A dart is a controlled wrinkle. If a piece of fabric were placed over a cup, a large wrinkle would fall to one side. If this wrinkle were stitched, it would be called a dart.
A dart is also a seam. Think again of the wrinkle lying to one side of the cup. If this wrinkled fabric were cut so the fabric could lie flat and smooth, there would be a seam to sew. Princess style dresses have darts in the curved seams of the princess front and princess back pattern pieces.
Types of Darts
There are only two basic types of darts: single pointed darts and double pointed darts. A single pointed dart starts from the cut edge of the fabric (a shoulder dart). The double pointed dart has two points, which lie within the pattern (bodice front darts).
There are special types of darts that are used for specific jobs. A baby dart is less than 1" wide and about 3" long, and many times used in the shoulder and elbows. These darts can be put in many places to give your garment a better fit. The skirt waistline, bodice front, or bodice back can have baby darts added to make the waistline smaller. To place a baby dart correctly, divide the amount of fabric in half (from the side seam to the large dart) and stitch in a small bay dart.
Darts are usually placed in the middle of the pattern piece to look attractive. However, they can be placed anywhere a designer wishes or where the figure needs a dart.
Correct Dart Fit
The figure has seven basic curves: bust line, hipline, arm, shoulder blades, thigh line, stomach, and seat. These curves are fitted within the pattern seams and darts so that the fabric will not wrinkle and the body can move.
Follow these rules as you fit your darts:
Bodice front darts (from waistline or side seam) should point toward the fullest part of the bust line and should end 1¼" to 1½" from the high point of the figure.
Bodice back shoulder darts should point to the shoulder blades. Most shoulder darts are 3" long. On a princess style dress, the shoulder dart is moved to the neckline and angled toward the shoulder blade.
Skirt back hipline darts should end an inch or two above the fullest parts of the seat. Hipline darts are 4" to 5" long in the back of the skirt.
Skirt front hipline darts should end anywhere from 3" to 4" below the waistline. The front hipline darts are always 1" shorter than the back darts.
Elbow darts should point to the elbow bone when the arm bends. If there are two darts, the elbow should be between them. If there are three darts, the middle dart should point to the bent elbow dart.
Bodice back waistline darts should point to the shoulder blade. They are never stitched higher than the bust line on the pattern, and are usually 1¼" deep at the waistline.
American Sewing Guild Grand Rapids, MI Chapter
Reprinted from SEW/FIT by Joan Anderson,
copyright 1993, by permission from Joan Anderson.
Orders: The Sew/Fit Co., 5310 West 66th St., Unit A, Bedford Park, IL 60638, 708-458-5300.