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How to Hem a Maxi Dress

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This post shares tips about how to hem a maxi dress. It’s a simple process that can be done with a sewing machine or no-sew hemming tape.

How to Hem a Maxi Dress

Being just a few inches shy of 6-feet tall, I can’t say I’ve had to hem many things in my life. In fact, everything—pants, dress, skirts, and shirts—is usually too short. Maxi dresses and skirts, which I love, almost always hover around my ankles. But that wasn’t the case with this maxi dress, which was impressively long:

how to hem a maxi dress
view of the dress that is too long

I picked this dress up on a Target clearance rack. It was truly a score—the fabric is so soft (95% rayon, 5% spandex), and I’ve been in need of a versatile black maxi dress for a while. However, you can see it was a few inches too long to wear with flats, which is what I wear with maxi dresses and skirts. So I decided I would hem it.

Having never hemmed anything, I opted to sew my hem because I’m trying to work on my sewing skills. However, there are perfectly viable no-sew options, and I’ll link to those after outlining the sewing steps.

Here’s what you’ll need to hem a maxi dress:

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  • Sewing machine and matching thread.
  • Measuring tape, pins (ballpoint pins if you’re using a stretch knit fabric), and scissors (I have these scissors, and they are amazing!)
  • Iron and ironing board.
  • Preferably a helper to help measure the hem (not entirely necessary).

And here’s how to do it!

Step #1: Put the dress on and use chalk to mark where you’d like the dress to fall. Take the dress off and lay it flat on your work space. (I could not find my chalk, so I put some pins in instead, which you’ll see below. Not ideal, but it worked!)

how to hem a maxi dress
how to hem a maxi dress

Step #2: Trim some of the excess off. Don’t trim all the way to your pin or chalk line, which is there to mark the desired dress length, not where you’ll cut. Since this fabric doesn’t fray, I left the edge raw. You’ll see the more sophisticated seam I cut off below. 🙂

cutting off the extra fabric

Step #3: This step best illustrates how much easier it would have been to use a chalk line instead of a line of pins.

  • If you have a chalk line, fold the hem up along the line and pin it in place.
  • If you have a line of pins, take them out one by one and fold the hem up along the line, re-pinning as you go.

Either way, make sure the raw edge of fabric is folded up on the inside of the dress. Also ensure that the space between the bottom of the dress and the line of pins is about the width of your sewing machine’s pressure foot.

pinning the hem

Step #4: You’ve now pinned up the hem and are ready to sew. Before sewing, I gave the pinned fold a little press to keep it flat while sewing. Run the entire length of the dress through your sewing machine using a straight stitch.

Remember to back stitch the beginning and end of your seam to secure it. (Read more about lock and back stitching here.) You’re done!

No-Sew Maxi Dress Hemming Options

If you don’t have a sewing machine, there are tons of iron-on hemming tape options. Here are a few:

  • Thermoweb Heatn’ Bond Hem Iron-On Adhesive. I’ve used the ultra hold kind to experiment with no-sew pillows, so I can recommend the brand. If the hem iron-on adhesive is anything like the ultra hold adhesive, you may have to iron for a bit longer than the instructions indicate. This tape is safe for machine washing, as well as dryer cycles if kept on low heat.
  • Iron-On Hemming Tape. Described as ideal in a pinch, great for hems and rips, easy to use, and machine washable. This tape still allows for dry cleaning.
  • Stitch Witchery, regular hold. Amazon describes it as a regular weight hemming option for hems, trims, and belts. Machine washable and dry cleanable.



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Tara

Wednesday 21st of June 2017

Thank you for writing this post!! I am in a pinch and your suggestions are great! Not to mention now I want to learn how to sew in my own! My alterations gal wanted 23.00 for a straight across dress hem on a jersey dress ? Thanks again!

Sami

Thursday 4th of May 2017

This is a very helpful and easy post to follow. Thank you!

Brittany Goldwyn

Saturday 6th of May 2017

No problem Sami, thanks for stopping by!

Luly

Thursday 1st of December 2016

I have a maxi dress that is rayon spandex no hem fabric, to change the length just cut. And it has not frayed although the fabric itself pills! Go figure.

Shirley

Tuesday 26th of July 2016

Hi Brittany,

Thank you for writing such a helpful post. I was wondering now that you have had time to wear the dress and test everything, did the edge curl? Does the hemming make the dress too dense? I recently found a maxi dress on sale that is beautiful but way too long as well. Thank You!

Brittany Merth

Tuesday 26th of July 2016

Hi Shirley! It did not make the edge too dense, but I'll be honest, the ends have curled a bit. It doesn't really bother me though because this isn't a super nice piece. :)

Courtney

Wednesday 3rd of June 2015

Hi there! Thanks for this tutorial! Question about the 95% rayon/5% spandex material - I hear you mention it won't fray... if this was a super casual dress I suppose you could just cut it and leave the hem unfinished? I would think it may curl up a bit but would be fine...? Just wondering if you know - thank you!

Brittany Merth

Thursday 4th of June 2015

Hi! That's a really good point. When I asked my grandmother, who knows far more about fabric than I do, she said that this probably would not fray. If that's true, you could definitely leave the edge raw if you cut really carefully. If you had some fraying, you could always use some fray check/fray block sealant. :)

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