On all top or dress dressmaking patterns it’s important that the waist on the pattern corresponds to your waist. Why? If your dress has a waist seam, then this needs to sit where your waist is, if the garment is not waisted, then it may have darts to shape the waist and on a princess line pattern there is also shaping within the seam lines to give waist definition.

To establish if the waist is falling in the correct place for you, you will need to make a toile (a mock up) of the garment, this is a process I would encourage you to do for any new pattern you are going to make, as not only can you make sure the waist is falling in the correct place you can also discover any other fitting issues and establish whether or not you actually like the garment on you.

Before you cut out any pattern it is essential to cross check your body measurements against those of the pattern. To establish your waist position, you need to check your back waist measurement. To take this measurement, tie a piece of elastic around your waist, so that it is snug and doesn’t move around. Now measure from the knobbly bone at the top of your spine, down your spine to the lower edge of the elastic. You will need a fitting friend for this!

This measurement needs to correspond to the back waist measurement on the paper pattern. Remember your pattern has a seam allowance at the neck edge, so mark this onto the pattern. (See Pic A.) The pattern may also sit lower at the back neck, so when measuring you need to take both these factors into account. See photo and measure to the waist marking on the pattern. Is this the same measurement as your back waist? If not then you need to adjust the pattern. There should be horizontal lines on the pattern to indicate where to make lengthening and shortening adjustments. There are however a few designs that do not feature this quite often due to a complex pattern cut, and these are more difficult to adjust.

To shorten

If you are short waisted – your back waist measurement is shorter than the pattern then you need to fold out some of the paper pattern. Draw a line parallel to the lengthening and shortening lines the distance between the line being the amount that needs to be taken out. (See Pic B.) Fold the lengthening and shortening lines onto the pencil line and tape to secure. (See Pic C.) Repeat on all the pattern pieces.

To lengthen

If, however you are long waisted then you will need to slash your pattern along the lengthening and shortening lines and insert paper.

On a piece of pattern paper draw two parallel lines the distance between them being the amount you need to lengthen by. (See Pic D.) If you make one long strip, you can use this for all the pattern pieces that require lengthening. Tape one half of the pattern to the strip. Draw the straight of grain line across the lengthening strip as a reference point and place the second half of the pattern to it. (See pics E and F.) Use a ruler of a French curve to join the edges together and cut. (See Pic G.)

Repeat as necessary to all remaining pattern pieces. Remember this alteration may affect facings.

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