A Beginner’s Tutorial to Lengthening a Bodice

As promised here is my tutorial on how to lengthen a bodice for those beginners out there who are just like me (i.e., one who needs a little more direction than a shorten/lengthen here marking).  Oh, I may be the only one who needs this tutorial?  Oh ok.  Well then, here you go Elizabeth… 

Step 1: Determine how much length you want to add to your bodice.  In the case of this Vogue 8379 wrap dress, I want to add 1 inch (in reality, now that I’ve made up this dress, I know I need to add at least 1-3/4 inches and maybe even 2, but I started taking the pictures before I realized that.  So this tutorial will depict a 1 inch lengthening alteration to the pattern).  

Here’s your lovely pattern unadulterated and unmolested.  See how cute it is in its pristine state?  Note the Shorten/Lengthen line in the bottom third of the bodice.  That is the place, dear friends (or dear self since I may be the only one in need of this tutorial), where you will cut your pattern piece apart.  Now go ahead and cut. 

Back bodice

Front Bodice

Ok, now here’s where the fun begins.  Because why should it be all simple and easy?  Noooooo.  Let’s make it hard and complicated.  All right, it’s not that hard and not that complicated.  I don’t want to scare you off, but you should know that it’s definitely not a 1 or 2 step process.  

Step 2: Place tracing paper or equivalent behind your newly cut and separated bodice pattern pieces.  Position the pattern pieces so that they are 1 inch (or whatever your determined measurement is) apart and tape them to your added tracing paper.  Are we done you ask?  Surely you jest! 

Step 2: add your additional length

Step 3:  Now comes the really fun part!  We need to connect the top portion of the pattern to the bottom portion.  If this bodice was just a rectangle, we would just draw a vertical line joining the top to the bottom and we’d be all done.  But this bodice is not just a rectangle.  So we need to join the top and bottom without doglegging the side seams.  Here’s my first attempt at dealing with the dogleg problem.  I folded over the difference in width between the top and bottom on the bottom portion and then drew the lines in.  Sounds simple enough.  Even looks elegant.  Is it right?  NO!  Why?  Because you have just decreased the size of the waist of the bodice and now the bodice won’t be the same size as the skirt portion that attaches to that bodice portion.  

Incorrect method of lengthening the bodice

So what’s the correct method?  We need to break out the ruler or any straight edge and blend the difference between the top and the bottom.  To do this, add another piece of tracing paper vertically from the bottom of the arm hole to the bottom of the pattern piece.  Now place the ruler/straight edge at the top of the side seam at the arm hole and then move the ruler so that it also meets the bottom of the waist.  and draw a straight line from those two points.  Now you’ve preserved the integrity of the waist size while increasing the length of the bodice.   If you would be so kind to notice, my addition to the side seam is almost miniscule. 

back bodice final alteration

closeup of final bodice side seam blending from arm hole to waist

Step 4:  If there are any markings that moved because you lengthened the bodice, now is the time to correct them on the pattern  so that they fall in the same place on the altered pattern as they did on the original pattern.  In this pattern’s case, I needed to transfer the markings for the slit opening on one of the side seams.  So I measured down and inch and marked it the same distance away from the side seam as the original marking (see pictures above). 

Are we done now?  Surely we are, you think.  BUT NO!  We are not done yet.  There is more than one bodice piece.  We just corrected the back bodice piece, and now the front must be altered as well. 

Step 5: Since Vogue 8379 is a wrap dress, the changes to the bodice are treated slightly differently.  We no longer need to preserve the width of the dress, so blending the neckline to waist is not necessary.  I just added to the width of the waist to maintain the sweep of the neckline/wrap.  

final altered front bodice/wrap

close up of the altered bodice front pattern

Step 6: Since I added approximately a 3/4 inch to the front bodice/wrap, I need to add that same amount to the front skirt wrap.  You could take it out of the front facing which is 2 inches wide, but that wouldn’t be totally kosher.  My teacher Thea pointed out that the facing is 2 inches wide for a reason, to weight the front of the wrap and keep it from flipping outward.  Since I am 100% against facing flippage, I heeded her advice and widened the front skirt/wrap by 3/4 an inch, adjusting the facing marking as well. 

final altered front skirt/wrap pattern

Close up of altered skirt front

Note the tracing wheel marks where I marked the 2 inch facing correction.  The red line to the left of the tracing wheel marks is the original placement of the facing line.  

If this dress was not a wrap dress, I would not just add width to the bodice willy nilly.  I would need to employ the same method I used on the back bodice of blending from the arm hole down to the waist (or bottom) of the bodice pattern to maintain the original waist length.  Most likely the neckline would be unaltered by the bodice length change on a non wrap bodice.  And then I would not need to alter the front skirt pattern at all.  

So there you have it (or at least I do since I am the only one needing this tutorial), how to lengthen a bodice.  Since this is my first tutorial, if any of the more experienced sewists have differing opinions or flat out think I’m wrong, please speak up.  I used to be an opera singer and know how to take constructive criticism (well maybe not on my love life, but for other things, sure!).  If any of the beginners have questions, please let me know in the comments. 

Happy lengthening and sewing to you all!

ETA:  Ms. Choize reminded me that I completely forgot to include in my tutorial that you need to lengthen the facings as well.  Major OOPS!  Thanks, Ms. Choize!  Here is how you alter the facing to match the lengthened bodice:

Step 7: Now we must alter the facing to match the lengthened bodice.  Cut the facing apart somewhere in the bottom third of the pattern.  Add the additional length you’re adding to the bodice, in this case, it’s 1 inch and tape it all together.  If there are any markings that need transferring lower to match the original pattern, mark the altered pattern appropriately. 

Altered front facing

Close up of altered front facing

Et voilá!  You are done lengthening your bodice!  Phew!


11 responses to “A Beginner’s Tutorial to Lengthening a Bodice

  1. OMG, this actually made sense to me and I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet. Well done!

  2. Great tutorial! I always have the opposite issue of needing to shorten everything, but didn’t on this pattern (which clued me in that anyone of normal height would need to lengthen it!) Another cheating trick you can try with knits is to use a slinky knit – they lengthen 1-2 inches when worn. When I made a wrap dress for my co-worker who has a longer torso, I decided to *not* make the adjustments and let the slinky knit do the adjusting for me. It worked like a charm! I had suspected it would work because slinky knits need even more of a shortening adjustment for me.

  3. This looks right to me. But I what I’m still scratching my head at is, why do I keep having bodices that are too short. Is there something defective about my body? How could I be 50 something and I never noticed this before?

  4. I’ve never had to lengthen anything, but this is an excellent tutorial!

  5. Great tutorial! I just completed this dress this weekend and had to make the same adjustments. I almost forgot to lengthen the front bodice facings, along with the bodice! So anyone making this dress should keep that in mind too!

  6. You are way out of my league, sweetie!

    Love, Mom

  7. Thanks for such a great tutorial! Happy Tuesday!

  8. Thank you! That’s exactly what I needed to know – the right place to add length to a bodice!

  9. wow, great stuff!!! am sneaking a peek at work betw spreadsheets, will read closely later. I am a veteran sewer, self taught and don’t alter patterns usually and this is a wonderful how-to to for me. do not sell yourself short at all, you are a natch sewer. have a great day! ciao!

  10. Can’t thank you enough for this Elisabeth!!!

  11. Just what I needed! Thanks!

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