Dealing with Princess Seam Darts in Vintage Patterns

Whoops! Where'd I go?

I had a little unintentional break there for a few weeks. I'm not a sewing blogger with a huge backlog of projects; what you see here is what I'm making, one piece at a time. I just had two weekends of weddings in a row and that cuts down significantly on sewing time.

I re-wore my aqua silk Simplicity 6220 to one of these weddings.

I find that one of the most common alterations I make when sewing from vintage patterns is mucking around with the darts. Unless you want to commit to wearing period-accurate undergarments every day, the darts for 60s and especially 50s patterns are often much too high and out there. Being somewhat small-busted myself, I sometimes end up making small bust adjustments (SBAs): see here and here.

I recently had received an email from a reader named Mariah (hi, Mariah!) who had a question about the modifications I did when making Simplicity 6220, which has beautiful V-shaped princess seams--instead of terminating at the waistline, the seams meet just above the waist to form a V. If you use a busy print, this detail would be lost, but in a solid fabric it's little details like these that stand out! I think that this V-shaped seaming gives an especially retro look.

However, this pattern also had tiny bust darts from the from the princess seams towards center front. When I whipped up my muslin I realized these darts were not going to work on me. (You don't even want to see.) Since this is a fairly common feature in vintage patterns (see Simplicity 2266Simplicity 7322, and Simplicity 6936), I thought I'd do a quick little tutorial on how I deal with these extraneous darts: I get rid of them!

In my opinion, these darts are not an integral part of the design. In fact, none of the pattern descriptions for dresses with this construction feature mention the darts, just saying the dresses have "princess lines." It is so much easier to fit princess seams alone.

Here's how I did it, first on Simplicity 6220's unusual V-shaped princess seams in particular, and down further, applied to any princess seamed shift with darts. Most of this should look familiar to those of you who have made an SBA (or FBA) before! What we're going to do is ditch the darts by doing an SBA, leaving us free to meddle with our princess seams without worrying about that dart sticking out.

Step 1: Draw in the bust point (1" from the apex of the dart). Mark it with an x. Now draw one line to the armscye seam line and one to the CF where it intersects with the princess seam line (the red lines below).

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Step 2: Slice from the CF up through the bust point, then just to the armscye seam line, leaving a hinge. Snip the dart line just to the bust point, leaving a hinge.

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Step 3: Pivot the dart hinge closed, overlapping the two legs of the dart so that the princess seam line is continuous.

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Step 4: Pivot the armscye hinge until the princess seam line intersects with CF.

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That's it! Just retrace your pattern piece, truing up the armscye and princess seam lines.

Next!

For a princess seamed shift, we'll do a more traditional SBA. Again, this should look really familiar of you've done one before.

Step 1: Draw in the bust point (1" from the apex of the dart). Mark it with an x. Now draw one line to the armscye seam line and one straight down to the hem, parallel to CF (the red lines below).

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Step 2 & 3: Slice from the CF up through the bust point, then just to the armscye seam line, leaving a hinge. Snip the dart line just to the bust point, leaving a hinge.

Pivot the dart hinge closed, overlapping the two legs of the dart so that the princess seam line is continuous.

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Step 4: Pivot the armscye hinge until the vertical cut you made is parallel to the CF.

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Step 5: Fix that hem!

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You'll note that the pattern piece in both versions is shorter at the CF than it started. Remember, what we're doing is an SBA, and you are getting rid of some room by eliminating those darts. If you only need a little bit more room, you can add some width by letting out the princess seams. But remember, what this modification really does is eliminate darts, allowing you to do all the regular things you could do with any other pattern featuring princess seams without worrying about the dart, so this is where your FBA would go if necessary. Just use a princess seam  FBA, not a two-dart style FBA.

Please let me know if you need clarification! This is only my second tutorial, and I'm not the greatest explainer. I'm more of the "whyyyyyy don't you understand its sooooo obvioussss" type.

dress: post title | cardigan: link | shoes: link

xoxo,
allie

ps: for the other wedding, i wore a j crew bridesmaid dress. it was lovely, with a v neckline in front and back, princess seams, pleated skirt, and a natural waist with some piping. this is it here. what you may not be able to see is that the piping is continuous over the side seam. this is totally a logical decision for a home dressmaker, but for a designer making something that is as commonly altered as a bridesmaid dress, this is an insane decision! in order to let out any of the seams, a tailor doing alterations would have to unpick the entire waistband and rearrange the waist piping. so unnecessary.

allie J.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tutorial, I often have to do an SBA so it was interesting to see how you eliminate those pesky darts in princess seams! When I made Simplicity 6220 I left the darts in but if I make it again I will definitely get rid of them.

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    Replies
    1. You can also just move them down (or up, I guess) but I think this is a bit easier--then you just fiddle with the princess seams as necessary.

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  2. very interesting! I will have to remember this post!

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  3. Thanks for the very detailed tutorial! Articles like these are a must for newbies in sewing like me. I also bookmarked a lot of detailed tutorials from other blogs like Kayla Green’s.

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