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What You Need to Know About Hemlines Before Competing

Julie Kuo, Miss Hawaii USA 2017, stands with the top 5. Photo courtesy of Miss Hawaii USA.
Julie Kuo, Miss Hawaii USA 2017, stands with the top 5 finalists. Photo courtesy of Miss Hawaii USA

Practice makes perfect, correct? Have you ever had the nightmare that you are walking on stage during your pageant and your heel catches your gown and you fall down flat on your face? Sure you attempt to make a good recovery and keep that gorgeous smile of yours on your face, but deep down you want to scream since you went through this exact same walking pattern 1,000 plus 1 times.

Well, Queen, I have one solution: hemline to perfection. The easiest way to ensure you will not have the dreaded falling nightmare in real life is to make sure all your floor-length outfits, be it your gown, fun fashion or talent outfit, are tailored to your body ahead of your pageant.

Let’s start at the beginning of time. The term “hemline” became popular in the 1930’s. The hemline is the lowest edge of an outfit measured from the floor. It can range from your hip height to floor length.

Back in the day, the hemlines ranged from floor-length to slightly above the ankle for women who were part of the middle and upper middle class. Now, outfits range in all different lengths from mid-thigh down to the ground.

In pageantry, it is important to know about hemlines because the result could be your best friend and secret to winning your next pageant.

Why are hemlines important?

Like mentioned above, falling on stage is one of our worst fears. If the cause is not your shoes, it could be the outfit you are wearing. It is important that you tailor your outfits for your body type to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions.

Jennifer Waldeck, The Pageant Planet’s former Queen of Social Media, believes that it is important to practice your walking pattern numerous times leading up to your pageant. (Read: How to Not Fall When Walking in Heels on the Runway)

She suggests waiting a few weeks before to get your hemlines adjusted and to wear your pageant shoes at your tailoring to make sure the height is perfect.

“You want your outfits to be perfectly hemmed, so it’s skimming the floor,” Waldeck said. “You want to feel comfortable and avoid having a big chunk of your shoes showing. Walk your routine and so you don’t feel like you are going to fall.”

You may ask… If my gown is too long, can’t I just buy higher heels and kick the gown as I walk?

The answer is yes and no.

You do not want to wear higher heels if you are not comfortable in them. Wearing taller heels can mess up your hemline if your outfit all of a sudden becomes too short.

Many pageant coaches and other contestants suggest “kicking” out your dress when you’re walking if it is too long, which Jennifer says is not the best idea to do, especially if you have not practice walking this way.

Kicking out your dress can have the potential to ruin the fabric underneath the gown. Or, a piece of the fabric could get caught on your shoe, causing it to get attached to your shoe and trip you up. This is rare but is possible. With the walking motion and the air under your steps, there’s a chance the slightest misstep can throw off your walking and cause the gown to not extend, especially with heavier fabric.

Pageant Day

“If you get to your pageant and the dress line is too long, use fashion tape or safety pins to pick it up underneath the skirt or roll the hem to avoid stepping on it,” Jennifer suggested. Get all of your clothes tailored prior to the pageant when you are done losing weight and will be at your pageant body shape and size to ensure a perfect fit.

This, among other health concerns, is why crash dieting is a definite no-no. Losing too much weight changes the way an outfit fits on you. Gowns come in layers and the first layer underneath is the slip, which is made to give you shape and form. If the slip is hitting you differently, it will affect how the rest of the gown falls on you.

“Wait to get the hemline taken in since it can loosen the slip on the inside of the dress and drop the hemline making the dress too low,” Waldeck said. “By losing weight at the last minute, they can trip on the inside slip.”

How to Hang Up Your Dress

The way you care for your gown can also affect your hemline. If your gown is full of beading, layers and is heavy, hanging it up vertically will literally pull down on your gown, causing it to stretch.

Jennifer suggests laying these types of gown down on a flat surface or using clothes pins to hang both the top and bottom of your gown so the weight is evenly distributed. Gowns made of stretchy material, like jersey, can have this problem as well.

Lighter gown materials, like chiffon, are okay to hang up vertically. The best way to check is to tug on it and see if it stretches naturally; if it does, store it by laying it down as opposed to hanging it up.

Tip: Try adding a small weight to your hemline to help pull it down. Gowns that are made from lighter silk can benefit from this to help it fall straight and give the appearance that it is longer.

Tip 2: When ordering a custom gown, if you are unable to try it on before buying it, order it longer than needed. It is easier to subtract fabric than it is to add it. Fashion designers typically make outfits to fit a person who is between 5’8 and 5’10, so if you are taller or shorter chances are you will need to tailor your outfit.

We wish you the best of luck! If you have any further questions, please ask in the comment section below.

Which dress do you like better?

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