Pattern Alterations: How to remove gaping (or excess fabric) from neckline of a fitted dress

Above: don’t you hate this effect?

So as I mentioned in the last post a lot of commercial patterns (including butterick 5032) gape on me. There always seems to be excess fabric near the neckline that is lose. So in case anyone else has this problem here is how to eliminate it on the pattern.

You cant just take it out of the middle of the pattern because it will affect the grainline and the waist measurement so here is how to do it.

Note: I am obviously not a pattern maker or pro I am just self-taught so I don’t claim this is the best way. But anyway here is my way…

1. So after making a muslin or prototype try the dress on and pinch and pin out the excess fabric and measure how much you have pined out is the amount you want to take out. On one side of my bodice that was 2cms (making it a total of 4cms excess fabric, but 2cm is the amount we want to remove because we are only working with one side of the pattern).

2. Make a copy of your sewing pattern (So you still have the original pattern if the modifications are turn out to be incorrect)

I made a copy by putting Burda tracing paper and pattern weights over the bodice pieces and tracing it being sure to mark all notches and darts on the new pattern. Dont know why I photographed the original pattern over my traced one but um yeah should be the other way around.

3. Mark out a triangle, wedge/dart shape that starts at the neckline and runs all the way down touching the waist dart (or original dart). The distance of line I have drawn with red indicates the amount I want to remove from the pattern (in my case 2cms)

4. Cut along dashed lines. Where to cut is shown above as indicated by the green dashed lines in the picture above. where these darts meet in the middle cut leave 1-2 millimeters (or a tiny bit of paper) so that the pattern is not cut directly in half.

5. After you have cut into all the dashed lines move green dashed line so that it is touching the other thinner green line (that is adjacent to it but not dashed) and tape shut. and you have removed the excess. The waist dart (blue dashed line line) will have opened up more and now be bigger (this will NOT affect the waist measurement)

Below: temporary dart is now taped shut and bottom waist dart is larger resulting in the excess being removed.

5. Add paper to the now larger gap in the waist dart. If necessary add paper and blend and the neckline too.

6. Above is the new gape-free pattern piece. I used the same method to remove excess in the back bodice pattern piece too.

  1. Louise said:

    I have a problem with the back bodice and in the past I’ve intuitively pinched this amount out but without being so methodical about it. I think I need to try this as I’ve ended up in a bit of a problem in some bodices and I certainly haven’t been adding into the waist dart resulting in unevenness.

    • I see what you are saying. It is worth giving it a go. πŸ™‚

  2. Andrea said:

    Great tip! Neckline gaping almost always a problem for me, too, so I’ll have to try this. Thanks.

    • No problem I’m glad I’m not the only one πŸ™‚

  3. Ugh, I get this, too (and sometimes even at the back neckline). Yuck! I’ve always kind of cheated to get rid of the excess (and probably thrown off my grainlines in the process), but next time I will do this!

  4. Nice. I either lay the pattern over a sloper and pinch out the excess or pin it to my mannequin and pinch out the excess before I cut..

    • Cool. It’s good to learn other methods that is a nice quick way to get the same result. Thanks!

  5. I have this problem too in the back. I have researched several methods inclding taking it out of the center back. I will have to try this sometime. I also read that you could cut a smaller size out in the back than the front. Not sure if that will work either.

    • yeah give it a try it might solve the problem it should work for the back too πŸ™‚

    • Kerri Steenbeeke said:

      It sounds like you might have a large bust issue, rather than just a gaping neckline… rather than cutting the back a size smaller, cut out a toille or muslin and get a friend to pin out the excess in the back, then transfer this to your pattern… if you do have a large bust, the back will end up close to a size smaller, but by pinning out the excess, you will be aware where to take it from the front as well to match (like darts at the front) – once you understand your necessary adjustment, you will find it gets easier to do on future patterns!

      • Wow! Brilliant insight πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for your advice. Ah! I will try this. Thanks again!

  6. Julie said:

    Thanks, that is really helpful!

  7. Great post. Gape darts are often misunderstood in fitting. πŸ™‚

  8. Irene said:

    This tip couldn’t have been more timely! I was reviewing some of my older self-sewn garments I was wondering how I could alter a couple of patterns for neckline gaping- this method seems perfect to me. I will definitely try it very soon! Thanks a lot. For back gaping I have always added neck darts but I will try this method also. Now, what if there isn’t a waist dart in your pattern? How do you deal with the gaping?

    • So glad it was helpful to you!
      You can use the same method on a bust dart too!
      If you have any more questions let me know πŸ™‚

  9. discodots said:

    Can I just say a huge big thank you to you! After 3 muslins with terrible gaping, I consulted the interwebs and they came up with your post. I followed your instructions and lo and behold I can no longer carry my shopping down the front or back of my dress. Very happy, I was ready to throw the whole lot in the bin a couple of hours ago! Thanks again😁

    • YAY! so happy to hear this πŸ™‚ You are most welcome. I can’t tell you just how happy it makes me to hear that my tutorial was useful! x

  10. You can also just run a strip or two of elastic thread across the top – easy fix without alterations!

    • Ooo cool! I never thought of doing this! Good idea and thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

  11. AJM Britton said:

    This same method can be used for gaping armholes. The fullness can be moved to any dart location. This is a concise and accurate tutorial. Good job.

    • Good point! Cool that it works for armholes too. Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  12. hi! thanks for this tip. how would you suggest fixing it on a princess seam? thanks!

    • Perhaps you could make a slash (on the pattern) where there is too much fullness and pivot it/close the slash so that the pattern is overlapping a bit (in the spot that has too much fullness) and blend out the line. Hope that makes sense…
      Not sure this would work, but it may be worth a try on a muslin…

      • great idea. thanks so much!!!

  13. Kerri Steenbeeke said:

    I am a professional dressmaker and what you have worked out on your own is almost exactly how I would teach it!
    The only difference I would try – would be to raise the original “waist dart” about 3cm (to you actual bust point) – take out your amount, then shorten the dart to its original length and continue as you have… OR mark you actual bust point on your muslin and move the top of the dart to there before taking out the excess and then shortening the dart again…
    Basically darts should be Approximately 3cm away from where your nipple sits in a garment… but to pivot out the excess (which is what you have done) the dart should be extended to where the nipple sits for the process and then shortened again… hope that helps and makes sense?

    • Oo yes it does! Ah of course! Positiong of the dart would be different for the larger bust so it makes total sense. Wow such an invaluable comment πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for the helpful advice and expertise!

  14. I have a knit shirt pattern with this problem. But there are no darts at all. Any suggestions? Even the smallest size neckline gapes.

  15. Lynne said:

    I’ve just found this from a link on another blog, and it’s genius!! I have always folded the fullness out to the armhole – I read it in a fitting book; but then it makes the armhole a weird shape so it needs redrawn – which causes problems for sleeves. Anyway, this makes perfect sense, and is so easy that I’m wondering why I didn’t think of it myself! Thank you!

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