How-To: Shorten a Dress

So, I posted earlier that I’d gotten a dress from eBay and when it came I wasn’t keen on it. For starters it’s too long, and it’s also got mega shoulder pads. I’m not down with shoulder pads.

Here I show you, in my own haphazard manner, how to de-eighties-ify a dress. I know there’s nothing you can do about the pattern…but that’s probably the only GOOD thing about the original cut of an 80’s dress.

1 – Get rid of the flipping shoulder pads

Shoulder Pads are NOT cool! Even if someone has convinced you that they are cool right now, in 6 months they won’t be. Shoulder Pads Have Got To Go!  Check out below how to get rid of these bad boys (it’s so easy that it’s actually obvious, but hey-ho)

Step 1: Find the Shoulder Pads. They are on the inside of the item – the shoulder area to be precise

Step 2: Cut them out.

Step 3: Say Bye Bye to Shoulder Pads!


Step 3: Say Bye Bye to Shoulder Pads! Byeeeee!

2 – Make the Length make sense

Nobody wants to have a big frumpy yellow patterned dress that is neither Mini nor Maxi. The Midi doesn’t really work for anything that isn’t bodycon. I don’t think so, anyway, unless it’s pleated and you’re a size 6… or Rose Nylan. Well unlucky for the Eighties, and this dress, I’m a size 12 so this beastly balloon has to be cut down! It’s time to give this piece of polyester a dresslift!

Here’s how I did it. This isn’t necessarily the right way.

  • First of all, I very elegantly hacked away the bit at the bottom of the dress, to make it about 1 inch longer than I wanted it. Personally, I did this by guesswork. I cut directly across the bottom of the dress then though “shucks, I didn’t even think about how long it would be when worn”. Luckily, I hadn’t blobbed it.
  • I put aside the severed fabric, because I think I might also want a headband. And a Bag Handle. And a book cover. And a MILLION other things made out of yellow polyester with teal triangles all over it. Every woman’s dream.
  • I carefully folded the edge over to make a new hem. This was, like I say, about 1inch thick around the bottom of the dress. A normal, respectable seamstress would have pinned this fold into place and ironed flat to hold it. I pegged them together with hairclips, mini clothes pegs, safety pins and double sided tape. True. See below – it worked just as well.
  • Here you have two options – sew or wonderweb. Personally, I sewed it, but if you’re no good with a sewing machine and the material isn’t too thick you can get away with wonderwebbing it. Just bare in mind that it won’t last as long.
  • If you’re wonderwebbing just slide the wonderweb into the fold on the inside of the dress. Iron it. Bing, bang, boom. Job’s a goodun.

So, here is how I rescued this terrible, terrible 80s frock. It really was so bad it had to be called a frock. Now it’s beautiful!


Those Sleeves Still need to be dealt with

Edit: I revisited this post in 2015 and I’m so gutted to admit I no longer have the dress above. I admit, it wasn’t the best tutorial, but it was a nice buy!

If only I could remember what I did with it…



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