By Hand London Anna Dress: Back Neckline Adjustment!

Hey-o! Hope you busy little bees are all having a great day!  Today I have something a little different for you– a tutorial!  I promised to show you guys how I removed excess fabric from the back of my Anna dress.  I’m not great with PhotoShop, so I just hand-drew some shoddy illustrations… please forgive the crudeness!  Also, I’m not a professional and there are probably many other/better ways to do this.  This is just what worked for me.  🙂

OK, let’s do it!  This is a common alteration for me, but I had to really think through how to do it as my usual method doesn’t work so well on a garment with kimono sleeves.  I know several sewists just turned the excess fabric into darts, but I didn’t really want to do that. Here’s what I did instead:

[NOTE: This is an alteration to the pattern piece, so you need to do it BEFORE cutting into your fabric.]

First, figure out how much excess fabric you need to take out (you can do this by pinching it as though you’re making a dart, pinning it, and then measuring how much you’ve removed).  Jot down how much you need to remove if you’re like me and forget everything!

OK, so here’s your back bodice:

Now,  draw a straight line from the underarm curve to the middle of the neckline, landing about where the excess fabric gapes the most:

Stop your line right before you get into the seam allowance on the underarm side (so, 5/8″ from the edge).  Cut along this line.

Next, overlap the pattern along the cut edge by the proper amount.  For me, a 3/8″ overlap was just the ticket.

This illustration is particularly bad– my apologies!

Does that make sense?  It should overlap the most at the shoulder area and taper out to nothing at the end of the cut line.  When you have it positioned nicely, tape it in place!

Now you want to smooth out the neckline curve.  Tape some extra paper behind the neckline, and using a French curve, just blend the line together nicely.

Perfect!  Cut this out, and you’re all done!

That was a trick.  You’re SO not done, missy!  Get back here!

Your final step is to adjust your back facing to reflect the changes you just made to the bodice. You can slash and spread the facing the same way that you did the back bodice, or you can be lazy like me and just quickly draft a new one.

The facing is about 3.5″ wide, so I just measured down on my new back bodice piece and placed little dots at that mark:

The actual dots I used were, um, measured instead of sloppily eyeballed… whoops.

Then you can lay some tracing paper on top and just trace alone the dotted line to make your new, perfectly-matched facing!  NOW you’re done!

As a reminder, the ladies of By Hand London are about to start a sewalong for this pattern, so I’m sure they will handle other fit adjustments along the way.  I just wanted to share this in case it helps any other narrow-shouldered types like myself that can’t wait for the sewalong!

87 responses

  1. oh Thanks. I will do this in my next version. I also have narrow shoulders and I always have a gaping there. When I made mine, I inserted a dart there, but your method is much more professional methinks.


    • I tend to get a lot of gaping in the back, and if I use a dart, it’s too large and too pointy so it looks really gross. 😦 I think regular darts look nice if you’re not taking out so much excess.


  2. I haven’t received my Anna pattern yet, but I’ve just bookmarked this post because I’m sure I’ll need it. Back necklines always gape on me, so if this one does on other people as well, I would be very surprised if I didn’t need to adjust it…
    So, thank you for your illustrations, which are perfectly clear and very helpful! Seems like you’re always coming up with the fixes I’ll need a little before I actually need them!


    • Hahaha, that’s convenient! This is a problem that I have all the time, and I’m really happy with the fix (instead of too-big darts that end up looking too pointy and ugly, which I used to always have).

      Happy sewing!!!


  3. Ah you little beauty! This seems so obvious but I never would have thought of it. Nice one! I have the narrowest shoulders ever, but also big sticking-out shoulder blades which makes fitting the back area interesting. Thanks!


    • Shoulders are so hard to fit (and it doesn’t help that it’s hard to see or alter them by yourself)! My shoulders are narrow, but also really rounded from my terrible posture, so fabric always realllly stands away at the back of my neck… yuck!


  4. That is far more scientific than the approach I took! I literally just took the amount I needed out of centre back and graded it out! Probably did something horrible to the grain line there so I must remember to use your method in the future!


  5. Oh. Um. This is not anything close to what I did to adjust the back of my Anna, and I’m pretty sure you’re right and I’m wrong and now I feel slightly ashamed 🙂 I just pulled it off the center back seam, ha!

    But, seriously, thanks for the tutorial! I have to adjust the back for a lot of my tops, so Imma file this away for future reference. I’m also curious to know how you adjust for non-kimono sleeves. DISH.


    • Lauren, sometimes I do it Ginger’s way and sometimes, like you, I remove the excess at the center back. At 44, I am starting to get a little more forward curve at the upper back (in addition to always having been narrow in the shoulders), and taking in at the center back makes the neckline conform better to that curve. There is also an actual high round back alteration that adds a tiny bit of length to the center back while reducing the overall width of the neckline. That is best of all, for me!


      • I should probably look into the high round back alteration– I have terrible posture, so my shoulders are really rounded, which probably contributes to the fitting problem. Thanks for the suggestion!


  6. Yes I did virtually the same thing with mine. I had to take a similar amount out of the front neckline in the same way, I made a muslin first and used the muslin to eyeball the angle of the “dart” in the pattern paper. Havent even blogged my first Anna and Im already washing fabric for a second!


    • Can’t wait to see yours! It’s such an elegant pattern! I was really worried about gaping in the front as it seems like a style like this would really be prone to it, but mine turned out OK.


  7. Thanks so much for this. I’ve got to ask, do your shoulders also slope, or simply end early, or what is the deal?
    Mine stop short, about an inch less than clothing shops always assume.

    please email me if you post more on your fitting methods for narrow shoulders.
    Thanks for the above post
    Mary in Thailand


  8. Totally thinking this is how Walter White would suggest to do it too. Which makes you a genius and me saying hey thanks, I’m about to make Anna and I always get neck gaping, so I’m gonna use this tip and salute you!


  9. This is really useful – thank you! I usually do the whole pinch-it-into-a-dart thing, but this is so much better! I think I must have a giant neck though because my Anna didn’t need this…!


  10. Oh, fabulous, thanks for the tutorial! I shall bookmark it. I am finding lately, like in the Belladone bodice, that there is too much fabric in the back. But, I have actually very wide, footballer shoulders. So, it seems to be more of a narrow/thin back and likely narrow/thin front, as well, not being able to ‘fill out’ the back portion of the bodice. So, doing the narrow shoulder adjustments don’t work, but this one will!!


    • I’m starting to realize that because my shoulders are really rounded, the fabric sort of stands away from my body in the back. I had some extra fabric in the back with the Belladone dress, but I was afraid to remove all of the ease in case I couldn’t get the dress on!


      • Ah ok yes that would require more space through the back for you then. For me I’m invisible if I turn sideways 🙂 but have linebacker shoulders strictly in width. It’s funny because sometimes the more I learn about fitting and the issues (with sometimes horrific descriptive terms) the more I start to feel like a freak of nature even though I had no issues personally with my body prior to learning how to fit, LOL!


  11. Thank you for this. It is is pretty much what I did for my latest Anna, and a similar thing in the front and it worked a treat. I just wish you’d written this a couple of weeks ago and then I could have been lazy and read it instead of trying to figure it out for myself. I may also have thought to adjust the facing as well before trying to attach it and wondering why it didn’t fit 🙂


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  13. I did a different adjustment which seemed to work too. I drew in my back neck darts that I had been adding. The slashed the section out between the neck dart and waist dart – removing both… seems to have worked… I want to make it again – just in case I was on happy sewing drugs… or the drunk monkey was lying to me…
    I also lowered the back rather like the Elisalex – you know just because…


    • Hahaha, you could just scoop out the back and lose the offending area entirely! I’m ashamed to admit that I STILL haven’t made my Elisalex dress! That’s it– I’m giving myself a deadline! I need it made for holiday party season!


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  17. The Anna Dress pattern is on my cutting table. I usually do a round back adjustment. If that doesn’t work, I’ll use your tutorial. I think your tutorial is very clear. Thanks for the extra work that you did to share the information. Also, I’ll check out the sewalong. There’s an Anna Dress in my future!!


  18. Thank you – this is genius!! I adore this pattern and can’t wait to make it up, but I heard everyone else having issues with this and because I had a lot of back gaping problems on several Colette patterns, I have a hunch I’ll have it with this as well… I ended up just taking excess off the CB in the past, but that messes up the grainline, so your way is MUCH better – I’m looking forward to putting it to good use, thank you!!! 🙂


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  22. Had to read it a few times… but I get it now!!
    Too busy looking at the pics trying to figure it out, I missed the most crucial instruction: “Stop your line right before you get into the seam allowance on the underarm side (so, 5/8″ from the edge). Cut along this line.”

    I get it now!! I’ll definitely need this alteration. Thanks Sonja, you are a gem.


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  24. This is one of my top three posts for adjusting patterns in the never-ending search for that perfect fit. Thank you for addressing one of my biggest problems just as I was fiddling with the Anna muslin trying to eliminate that dreadful gap. My finished dress fits like a glove and I’ll be the most fashionable Grandma at our Christmas gathering.


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  27. How can this be the right solution when you have just changed the shoulder slope and not corrected it back to the proper slope?


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  30. Thank’s so much for this post! I used this adjustment to correct neckline bagginess on the front and back and it worked a treat.


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