When it comes to sewing formal wear we have one word EXPERIENCE! Hemming a formal dress involves first marking the hem accurately, then using the proper techniques for hemming bridal or special occasion fabrics. Each layer needs to be done separately. Let’s get started!
Mark the Hem
Proper marking of a formal hem requires two people—one to wear the gown and one to mark the hem. Be sure the dress is worn with all the undergarments and the shoes that will be worn with the dress. Do not mark the hem until all other alterations have been done, such as straps and waist, since those alterations may affect the length. The wearer should stand on a flat surface, not plush carpeting. If there is a lining or several layers, ask her to hold up all layers except for the innermost layer. You will mark the hem from inside to outside, one layer at a time, using pins and/or chalk. In general, a floor-length hem should be about an inch from the floor.
Sewing a Basic Hem
A basic narrow hem in satin, crepe, chiffon, or jersey is best done by first pressing under the hem along the marked line. Stitch close to the fold before cutting off excess fabric. This line of stitching stabilizes the hemline so it won’t stretch out of shape. Then cut off excess fabric close to the stitched line, turn under the hem again to hide the cut edge, and topstitch the hem.
To hem an under layer which includes a ruffle at the bottom, pin a tuck just above the ruffle. Sew this tuck and the ruffle remains intact, just a bit higher than it was before The finished ruffle should be about 2 inches from the floor for safe walking.
If netting is flat, simply mark the correct length with a pin line parallel to the floor and cut along this line. If there are several layers of tulle, each successive layer is cut just slightly longer than the layer underneath it, resulting in graduated layers at the hem line. The cut edges can remain plain for underlayers.
Another attractive finish for tulle is to cut the netting to length, then cover the hem with satin ribbon for a band at the hemline. This is a nice option for the outermost layer of a tulle skirt.
Hemming a Pick-Up Skirt
Pick-up skirts consist of small puckers (pick-ups) staggered around the skirt. To shorten this style, pin the pick-ups at their stitching lines, pinching up a bit more fabric than was originally sewn into the pick-up. Do this to enough of the pick-ups, evenly spaced, that the skirt is raised to the desired length. Additional pick-ups may be added if needed.
Allover lace in a small pattern may be hemmed with a narrow hem like any other fabric. It may also be cut to the desired length with sharp shears and the cut edge covered with matching lace edging.