1930s Sew-Along with Norma: Contouring the dress bodice-more draping


The loose unfitted bodice of the dress looked very frumpy after the flared portion of the skirt was draped. I unpinned the drape and decided to use further details from the 1930s pattern illustration as a guide to create a more flattering shape.

The back of the dress has three fitting darts to each side of Center Back. If I had noticed this detail before I draped the bodice I would have incorporated the darts. Since the bodice was very loose and I had a large seam allowance (2″) to work with this was not difficult to do.

Adding side seam shaping and vertical darts to the back bodice

My goal was to shape the bodice along the side seams and with darts at the back. I do not know why the pattern pieces shown and the pattern illustration differ somewhat. The photos are from the book “Paris Frocks at Home” published by Butterick in 1930.

1. The drape was unpinned and lightly pressed. When it was still on the form, I marked the location of the waistline at Center Front, Center Back and side seams. Then I drew the line in chalk and thread traced.

2. The shoulders were pinned together, and then the drape was put on the form with pins at CF, CB and waistline and hipline at front and back.

The side seam was draped again with a slight indent taken at the waist. Pins were pinned angling down to the waist and then away from the waist and down to the hip.

It is important not to shape too tightly. If that happens, there will be pulling or an excess formed that wants to be shaped into a dart. Here there was some pull near CF so I moved the waistline indent a little away from the waistline of the form. This relaxed the fabric.

3. The back was so loose that I was able to add two narrow vertical darts at the princess line and then at the center of the side back panel. These were pinned at top, middle and bottom.

4. The shallow hip curve ruler is used to shape the side seam. After drawing the side seam I used tracing paper to transfer the markings to the back. Then the seams are unpinned. The darts are also marked with a ruler after marking the places pins are with chalk.

Everything gets pinned together again to check the fit.

5. I had to tweak the dart legs and side seam a little to eliminate the slight pull at the back.

There is still room at the waist, hip and bust. The underarm is closer than before. I’m going to have to make up a complete toile, not a half one to better assess the fit and see where more ease will be needed. This is nothing unusual since I don’t consider draping an exact science. It’s more of a process that keeps going forward and hopefully it improves as it continues.