Home Sewing Tutorials How to Alter Princess Seams

How to Alter Princess Seams

by Sarah

Ever tried on a dress that was way too big for your bust, but fit perfectly everywhere else? You’re not alone and thankfully there is a way to fix it by altering the princess seam. Ideally, we would go for the side seams, but sometimes there is so much to fabric to take in, that we must reduce the princess seam as well. Or, sometimes the bodice curve doesn’t line up with our natural curves.  Although not as easy as a side seam alteration, this will make the bodice fit to perfection.  Before we even touch our machine, we will be doing all the sewing by hand. I know that seems time consuming, but for a perfect fit, hand basting first is the trick. Maybe it’s just me, but the seams never look as good if I just pin and sew. Once everything is hand basted, you may test the fit. If everything fits, you can put in the permanent stitches!


Curved Dress Making Ruler

Marking tool


Seam gauge

Hand needle and thread

Top Stitch Needle

Step 1

First, we need to pin the dress. Because the princess seam most likely has boning, you won’t be able to pin right at the seam. Just pin to the side of the seam. Once you have pinned to a nice fit, take the dress off.

Step 2

Use your seam gauge to measure how much you pinned.

Now, times that by 2 because when taking in a princess seam, you can only take in from the outside seam, not the middle. Normally, if I was taking a side seam in 1 inch, I would measure 1/2 an inch in on each side. But since we can only take in on the outside seam, we have to take in all the fabric on one side.

Step 3

Use your seam ripper to remove the edge stitch and neckline seam. If you have a button, remove it as well. You can put it back in once you are finished.

Step 4

Turn the dress inside out so you’re working inside the dress.You do this by flipping up the face fabric.

Remove the boning. You only need to undo about half way down. Just enough so you can work with enough of the seam for your alteration.

Step 5

Time to mark your measurements. Remember, we’re only going to take in from the outside seam. So, if you need to take in 1 inch, measure 1 inch in only from the outside seam, not the center seam.

In this picture,it shows I need to take in 5/8 of an inch. Actually, I’m going to be taking in 1 1/4 inches. My mistake.

Step 6

Bring out your curved ruler. Basically, we need to reshape the curve by drawing a new only. You want an even, gradual curve that tapers smoothly and matches up with the original seam. You kind of have to eye it. Make sure you remember what number on your ruler you started and ended the curve on so you can repeat on the other princess seams. Trace the curve.

Step 7

Use your seam ripper to open the princess seam. Take notice of the original seam. The original seam has a nice crease in it. You want to match the new outside seam you just drew with the crease of the center seam. It’s best to accurately pin in place first, then hand sew together. Repeat this same process for the other bodice princess seam and for the lining princess seams.

Step 8

Re-attach the boning to the seam allowance of the bodice princess seams. If you had a lot to take in, it might take a little bit of maneuvering to get the boning to lay flat.

Step 9

Match the bodice and lining seams together and stitch. Try to follow the existing neckline seam. You may have to reshape the seam slightly if you took in a lot of fabric. It’s best not to do any cutting until you have tried the garment back on with the alterations.

Step 10

If all your alterations fit, you can put in the permanent stitches. All you have to do is stitch over your basting stitches. Unfortunately, you’ll have to remove the boning stitches to put in the permanent princess seams. Then, you’ll need to re-baste the boning and put in the permanent stitches. That part isn’t so fun, but the extra time spent really makes a difference in the end product.

Step 11

The last step is to replace the edge stitching along the lining. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to fit the dress under the sewing machine to do the edge stitch, so you may have to complete this step by hand. Try to blend the edge stitching in with the existing edge stitches.

Congratulations! You have altered princess seams! Not too terribly difficult, right? If you have any questions or helpful tips, let us know in the comment section below!

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Sandy July 9, 2017 - 9:12 pm

The fullness on this dress I am doing now is way above her bust line. I am not sure how to change it. It is a wedding dress with lace motifs over lay.

Sarah July 10, 2017 - 8:51 am

That does sound complicated. Can you send us a picture to info@sewingpartsonline.com? If you write, “question for Sarah”, it will be forwarded to me.

Lyn Swan November 18, 2016 - 10:44 pm

Hi, I have agreed to alter a wedding dress for a friend. it is just a tad too big in the bust, but the difficulty is that there is an overlay of lace that does not appear to have a seam. so I know how to make it fit corrctly, but am at a loss on how to deal with the lace. Can you help me? I have a bout three weekd before the wedding. Thank you.

Sarah November 21, 2016 - 2:31 pm

Hi! That is a tricky one! Where is the lace seam? Would it be possible to take in the dress at that seam?

Elie April 7, 2016 - 7:48 am

Hi, I am trying to do a similar alteration for a friend at the moment. This post has been very useful, but I’ve confused myself a bit and I wonder if you could help. When you adjust your side bodice panel curve won’t that shorten the length of the curve and therefore the curve on the central bodice panel will be longer and so they won’t match up when you sew them back together? I wonder if you can just make them fit by easing? Hope this makes sense.

Sarah April 7, 2016 - 10:44 am

Hi Ellie! I think I understand what you’re asking. When you reduce the curve significantly, you do loose length and may have to do a little trimming. But before you trim, just baste everything back together and try on the garment. If everything looks good, you can then go back and carefully trim off the extra fabric.

That being said, there are tons of different altering methods. Try easing and see how it works. Good luck!!

Viktoria Grimmy December 10, 2015 - 7:19 am

I truly appreciate you taking the time to clearly explain all of this!. extremely helpful!.. how i never knew that you can only take in the seams from the outside, i will never know!. Thank you so much!

Lanita Grice July 6, 2015 - 10:11 am

I also wondered about only taking in from the side rather than from the side and center. I can see that makes a very clean alteration in this case – but when the center seams lay outside the natural center of the bust, I feel that both panels need narrowing. BTW – I like the emphasis on the need for hand-basting first. I might also add some judicious pressing.

Sarah July 6, 2015 - 2:33 pm

I find that with alterations, every case is different and you really have to do some problem solving. This was a particularly big adjustment, and I kind of just went with whatever made the bodice fit the best without messing up the lines. It was a challenge to say the least!

Teri June 11, 2015 - 10:38 am

I have seen others take it in evenly on both sides of the seam…this is a unique approach. Is there ever a time you would recommend taking in from both sides? Or always the outside panel only?

Sarah July 6, 2015 - 2:32 pm

Hi Terri! I did it this way because I think it keeps the lines in all the right places without creating a weird shape. This one was a particularly big adjustment, as the woman wearing the dress needed to bust to be brought down somewhere around 2 cup sizes.

Kimberly August 30, 2014 - 11:30 am

This was incredibly helpful Sarah. I never thought to alter the seam by just taking from the outside panel. This makes sense as you don’t want that princess seam to deviate from the apex of the bust. And it was FANTASTIC to see that you made a SIGNIFICANT alteration. I really appreciate it.

Sarah August 30, 2014 - 3:02 pm

Hi Kimberly! Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad it was helpful!

Heather May 14, 2014 - 9:13 am

Thanks! I’ve never really known how to do this, and i need to know how to do my wedding dress for my wedding in three weeks. you saved me!

Sarah May 15, 2014 - 9:09 am


Naomi Kwant April 11, 2014 - 9:12 am

I really appreciated this post… thank you!

Sarah April 14, 2014 - 2:54 pm

You are very welcome! Thank you for stopping by!


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