MN2005 Matilda / Sewalongs

Matilda Sewalong: Lengthening & Shortening

Matilda Lengthen Shorten

In today’s post, we are delving into the world of lengthening & shortening adjustments because guess what – bodies can come in different proportions as well as different sizes! Meaning that while someone’s measurements might fit a specific size, the different lengths and shape of their body parts can still be different to the block a pattern is drafted on.

We’ve shown the diagrams for these adjustments on the Matilda Curve pattern pieces as the bust shaping on the pattern pieces is more pronounced, but the exact same alterations can be made on the 0-20 version of Matilda as well. For the same adjustments on the 0-20 pattern, you likely won’t have to be as specific about the placement of your lengthen and shorten lines as the 0-20 bust shaping is less significant than the Curve, so the risk of distorting the bust curve is a lot lower. Apart from that though, we’re all in the same boat, so let’s get started!

Deciding To Lengthen or Shorten

You might be wondering – is this the post for me? Do I need to make these adjustments? And the first step of figuring that out is to know where Matilda is designed to sit on the body – that way you can compare the pattern or a toile to your body to see if the pattern needs any tweaks to make it perfect for you!

Matilda’s bust notch is designed to be aligned with the fullest part of your bust. Getting this lined up right is a bit more important for Curve sewers because the D-cup draft of the bodice means the curve of the bust is more dramatic and a lot more specific about where it wants to sit. If your full bust isn’t in the same place as the pattern, making some of the adjustments we’re covering today is going to help you have a more comfortable and better-looking fit.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Matilda Sewalong: Lengthening & Shortening - Matilda's Design

Now for the waistband – Matilda is actually designed for the bottom of the waistband to sit on your waist or where the narrowest part of your torso is, as the waistband is actually wider at the top than the bottom! If your waist is higher than the draft, your bodice is going to feel too long and might spill over the waistband that’s wanting to sit on your waist that’s higher up. If your waist is lower than the pattern, your waistband is going to be above your narrowest point and potentially encroaching on your bust’s territory. Either way, it’s not what you want and can be fixed by shifting the waist position with a lengthening or shortening adjustment.

Finally, let’s look at Matilda’s hem. The style is designed to sit between the knee and the calf, but depending on your proportions it might hit you higher or lower than that. Luckily length isn’t quite as make and break as bodice & waist fit and also has a lot more to do with your personal preference. At the end of the day, this is your dress so it can be whatever length you like!!

Now we know whether we need to lengthen or shorten, we can get started on how to do it!

Matilda Curve

Altering the waist position

If your torso is longer or shorter than the blocks that Matilda & Matilda Curve were drafted on, you may find that the waistband isn’t sitting in the right place. Not to worry though, we can remedy this by lengthening or shortening the bodice below the bust shaping. This means drawing a line horizontally across your bodice pattern pieces before cutting them completely through. Make sure to draw your lengthen or shorten line above the seam allowance of the waist though and to make the adjustment in the same place on all bodice pieces.

If you need more length you’ll then spread the pieces by however much you need to add and if you need to shorten, you’ll overlap them by however much you need to remove. Move the pieces directly up or down so they remain in the same alignment and so the gap or overlap is even across the whole piece.  When you’re happy with their new position you can use tape or glue to hold them in place (with extra paper underneath for lengthening adjustments). Depending on the size of your adjustment you may need to smooth out the curves of your pattern piece edges, adding to or trimming any bits that don’t align with the new shape. And voila! You’ve got yourself a waist in the exact right position for you!

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Matilda Sewalong: Lengthening & Shortening - Adjusting The Waist Position

Altering both the Bust & the waist positions

If you find that both your waist AND your bust aren’t sitting in the right spot, that’s ok, we can make a slightly different adjustment to hit two birds with one stone! The lengthen or shorten line you’ll need to draw is a bit of a usual one as we’re going to sneakily dodge the armscye! That way we won’t mess with the sleeve or sleeve band. The line needs to be at an angle so it doesn’t disturb the bust shaping and so it sits below the seam allowance of the armscye. When we move out cut pieces (still keeping it aligned and even across the whole line) we are moving both the bust and the waist up or down.

If your waist is further up or down than where your bust needs to be, you may also need to cut another lengthen or shorten line under the bust shaping like the one we discussed in the earlier section. Don’t forget to smooth out your lines and keep things as smooth as possible. We don’t want any random bulges in strange places!

In terms of positioning for the lengthen/shorten lines on your other bodice pieces, you can do a similar diagonal cut line for the side back piece as you have for the side front and you can slash your bodice front and back pieces horizontally in approximately the same place that the diagonal lines of the side pieces meet the princess seam stitch line.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Matilda Sewalong: Lengthening & Shortening - Adjusting The Bust & Waist Position

Altering the Bust, Waist & Armscye positions

The purpose of our diagonal slash line above was to prevent any alterations to the armscye, but you might actually want to raise or lower the armhole of Matilda. In that case, you can slash across your bodice pieces above the bust shaping and armscye notches to then spread and overlap there. Of course, you’ll also need to make the corresponding alts to your sleeve bands or sleeve by slashing or spreading them to match the bodice adjustments. Altering the sleeve can be a bit tricky as matching the sleeve circumference to the altered armscye circumference isn’t as straightforward as for the sleeve bands, so it’s definitely worth toiling after you make your changes to check they have worked out as intended. This is especially the case for large alts that can end up distorting the sleeve head and the fit for your shoulder – because no one wants an uncomfortable sleeve!

Adjusting just the Bust position

Bust points are one of those things that can change so dramatically not only between people but between either side of one body! They can depend on which bra you might be wearing, they can change with age and can be in different spots at different points of hormonal cycles. If you find that the waist position is spot on for you but the fullest part of your bust isn’t in line with the bust notches, you can use the cut lines from the above adjustment but instead of only adding or taking, you can do a little giveth & taketh away in the two different spots to change the bust shaping but maintain the overall bodice length.

If you’re needing a lower bust point but like the position of the waist, you’ll spread along your diagonal line and overlap an equal amount along your horizontal line under the bust shaping. And of course, you’ll do the opposite if the waist is great but your full bust is sitting higher than the pattern’s shaping – overlapping above the bust on your diagonal line and spreading the same amount on the horizontal line below, bringing the waist back down to the original length.

Because we aren’t wanting to change the overall length of the bodice, just the bust position, this is a front-only adjustment and only needs to happen on the front and side front pieces. The higher cut line on the front piece should be approximately in the place that the horizontal line meets the princess seam on the side front, and the lower cut line should align with your side front’s one below the bust shaping.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Matilda Sewalong: Lengthening & Shortening - Adjusting The Bust Position

Adjusting the Skirt length

Moving on from the bodice, another section of the body that can vary greatly is leg length! We often get asked what height our patterns are drafted for and it’s not something we can give a simple response to as body & leg proportions play a much larger role in garment fit than overall height. Because of this we usually give the garment length measurements which is going to give you a better idea of where the finished length is going to hit on your body specifically. Matilda is intended to sit around shin length, finishing just below the knee, but at the end of the day, it can be as long or short as you want it to be! It’s your garment, so you’re the boss. If when you hold the measuring tape against yourself you find the finished garment measurement isn’t right for you, it’s time to make a skirt length adjustment!

One possible method of making these adjustments is to slash & spread or slash & overlap your skirt pieces. It’s a completely valid way of making the change, but it does also alter the hip ease of the skirt, so a simpler way is to simply add or remove from the original hemline. When I make this adjustment I like to use my measuring tape or a little cardboard strip template of the specific measurement I’m wanting to change and just scoot around the hem curve making little pencil markings as I go. I then can just play dot to dot to redraw the new hem. If you’re shortening, this new line will of course be above the original hem on the pattern piece and if you’re lengthening it will be on a big piece of extra paper you’ve attached to your pattern piece so you can draw your extension.

Just one extra note before we finish up though – something that I learn early as a young sewer (after a few length disasters) is that it’s easier to make things shorter later on than to try and add to a skirt you’ve accidentally cut too short! So take that into consideration when you’re thinking of chopping off any huge amounts before you’ve had a chance to properly see it on your own body.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Matilda Sewalong: Lengthening & Shortening - Adjusting The Skirt Length

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Matilda Sewalong: Lengthening & Shortening - Adjusting The Skirt LengthAnd that’s it! The end of our lengthening & shortening adventure. I hope the methods and tips we’ve talked about can help you get that perfect fitting Matilda you’ve been dreaming of!

Naomi xx

How to lengthen or shorten the Matilda dress pattern


Here’s the full list of Matilda posts and tutorials:

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About Author

Naomi is the Design Assistant here at Megan Nielsen Patterns, and our resident helping hand. She stays busy assisting Meg with pattern development leg work, getting super excited about good instructional diagrams and making green coloured fabric suggestions for every sample we make. She’s a problem solver, a fabric addict, a serial tea-forgetter and a passionate maker.

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Christine Chung
Christine Chung
2 years ago

Hi Naomi and Megan Nielsen Team,

I was wondering where you would feel is the best spot on the Matilda pattern to modify the bodice (front, back and sleeve cap) to shorten the bodice between the shoulder and bottom of the armscye. I am petite in height at 148cm and always have excess fabric in the bodice.


Anne Baughan
Anne Baughan
2 years ago

Thanks for this!! Any advise for how to do a wide back/ broad shoulder adjustment with the princess seams and yoke in the back bodice please. Kind regards.

2 years ago
Reply to  Anne Baughan

Hi Anne!

This is a great question, and we’ve actually decided to dedicate a blog post to it next week with very comprehensive diagrams. To answer your question in general, I would add to the back princess seams above the notches and slash and spread the back yoke by the same amount. For the front you could do the same alt if you are noticing strain across the front above bust. But if the strain is only on the back – then I would slash the front yoke and pivot so the shoulder would match the back, but no addition would be made to chest front. I hope that makes sense – and keep an eye out for next weeks tutorial!

Katie R
Katie R
2 years ago


I’ve shortened by bodice by about 4.5 cm should I look at repositioning the button placement?

2 years ago
Reply to  Katie R

Hi Katie!

Yes if you have shortened the bodice you will need to reposition the buttons. I would recommend placing a button at the bust apex (in line with the bust dart) and on the waistband. Once you have placed these you can decide if you need an additional button in between waist and bust. Then you can measure out the distance between these buttons and space the rest of the buttons consistently across the rest of the placket. I hope that helps!