Help a Reader: Hemming a Wedding Dress

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We received a very urgent craft question from a reader and are hoping our knowledgeable community can help. In fact, we are so excited to help this woman hem her daughter’s wedding dress that we are offering a Dimensions Punch Needle Craft Kit for the best answer. Just post your answer in the comments and we will pick a winner next Friday, September 11.

Here is what she asks:

My daughter is getting married on Oct 3… just weeks away and her dressed needs to be hemmed. I have a lot of sewing experience. How far off the floor should the hem be? Would it be best to hand sew, machine sew or use fusible hem tape?  please, I need help very soon. Thank you so much.

Update on the fabric: She says “Several people asked what kind of material the gown is… it’s satin…plain with no lace or trim whatsoever, but it does have a long sash that is wine color, which goes down to the floor and a little beyond… kind of like a narrow train..”

Can you help?? If so, you could win this:

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  1. Nancy Bowes says

    It depends on the type of fabric. Also, is the current hem machine or hand stitched? I generally stitch 1/4″, turn and stitch another 1/4″. I usually have a long gown fall just over the top of the foot…that way the person won’t be tripping over it.

  2. Cindy Bailey says

    For length, I would go to the bottom of the ankle bone. That way, she can show off her pretty shoes, and she won’t trip on her dress.
    And…I would definitely hand sew. I love hand sewing, because you can easily hide your stitches, but I also feel like I’m putting more love into whatever I’m sewing. Hand sewing allows you to slow down, relax, and think happy thoughts…such as how proud you are of your daughter!

  3. Brenda Taylor says


    It depends if the dress has a full bottoml or a straight bottom. it also depends on the fabric. It mainly depends on the shoe she is wearing. If it is an open toe shoe, you will have to hem it shorter to keep it from getting between her shoe and her toe. If it is a closed toe shoe, it can be a little longer, just not long enough for her to step on. If the dress has several layers (netting or under skirt or both) hem the layer closest to her body as the shortest as her feet will touch it first. Use this hem line to hem any other layers which can be a fraction longer. If you are not dealing with knit you can use boning in the hem. Attach the boning to the bottom, then turn the hem to the underside and machine stitch with a longer stitch length. This will keep the fabric firm. If you are dealing with a knit, I would suggest a shirt tail hem. it will take time to get the hem smooth and will need to be done by machine. If you can’t get a smooth hem by machine, then hamd hem.

    The hem of a wedding dress is something that takes time to look good. Good luck and give the bride my wish for happiness.

  4. Jo Ann Core says

    I have done alterations for many years,almost always use the same method that the manufactor used.Have the bride put the dress on with all under garments on as well as her shoes.Pin the center front just above the top of the shoe taper gradually to the side seam.Press the pinned area up on the under side finish as the manufacter did.

  5. Andrine Wilke says

    I agree with nancy bowie. Just pin at floor also cut there and make a neat rolled hem. Just enough room so not to trip but lovely.

  6. Taerie Kelly says

    I would definitely hand stitch a hem on something as important as a wedding gown as I feel it lends to a more elegant finish. I feel machine stitching belongs on casual clothing. I would not use fusible webbing as I find it does not hold well enough. If it was my dress I would want the hem to stop at my ankle to avoid tripping over the fabric or getting the fabric dirty from the floor.

  7. Yvonne says

    A wedding dress should be hemmed in the front to 1 inch off the floor with the wedding shoes on. I use a whip stitch.

  8. Karen says

    With the dress on the bride and the shoes she’s wearing, turn under the bottom edge until it falls just to the bend where her toes hit the floor. That way she won’t trip. If the dress is satin, serge the raw edge to prevent unruly, uneven fraying. If you can’t serge it, turn under 1/4″ and straight stitch it. Then turn under 1/2″ and hand sew, taking care to make small enough stitches that they don’t show on the outside. Don’t pull too tight either as it will show on the outside. If you have too much hem when you hand sew it you can run a gathering stitch along the bottom edge and gradually gather in the extra so it’s even. Good luck and enjoy the day! 🙂

  9. Grama Chris says

    I’m a seamstress & it all depends on the fabric. I’m working on a dress right now & what I’ll do is lightly iron the hemline, sew 1/8″ roll & then cut right tightly below it. Then I’ll iron it again & roll the hem & sew another 1/8″ again so in total it’s 1/4″ this works real well. You don’t want to sew it all the way to 1/4″ because it will pucker & I use a walking ft. for this. For the under skirting which is thicker you can try & use the 1/4″ but the walking ft is very helpful for curves of anykind. I ALWAYS use my walking ft. for everything except replacing zippers. Congrats to everyone. A mother of 4 daughters.

  10. Liz Cappiello says

    The hemline should be 1/4 inch from the floor when the bride is in stocking feet. At the end of the day, when her feet may hurt, she can remove her shoes or put on ballet slippers and will not damage or trip over her dress hem. The stitching definitely will depend on dress style and fabric(s) used. With a fairly straight gown, I would recommend hand stitching so it is least visible. A full gown can be machine sewn, unless the fabric is sheer or more fragile. Be sure to mark all the way around the dress and not just check the front or a few spots. Other things to consider are whether the dress has any type of design lace or embroidery on the bottom. With that, I would recommend taking it up along the waist if possible. Do it with soft gathers or a few side pleats to keep the integity of the design. Another thing that can be done is to wear an additional slip, or add additional netting underneath. It fluffs the dress out and raises the hemline without sewing it.
    iI would not use fuse tape.

  11. Sonia Freidus says

    I made my daughter’s wedding dress and used the fusible tape to make her hem. I did it 2 inches off the floor so that her shoe would not get caught in the hem. If there are multiple layers you just need to make sure that one is not longer than the other. The reason I used the fusible tape is that she wanted me to make it into a cocktail dress afterwards, so it was easy to trim off the hem this way.

    Best of luck to you and your daughter on her upcoming marriage.

  12. Dianna Thomas says

    Both of my daughters dresses i hemmed at 2 inches front center and graduated to 1/4 hem to center back. This prevented tripping,and showing off their shoes and the bottom glitter of their ankle braceletts.It also gave more depth and flow to the back of their gowns–Hope that helps

  13. Barbara says

    I agree with the above, you want the hem about to the top of the foot in the front for easy walking, but taper it to longer in the back (even without a train) you want the longer hem in back to just clear the floor. Whether hand or machine–if narrow hem–machine if deeper hem definitely by hand. All layers under the top should be about 1/4-1/2 inach shorter than dress.

  14. Joan says

    Being from the “Old School” I’d say hand stitch a 1/4″ hem just at the top of her slipper. Be sure she has on the slippers she is going to wear with the dress when you measure. Congratulations and Happy Stitching!

  15. dorothy peterson says

    I would do a double machine hem, hem once, cut off & turn up & hem again, about 1&1/2 to 2″ off the floor with shoes on. no fusible hem tape. this works on satins, organzas, most fabrics. did this for 20 yrs & am still doing bridals now & then.

  16. kenneth bench says

    hand sewing hem is the best more elegant but I like to have the front of the gown to the tips of the shoes and the back lower better drape. More stunning and elegant. Never fusible shows through on some fabrics.Goodluck. I have made a many gowns.

  17. DonnaBall says

    Ihave always been told just let the tips of there shoesshow. Ifind the best hem on dressy outfits isdone by hand in small neat stitches.

  18. kathryn sieminskie says

    be sure to wear shoes for day try all shoes to be worn for time she will wear the dress find a product call horsehair braid for hemming you stitch on the fold of one side and then gently press up and it hold the hem up and their is no puckering or stitch to show follow the line made by the designer if shorting a ready made or already make dress decide inches and cut according if making the dress follow pattern the shape of the hem on a wedding dress is usually longer in back than in the front. if it is a ready made dress with a complicated hem line consider shorting it at the waist not at the hem line hope this helps

  19. Donna Fancher says

    It depends on the fabric type. If the hem was done by the manufacturer on the machine, I would do the same. However, I too think that sewn by hand is the best way. If the fabric is not heavy fusible tape would probably work too. Have not comment on the lenght. Have a beautiful wedding and live happily ever after.

  20. Donna Adams says

    A formal wedding gown should just brush the floor – be sure to measure while bride is wearing her wedding shoes. Do not use fusible tape as this can leave unsightly marks on delicate fabrics. For most wedding gown fabrics a narrow hem is best (1/4″ pressed and folded over another 1/4″) then machine stitched. Most purchased gowns are machine stitched, depending on the style & fabric. I have used these guidelines when sewing bridal gowns for years and have never had a disappointed bride. My most important critic was my daughter — and she was elated with the results. Her friends could not believe that I made her gown because it fit so perfectly. If you are the least bit apprehensive I suggest you find a reputable seamstress and pay to have the work done – it would well be worth the cost.

  21. Peggy Cartwright says

    I tend to agree with the person who said have the bride take off her shoes and hem the skirt so it just misses the floor in the front, then have her put on the shoes she will wear and taper the skirt to the back so that it is just off the floor in back about 1/2″. The hem will look best when done by hand as in the best coutoure houses, with an invisible stitch (fabric folded up 1/4 to 1/2″ depending on fabric and then hemmed).It is her wedding after all and the work should look elegant, and if a fine fabric is used, merely finger pressed and done by hand in a soft roll.
    No tripping if the dress is slightly off the floor whether the bride has her shoes on or not.

  22. Jean says

    Since it is such a busy time for the family, my suggestion would be to take the dress to a wedding shop and let them hem it. Give yourself one less thing to worry about. My daughter was married in March, and I still cannot believe we finally got everythng done. We did most of it ourselves, but I did appreciate the help of others. It is a great time for everyone-enjoy every minute of it.

  23. Sharon says

    The fabric makes a difference, does it have a lace overlay? How much too long is it.I owned a bridal store and there were two ways that we would hem, depending on the design of the dress, how much too long it is and what the fabric was.
    Wear the shoes that will be worn with the dress AND what ever undergarments will be worn with the dress, even the bra – it can make a difference.
    FIRST is the normal hem, we would hem to just below the instep – be sure that you hem all the way around to the train NOT just the front – the hem will naturally so to just about nothing.
    SECOND, if the dress has a lace overlay, you will need to hem from the waist. You will need to undo the stitching at the waist and raise it to the proper length. Be sure to keep the gathers the same as they were. this can be accomplished by using a basting stitch, either by hand or on your machine, depending on how tight the gathers are.
    Don’t forget to also hem the lining, usually about 1/2 inch shorter than you hem the dress.

    You need to look at the hem and see how it is hemmed – is it by machine now – then do it the same way, just be sure you tension is not too tight and that you don’t pull the fabric, most hems are on the bias. ALSO – if the overskirt is attached to the lining, you will need to look at the original technique and follow it – this will make the “new” hem look correct.
    Good luck and Congratulations!

  24. Catra says

    As a professional seamstress I own and run a bridal shop. I make gowns for weddings, proms and special occassions. Most gowns that are considered floor length should not be more than an inch and a half off the floor. Most come directly to the floor. All layers beneath the top layer can be machine hemmed. The outer layer should always be hand sewn as it tends to lay better. It usually tends to pucker under the foot of the machine unless you’ve been sewing a long time and understand the flexiblity of the fabric. Hope this helps.

  25. Betty Mathews says

    I would recommend having the hem just touch the floor with her shoes on so that she will not trip nor will it get caught on anything. I would also say that hand hemmed would be better because if you only pick up a couple of threads when you hem, the hem will be invisible. For more drama, you can have the hem tapered so that the back will be a bit longer than the front which will give a tran look to the dress. Either way, she will be beautiful in the dress no matter what you do. Good luck and best wishes to the new couple.

  26. DesignsGifts says

    I have designed, altered and sewn wedding attire for many years. Since the dress is made of satin, I would follow the manufacturer’s method of hemming. So you will want to hem it just so the shoes will show in front, in order for the bride not to trip on it and the shoes to show. I hem it from the side of each leg to the other side of the leg. Normally, a satin dress will have a rolled hem. So I use my rolled hem foot and shorten the satin and any underlining the same, with the underlining a bit shorter. It is a very simple chore to hem it in this fashion.

  27. Lee Smeal says

    As a Pastor’s wife, I’ve organized MANY weddings, and seen many mishaps. I would suggest the hem in front be one inch from the floor then you can taper to longer length in back. Don’t forget to also shorten the train. I agree with others who have posted to hand hem the dress. It’s a personal touch that will add to the dress. As for the fabric tape for hemming – well – I don’t trust that it won’t discolor or come loose in the years ahead. Many wedding gowns are kept to be passed on to daughters. It would be a shame to have problems occur from use of a fabric tape. Good Luck.

  28. Wynona says

    As a seamstress, I recomend that the front of the dress be 1 inch from the floor with shoes on. Although, this is a personal item. Some want it higher so the shoes may be changed or removed after the ceremony.
    I agree that the dress will look more elegant if you angle the hem down making the back longer. To do this properly, divide the front of the dress into thirds, side seam to side seam. The center section should be hemed even and two outer sections are used to angle the hem into the existing hem.

    I prefer the double hem method. This is done by turning the hem up, sewing a 1/8 th inch hem, triming the extra fabric off, turning up again, stitching the final hem. This will give a smother, firmer hem and not give the satin a chance to stretch as much. If you have not used this method before, you may need to practice before starting on the dress. It is well worth the effort and extra time to practice first.

    The under layers should be layered – not all the same length. If you want more stiffness in the netting just turn it up a couple of times and machine baste it in place.

    I hope this helps.

    Wynona – Two Ladies Sewing Shoppe

  29. Denese Johnson` says

    The dress should be hand sew. The machine leaves marks. and sewing by hand is most suitable for a wedding dress.

  30. Eve Harvey says

    I just finished several prom gowns a couple of months ago. The easiest and absolutely best finished look I achieved was to have the try on and fit with the appropriate undergarments, mark carefully with pins, and cut with extreme care about 5/8 inch longer than the desired length.. Most importatly, I finished the cut edge with Fray check, and hand hammed. It was time consuming , but really worth it. By the way, one of the gowns was chiffon, the rest were all satin. The fraycheck made it easy to handle, & maintain shape. GOOD LUCK, & much happiness to the bride & groom, :), Eve.

  31. Beth Wilde-Wise says

    I would really appreciate seeing tatting patterns. I have quite a few but would enjoy seeing other patterns. I tat ear rings, doilies, collars, Christmas decorations, gift tags and other such things. Would like to also correspond with others who like tatting.

    Thank you,

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