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How to add length to your dresses

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried on a dress at the store and loved it except it was 2 to 4-inches too short.  The perfect knee-length dresses are hard to find!

I was shopping at Old Navy yesterday in their clearance department and found 2 really cute dresses but they are both too short for me.  I brought them home and fixed them up.  

Here’s what they look like now:

 (tiered lace or scalloped-ruffle eyelet)
(close-up of how length is attached to skirt lining)

I’m going to show you how I did it, so you can do it too!

First, try on the dress and measure how many inches you want to add.  If there is a lining on the inside of the dress like the ones I did you’ll want to attach your extra length to the lining (so measure to the bottom edge of the lining).
The lining is 1″ shorter than the dress…
…so the inches I want to add is 8″ from the bottom of the dress but I’m going to add 1″ to make up for the shorter lining and another 1″ JUST to make sure (you can shorten it towards the end very easily).  So that’s 10″ total.
Lay your dress flat.  Depending on if you’re attaching your length to your lining or your dress, that’s what you’re going to measure.  I measured from one side of my lining to the other – 23″ slightly stretched, plus I added 3″ extra length just to be sure (and cut off later).

You should have an idea of what you want the extra length to look like.  I used 3″-wide lace stacked on top of each other for the blue/white dress and for the coral dress I used eyelet fabric to make a ruffle with a scalloped edge.  You can get really creative and do pretty much anything you can imagine!

RECAP: our measurements for our extra length need to be 10″-tall by 26″-long

Here’s how I did the lace:
You’ll need:
-Approximately 1-1/2 yards of lace for every tier you want.
-At most 1/2-yard of fabric the same color as your lace.
-Matching thread.
Erasable fabric marker and ruler.

 Measure how tall your lace is and minus that from the height of your measurement (10″).  My lace is 2.5″ so my total height I need to add is 7.5″.  Now I need to cut a strip of fabric that totals 7.5″-tall by 26″-long (it’s okay if you have to piece it together).
You’re going to be sewing your first tier of lace right on the bottom edge and you’ll want your upper layers to overlap at least 1/4″, so figure out where each tier needs to be and mark it across the entire length of your fabric strip.  I marked every 2″ for mine.

If you have a serger, serge the long edge of your fabric strip where you’ll be attaching the first tier of lace.
Attach your first tier of lace over your serged edge with a wide zigzag stitch.
At this point I realized I need more overlap on my lace so I have my lace 1/4″ below my marked line.  For the next tiers I lowered my lace 1/4″ consecutively, so at my top layer it was 3/4″ below.
Last tier!

Remember how we added 3″ to our length just to be sure?  This is the point where we remove that extra length and all those gnarly threads.  My lining was 23″ across (for a total of 26″), so here I folded my strip in half and measured and marked 23″ from my folded edge.  Pin everything really well so your lace doesn’t shift around.
If you have a serger, serge right down your mark to where your stitches are ending right along your mark (in my case I had the blade cutting 1/4″ PAST my mark).. I hope that makes sense.  If you don’t have a serger, just sew a straight line right on top of your mark, trim your excess so there’s just 1/4″ overhang and zigzag over your raw edges to keep from fraying.
 TIP: keep a little tail end of your serger threads on the bottom hem of your lace…
 …fold the tail end up and press the seam allowance over those tails to hide them and keep them from raveling…
 …next, do a straight stitch, or bartack, right over your seam allowance to keep the serger threads inside.
 Pin your lace to the hem of your lining (or dress).   Try on your dress and make sure you like the length (remember we added the extra 1″ just in case – so you’ll probably end up cutting off that extra).
In my case I wanted to cut off 1/2″ – so I put it right through the serger (or you can cut and zigzag the edge).
Next, re-pin lace onto dress and stitch with a zigzag stitch.

Here’s how I did the ruffle:
You’ll need:
-At most 1/2-yard of eyelet fabric (or any cotton you like).
-Matching thread.
Erasable fabric marker and ruler.

I’m just going to use the same measurements for this coral dress as I did for the blue/white to make it easier.  Remember they were 10″-tall by 26″-long.

Decide how tall you want your ruffle.  I wanted mine 3″-tall, add 1/4″ seam allowance and to make sewing the scallops easier I added 2″ – so 5.25″.  For the length of the ruffle it’s pretty standard to do 1.5x what you want your finished length… so 39″ plus I always like to add 3″ just to be sure… so 42″.  I need a strip of fabric 5.25″-tall by 42″.

For the other piece of fabric to attach the ruffle to the dress, subtract the finished length of your ruffle from the height you want total – so 3″ minus 10″ = 7″.  Then add 1/4″ seam allowance = 7.25″.  For my length I need 26″-long plus 3″ for fun = 29″.  Together 7.25″ by 29″.  Fewf!  Was that fun or what!?
Okay, hopefully your machine can do a scalloped edge (#61 for me).  If not you can cut out the scallops by hand and use a needle and thread to secure fabric from fraying (good luck)!
 I did a test to get the right settings I wanted for the length of scallop.  I sewed my scallop 2″ from the bottom edge (remember we added extra because it’s too hard to sew this stitch when you’re too close to the raw edge of fabric).
 You trim off the excess fabric CAREFULLY with your scissors.  Get as close to the stitch as you can without cutting the threads.
 Use a long stitch to stitch across the top edge of your ruffle.  Hold one thread and push fabric down the thread to create your gathers.  Gather your ruffle until it’s the same size as your other piece of fabric.
 Pin your ruffle over your other fabric so raw edges are even.
Serge your pieces together.

See ***** above and start from there for your next steps to attach to dress.

Good luck!!

As per my friends request to see me wearing them…
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  • Reply Trimbles

    I just did the same thing. Bought a dress from Old Navy that shrank. Went and bought a chunk of Rayon and now its the right length again and a "block" style dress now. 🙂

    June 20, 2013 at 11:00 am
  • Reply Family

    I would like to see the reveal! Show us how it looks on! You are so creative thank you for sharing.

    June 20, 2013 at 10:46 pm
  • Reply Trimbles

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    June 20, 2013 at 10:49 pm
  • Reply Dani

    I updated the post to have pictures of me wearing the dresses at the end 🙂 xo

    June 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm
  • Reply Marva Dial

    Thank you for the review. What brand of scissors did you use to cut the scallops?

    November 24, 2014 at 10:42 am
  • Reply Dani

    They're by Singer and they're really nice scissors! They cut through thick fabric very well!

    November 24, 2014 at 10:45 am
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