Cheater’s Guide: Shortening Shoulder Straps on a Dress

shorten shoulder straps on a dress
My first attempt at shortening shoulder straps for a petite fit

Since I am petite, I often find that many clothes don’t quite hang right.  Of course I find that regular-length pants are much too long and always need to be hemmed.  Thankfully I have started to become comfortable with the idea of hemming my own jeans.

On some tops and shirts, the shoulder straps are simply too long.  This means that the cut on the front of a shirt is sometimes much too low. Its not just a matter of too much cleavage- its really a matter of avoiding an unflattering fit. I ran into this problem when trying on a dress for an upcoming wedding.  The dress (Donna Ricco ‘flourishing floral’) fit well everywhere except my chest.  Because the straps were too long, the top portion of the dress just looked weird.

shorten shoulder straps for a petite fit
Shortened Shoulder Straps

I decided to alter the dress myself. But to be honest, the thought of cutting the shoulder straps is too much of a commitment for my novice sewing skills.  I was afraid of ruining the dress just through my inexperience.  I decided to alter the shoulder straps in a way that would at least be salvageable if I made a terrible mistake.

So instead of cutting and resewing the shoulder straps, I simply pinned the center of the straps right side together and baste stitched it in about half an inch, resulting in shoulder straps that were shortened by about an inch or so each.

shorten shoulder straps for a petite fit
Shoulder Straps Altered for a Petite Fit

There is an extra flap of strap fabric inside of the dress on my shoulders, but it lies securely flat when I am wearing the dress. I used baste stitches so I could check to make sure that the altered length of the straps would be okay. Once I tried the dress on to make sure that it fit better, I stitched the length permanently.  Since the dress is a satin polyester, I used a thinner needle than for my regular cotton sewing projects.

I bet that any experienced sewer would be horrified at my shoddy workmanship.  But the dress fits better and I feel good knowing that once I am a more experienced sewer I can fix it permanently, and actually alter it the right way.

Of course, eventually I will need a better way to alter shoulder straps. This complete guide to altering ready to wear clothes by Craftsy shows how to get professional quality results when you want to shorten a shoulder strap, even if the dress or top has a lining.

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2 thoughts on “Cheater’s Guide: Shortening Shoulder Straps on a Dress”

  1. Thanks for your post! I bought my daughter a dress to wear to a bar mitzvah, and the straps are a bit too long. I was experimenting with different folds and not feeling quite right about them, but after reading your post, I’m ready to give it a try. If I do it your way, without cutting anything, it can always be reversed if need be.

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