Pattern Hacking: Princess Seam Adjustment
If you’ve been following along my Sew Fitography Sloper Review, you have probably already guessed that the frumpy, white, long sleeved toile I’ve been making is not intended to be the final garment. I’m not much of a fan of white at the best of times but curtain lining dresses are not my thing!
Since starting on this journey to have a well fitting sloper, I’ve been aiming to create some more flattering looks. I have always found a princess seam flattering for a larger bust, mainly as it means no huge honking dart on the side of the bodice.
Shoulder Princess Seam
I decided to first try doing it my own way, with no instruction. Perhaps not the most clever thing to do but I thought I had a pretty good understanding of dart manipulation. As it turns out, while I’ve got the basics sorted there are so many hints and tips that I did not know which would have helped me.
I started by rebalancing the two darts. The side dart is huge where the waist dart is quite small. I wanted to balance them out to be more even, before swinging the side dart up to the shoulder.
After doing this, I simply used my intuition and smoothed out the two lines to create two pieces that looked like a shoulder princess pattern…
Not being at all an expert in this I realise I’ve made some mistakes. The centre front piece, for a start, was very very straight. I don’t think that’s completely correct though I do have small shoulders, so getting a curve to the centre of the shoulder is never going to be easy (especially passing through the bust dart).
Honestly I felt like I was focusing too much on hitting all the right points along the bodice that I was ignoring how it would actually look once completed, which is a lesson I learnt later. Princess seams are style lines that absorb dart shaping, they are not only functional but are meant to be styled, so it’s important to make them look good as well as fit properly.
I didn’t remember to walk the two pieces together before I sewed it up, so I ended up with a shorter middle piece than side pieces. Hmm. Not sure how that happened. The shaping is also off and the whole thing is too tight. Back to the drawing board!
Overall, it’s not a bad first attempt. It almost fits, it almost seams up together, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction towards an attractive bodice from my sloper.
The Armhole Princess Seam: Sara Alm method
I decided to go back to basics and put my intuition away. I had bought Sara Alm’s Designing Clothes with the Flat Pattern Method book a while back after looking for the perfect book. I was drawn to this book as it’s modern, clear, and with great diagrams. So many flat pattern adjustment books seem stuck in the 80s and while I’m sure the core concepts are perfectly correct, I’d rather not waist book space with instructions for bishops sleeves and swags and gathers (I don’t hate Winifred Aldrich’s books, but I think I need an updated version).
I decided to follow the instructions given for a classic armhole princess seam, rather than the shoulder princess variation. Unfortunately this book has no shoulder princess section.
The book does make it look remarkably simple. However one odd thing I noted is that it shows the base of the princess seam sort of swinging away towards the side seam, do you see that? I had to keep going back to look and check this was correct. It seemed odd to me that the centre piece would have such a strange curve to it. I think perhaps on a smaller bust this curve isn’t as noticeable but on me, it most definitely swung round and pointed more towards the side seam than I liked.
Still I carried on with it. The result was OK, a bit pointy on the apex. It fit, and seemed to fit fairly well for a first attempt but I really did not like the style line of the princess seam, it looked wrong.
Back to the drawing board…
I remembered my Suzy Furrer classes from Craftsy and noticed that the new “Craftsy Unlimited” has a 7-day free trial. So I decided to sign up for it and give the dart manipulation class a look over. Both Furrer and Alm actually work at Apparel Arts School so they probably know each other (and possibly, one could be taught by the other?) I watched Suzy’s class on princess seams and there was so much extra information in it. Particularly, about drawing the style line you WANT and not worrying about perfectly hitting various points on the sloper.
I also liked the method for moving the dart onto the princess seam, which involves drawing a nice little grid to shift it over. It really made sense to me. I gave this method a go and came out with a pattern that looked far more “princess seam-y” to me.
Stay tuned for the sewing up of these pieces…