How to alter a prom dress length

Information you need about tailoring / Altering your prom gown

Can All Prom Dresses Dresses Be Taken In?

Let’s face it, very few people have hourglass figures so alterations to your dress will probably be necessary to get the proper fit.  Yes, all dresses can be taken in IF you have the proper professional seamstress. I have seen a dress taken down from a size 42 to a 12 before. And it looked fabulous! So, here are some typical things you need to know to get your prom dress altered / tailored.

Dresses do not fit properly to your body type can make a great dress and a great body, look terrible and frumpy. Properly fitted dresses will make you feel dynamite; hence, causing you to feel more confident and hold your posture better. Everyone knows if you feel great and look great, you’re more prone to have a better time.

1st, buy the dress. 2nd, wear the proper undergarments and shoes to your fitting. 

Wear the same undergarments and shoes to the fitting that you will be wearing at your prom. Check out our “Undercover Secrets” page in our Everything Prom book, so you know what type of undergarments you want to wear at your fittings. I wrote fittings (plural) because sometimes you will have to attend more than one. 

What do I need to bring to my alterations fitting?

If you wear different undergarments to your fittings that you don’t plan on wearing at prom, it can throw off the proper fit of your dress.  For instance, some bras add to your bust line, some bras lift and separate your bust line whereas some let you fall normally. Crinolines, which are also called “Petty coats” add fullness to the bottom of your dress.  A full crinoline can lift your dress off the floor over four inches depending on how many layers of crinoline are in the dress. Likewise, if you choose shoes with two inch heels versus shoes with one inch heels the hemline will shorten or lengthen.

I know this well because when I was younger I entered a pageant. Of course, I won the evening gown competition because I wore one of my own creations- lol. However, I was disappointed to find out that I had been docked points for my hemline not being the proper length. I realized that I had hemmed my dress while wearing different shoes, and it never dawned on me when I went to wear the dress in competition. I still won the title Mrs. Minnesota! And, I still won the evening gown segment. But, owing to the fact that I am an evening dress designer, I would have liked to say I received a 100 points on my evening gown segment, but I cannot. All because I wore the wrong shoes when I was hemming it.

undergarments bras prom 

What should I take to my prom dress fitting / alterations?

Three things to take to your prom dress fitting: 1) bra, 2) crinoline / undergarments, 3) shoes, 4) pillowcase.

Pillowcase? I’m sure you are saying, “why the pillowcase?” The reason why you should bring a pillowcase with you to your fitting it so you can put it over your head before putting your prom dress on. I”m not kidding! I have seen so many people get foundation and lipstick on their prom dress before the big night that it drove me crazy! So suck you your pride and put that pillowcase over your head before you try on your dress!

Choosing the right seamstress / Tailor is imperative! 

You can find a good seamstress in the local yellow pages by typing ‘custom tailor’ or ‘alterations’ or simply typing in ‘custom tailor’ and your town name on an internet search engines. Pay close attention to the reviews! People tend to be brutally honest when it comes to being upset about their prom dress fittings. Another way to find a tailor is to ask your friends for referrals. Do you know someone who went to prom last year, ask them who altered their gown. Once you find a seamstress, Interview the seamstress prior to making an appointment. Checkout their previous work! Most seamstresses have photos of their past garments and examples of what they are working on in their shop. Make sure they have altered your type of gown before. Ask questions, “Have they worked with silk?”  “Have they worked with beaded gowns?”  

Find out about the tailor’s skill level!

If they have never altered a prom dress before, don’t let your dress be their first! Let them experiment on someone else. If they state that any type of alteration is impossible to do to your dress, they don’t know what they are doing, so run. Like most prom dress designers, my dresses are made to be altered. I typically left 1/2” to 1” extra seam allowance in all of my dresses for those who wish to let their gowns out.  However, I don’t suggest letting out a dress if you have other options, because sometimes pin holes can be seen or beading is missing. When ordering pay attention to the size chart, it is easier to take in a dress than to let it out. I have never known a dress that cannot be fixed, only a seamstress that didn’t know what they were doing. 

Ask if they offer 2nd fittings.  A good seamstress will want to make sure everything was done right when she altered your dress.  A bad seamstress will just hand over the dress to you when you arrive and not want to see it on you.  I have heard nightmares of girls assuming the dress was altered and then trying on their dress the day of prom only to find it still doesn’t fit. 

How much to alterations cost on a prom dress?

Once you’ve found the seamstress you want to use, have them give you a price quote in writing before you leave your dress with them. Alterations vary fabric to fabric, dress style to dress style, hem line to hem line. So nothing is definate.

How long does it take to get a prom dress altered?

How long it takes depends on how busy your seamstress is. I can say this, if your seamstress isn’t busy during prom time, there probably is a reason why she isn’t busy so check into her ratings!

How can Iron my prom dress?

Will they press your gown?  A good seamstress will steam or iron out your gown.  They should be made aware of IF your gown can be ironed.  I highly avoid irons! I have seen way too many people try to iron a prom dress only to melt the beads right onto the dress. Inexperienced tailors and dry-cleaners will do this!  Look for a seamstress with a steamer if possible. You can purchase a small one online at 

One of my customers purchased a 2nd shawl to match her gown because her seamstress had put a hole right through the fabric of her dress with an iron.  Basically, the seamstress used the new shawl as a patch to patch over the burn. YIKES! I guess it was cheaper than having to buy her a new dress. Although the timing was such that we would not have been able to get in a new dress in time for her prom.

How far in advance should I have alterations or pick up my dress?

Finally, know when the seamstress is open. I have had to sell the same dress to the same girl going to the same event because when she went to pick up her dress on the day of prom and the seamstress was closed! Thoughts of breaking and entering ran through her mind but the thought of being in jail and missing her prom was not a good option.  So, we sold her the same dress and she had to wear it without being fitted properly. I’m surprised we still had one in stock! Something so simple as knowing when the seamstress is open could have reduced her prom day stress immensely. Pick up your dress as soon as it’s finished so you have it in your hands and you know it’s fitting properly.

Let’s go over the necessary information you need when determining who will be altering your gown.

  1. Look at their prior work
  2. Make sure they have altered your type of gown before.
  3. Get a price quote in writing before you let them touch your gown.
  4. If they state your dress is unalterable – run.
  5. Make sure they guarantee their work and allow 2nd or 3rd or as many fitting as you find necessary for free to guarantee their work.
  6. Do they have a steamer?  Will they press your gown for free?
  7. Know when they are open for pick up.


Written copy on this web page is open to be used freely in any professional and ethical, magazine, newspaper, or publication. We only ask that the website be given as a reference with their writer, fashion designer, DeBora Rachelle.

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