How to sew a princess seam

Princess seams are shaped seams which are designed to fit the contours of the body. They can be on either or both, the back or the front of the body. The seam can begin either at the shoulder or at the arm hole and can either stop at the waist or continue down the body shaping the full length of the garment over the waist and hips. So this How to Sew a Princess Seam should help you.

The typical princess seam will curve outwards over the fullest part of the bust or back and then curve inward to shape the waist and if the seam extends down towards the hips then the seam will curve outwards again to accommodate the body’s contours.

Before beginning your project it is important to check the pattern size. Some commercial dress patterns come in sizes which allow for different cup fittings, A, B, C, D etc. This can be very useful, however it is always worth making a toile or muslin first. This is a trial garment or part of a garment to check for sizing. If the fabric you have chosen for your dressmaking project is expensive then making a toile from a cheap calico or plain cotton could save you a lot of money. When you get the princess seams to follow the shape of your body precisely you can create a very elegant shape.

Princess Seam – Step1

It is a good idea to put a row of stay stitching for reinforcement inside the seam lines on the centre bodice piece. Some fabrics have a tendency to stretch a bit when handled and this will help prevent movement of the fibres.

Princess seam fabric pieces

Princess Seam – Step 2

With the side panel on top of the centre panel with the right sides together pin along the seamline, match any notching you have and spread any ease evenly. Baste stitch this seam in place and remove the pins. You want to avoid any gathering or puckering. If it is necessary you can clip into the seam allowance but not the full depth of it.

Princess seam basting

Princess Seam – Step 3

Machine stitch the seam, being careful to ensure that the underside of the fabric is laying flat.

Princess seam sewing

Princess Seam – Step 4

Remove the basting stitches and cut more notches along the curve of the seam to allow the seam to shape the bust when pressed flat. Do not cut into the line of stitching.

Princess seam pressing

Princess Seam – Step 5

Press the seam open on the wrong side of the fabric. If you have a tailor’s ham use this for pressing to ensure the seam retains the correct curved shape.

Princess seam bust front


Princess seam bust curve

High waisted black winter dress


Welcome to the second of my winter dress blogs for this new year, 2015.

I’m trying to keep nice and cosy as the weather gets a bit chilly while continuing to wear my dresses rather than reverting to trousers/pants to keep out the cold. Im super excited about adding more fabulous garments to my winter wardrobe.

The inspiration for this black and grey dress comes really from looking at some pictures of “celebs” in their winter wear, in particular Victoria Beckham, and noticing how she manages to dress in warm winter skirts and dresses but still manages to look as stylish as always.

So I’ve pinned the Victoria Beckham in a pencil skirt and black top looking elegant.

To be my starting point. I don’t usually do vintage but I think there is a bit of the vintage pencil skirt about this design idea. I’ve also made a quick sketch, which I always like to do as part of my making process. This helps me make better fabric and pattern style choices.

High Waisted Dress - Sketch
High Waisted Dress – Sketch

The two fabrics I’ve selected for making this dress are both heavy weight jersey. The grey jersey has a woven floral design on it, not printed, and the black is simply a solid colour. Both have a two way stretch, although a lot more so in width than the length, which will be good for the comfort and fit.

I made the pattern pieces by redesigning my basic sheath dress pattern. I wanted it to give the illusion that is was a high waisted skirt with a little black, long sleeve top. So I cut the pattern in two at a line 3 inches or 8 cm above my natural waistline. Then I added the seam allowances onto both the new skirt part of the pattern and the new top part so that they would still be the correct length when sewn back together.

High Waisted Dress - Fabric pattern
High Waisted Dress – Fabric pattern

The jersey fabric was extremely easy to sew together with my sewing machine and it went together fast. When I cut out the fabric pattern pieces I was mindful to make sure that the widthways stretch was going around the body. I keep trying the dress on, checking for the fit. I wanted it to be quite snug and figure hugging but at the same time not too restrictive.

High waisted dress fitting
High waisted dress fitting

While doing the fitting I decided to take the waist in by a total of 4 inches. WOW! This was because of the stretch in the fabric which was probably a little more than I had anticipated. Jersey fabrics do vary greatly in this respect. You can measure for the amount of stretch before starting a project and next time I use jersey fabric I will do this better. I also took about 6 inches off the seams tapering down towards the bottom of the hem just below the knee.

High Waisted Dress - inside seams
High Waisted Dress – inside seams

The original dress pattern has a zip in the back seam however, much to my delight, when I was trying the dress on I realised that the stretch in the fabric would allow me to sew the back seam up and have the dress as a pull on over the head.

High Waisted Dress - Neck facing
High Waisted Dress – Neck facing
High Waisted Dress - Neck facing
High Waisted Dress – Neck facing

I made the pattern pieces for the back and front neck facings by cutting up the bodice pattern pieces. Because I draw out my own pattern pieces I don’t mind cutting into them and making alterations. If I want to make the same style of dress again in the future, there would probably be an aspect of it that I would want to change and do differently anyway. However, if I invest in a commercial pattern someone else has produced then I don’t tend to cut into it, I trace it off and alter it from there, especially if it comes in multiple sizes. Look carefully at the sizing on commercial patterns, they are usually not the same as clothing sizes for shop bought RTW. The pattern sizes tend to come out a size or two smaller. Old vintage patterns can come out even smaller so always check the measurements against your own body measurements and make any necessary alterations to the pattern before you begin.

I am very pleased with the finished fit of this high waisted black winter dress. The vintage look certainly shows off the waist. It’s nice to be able to wear a figure flattering outfit at this time of year. So often winter clothes are shapeless and baggy. The fact that there is no zip to worry about is a big bonus too. I shall enjoy wearing this mock 1950 vintage pencil skirt/dress everywhere. It is everything I wanted it to be, comfortable,warm and a little bit stylish.

High waisted black dress
High waisted black dress

What do you think of this dress? Do you think I should have put the zip in the back after all? Please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading

Happy sewing