bust darts – up or down?

How do you prefer to press side bust darts – do you press them upwards, or do you press them down?

I was taught to press them upwards, the theory being they were less noticeable from the outside. I don’t usually sew commercial patterns, but I notice the vintage ones I’ve sewn recently all indicate to press the darts down in their instructions, and I can’t think of any reason for doing it this way – any suggestions?  

I’ve taken a couple of photos of my current project with one pressed up and one pressed down.  Which one looks better  – left or right?

I prefer the one on the left which is slightly less obvious – in comparison, the one on the right looks like it needs a better press!

Now guess which one is which…..

The one on the left is pressed upwards, and the one on the right is pressed downwards.  From eye level you look into the ‘ditch’ of the dart pressed down, whereas the ‘ditch’ is partially obscured by fabric when it is pressed up and so is less noticeable.

I admit the difference isn’t exactly major in this thin cotton poplin, photographed in low contrast lighting, and from a near horizontal viewpoint.  If the fabric was thicker, in contrasting lighting, and viewed from eye level the difference would be even more noticeable!

So my ‘experiment’ proves my theory, and I will stick to pressing my bust darts upwards for aesthetic reasons!

If you want to make the switch be aware that your pattern will be drafted for the dart to press downwards.  It is simple to alter – just add a piece of paper to the seam allowance of your pattern around the base of your dart, fold the dart as if it is sewn and pressed upwards, and trim the excess paper off the side seam.  You need to do this so you don’t end up with mismatching raw edges like this:

A no-no!

So now you know my angle on this!  Which way do you prefer – up or down?  And more importantly – why?

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I'm a designer/patternmaker who loves to share my sewing knowledge with others! Follow me as I sew my personal projects, sharing my favourite tricks of the trade along the way.

28 thoughts on “bust darts – up or down?

  1. What timing. I just read about this topic in the Singer book “Perfect Fit”. I always pressed darts down because that was how I was taught and I never questioned it. In the SInger book, they suggest that the dart pressed upward gives the impression of a higher, more youthful bustline. Guess who is switching her habit:) Mine are going up from now on!
    ha ha
    Actually, I guess it is good to look and see what you prefer, as you have done.

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  2. I have always pressed mine down too! Thanks for showing us the difference. I think the pressed-down approach is so it doesn't get caught on your undergarments? Pressed up, the dart fold might get stuck on your bra.. maybe? Either way, it's good to think about *why* we do things and know that there might be a better way!

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  3. A picture makes the point, so to speak. I too am changing how I press my darts now that I've seen your pictures….and I'm all for the youthful bustline that was mentioned;-)

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  4. Thanks for raising this topic! As a beginner I often question myself every step and wonder what would happen if I did it differently. It´s great to read your clever thoughts on this things.

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  5. I've always pressed upwards because I thought that looked better, but until you pointed out the fact that you're looking into the ditch I'd never analysed why it looked better. I've never paid much attention to instructions anyway!

    Thanks for (yet again) making me think about WHY I do something a certain way. I always like to know the “why”.

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  6. I've always pressed them down because that's how I was taught and that's how pattern instructions tell you to do it. But I might experiment with going upwards for a change ….!

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  7. I read in some book, that the direction depends on the fullness of the bust. I think it was press up if you're full, press down if you're not, so it adds a smidge of fullness. But I could be wrong, LOL.

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  8. Hi Sherry, I just found your blog, it's great! I've always struggled with getting clothes to fit me properly, whether I buy then or make them myself so I'll be watching your tricks of the trade with interest.

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  9. I'm poking around on the web for tips to use as I convert a men's XXL tee shirt into something more wearable for my 1X body. Found your items to be most helpful. Thanks for posting all these wonderful tips. If my machine weren't 80 years old I might try a few more of them! (My mom always re-used yarn from old sweaters.)

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  10. Wonderful post and with the addition of the comments above, this is pretty high up in my list of the most interesting/useful sewing blog posts ever.

    Any thoughts on in which direction to press contour darts? My Bible (Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing) says inwards, my sewing tutor says outwards. I think inwards creates the illusion of a slimmer waist, which presumable most of us would favour. What does the trade think?

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  11. Hi Marianna, I press contour darts and other vertical darts inwards, however I have come across a colleague who pressed them outwards. My theory for pressing inwards is the same – the 'ditch' is less visible from the front/back view.

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  12. Hi Sherry,
    I am very late to this post because I am searching for the “correct” direction to press darts as I will be teaching a pattern making class in the Fall. Basically horizontal bust darts are normally pressed UP in production because the “roof” of the dart is more shallow than if it is pressed DOWN-meaning, in theory, better fabric consumption. I also agree that when they are pressed up they are a little less visible. Home sewing patterns are made to be pressed down. As for vertical darts, I've always pressed them toward CF but have been reading lately that pressing them toward the side seams creates a smoother line by putting the bulk at the side of the body instead of at the front. Perhaps the fabric consumption idea is at work here too.

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