Sewing French Darts

The bodice of the Dirndl Dress has diagonal French darts. I used the technique from “The Readers Digest Complete Guide To Sewing” (1). Although the instructions are for curved French darts I followed them all the way through and got good results. What follows are photos of my step-by-step progress in making these darts. They had to be handled with care because they fall on the bias of the fabric.

1. The instructions for sewing curved French darts.

2. To prevent the darts from stretching, stay stitching is done 1/8″ in from the stitching line. The stay stitching stops 1″ before the apex point (end of the dart). At the point where the stay stitching stops near the Apex, the threads of the stitching are pulled to one side and knotted together.

3. Then the dart is slashed open up to the end of the stay stitching.

Note: Even though these darts were not curved I found it easier to pin and baste then since they had been slashed open.

4. I used long, sharp straight pins to hold the darts and black cotton basting thread. This ensured that the darts would not twist or become distorted while sewing.

5. After stitching, the darts were trimmed because the dart intake was quite large, almost 1 1/4″ each. They were pressed flat. Then brown paper strips were placed under each dart before steam pressing it down in the direction of the waist.

I used a Tailor’s Ham for this pressing.

6. The darts were trimmed using a pinking shears.

7. This is how the darts look on the right side of the fabric.

8. I decided to pink the seams for the rest of the dress. I also straight stitched 1/8″ in from the edge of the seam.

Note: Many vintage garments manufactured and home sewn in the 1940s and 1950s used pinking as a seam finish. Seams were also wider than the merrowed seams on most clothing today. I like the look of a pinked seam when it’s appropriate to the fabric being used. It’s very old school and very easy to do.


(1) “The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing”, Second Edition, Pleasantville, NY, 1980. Page 161.