Unless you're going for a high-low look, there's no reason to have a wavy or uneven hem on your skirt or dress. Use this step-by-step tutorial to ensure that your skirt or dress looks professionally tailored—or shorten a hem to the length that you prefer for an updated look on an old favorite.
Whether you're making your own clothes, shortening a hemline, or simply altering a skirt or dress for a better fit, the hem can make all the difference. It's not as simple as cutting the fabric straight across the bottom, but when you start with the right measurements, you're sure to have success.
Equipment / Tools
- Sewing gauge
- Tailor's chalk or washable marking pen
- Fabric shears
- Skirt or dress
- Ribbon or Lace (enough to match the hem circumference)
- Matching Thread
Plan the Hem
Start with a skirt (or dress) that has an unfinished hem. If you're sewing your own clothing piece, be sure to leave at least an extra inch or two of fabric. To alter a finished skirt or dress, unpick the hem or cut it off. Again, it's best to have extra fabric to work with, especially if you have more curves.
Try the skirt on and make sure it sits on your body as you will wear it. Notice the areas that are uneven.
Decide where you want the finished hem to land.
It's helpful to have a friend assist with the measuring process, but a dress form that matches your measurements also works great. Plus, dress forms often have an attachment that makes this process much easier.
Measure and Mark the Hem
Rather than measuring the fabric from the waist down, use a yardstick to measure from the floor up. This ensures that the hem is visually even all around.
Mark where you want the finished hem using pins, tailor's chalk, or a water-soluble marking pen.
If you're wearing the skirt, it's important to have someone else do this for you so you aren't bending and therefore changing how the hem hangs. If you don't have a friend to help, Melissa of Melly Sews suggests taping the marking pen to a wall at the height you want, then letting it mark the fabric as you turn.
Mark the Cutting Line
Remove the skirt. Use a sewing gauge set to one inch to mark the cutting line below the measured and marked hemline. Use tailor's chalk or a water-soluble pen to mark a continuous line around the skirt.
Cut along the line to remove the excess fabric.
Attach Ribbon to the Raw Edge
Choose a ribbon or lace that matches the weight of the fabric so that the hem hangs nicely, but don't feel that it needs to match the color. Adding a pop of color or pattern contrast can be a fun detail to a hemline!
Pin the ribbon to the right side of the hem, centering the raw edge on the ribbon.
Sew the ribbon to the fabric, stitching 1/8-inch from the edge of the ribbon.
If you are hemming a circle skirt, use bias tape or ribbon so it follows the curve while keeping the hem flat.
Press and Pin up the Hem
Fold and press the hem up to the wrong side of the skirt so the fold matches the finished length you want. Use the sewing gauge again to ensure that the hem is even all the way around as you pin it in place.
This is a good time to try the skirt on again to double-check the length.
Hand Sew the Hem
Thread a hand-sewing needle with matching thread and sew the top of the ribbon to the front fabric of the skirt with blind stitch. Take tiny stitches so they don't show much on the hem.
Press the hem once more from a crisp finish.
There are other methods for sewing the hem of a garment, just like sewing pants or even a tablecloth, including double folding the fabric and either sewing on a machine or stitching with catch stitch.
Machine sewing is much faster, but results in much more visible stitches. It's worth taking the time to hand-sew your skirt or dress hem because it makes the finishing both special and more professional.