One of the attractions of ornate bridal gowns is their exquisite hem detailing. However, this detailing can cause problems when you go to hem the gown, as you won't be able to do so without destroying the effect of a lace or beaded hem. Therefore, the solution is to shorten the dress from the gown's natural waistline. This will be dependent upon the style of gown. For instance, if the dress has a drop waist construction, the gown's waistline will be much lower than an empire-style gown's waistline.
Try the gown on with the shoes you intend to wear and measure, from the floor, how many inches must be removed. Record this measurement.
Remove the bodice from the gown's skirt. Do this by gently lifting the stitches that attach the two together with the seam ripper. A seam ripper's thin blade perpetrates less damage to delicate fabric than scissors, as it is easier to control and will easily get between tight stitches.
Measure the circumference of the skirt's waistline and record the measurement. After shortening the gown from the waist, the portion of the gown that was once fitted for your hips will lie at your waistline. Therefore, it is important that you take in the skirt to measure the same width as its original waistline size. This will allow the bodice and skirt to go back together easily.
Superimpose the measurement of excess length taken in Step 1 from the skirt's waistline. Mark the measurement with pins all around the skirt. For instance, if the length is 2 inches long for you, mark the point 2 inches down from the waistline all the way around the skirt.
Try the skirt on to test its proposed length. If it is incorrect, adjust the pins as needed. Remember that it is better to err on the side of caution. Therefore, it may be better to leave it a bit long rather than cut too much off.
Cut off the excess fabric. Superimpose the waistline's circumference determined in Step 3 onto the skirt's new waistline. Measure the excess fabric and divide that number by the number of seams in the skirt. Therefore, if your skirt is now 4 inches too wide and your skirt has two seams, you must evenly distribute 2 inches of the excess fabric at each seam.
Take in the required amount of fabric from the seams. Trim away the excess seam selvages and place the bodice and skirt together with the right sides together. Pin the two portions of the gown together and sew them in place, allowing as much seam selvages as the original manufacturer did. This will prevent unsightly stitch marks from earlier seams from showing on the face of the gown.
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Andrea Hamilton has enjoyed being a writer since 1996. She has been published as a poet in "Fine Lines Magazine." Hamilton holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Iowa State University and is pursuing a Master of Arts in creative writing from London South Bank University.