April 20, 2014

How to Fix a Dress That is Too Short


First off, I have a confession to make. See the dress in the photo above? It's new. I bought it last week. I decided to put a temporary hold on my shopping ban when I pulled out my spring/summer clothes a couple weeks ago and realized that many of them no longer fit (I've dropped about 15 pounds since last summer...and when you already have a small frame, it's pretty noticeable in your clothes). And while I'm trying to replace only a couple of necessary things like jeans and a couple of light summer tops, I just couldn't pass up this dress when I saw it. I love this dress. Love. It. Most of my summer dresses and skirts are still wearable (even though they're a bit big) so it wasn't really a necessary purchase, but when I saw this dress I knew it was worth adding to my closet for multiple reasons:

1. It has (sort-of) sleeves! It can be difficult to find a summer dress that isn't sleeveless or tank-style, and while I'm not opposed to tank dresses in general (I own a couple myself), my shoulders/upper arms are one of my least favorite features, and I'm just more comfortable with my shoulders covered.
2. The v-neck is high enough that it doesn't show any cleavage! This is virtually impossible for me find in most dresses. I'm just shy of 5'3" and my torso is very short, so the distance between my collar bone and my cleavage is much shorter than average. The neckline of most regular tops and dresses usually falls about halfway down my chest, and I'm not a huge fan of exposing the girls to everyone I meet, let alone while sitting in church. With this dress I don't have to constantly be attentive about pulling up the neckline or wear a layering camisole underneath, which helps to keep it super light weight and cool on hot summer days.
3. I'm totally in love with the print! It's a beautiful Asian-inspired print that just called my name, and the colors and patterns are pretty and feminine and delicate.
4. An added bonus: the dress itself has a very simple shape and will make for a super easy pattern to make some copycat dresses in the future. Oh, and did I mention this dress has pockets??

You can see why I love this dress. In fact, I have only one problem with it. It's pretty short (for my tastes). It's from the Junior's section, and with current styles junior's dresses are generally cut a couple of inches shorter than women's dresses. On top of that, it's a size small and there weren't any mediums or larges left, so I couldn't even go up a size for the added length. I prefer my skirts and dresses to fall no shorter than the bottom of my knees (I've mentioned before my great love of midi skirts for this reason), as I have a fairly round bum that causes my skirts to rise up several inches when I sit down...and I am soooo not comfortable with my bare thighs hanging out. Modesty issues? Yes. Body issues? Definitely. I guess I'm also becoming a bit of a conservative fuddy-duddy in my old age.


Anyway, I knew this dress would be absolutely perfect if I could just lengthen it a few inches. Of course, sometimes you get lucky and there is extra fabric in a dress hem that you can just let down. But inexpensive dresses from Target? They're usually made pretty cheaply, and the hem on this dress had no extra fabric at all. Another option is to wear a slip extender under a dress or skirt to add a few inches. I do in fact have a couple of slip extenders that I made last summer, although only one of them would work with the colors in this fabric. I chose not to go the slip extender route though, because 1. wearing a polyester slip underneath a dress doesn't keep things all that cool during the summer; 2. the slip extenders I made last summer fall into the now-too big category (thanks to the weight loss mentioned above), and fall so low on my hips now that several inches of the slip itself would show between the hem of the dress and the lace extender bit; 3. the one slip extender I have that would work with the colors of this dress is pretty sheer lace, and really doesn't 'cover' anything--it's more for adding decorative trim under a skirt that's already long enough rather than adding coverage to a too-short dress. So I decided my best option was to just add several inches of trim directly to the dress itself, and after a bit of searching I found just what I was looking for at my local Joann's.


This woven trim is about 3 1/2 inches wide, and while it's not solid it definitely provides more coverage than your average lace (and I got it for only $2/yd with a coupon!). Plus, most of the lacy trims I looked at just didn't quite fit the feel of the fabric's Asian-inspired patterns. I thought this trim was fairly neutral in design, and though it's hard to tell in photos, the color is better described as 'unbleached' rather than white or even cream. Also, this trim is flat and not ruffled, which would allow it to drape flush with the fabric of the dress rather than poofing out in a ruffle at the bottom.

Here you can see the 1/4" hem of the dress. I pinned the trim so that its top edge was just under the top of the hem.
To add it to the dress, I first turned the dress inside out (so I could work on the underside to hide the seams), and then determined where I wanted to attach the trim. The dress had a 1/4 inch hem, which meant I could stitch the trim to the fabric on the inside of the hem and keep the seam completely hidden, rather than having my stitches show through on the front of the dress.


Once I had the trim pinned around the entire dress I began the sewing process (tip: do NOT cut off any extra trim at this point; wait to cut off any extra until after you've actually sewn it to the hem, otherwise you risk cutting the trim too short if your pinning job wasn't perfectly even). I chose to hand stitch the trim to the dress rather than using a sewing machine as hand stitching allowed me to run my stitches only through the fabric on the inside of the hem. (Using a sewing machine would be totally fine, but keep in mind that it would make the stitches visible on the front of the dress. I didn't want a visible seam as I'm not great at sewing perfectly straight seams with a machine.) I just used a simple whipstitch, but kept my stitches small and close together for the most durability and made sure to actually bring the needle through the cotton fibers of the trim and not just around them. I also made sure to only run my needle through the fabric on the inside of the hem, not allowing my needle to pass through any fabric on the front of the dress and thereby keeping my stitches hidden.


Tip: using a thread color that matches the fabric of your dress will allow any tiny stitches that accidentally go through to the front of the dress to blend in and be less noticeable.


Once I finished stitching the trim all along the hemline of the dress, I finished it off by overlapping the ends of the trim by about an inch. Because this trim is made of woven fibers rather than lace or solid fabric, it's a bit tricky to finish off. If you were machine sewing, you could match up the ends and machine stitch them right sides together (then tack down the ends on the inside of the hem) and that would probably hold them pretty well. Because I was handstitching, I chose to overlap the edges one on top of the other and then do a running stitch down one end, across the bottom, and then up the other edge. It's not the cleanest of finishes, but it lays nice and flat, and is pretty secure (I did a lot of work tacking down the individual fiber ends as I stitched up and down the edges). Tip: switch to a thread color that matches your trim at this point so that the stitches will blend in with the trim and be mostly invisible.


Up close it's not all that pretty, but from a distance the seam is not really all that noticeable. I also made sure to place this seam directly in line with one of the side seams of the dress, where it's least noticeable overall.


And that's all there is to it. I managed to add 3 1/4 inches to the length of the dress and it now comes to the bottom of my knees--just the spot I was aiming for. I'm much more comfortable with it now! Plus, I love that the pretty edging adds even more delicate detail to the dress while being neutral enough to not take the focus away from the colors and print of the dress. How can a lacy trim not make anything look more feminine?


Not only does the trim add length, I think it makes the dress look a little more finished and of higher quality. Looking at the before and after side by side you can see the difference that adding the trim makes:


If you get a chance, click on one of the photos in this post and zoom in for a clearer image of the fabric's patterns and colors. It's hard to see, but even the colored stripes at the bottom are patterned. 

I was so excited to be able to wear this dress for Easter! I had visions of pairing it with my strappy gold wedge sandals (an end-of-summer clearance deal from Target last year for a whopping $6!) and my white knit 3/4 sleeve blazer. Unfortunately, the cold, windy, rainy weather encouraged me to change my plans a bit and I ended up wearing it with my brown boots and a light tan sweater.


Have you ever refashioned a too-short skirt or dress? What did you wear for Easter services? I'd love to know!

Sarah Marie


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40 comments:

  1. What a smart solution to make a dress more than what it began as - I appreciate the detailed instructions and insights also. (photos are always great). It looks lovely on you, and the boots are a fun addition! Just shows that it'll be great for more than only the hot summer time.

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    1. Many thanks for the kind words, Lori! You are right, I planned for it as a summer dress, but pairing it with my boots has opened it up to cooler seasons as well!

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  2. Being 5'10 I feel like I need to add length to everything!!! I am going to give this a try!
    Stopping by from www.ourlifeonabudget.com :)

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    1. I hope it works out for you Stasia!

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  3. Stopping by from The Modest Mom Blog. This is great! I have added lace trim to the bottom of a dress from Walmart for exactly the same reason! It was black, though. I always wanted a black dress and $20 for a dress was too good of a deal to pass up. I think I paid about $2 a meter (yrd) for the black lace trim and you can't even tell they didn't come together! It's a great option. For Easter this year, though, I made a nice sunny, yellow dress. I saw one on Eshakti that I liked but couldn't afford and managed to duplicate it (to some extent) for Easter Sunday. I have a few more "cosmetic" details to add but they weren't necessary for Sunday since I was wearing a sweater over it anyway, haha.

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    1. Thank you Amanda! Your black dress embellishment sounds lovely. And a yellow dress for Easter? Perfect pairing! There's just something about Easter that always makes a new dress seem justifiable (whether new, thrifted, refashioned, etc.). Thank you for stopping by!

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  4. Very nice! I've never added lace to a dress but I like being able to take something store-bought and alter it to make it work a little better for me!

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    1. I feel the same way Rachel! It's always difficult to find something 'perfect' or exactly what I'm looking for from the store, so I like to keep an arsenal of refashioning and embellishing ideas on hand.

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  5. You did a great job on this. Your attention to detail paid off. The changes look so professional. I will definitely try this. It seems do-able thanks to your tutorial. And, I agree- the dress is SO MUCH nicer now. Big upgrade!

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    1. Thank you for the lovely comments! I was surprised myself by how much nicer I thought the dress looked just from adding a pretty trim to the bottom. I hope this works out for your own refashion(s)!

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  6. I love how yours turned out, very nice! I have done this as well. I have a denim skirt that is shorter than I like so I added while eyelet lace to the bottom of it. And onto my khaki skirt I added a brown ruffle made out of the bottom of another skirt that would no longer work for me. Stopping by from Modest Mom link up. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I love the sound of your refashionings Melissa! What a great idea to use the bottom of a no-longer-wearable skirt to add to the bottom of your khaki skirt! I love finding ways to reuse old items and/or turn them into something new and lovely.

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    1. Many thanks for the lovely compliment! :)

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  8. What a wonderful idea! Your fixed up that dress so nicely! I love it...!

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    1. Thank you Ashley! I really love it too :) It was nice how quick and easy it was!

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  9. It looks great, and so simple to do!

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    1. Thank you Lisa! It really was quite quick and easy. :)

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  10. I love the addition of the lace. Please come share at the Anything Goes linky, if you have not already. Congrats on the weight loss.

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    1. Thank you kindly Mindie, I will make sure to share this post on this week's linkup!

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  11. So pretty! I love the idea... I tend to wear floor length skirts myself (yeah, I am with you on the body issues part, except I would love to be as tiny as you!) but I have a hard time finding skirts for my girls that are quite long enough to be acceptable.... plus, sometimes they grow up but not out and don't want to give up their favorites. This is a great idea for both situations!

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    1. Thank you Elisabeth! I love floor length skirts myself--they are so great for modesty and comfort and hide a myriad of body issues :) So glad you enjoyed this post!

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  12. love this idea! Love that trim too :) Pinned!

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  13. I am no good at sewing but love what you did here. Shopping ban? Oh that sounds dreadful lol, I'm doing a closet purge where I am wearing everything once & if I can't wear it anymore, hate it or won't wear it, I am getting rid of it....but I'm still shopping lol Maybe I should try a ban on shopping too :-) The dress looks lovely & your added touch is perfect.

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    1. Thank you Kellie! Sounds like you have a good system going yourself...I may not be shopping much but I *should* be sifting out unworn clothes to get rid of as well!

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  14. Perfect little addition.
    You are not fuddy duddy, you just know what you feel comfortable in and what suits you! And this definitely does.

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    1. Many thanks for the kind words Julia! :)

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  15. This is a great solution. I love how it all comes together styled in the last photo! I'd love to see you join us at the Inspire Us Thursdays link party on www.theinspiredwren.com.

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    1. Thank you! I will be sure to link up this post at this week's Inspire Us Thursdays link party!

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  16. Very nice! Lace is the perfect addition to that dress.

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    1. Thank you Heidi! I thought it was a nice solution. What luck it worked out!

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  17. This is such a great idea and looks like it would be simple enough even for an extreme sewing beginner like me :) Love all of the pics and details :)

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  18. Love this! Thank you so much for this post. I am 5 ft 4 in and often need just a little more material on the dresses so they are perfect length. This solution is perfect and does not seem too hard.

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  19. Very nice refashioning! I have problems too in finding dresses that exactly fit my taste, but usually I buy something bigger and then tighten or shorten it, I never tried to lengthen a dress. The result is really cute!

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  20. Even though I have a very different body type to yours (I wish I was like you!) we have similar problems, I also hate my shoulders, in my case they are to straight and that makes them look wide. I also don't like to show my chest, just because I think I look miles better with my chest covered and t-shirt necklines suit me so much better but it seems mission impossible to find dresses with a normal neck and it's very frustrating specially when everyone else tries to imply that my preferences are wrong and that somehow I should buy low neck dresses so as to not be seen as a prude or old fashion...

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