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A long backwaist and short swayback.

SeoulSearch | Posted in Fitting on


Now that I have found you all I will never leave you alone.

Could you please shed some light on my latest fitting dilema? I recently took a class on fitting bodices and my shell still needs a lot of tweaking (and the class has now ended). I want to sew dresses and here is my problem:

I fall in about a size 12 pattern size (or M) using Nancy Zieman’s front width measurement. I have a wide, slightly rounded back and also a slight swayback. The back waist length on my pattern is 16 1/4, but my back waist length is 17.

But because of the curve in my lower back, I also need to make and adjustment there or I will have horizontal gaps of fabric (I know this from a dress I just tried to make).

How do i make the back waist length longer but the area over the lower curve shorter? It seems like an oxymoron: lengthen at one end of the line and shorten at the other!

I hope this is not a ridiculous question.

Thank you!





  1. DeeDee7 | | #1

    I have the same problem with swayback-any suggestions?

  2. MaryAnn | | #2


    the fitting issues you describe and a solution is detailed in the Palmer/Pletsch book "Fit for Real People"

    It's not an unusual issue. You will need to add tissue in your pattern to lengthen for your upper curve, and remove tissue to eliminate the fabric gaps over the sway back.

    If you don't have the book, go to the Palmer/Pletsch web site: http://www.palmerpletsch.com to order it. I've heard some amazing stories on this site and others about the cost of this book through Amazon. It should not cost more than $27.95 plus shipping and that's for the coil bound version. (I've heard of it being offered on amazon for over $80)

    Mary Ann Duff

  3. mem | | #3

    Hello Kimberly I would lengthen the back seam but not the side seam as otherwise the front and back side seams wont match. Do this by slashing from the centre back seam across the pattern to the side seam but not through it. Then cut from the edge to the seam line but not through it. Add in the appropriate amount along the center back seam by opening it up  hinging it on the tiny bit of tissue left on the side seam line .You will have a pie shaped insert . I use tissue paper and magic tape then when you have made up your muslin put them on and  tie a a piece of elastic around your waist and over the pants /bodice  waistline then stand and watch your back in a mirror and pull up( down on a top ) the back center waist until it is no longer sagging on the center back seam mark this with a pin and also ease up/down the fabric either side of the center back seam this will only be about 2-3 inches either side of the center back seam In a bodice you need to look at the creases around tha back arm holes and that the back neckline isnt being pulled down . Mark the new back waist line with a pencil or pins and take off the pants/top  This new line is your back waist line seam and should be just right for your sway back  problem.You would trim the fabric and true it in to the side seam Also dont forget to add a seam or hem allowance  If you are making a top you will measure down from the line an even amount around the back match it in to the side seam. Hope that helps .

    Edited 2/23/2006 11:06 pm ET by mem

  4. SAAM | | #4

    Mem's suggestion is the way I would go, doing the upper back adjustment first, then the swayback adjustment.

    I would also:

    1. slash out from the end of the horizontal slash (the horizontal slash should go to mid-shoulder blade) up to the shoulder point (where shoulder and armhole seam meet)

    and then

    2: slash in from middle of the shoulder seam to just above the horizontal slash. Your slashes will sort of look like an almost sideways Y.

    This allows you to slide the uppermost part of the back out to keep the it on grain. The opening formed by the slash can either be made into a dart or eased into the shoulder seam.

    Once this addition is made to the upper back,

    3. extend the center back line straight down to the bottom edge.
    This forms the shaping necessary to make the fabric curve over the back without having a curved seam in the center back. You can take any added width in the lower back out of your side seams or, if you have them, out of the back waist darts.

    EVERY SEWER'S GUIDE TO THE PERFECT FIT by Mary Morris & Sally McCann shows this alteration with clear illustrations and directions.

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