How to Shorten a Maxi Dress

5-16-17_6H&M off-shoulder floral dress (size 2, only in stores – similar styles and price points online herehere, and here), Tory Burch Block T Bucket Tote, similar sunnies here and here 

Hello hello ~ the weather is finally getting warmer which means it’s time for more lightweight dresses!  Maxi dresses continue to be a hot trend this season and I’m a fan of the casually elegant look they create.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram (@travelsizechic), I was just in Hawaii recently.  I bought the pictured floral maxi dress because I wanted to dress, or at least attempt to, more Hawaiian 😛

In the past, I shied away from long skirts and dresses because I thought they would make me look shorter.  Fast forward to few years ago when I was in Europe, I saw some stylish petite European ladies who rocked maxi dresses then I was hopeful again.  I observed which styles of maxi dresses and ways to wears them that would flatter a petite figure and here are some pointers I’d like to share:


  1. Styles that work: straight line dresses that are well-fitted but not figure-hugging.  Baggy or drapery long dresses tend to overshadow a smaller frame so those styles are harder for petites to pull off.
  2. Waistline: pick something with a high and/or defined waistline to create an illusion of longer legs.  If the dress doesn’t have a waistline, use a belt to create one as pictured.
  3. Shoes: wear taller shoes to avoid stepping on the dress. Blocked heels and espadrilles both go well with a spring/summer maxi. (Note: I didn’t wear these types of shoes in my pictures as I preached because I was heading to the beach)


The biggest pain-point about maxi dresses which fellow petite ladies can related to is that they always end up dragging on the ground.   Through some trial and error, I’ve discovered ways to shorten a maxi dress without alterations and save some $$.

  1. Throw it in the dryer after wash.  Depending on the material, it could shrink about 1/2-1 inch with this method.  The material that shrinks the most is rayon/viscose (i.e. same material as your college club tshirts), then cotton.  This trick will not work on polyester dresses and DO NOT attempt this with dresses that are dry clean only or they’ll be ruined in the dryer.
  2. Cut from the bottom.  I have to *caveat* this trick by saying that it only works on rayon/viscose/t-shirt like materials because they maintain a straight line without fringes forming after cutting so you won’t have to hem them (think about the times you cut t-shirts and still pulled off the look).  I got the dress pictured in this post the day before my trip so I did a little DIY.  Follow the steps below to cut your dress:5-16-17_aa  5-16-17_bb
    a. Flip your dress inside out
    b. Measure from the bottom how much you want to cut off then mark it with a dot
    5-16-17_c  5-16-17_dc. Mark dots  that are 9-12 inches apart all the way around the hem with a washable form of marker  (chalk, pencil eyeliner, etc., I used a pencil eyeliner) DO NOT use permanent marker.  Keep in mind that all the dots should be of equal distance from the hem as it’s your frame of reference.  For example, if you want to chop off 3 inches, then all dots should be 3 inches from the hem.
    d. Connect the dots with a ruler for a straight line
    e. Steadily cut along the line you drew then ta-da!  you have altered your dress without hemming.  Use sharpened scissors to cut a clean, straight line.  Dull scissors are hard to cut cloth with and might create fringes.
  3. If the dress has straps, you can use a safety pin to pin up the straps in the back.
  4. Use a belt – not only does it create a waistline, you can also pull up extra fabric over the belt which can shorten the dress by about 1-2 inches.
    (Crediting Extra Petite, one of the most influential petite fashion bloggers and a personal favorite,  for 3 & 4 above as she pointed them out in her post here)  
  5. If none of the above works, take it to the tailor for shortening.

**BONUS** I tried on this maxi dress that doesn’t require any alterations — linked here if you want to check it out!  I’m wearing size XS in ‘Light Blue Floral’.


As mentioned earlier in the post, I just got back from Hawaii and absolutely LOVED it  – can’t wait to visit again!!  I’m in the process of working on posts to recap my trip.  Also, there are changes coming to the blog, so stay tuned. Ciao!


2 thoughts on “How to Shorten a Maxi Dress

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