Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
Mom to Otto born April 2018 and Lucy born August 2020!

Sewing Circle: Taking in the bust of a [vintage] dress

Very useful Sewing Circle today! So often when you find a beautiful vintage dress, the fit's not quite perfect, and commonly the bust is shaped for someone wearing an extreme bullet bra--so the bust is way too big! Got a question from Sandy about this...

Q: I was wondering if you can help. I've look in all my sewing books and online. I like some of the vintage clothing. I hesitate on buying some when the bust is a 38" when I'm a 34". Especially on the sleeveless ones. Can you make alterations and still make it look natural on these. If so, how would I go about doing this?

A: Good question, Sandy! It is probably possible to take in the bust on a vintage dress and make it still look good, and it will be much easier on a sleeveless dress. What you'll need to do is unpick the facing from the armhole (or, if the dress is lined, unpick the bodice from the skirt at the side seams (about 2"  on either side of each seam) and unpick the join of the lining to the outer fabric at the armpit/sleeve opening, also at the side seam. It may be a little tricky to maneuver inside the bodice with only 4" of room, but see how it goes, and take out a little more of the skirt/bodice seam if you need to.

Then, you can just take in the side seams as you need to. If the waist fits, then very gradually taper your seam, starting aligned with the existing side seam around the waist and then becoming a much wider seam allowance at the armpit (you'll make a tiny triangle of the new seam and old seam, widest at the armpit and pointed at or near the waist). I'd say try adding 1" to the seam allowance at the armpit first, because that will actually take off 2" on each side since the fabric is doubled. Then try it on and see how it fits. You can take off more, but remember wearing ease and that you'll want a little bit of room in the bust so you're not poured into it.

Once you find an adjustment that fits, do the same exact adjustment to the lining.  Then press all the new seam allowances to one side (generally toward the back) and sew the lining and fashion fabric together at the armpit. Then sew the skirt back to the bodice.

Hope that makes sense! It can definitely be done.

Readers, have you modified vintage dresses before to fit you more accurately? Any good stories about what you find inside those seams? ;) I love seeing the pinked edges and perfectly matching cotton thread.


  1. That second one! Wish I could find a vintage dress like that!

    1. Pretty fun!! Wouldn't be hard to make, though, just add a placket and buttons to a basic dress (scoop out the neck) and add a self-fabric Peter Pan collar!

  2. I think the first one is better. My wife started modifying some of her vintage dress when I bought her a Brother 4750D.




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