you can find someone who will recreate the beading, than do that. I charge $30/hour for hand beading. If it's a simply pattern, than it might be quite reasonable to get the hem you are wanting.

About the neckline - if the gown is fitting well in the bust area, I would not advise lifting the neckline. Lifting moves everything on the front, not just the neckline - the bust points also lift. You could end up with puckers above your breast that are supposed to be where your breast fits. You can test this by trying on the gown and pull up the shoulder and watch how it effects the front of the bodice.

Also, your cleavage looks different to you as you are looking down at your self than it will to your guests looking at you. And looking at yourself in a mirror does not give you this perspective. Do you have a friend about your size? Have her put your gown on and stand back and look at her. You will be amazed at how different it looks from the guest viewpoint.

Thanks for your response! Actually, the woman who sold us the dress at the shop who also offered to do the alterations does not have the dress right now and has not started any kind of alterations. We were shopping out of town so we brought it home with us and planned to take it back to her a little later in the future. All she did was show us how it could be altered by tucking it up with her fingers to give us an idea.

Your response made me feel quite a bit better and gave me some ideas about what can be done. The beadwork is not that intricate, so maybe we'll be able to find someone who can recreate it instead of tucking it up. I was also wondering, if they tuck it up all the way around, will it throw off the shape and line of the train ? The train has no satin underneath it, it's just the sheer overlay with beadwork so I was worried the tucking would be more noticeable there.

I also wanted to ask your advice about something else. The dress is ever so slightly low at the chest and shows a tiny bit of cleavage. There are no seams at the shoulders, so would it be possible for them to make a seam at the shoulders to pull up the front of the dress a half inch or so? Or is there some other way to fix that ? I was thinking that just having them take it on a tiny bit on the sides and getting a good bra might fix that problem, and it's not really that big of a deal if I show a tiny bit of cleavage, I just prefer not to.
Thank you again for your advice and I'll be sure not to let anyone make alterations until they've pinned it up and let me try it on first.

Oh, cool, so you have more options. I usually advise that you find an alteration person who lives near you. It's such a hassle to drive out-of-town adding to your already stressful chores.

Hemming a bridal gown is usually done only in the front. I take up the needed amount from side seam to side seam and then taper it out along the edge about 18" to 2' of the train so the train is not shortened at all. I had a tuck type hem once that I did have to taper further down the train than I wanted to but it needed to go that far to look right. But she needed a lot of length taken up and her fabric was very heavy. You are dealing with a sheer fabric and less length.

It will cost more, but if you can find someone who will recreate the beading, than do that. I charge $30/hour for hand beading. If it's a simply pattern, than it might be quite reasonable to get the hem you are wanting.

About the neckline - if the gown is fitting well in the bust area, I would not advise lifting the neckline. Lifting moves everything on the front, not just the neckline - the bust points also lift. You could end up with puckers above your breast that are supposed to be where your breast fits. You can test this by trying on the gown and pull up the shoulder and watch how it effects the front of the bodice.

Also, your cleavage looks different to you as you are looking down at your self than it will to your guests looking at you. And looking at yourself in a mirror does not give you this perspective. Do you have a friend about your size? Have her put your gown on and stand back and look at her. You will be amazed at how different it looks from the guest viewpoint.

added November 2002

I am shortening a gown with quite a full skirt. I fitted the bride without the horsehair in the hem. Will adding the horsehair make it appear shorter? If so how much do you suggest lengthening the dress?

Yes, it could, but only a hair (LOL).

Sorry, I couldn't resist. But you are thinking correctly. Horsehair doesn't really take up length, but it changes the flow of the hem and stiffens it so that it may seem shorter. I would put the horse hair into the hem, but do not cut out the excess fabric until your bride tries it on again. If you have a lot of fabric, you can trim it within 2" of the horsehair for the fitting and then trim it close after she has walked around some to get the feel of the length and the flow with the horsehair in there.

Don't worry that removing the horsehair (because she thinks the gown is now too short) will give you extra work. I've been doing brides for over 20 years and have never had one decide to change the length because of the horsehair. So, odds are you bride will like the length.

Also, having her come in for an extra fitting may seem to you asking too much, but most brides react positively to the extra precautions. After all, the gown is the most important item she has to take care of for her perfect wedding to work.

Hope this answers your question ;)

One of the questions I have is what is the best and easiest way to hem gowns with lace on them? It takes us hours to take the lace off of them. We have heard that we should not do this, but don't know a better way, especially if there are lace motifs above the lace and detailing at the waist.

You would have to start off with the biggest question all bridal alterations people face! Well, let's jump right in.

Each dress is different and has to be judged on it's own problems. I always try to do the hem from the bottom if it is possible, even when doing it at the waist would be easier. The bottom method is the most accurate. And even though it takes time to remove the lace, you save time in all the readjusting that sometimes has to be done with the waist method. Also the bottom method is easier on the nerves of the bride. And anything that eases her fears is a good thing.

At the first fitting, I usually pin a tuck half way up the front from side seam to side seam to determine the amount to shorten for either method. This helps the bride to see just how the hem will look when done. Then have her walk around a bit, not looking at the hem. When a person looks down it makes the hem seem longer. To do the alteration I will take any lace off, repin it up the marked amount and refit before any material is cut. If needed the excess material can be folded & pinned up under the newly positioned lace.

At the second fitting, the bride walks about again to determine if the length needs to be adjusted. If she is comfortable with the length then cut and finish off as needed.

If the lace motifs or your judgment determine that the hem has to be lifted at the waist, fit as before to determine the amount. To do the job remove whatever is over the waist seam from back darts on one side around the front to the other side's darts. Open seam. Lift skirt the determined amount from side seam to side seam and taper back to original seam from the side seam to the back dart. Baste in place. Refit as before and adjust if needed. Secure seam, trim excess skirt fabric and replace decoration.

Now, there are exceptions to every rule and lots of details depending on the gown, but this should get you started. The most important thing to know is that this is always going to be a learning process. Even when you have done your 1,000th gown, you will still be learning because the designers will keep on doing things differently. You need to develop the ability to figure it out depending on the gown you're working on. When you take it apart, pay attention to the construction and then put it back when you are done making whatever adjustment the gown needs. In short you need to learn how to learn.

I am sewing a wedding dress for my daughter and just read in the April issue of SewNews that the hem should be 3/4" above the floor. This seemed a bit high to me since there is really no hem allowance - I'm using horsehair braid and you only sew it 1/4" from the bottom and turn up. Any suggestions or is the magazine correct???

This varies with the confidence of the bride to walk in the gown. Many young ladies have never worn such a garment before and could be in danger of tripping down the isle. I usually start pinning it at 1" and have the girl walk around in it (Taking care to not look down for this makes the dress longer). Have her carry a fake bouquet of flowers if it will help her get the feeling. Then shorten more until she feels comfortable.

I worked at a bridal store once that insisted on all the hems being done 2" from the floor! Now that IS too short. But 3/4" doesn't sound like a bad length to me. It is just one person's opinion though.

Just remember, it's just as important for your daughter to feel at ease in this dress as it is for it to "look" proper. If "she" doesn't "feel" beautiful, the "dress" won't "look" beautiful.


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