My love affair with the princess seam

You’ve probably figured out by now that I rarely sew a garment exactly as the pattern maker thought I should.  It seems to me that patterns, just like garments on the rack in a department store, expect a certain proportion to hold true of all women regardless of their dress size.  To a degree, I can respect this.  There is such a variety out there that it’s challenging to cater to everyone, and at a minimum, they are being predictable.  However, since I don’t happen to be that one particular shape they anticipate, the end result is that I have to tweak their designs, or the clothes I sew myself won’t fit me.  To date, this has been true of EVERYONE else I have sewn for as well.  (Which does make me wonder exactly what percentage of women the fashion world caters to?)

In this context though, princess seams are just heaven to work with.  They provide so many places to make adjustments!  The easiest way I’ve found to alter a pattern for size/shape is to make a given piece larger or smaller right there along the seamline (you can also add or remove darts and gathers, and mix and match pieces from different patterns, to get a fit that works for you).  Princess seamed dresses offer so many places to make adjustments, you can add the extra fabric exactly where you need it.  For example, I have an especially full bust compared to the rest of my ample physique.  I can add fabric to the bust of a dress without adding it to the sides or back (you wouldn’t believe how many patterns sized for a 44″ bust think it’s all back fat and no breast), and end up with a well-fitting and very flattering garment that has plenty of room where I need it without extra bulk where I don’t.

I was probably first inspired by the versality of the princess seam when I read Laura Lagassa’s description of ballgown construction.  Back when I was first looking in to ballroom dance sewing, there were VERY few patterns out there and even fewer directions.  One of my many internet searches brought up her thorough and photograph-rich description of how to convert a normal princess seamed pattern intended for woven fabric, to something you can use for ballgown construction.  I relied heavily on what I learned from her to make my mother-in-law’s standard gown.

In addition to being able to alter for fit, you can pretty easily revamp a princess seamed garment by making the skirt fuller or wider with simple alterations to the pattern pieces, or adding godets between the existing pattern pieces for even more fullness.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I love princess seams, because they allow me to throw the original design out the window.  And that’s generally what I want to do in the first place!


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