Sewing Dilemma: Tween/Teen Girls Pt. 2

We covered some basic ideas for sewing for Tween/Teen girls in Part 1, thinking about choosing patterns and styles that work for changing bodies…

Now, for the hard part. What do you do when you’ve got to make something with a dart, but your Tween/Teen doesn’t need the bust dart shaping? Or maybe not THAT much shaping?

My experience in Part 1 with the Laurel dress taught me to rethink how I was going about things. Grading in or out more than a size can cause a lot of seams to be on a bias that were not meant to be on a bias, and can cause some strange warping and twisting along seamlines. I suggest starting with a pattern that will fit the wearer’s high bust, and then applying pattern adjustments, like a Small Bust Adjustment, instead.

You can entirely take out the dart if it’s still looking too shaped. I’m going to start with and expand on some images I made for Seamwork, which picked up where their new Small Bust Adjustment article left off, showing 4 different methods. You can use whatever pattern adjustment methods YOU like if you have others you prefer to reference. Threads is often a great resource; I’m a fan of The Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting; and there are many more. You do you — I don’t advocate one over any other if it gets you to the same spot.

A graphic showing the pattern piece for a bodice, and various angles for rotating a bust dart
Dart Manipulation Options

First things first. We’ll work with a basic side dart. We will work with the assumption that this example has already been dropped down to an A-AA cup. Each of those red dashed line is an example of where some of your most common dart pivots can go if you wanted to move your dart. Your bust point has a dot, and as with most patterns, “high bust” is inline with the bottom of the armscye, and while not marked, this is something to pay attention to when measuring a Tween/Teen.

NOTE: if you decide to leave it at the SBA dart, be sure to make the dart shorter: the smaller cup you go, the shorter the legs. You want to avoid a dart point past the curve apex — that’s when things go weird. Another less necessary note: Your dart point moves with the dart, so while you can move a dart from side to neckline, for example, the point would move as well… Just putting that on here in case this inspires you to experiment. For example, if you rotate a shoulder dart to a French dart, the end point of the dart rotates around the bust with it.

diagram showing where to slice a side dart to rotate

Draw from the waistline up to the bust point, and through the center of the side dart to the bust point.

graphic showing dart removal

Cut out the bust dart and through to the bust point, removing the dart. Cut up the waistline.

graphic showing dart tracing

Put some paper under the pattern and tape down with the dart now pivoted to the waistline.

graphic showing dart tracing and truing

Smooth out that hemline! Do you need a French curve ruler? NO! Holla Laura Volpintesta, and use your natural compass in your wrist. Not secure with that? I’ve used plates, bowls, cups… You’re not trying to land on the moon; you don’t have to be perfect.

graphic showing side seam truing

What you DO want to do is make sure your side seams are the same length. Now… technically what we did here was move the dart and leave the volume in. It’s a bit exaggerated in this image above and the bias wouldn’t be THAT extreme if you downsized to an A/AA cup, but there’s definitely a little flare-out. Now, depending on your Tween/Teen’s waist/hip, you can just trace off your new bodice top and voila, no weird dart legs on a teen.

graphic showing complete removal of dart volume

Oooorrr, If your child’s middle is smaller, you can slice that dart right off the side, and you’re back to the starting waist/hip line size. This is sort of the start of what we do when we change from a woven block to a knit block… We rotate out and slice off darts, which is how you get negative ease & shaping in a knit top… but that’s another article. 😉

This article is by no means exhaustive, nor are these adjustments only for teens. If you have more specific fitting adjustment questions, teen or otherwise, we have our own resident fit expert, Gabby, and she’ll be happy to address your Dear Gabby needs!


Author Bio: Becky Jo Johnson is a blur in various places, but Instagram is usually a safe bet.


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