How to Shorten a Swimsuit Skirt

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A skirted swimsuit offers a bit of extra coverage.
A skirted swimsuit offers a bit of extra coverage. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

A swimsuit with a skirt can be a flattering and attractive choice, adding greater coverage around the lower half as well as a fun, flouncy element to the design. As with all swimwear, you'll feel more confident if the fit is just right. If this means shortening the skirt, know that it's entirely achievable for anyone with basic sewing skills. Don't be intimidated by the stretchy, slippery swimsuit material -- with a few special techniques it's as easy to handle as any knit fabric.

Things You'll Need

  • Straight pins
  • Hem gauge, ruler or measuring tape
  • Tailor's chalk or fabric marker
  • Fabric scissors
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Stretch needle or twin needle
  • Thread

Wear the swimsuit and stand in front of a full-length mirror. Fold the hem of the skirt under and use pins to hold it in place at the length you desire for the skirt. Reposition the pins until you have decided on the perfect length. Remove the swimsuit, being careful not to poke yourself with the pins.

Measure the new length from the upper edge of the skirt to the fold you created for the new hem. With a one-piece, measure from the seam attaching the skirt to the body of the swimsuit. With a two-piece, measure from the waistband. This is the desired finished length of the skirt. Remove the pins so that the skirt lies flat. Draw a line along the lower edge of the skirt with tailor's chalk or a fabric marker at a level 1/2 inch below the desired finished length of the skirt. Use a hem gauge, ruler or measuring tape for accuracy. Cut along the marked line with fabric scissors.

Fold the cut lower edge of the skirt over to the inside by 1/2 inch and place pins along the fold. Thread a hand sewing needle with a double length of thread -- any color thread is fine -- tie a knot in one end and baste along the hem. Basting means sewing a long running stitch. Because swimsuit fabric is slippery and stretchy, and also has a tendency to curl along the cut edges, basting stitches are preferable to pins for holding the new hem in place while you machine sew it.

Remove the pins, and try the swimsuit on in front of a mirror one more time to make sure the new skirt length is perfect. If you want it to be shorter, remove the basting stitches and adjust the hem length now -- it will be much more difficult to do so after machine sewing the hem.

Fit your sewing machine with a stretch needle or a twin needle. If you are using a stretch needle, set it to sew a narrow zigzag stitch. With a twin needle, use a straight stitch. Find the scrap of swimsuit fabric that you trimmed away from the lower edge of the skirt. If the scrap is suitable, sew a row of stitches along it to test the stitch length and tension before sewing your actual swimsuit.

Sew the new hem of your swimsuit skirt, leaving a 1/4-inch hem allowance -- so that you are sewing along the center of the 1/2-inch hem. Backstitch at the beginning and end to secure the hem. If you are using a twin needle, you have to topstitch the hem, meaning you sew along the outside part of the skirt. If you're using a stretch needle and a zigzag stitch, you can either topstitch or sew on the underside of the skirt, depending on your personal preference. Try not to stretch the fabric as you sew.

Trim any loose threads and remove the basting stitches. Optionally, trim down the hem allowance close to the stitching.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you really want to shorten a swimsuit skirt but lack the tools or skills to sew a hem, you can just trim the skirt with scissors. Although it won't have a professional finish, swimsuit fabric will not unravel so the cut edge will look fine from a distance.

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