Easy Elegance: A Simple Tutorial for Sewing Princess Seams

Like their royal namesake, princess seams add a touch of elegance to any garment. Typically, they create graceful vertical lines that elongate the body and can be used for both fit and design elements. I think these seams are your best friends for pattern fitting. Sewing princess seams allows adjustment across large sections of the garment.

Moreover, these lovely seams can be let in or out to adjust shaping or create flattering curves. A princess seam should join the pattern pieces smoothly, with no puckers or gathers along the seam.

Follow these steps to learn how to sew a smooth and pucker-free princess seam.

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green silk dress with princess seams

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Just what is a princess seam? This particular type of seam is a variation of darts, where the darts are manipulated to make a fitted garment using shaped seams. They can be in the bodice, skirt or a combination of both. Here is an example of how bodice darts become a princess seam. The bust dart in the side seam is rotated to the armhole, and then the darts are converted to a princess seam that goes over the bust.

examples of dart rotation

Some sewing patterns now include multi-cup sizes which are really handy and can reduce the need for pattern alteration. In this example, I have used a "C" cup because it has a bit more curve than the standard pattern pieces.

princess seam pattern pieces

Step 1:

example of staystitching

Staystitch your seam allowances. Using a short stitch length, sew inside the actual seam line at about 1/8". On a standard pattern with a 5/8" seam allowance, you will stitch at ½". The seam allowance is marked with a broken line, so the staystitching is inside that by the 1/8".

In the example above, I had staystitched all the seam lines including the neckline. It helps to do the neckline staystitching at this time as well because you are going to be handling the pattern pieces, and you want to minimize the possibility of distortion.

Step 2:

pattern pinned at notches

Pin your pattern pieces together up to the notches. Be sure to mark or cut your pattern notches – they are absolutely necessary to get the proper ease and shaping on a princess seam. Leave the pattern unpinned between the notches for now.

Step 3:

example of seam allowance snips

Cut snips in the seam allowance of the center bodice seam just between the notches to allow the fabric to lay flat around the curve. Cut straight snips about 3/8" long, and as you move the fabric the snips will open up into wedges. Be careful not to cut into your seam line.

Step 4:

princess seam pinned

Finish pinning your pattern pieces together between the notches. This part of the side bodice will now lay flat because of the snips (which I have marked in blue).

Step 5:

seam stitched on seam line

Stitch your seams together at 5/8".

Step 6:

iron seam flat

Press your seam allowance flat.  Before you open that seam, press with the tip of the iron over the seam allowance extending about ¼ to ½" into the body of the garment.

Step 7:

princess seams in a muslin

Press your seams open. It helps to use a tailor’s ham to maintain the curved shape.

Other ways to sew princess seams include using the feed dogs of the sewing machine to ease the fabric without pins. That method takes a bit of experience and comfort with easing as you sew. If you have never sewn a princess seam before, give the method described above a try and get comfortable with creating a smooth seam. Then, you can give the “no-pin” version a whirl.

Pattern variations on the princess seam

There are many variations on the princess seam, but the sewing is fundamentally the same. A shoulder princess seam gives the best opportunity for pattern fitting, as you can adjust the shoulder width, the curve over the bust, take in or let out the waist and fit at the hip with very fine tuned adjustments.

Red leather jacket with princess seams

Image via Craftsy member CatzSop

An armhole princess seam can continue all the way down the front of a dress taking the place of bust, waist and hip darts. It can even incorporate a welt pocket.

Pretty yellow dress with princess seams

Image via Craftsy member Cissie

FREE Guide: How to Sew Professional-Quality Seams

Beginner's Guide to Sewing Professional-Quality Seams

Whether you're working with lightweight or heavy-duty fabric, discover simple steps for sewing seams that look polished and professional.Get My FREE Guide »

19 Comments

kimberly

great, easy to read, instructions. can’t wait until morning to start my perfet princess seams1

Reply
ndu patience

Thanks a million times, I just made a perfect blouse this morning. Your teachings are clearn and simple.

Reply
Cindy

This strategy makes sense for getting a smooth seam on a princess seam. I plan to try it. However, I have one question. If you stay stitch at 4/8″ and then put the seam stitch line in at 5/8″, how do you press the seam open? It seems that 1/8″ would not allow the seam to lie flat.

Reply
Beth

Hi Cindy
you only stay-stitch on each pattern piece separately at 1/2″, not as you are sewing them together. So then you match up the bodice seam pieces and sew your actual seam at 5/8″. So you can press them open at that 5/8″ seam. Good luck with your princess seams.

Reply
Anita

What a great idea. I’m going to try this method. I have done princess seams with easing it in and the front side down next to the feed dogs. But with a D cup you sometimes have issues.cant wait to try this.

Reply
Joanne

What pattern did you use for the green dress? I can’t seem to find anything with princess seams, a V-neck, and a full skirt.

Reply
Laura Maul

Joanne, I am having the same problem! Have you found a pattern in the last six months?

Reply
Thalia

For deeply curved seams, I prefer to baste with hand stitches. Pins distort the seam allowance as it moves under the presser foot.

Reply
Kat L

Thalia thanks for that comment. I’ve been struggling with my first dress. I’m going to rip out the curve and hand baste.

Reply
fonkie

great tutorials ! understand d drawing perfectly but didn’t understand d 5/8 and 1/8 measurements, we use INCHES measurement over here

Reply
Bracelet

Fonkie, 1/8 and 5/8 is inches. A standard pattern accounts four your stitches to be five eighths of an inch from the rough cut edge. If you are stay stitching one eigth of an inch closer to the rough cut edge, that means for a standard pattern seam allowance of 5/8″, you will stay stitch at 4/8″ which is the same as 1/2 an inch.

Reply
Maitri

Hi.
I hav stitch wit d above method. Bt I have problem in d fitting. Der are creases at the side seam near the empire line. Please guide me to retiffy the problem.

Reply
Deela

Hi,
Appreciate your guidelines.
I hope to become a professional in sewing after following your guide.
Many thanks.
Daniella

Reply
Helen Walker

I am making a princess seam wedding dress for a friends daughter in shantung silk, which is very similar to dupion. She – the mum – is insistent that I cut across the grain so the ‘stripes’ run vertically. I am really unhappy about this. I think it will look wrong, may not hang as well and may be difficult to sew seams. Any thoughts please?

Reply
Lisa

I love princess seams, and I’ve been sewing for a long time this shouldn’t be an issue……but every single time I sew a princess seam, the right and left look differently. I can’t pinpoint it, but one of them (always the same side) looks a little wonky and curves more under the bust on that one side than the other side creating an un-uniform look.

Can someone please shed some light on what might be happening, or what I might be doing wrong that doesn’t seem so obvious to me?

Reply

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