1940's Dress Part One - Front and Back Waist Inset


Hey all you fashionable dames! Hope you weren't out late at the gin joint last night, because it's time to go back to pattern drafting school. In part one I'll be showing you how to adjust the front waist inset and create a back waist inset.  To complete these steps you will need the following pattern pieces:

* Center Front Bodice
* Side Bodice
* Center Back
* Side Back

I would recommend getting any bust depth issues fixed before making the design changes listed below. Mostly because it's easier to do before the pattern is completely chopped up. Need help lengthening/shortening the bodice? Check out my tutorial here about adjusting wrap bodices, the concept is exactly the same.  After adjusting the upper bodice, you will also need to adjust the waist inset pieces.  If you add 1" to the upper bodice, then subtract 1" from the waist inset.  Vice versa if you need to shorten the upper bodice.

Front waist inset
Our first step will be remove the princess seams in the waist inset and reshape the top edge.
1. Take the center waist piece and the side waist piece.  Draw in the 5.8" seam allowance on the princess line seam edge.

2. Line the two pieces up on the seam line.  Tape them together.

3. You may need to add a little bit of paper to the joint to "true out" the waist and bust seam.

4. To knock off the Ashley dress we'll need to cut off the pointed top of the waist inset. Measure the height of the waist inset at the side seam.

5. Transfer this measurement to the CF fold and use the mark to redraw the top of the pattern piece. I also added a little paper to the seam to get a smooth curve.

6. Cut off the extra paper but don't throw it away.  To make the front of the dress hang correctly we'll need to put this length back into the upper bodice piece.

Adding a Back waist inset
We'll use the front inset to help us convert the back.
1. Take your front inset piece and draw in the seam allowance on the bust seam edge.

2. Place the front inset side seam against the side back piece.  Mark the seam line on the back.

3. Use the mark to square a horizontal line across the side back.

4. Line up the side back with the center back to mark the line placement on this piece.  Square a horizontal line across the center back as well.

5. Cut the pattern pieces apart on your newly drawn lines.

6. Add seam allowance to the princess line edges of the new waist insets and tape them together like you did on the front inset.

7. Finally add a 5/8" seam allowance to the top of your back inset and to the bottom of both back pieces.

That's all for today folks. You can collect your scissors and rulers and have a lunch break.  When we meet again for part two, I'll be showing you how to convert the bodice to a faux wrap style and how to add a cluster of shoulder tucks. See you then. :)


  1. So happy to have a lunch break! Wowsers! Great tutorial.

  2. What a fab tutorial, thanks for taking the time to do it. Lynne

  3. Great, thanks for the tutorial, so far so good.

  4. What a fantastic tutorial, Heather! Thank you!

    Also, I too have long lusted after that Trashy Diva dress. I even tried it on in person, with the express intent of buying it, only to hate how the fit was on me. Making my own version will be so, so much better!

  5. No way Mary, you love the Ashley too! I think you'd look great in this style if you made it yourself.


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