Dawn's Costume Guide

Drafting out Darts

A dart is a tuck or pleat used to shape a garment to a person's body. They are often used in the bust and hip areas to gather in a little fabric and eliminate bulkiness, leaving a smooth and fitted garment. Darts were first used around 1800, and by 1830 had become a primary means of shaping the newly fashionable curvaceous woman's bodice styles. Prior to this all shaping (if it was fashionable) was done through the use of curved side seams between individual pattern pieces, or through the use of tucks or pleats. A dart takes a pleat a step further, sewing it completely closed and removing the fold of extra fabric thus created.

Regrettably, most of the current line of reproduction costume patterns you can buy today include darts as the method of shaping the bodice. It's a familiar step for most home sewers, and the results are a thoroughly modern looking costume that meets fashion standards of the 21st century.

If you want to more closely reproduce the look of period clothing while using the modern commercial patterns one of the first things you should do is draft out the darts. This is pretty easy.

In my example I am going to use a bodice pattern for a high-waisted gown. This style is often called "Empire" or "Italian Renaissance" and there are several patterns on the market like this.

Option 1: Gathers

The first method of removing the dart doesn't really remove anything. You just ignore the dart and gather the waistline to size instead. This works especially well with the high-waisted styles, with skirt patterns, or in situations where you have already cut out your fabric pieces and don't have more to do it over again.

Take a needle and thread and put a row of little running stitches about 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric right along the waistline. If the dart is two inches wide then you need to gather that half of the bodice piece so it is reduced by two inches. Do not just gather in the dart area, start under the armscye and gather toward the center front of the bodice or it will look weird.

Option 2: Redrafting the Pattern

This choice works better with bodice patterns that have a natural waistline (or one that is somewhere closer to the waist than the above styles). You will be making a new pattern piece, so you need some materials:

your pattern
tracing paper, newsprint, or old giftwrap
pencil or marker

First off, copy your tissue paper pattern onto the tracing paper. It can be newsprint or butcher paper, or whatever you have, but you need to make a copy of your original.

Work from the copy, then if you mess it up you can start over fresh and not have to wait until the next morning to go buy another copy of that pattern.

When you've copied your pattern lay the pieces out and find the darts. Using your pen draw a straight line from the bottom of each dart into the armscye. It doesn't matter exactly where, but it should be somewhere in the area as shown here in red:

Now, using scissors cut along those lines you just drew, removing the large triangular piece from each place there was a dart. Leave just a little bit of the paper pattern at the armscye so it is still connected. You don't want two pieces of pattern, but if it happens carefully tape the tips back together for the next step.

Push the two halves of the pattern together so they meet along the egdes you just cut.

Tape the pieces together and smooth out any irregular bits along the waistline.

Voila! Your new pattern. What we've done is taken that wedge of fabric that would be in a dart under the bust and removed it instead from the side seam. This gives you a flatter bodice that is more in keeping with the styling of the period.

All text and artwork copyright 1990 - 2001 D. Duperault. NOTHING on this site may be reproduced or distributed by any means without my written permission. This information offered in good faith, and worth only what you paid for it.
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