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Flora Dress Sewalong #5: Lengthening & shortening the bodice

Last up in our series of pattern alteration for the Flora Dress, and this one is a breeze y'all.

Generally speaking, our patterns are designed to sit ever so slightly above the natural waistline. This is to enhance what is usually the smallest part of a woman's torso, and then effortlessly skim off the stomach and hips, creating what we feel to be the most flattering silhouette. Now, of course we can't draft a pattern that will fit and flatter each and every differently proportioned girl - and we certainly are all very differently proportioned - but we can, as individuals, alter a pattern to fit our own unique shapes. So far, we've shown you how to make adjustments for fuller and smaller busts, narrow and broader backs, and today's post will show you how to lengthen or shorten the bodice, resulting in a dress that sits perfectly on your natural waistline.

*To be taken to all the posts in the Flora Dress Sewalong, please click here*

What you'll need:

  • Your traced Bodice Front and Bodice Back pieces of the Flora Dress (Variation 1 or 2, cut out in the size dictated by your waistline measurement)
  • Ruler
  • Pens
  • Paper scissors (not the fabric shears!)
  • Extra paper
  • Tape

How do I know if I need to lengthen or shorten my bodice?

Our patterns are drafted for an averagely proportioned woman between 5'5" and 5'7" tall. If you are taller or shorter, chances are you'll need to adjust the length of your bodice. However, if you are particularly long or short of the torso, but within the 5'5"-5'7" height range, you will still need to make an adjustment. The easiest way to see whether or not you'll need to alter your bodice is to make a toile and try it on. Remember that where the waistline of your dress falls is very much a personal taste issue - you want the waistline (ie. the smallest part of the dress) to sit wherever you feel to be most comfortable, and the part you most want to enhance!

Step 1

Start by taking your Bodice Front piece. Using a ruler, draw a straight horizontal line across the bodice about 4" up from the waistline, intersecting the dart.

Step 2

Cut along this line.

Step 3

Place the top part of your bodice front onto a spare piece of paper and tape it down. You can now position the bottom part of your bodice front either lower down to lengthen the bodice...

...or higher up to shorten the bodice.

The most important thing here is to keep the centre front line flush. When you're happy with the new bodice length, tape the bottom piece down.

Step 4

Now all we need to do is to re-draw the side seam and dart. Simply use a ruler to reconnect the top of the dart and the notches at the waistline, and re-draw the side seam connecting the underarm and waistline edge with a straight line.

Step 5

Repeat this process for the bodice back piece, making sure that you lengthen/shorten it by the exact same amount as the bodice front.

And that's all there is to it. Peasier than easy, right?! As with any new alteration, make sure you whip up a quick toile to check that you're happy with the new fit before diving head first into your lovely fabric!

Comments on this post (5)

  • Jul 30, 2018

    Thank you, By Hand! :)

    — Tracy

  • Aug 19, 2016

    Hi Cindy, by shortening the bodice in the way shown above, the waistline measurement will stay the same. I hope this helps! ~Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Aug 02, 2016

    Hi there! If I shorten the front of the torso on a dress by 1 inch, will that make the waist 1" narrower? Thank you very much!!

    — Cindy

  • Nov 12, 2014

    Hi Pauline, thanks for getting in touch! If you need to add to the side seams as well as lengthening the bodice, I’d lengthen first then add to the side seams. Hope this helps! x

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Nov 12, 2014


    Thank you for this information. Very easy to understand. I would like to ask a question if you need to add to the side seams as well as lengthen the bodice. Which one do you do first?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    — Pauline

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