Whether you’re sewing your own wedding dress, or need to adjust the length of a store-bought or heirloom bridal gown, the hem is an important finishing touch. You can sew the hem for a wedding dress using a sewing machine, but it’s best to stitch it by hand. This will help hide the stitches and, more importantly, keep the lower edge of the dress smooth and flowing. If you do sew the hem by machine, use a fine-tipped needle designed for delicate fabrics and make sure the tension is not too tight. In any case, the first step in hemming a wedding dress is to get it the right length. For this, you’ll need two people: the bride and a helper. It also helps to have a mirror, preferably floor-length.
How to Hem a Wedding Dress
Try on the dress and stand in front of the mirror. It’s best to wear the shoes you’ll wear with the finished dress, if available, or shoes that are a similar height.
Decide how much you need to shorten the dress, if any, leaving at least 1/2 to 2 inches for the hem. (It’s better to have too much fabric than not enough.) You may want the finished dress to come all the way to the floor, or be slightly shorter for easy walking.
Have your helper measure any excess fabric and mark it with a pin.
Remove the dress and carefully cut off any excess fabric, making sure the bottom edge of the dress is even.
Fold the lower edge of the fabric over 1/4 to 1/2 inch toward the inside of the dress. Press the fold flat, making sure to use the right iron temperature for the dress fabric.
Fold the lower edge over again 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches, depending on the width of the hem you’ve chosen, and pin the fold in place.
Try on the dress again and check the length. Have your helper adjust the pins in the hem as needed to make the hem wider or narrower.
Remove the dress and press the hem flat.
If the dress is lined, fold and press the lower edge of the lining the same way as the outside of the dress, except slightly shorter.
Whipstitch the top edge of the fold to the fabric, taking care to only poke the needle through the tiniest amount of outside fabric to prevent the stitches from showing. If the dress is lined, you may want to stitch the edge of the outside hem to the lining rather than to the outside fabric so that the stitches won’t show at all, and you can hem the outside and the lining in one step.
You may want to use silk pins when pinning the hem of a wedding dress. These pins are available in many fabric stores, and they’re made especially for use with delicate fabrics like silks and satins. They’re very finely pointed, so they shouldn’t leave holes in the fabric.
If you don’t have a helper, you can try on the dress and look in the mirror to guess how much you need to hem it. (Keep in mind that if you bend over, the dress will appear longer than when you’re standing up.) Pin the hem in place and try it on again. Adjust it as needed. Be sure to check and double-check the length before cutting or sewing.
Use caution when working with scissors, irons and sewing needles.