Shortening a swimsuit skirt isn't as hard as you might think.

How to Shorten a Swimsuit Skirt

by Shelley Moench-Kelly

A swimsuit that features a skirt offers a feminine, flattering way to conceal figure flaws and still enjoy the water. But some swimsuit skirts are just a little too long for both comfort and fashion. When wet, longer swimsuit skirts become very heavy and actually drag down the rest of your suit. So if you’ve found the perfect suit but the skirt is too long, take heart. It’s easier than you think to shorten the skirt even if you don’t know how to sew.

Put on the swimsuit and stand in front of a full-length mirror. Fold the hem toward the inside and use straight pins or safety pins to adjust the length. A handy tip: if you use safety pins instead of straight pins, they won’t slip out and you won’t poke yourself when you remove the swimsuit.

Pinch the fold with your thumb and forefinger and run tailor’s chalk over the edge. This marks the new hemline. Remove the pins and lay the suit on a flat surface. Mark 1/2 inch below the hemline all around the skirt with tailor’s chalk. This is your cutting line. Cut along the cutting line with fabric scissors or pinking shears.

Fold 1/2 inch of the hem toward the inside and secure with straight pins. Put on the swimsuit again and check the length in a full-length mirror. Make any adjustments before you commit to the sewing machine. Remember the old adage of "measure twice, cut once." The same holds true here. Keep trying on the swimsuit and adjusting the length until it's exactly where you want it to be.

Put a stretch needle or twin needle on your sewing machine. Using a regular sewing needle in the machine will cause the fabric to bunch up. Before you start sewing your new hemline, sew a few inches on a scrap piece of swimsuit fabric to test the machine tension and adjust it as needed. If you use a stretch needle, set the machine to a zigzag stitch. For a twin needle, use a straight stitch.

Cut the tissue paper in a 1-inch strip and place it 1/2 inch above the inside edge all around the inside edge of the skirt. Fold the hemline up 1/2 inch. The tissue paper will help keep the fabric from slipping. Sew the hem of the skirt and leave a 1/8-inch seam allowance. To secure the hem, you can either backstitch at the beginning and the end, or stitch past the beginning of the stitching by about 1 inch. Clip off any loose threads and tear away the tissue paper.

Items you will need

  • Straight pins or safety pins
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Fabric scissors
  • Stretch needle or twin needle
  • White tissue paper
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Puff paint
  • Pinking shears


  • Don't stretch the fabric as you stitch. If you do, it will curl and not lie straight.
  • If you don’t know how to sew, you can shorten the skirt with fabric shears or pinking shears. Pinking shears leave a decorative, zigzag edge.
  • Another no-sew alternative: apply puff paint just to the edge of the hemline. If you want to be fancy, paint a design along the cut edge with a few colors.


  • Working with any machinery is dangerous -- even for seasoned tailors and seamstresses -- so make sure there is adequate light in your workspace.
  • If you use puff paint, make sure there is adequate ventilation in your workspace, as some formulas emit odors and fumes.

About the Author

Shelley Moench-Kelly is a writer and editor whose clients range from L'Oreal and to the McGraw-Hill Companies and FIDM. She has interviewed notables such as Dr. Andrew Ordon of “The Doctors” and the legendary Vidal Sassoon. Her first book, "Egg," is slated for release in 2016.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images