1930s Sew-along with Norma: Checklist for proofing the drape

Here is the checklist I’ll use when proofing the drape for the dress I’m making as part of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  Once the drape is fully corrected I’ll then transfer it to patternmaking paper.  If anyone is interested in how I will work with the sleeve drape, I’ll focus the next posting on that.  I think it will be an interesting exercise in sleeve alterations and adjusting the amount of ease in the sleeve cap.  Please let me know via the comments to this posting.

Proofing the drape before transferring to pattern paper


  • Close neckline dark on back bodice.
  • Make sure the back neckline starts right at the point of the base of the neck or slightly lower.
  • Pin front and back bodice at shoulder line
  • Use curved ruler to true neckline curve.
  • The neckline must be a continuous curved line from center back to center front for this dress.

Shoulder Line

  • Make sure back shoulder is slightly longer (1/4-1/2”) than front. The excess will be eased in.
  • Measure and mark the middle of the front shoulder line and then the middle of the back shoulder line. This becomes the match point and the ease gets distributed to each side.
  • Fold back shoulder line under and pin over front shoulder.

Sleeve Cap

  • Check armhole curve between screw plate markings at front and back. The markings become the match points for the sleeve cap.
  • Make sure the curve between the markings is smooth.
  • Use curved ruler if needed to even out the curve below the markings.

Front & Back Bodice joining seam and armhole

  • Check front dart leg lengths and make sure the dart ends about 1/2” before the apex point. Shorten if needed.
  • Pin dart closed on front bodice at side seam.
  • Measure length of front and back side seams. They should be equal. If not, correct.
  • Next, fold back seam allowance under and pin back bodice side seam to front bodice.
  • Since this is a chemise with dropped waistline at below hip level, the joining seam to the skirt must be straight. Even out any irregular markings with the straight edge ruler.
  • Look over the curve of the armhole below the screw plate markings on front and back. It should be a smooth continuous curve. Even out or adjust if needed.
  • On armhole curve mark the position of the screw plate level.
  • On bodice joining seam, mark the match points for the flared skirt.
  • Note the width of lower bodice, at joining seam, from CB to side seam and from CF to side seam.

Skirt Front and Skirt Back

  • Measure side seams on front and back of skirt. They should be equal. Adjust if necessary.
  • Measure the curve of the skirt at the joining seam. It should be only slightly larger, about 1/2” or so, than the bodice joining seam. If it is greater, decrease the width by either pinching the amount out or taking off from side seams.
  • The skirt length will be total of length plus hem after the drape has hung for 48-72 hrs. and the hemline marked up from the floor.
  • Measure down from skirt joining seam to mark the finished skirt length.
  • The hem allowance should not be greater than 2”. It will be trimmed once the dress in fashion fabric is finished. 2” extra allows for any irregularities that arise when the skirt hem falls on the bias.

Sleeve Cap-Preparations for alterations

  • Measure the armhole of front and back bodice. Do not include seam allowances.
  • Add 3/8” to the measurement for front.
  • Add 3/8” to measurement for back.
  • This is what the front and back sleeve cap should each measure with ease allowed.


  • Measure the lengthwise grain line at center of sleeve. It should be the same as over arm length. If not add the length where needed when the paper pattern is created. Usually this is done by cutting across halfway between elbow and wrist and opening the needed amount.
  • From top of sleeve measure down to elbow dart on the drape. The center of the dart should fall on the line equal to the distance from top of shoulder to elbow when the elbow is bent. If adjustment needed make note and correct on paper pattern.
  • On front and back of sleeve, starting from the side seam, measure up the armhole measurement plus 3/8” for front and back. Mark this point.
  • From this point to center of sleeve will be excess. There are a number of ways to alter the sleeve and remove the excess. It all depends on how much excess there is.
  • Sometimes there is very little excess but a change in the position for the center of the sleeve. For example the armhole measurement plus 3/8” may take you past the existing center line. If so, mark it. When you measure up the armhole + 3/8” measurement from the front side seam of the sleeve you may find yourself going past the new center line. If so this means you have to open the sleeve to create more space to complete the amount needed for the front armhole.
  • Note all this down and then trace the existing drape to the pattern paper.
  • Make all corrections on the paper pattern and proof the seams, dart and sleeve cap again.
  • The manner in which you adjust the sleeve cap is up to you. I refer to Reader’s Digest Encyclopedia of Sewing and The Vogue Sewing Book.