A Tall Girls Vintage Dilemma

Being  5”11 can have its perks, you can see over people in queues, you’re always tall enough to ride rollercoasters, and your small friends can use you to reach up and get things off high shelves in the supermarket.  However when it comes to vintage clothing it can often lead to some little problems.

People in general were much smaller back in the good’ol  days, we see this through the what we now call “petite” sizes, most surviving vintage dresses being a UK size 8-10 with smaller proportioning throughout, this including less fabric in the bust line, smaller arm holes, shorter sleeves and hem lengths.  From personal experience trying on vintage dresses it can fit stunningly until you look down and see that the sweet 1950s day dress you’re wearing barely scrapes thigh length and you look slightly ridiculous.

But fear not! Here are some tips and tricks in making your vintage garments fit better and styling them to help make them seem a little bit longer:  

Re styling can be a lot of fun but it definatly leads to a more modern look. For this 1970s blue and white maxi dress I have added knee high brown tan boots, adding warmth for this very thin but lovely dress. The chunky boots take away from the short length and I would pair it with a tan leather bag as well to add to the outfit. To look at Revival's range of bags and other accessories click here.  It’s not only longer dresses you can restyle for extra length if you want to achieve a slightly longer length of dress, or at least the appearance of one.

 In light summer dresses I like to wear a lace edged slip that slightly hangs below the hem of the dress giving the look of it being longer with the added edge of lace. This could also be achieved by sewing lace or ribbon onto to the hem of the dress in either a contrasting or complimentary colour. If your going somewhere fancier or you want to wow those around you why not add a petticoat! adding volume and drama to a full skirted dress, it can also help you add length as many like the look of a net or cinoline petticoat peeping out from underneath their dress. By using vintage or vintage reproduction undergarments you can give your outfit a far more authentic feel, check our reproduction garments out here.

With 1960’s mini dresses I often find them a bit too mini on me, so to battle this in the winter months I turn to very thick tights or leggings with a small nylon slip or shorts giving me more coverage and modestly. In summer this is repeated with white or nude tights, and longer length French knickers or summer weight slips, just in case the wind blows a bit too much. These little restyles meaning that you can keep the integrity of the 1960s mini dress but without risking your modesty. For more of our original 1960s fashion why not look at our devoted 1960s section here!

If you love 1970s style like I do you’ll know that maxi dresses are a style staple and really capture the essence of the era, but being tall well sometimes the skirt length can be abit off. Options here are to style the dress alternatively to make the hem length seem intentional like I have previously described, or you can take drastic action and get the scissors out. For me taking the scissors is a last resort over restyling. This cute jersey top 1970s dress was one of those dresses, lovely in every way but the hemline was looking a bit sad and the ruffle had a few tears in it that weren’t fixable, so the only option was to give it the chop. 

Shortening a skirt can be very easy, but if you’re not confident in sewing you can always take it to a local seamstress or alterations shop for a quick fix. To alter your dress you'll need: sharp scissors or fabric shears, a tape measure, pins, chalk, sewing needles, matching thread, and a sewing machine is optional as the sewing you can also do by hand.

Firstly try on your dress! wear it for a day in its original length, see if you like it or loathe it or if you can fix it through my restyling tips, it would certainly save you a few hours of sewing. If your still not happy then look at yourself in a mirror in the dress and see where you think the hem line should hit. Once decided, mark on your skirt with chalk or a pin to where you think you would like the length to be. Taking it off and laying it flat on either the table or the floor then using a tape measure or ruler you then measure up to the pin or chalk mark from the hemline, measuring down an inch or two for seam allowance. From this you then have to mark along the skirt your cutting line, using again the tape measure to go along making sure it is even and straight.

Next is the scary bit, cutting the fabric, and as all sewers say “MEASURE TWICE CUT ONCE” so just to be safe always double check your measuring and if you are unsure always cut longer than you need, it’s easier to hem shorter than to try add fabric back on. Once you have cut the skirt next job is to hem it, and there are several ways of doing that.


Firstly, hemming tape which can be bought from haberdashery’s and shops such as Wilkinson’s and other supermarkets. It is a fusible tape that can be used on most fabrics but suits sturdy materials that aren’t sheer; however it can’t hold up heavier materials such as wools. Its iron on and very easy to use, ironing it on one side of the fabric being careful to make sure it laying nice and flat, then peeling off the other and folding it up and ironing again to make the hem. For more advanced sewers you can either do a double fold hem and sew by machine using a straight stitch  to sew round simply, or to create more of a design feature add a second row of stitching half a centimetre away from the first.  You can also sew by hand, again creating a double fold hem and then  use either a invisible hemming stitch or on thicker woollen fabric that you could only roll the hem up once I suggest you use a herringbone stitch. . 

This is the finished hemmed skirt, neatened up considerably, I hand stitched for accuracy and because of the thin cheese cloth like fabric. Like this dress? It will soon be available online! It now has a more 1960s feel with it shorter skirt length and could be accessorized to make it even more so, to look at our range of 1960s clothes and accessories click here.

I hope this is helpful article for you taller than average ladies, or just useful for knowing how to re-hem a vintage skirt or dress to suit you better. To be inspired as ever or to look for your next project go to www.revivalvintage.co.uk.