A Different Kind of Waist Stay

I mentioned the other day that this pattern, McCalls 7743, has a waist stay built into the dress. It’s constructed in a different way than the method I picture when I think ‘waist stay’ so I wanted to show you how it was done.

It’s really quite smart, you sew seam binding into the skirt’s waistline seam, edge-stitching the top and bottom so it’s nice and strong, and then when the bodice and skirt are sewn together, there’s a stable, thick waistline seam in there to accentuate the waistline and strengthen that area of the garment. This is what I love about vintage sewing patterns, there’s always a few little gems in there, construction methods that we don’t see that often in simple modern sewing patterns.

waistline stay in mccalls 7743

If you have a dress with a waistline seam, you could add this to your project too!

Here’s how it’s done. First cut a length of seam binding according to the guide. The guide is basically the measurement of the skirt’s waistline, if you are adding this to a different pattern. Or, if you think the waistline needs to be a little tighter, cut it the length you want the waistline to be, plus seam allowance on each side.

pin seam binding to waistline

Sew the skirt pieces together, and pin the seam binding to the top edge of the waistline. Baste in place. (I think I skipped basting and went right to sewing it permanently.)

Now, edgestitch both the upper and lower edges of the seam binding. These two rows of stitching help to strengthen the waistline, as adding topstitching adds stiffness. Sewing it to both sides makes it strong and keeps one side from stretching out. This seam allowance doesn’t get trimmed, we’ve sewn the binding to the seam allowance and it’s going to stay that wide.

edgestitch both sides of seam binding to form waist stay

Now, sew the bodice to the skirt, along the seamline. The seamline is going to be right where the seam binding ends. Here’s what it will look like when it’s sewn. I’m glad I have contrast stitching to show you!

seam binding waist stay

Here is what it looks like as we sew up the lining:

seam binding waist stayIt’s going to be hidden between the layers, nothing more fancy than a strong, untrimmed allowance reinforced with binding. Our waistline will never stretch out but it won’t be too restrictive either.

A step back, looking at the same thing as the last photo:

seam binding waist stay, hidden in the dress lining

And that’s it! It’s completely hidden in the inner workings of the dress.

What do you think of this method? Does it count as a ‘waist stay’ in your opinion? Have you ever seen this type of construction in a sewing pattern before?

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37 Responses to A Different Kind of Waist Stay

  1. Linda May 10, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    I have never learned of this technique, but I sure am happy that you have shared it. It is an easy, effective way to keep the waist in place and stabilzed to prevent it from stretching out….thank you for passing on this great tip.

  2. Katherine May 10, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    That looks like a really useful tool to have in one’s sewing arsenal! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Frances May 10, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Hi Tasia, I realise seam binding is not the same as bias binding, so I googled a bit, but from the results it’s still not 100% clear. Is it just binding that is cut on grain? In this part of the world (Cape Town) we don’t get ready-packaged “Seam Binding” so I’d just like some clarity so I can improvise by making my own. Thanks!

  4. Vanessa May 10, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    Oooh! I’m going to try that in my next dress. Very clever. Thanks for sharing this technique!

  5. lisa g May 10, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    oooh that’s really smart. great tip!

  6. Diane @ Vintage Zest May 10, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    At first I was thinking, “Yep, this is going to be another sewing technique that’s over my head,” but you explained it beautifully!

    I guess with this method, there’s no cheating on your waist measurement or your diet!

  7. Jessica May 10, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    That’s pretty slick! I haven’t seen it before, either.

  8. Michelle May 10, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    Ooo! I like that! I love a clean finish.

  9. PendleStitches May 10, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I’m also thinking this would be a great treatment encased in a waistband to stabilise the waist of skirts and trousers.

  10. Natalie May 10, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    I use StayTape for all my skirts… instead of a facing. I like how it stretch out and I may try this.

  11. Nothy May 10, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    What a smart idea! I wonder if this trick was more common then and has just fallen out of fashion or if it was an unusual trick even back then?

  12. maddie May 10, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    I haven’t seen this type of waist application but it’s a neat trick. That’s exactly why I love vintage things/patterns – they have hidden gems. What’s interesting, and indicative of the time, is that this wouldn’t even have been seen – it’s hidden under the lining!

  13. Tasha May 10, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Thanks for showing all the pictures of this! I was confused for a second at the end but realized you’re lining it. A couple of times I’ve done kind of the lazy version of this (it was long enough ago that I can’t fully recall if the vintage pattern instructed me to do it like this or I didn’t understand the instructions, as it was over a year ago): you sew the skirt and bodice together, and then sew in the seam binding close to the stitching line. But it’s not as neat of a finish as this! I’m definitely going to try this next time. :)

  14. Linda Steaples May 10, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I was just thinking that last night, my mom & both grandma’s sewed every weekend and they taught me & my sister to sew I am doing a dress just like you describe and I remembered how to do this in a dream. I am now as I type fixing to do it and my phone beeped we’re having a thunder storm so I checked to see if it was hubby and it’s your email… To me that’s GOD SENDING ME GUARDIAN ANGEL(MOM&MAWMAW&GAMA) TO MY SIDE!!!!! SO thanks for being part of my everyday life…. Love Linda Lee

  15. RebeccaHoward May 10, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    That’s a great tip. I think I might try it on a skirt as well, it could be just tucked under the facing at the waistline. My non waistband skirts stretch out no matter what I do! Interfacing, stay stitching whatever. I usually finish up by putting a bit of elastic in the top. Not the most elegant solution. I have some hug snug seam binding that might work for this. Thanks Tasia.

  16. Alessa May 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Cool stuff! I’ll have to keep it in mind.

  17. Amanda May 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    This is such a great tip and tutorial – thanks so much! As always, love seeing your personal projects and reading your fantastic tips. :)

  18. Anna May 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    Thanks for the tip. I’m a little confused, though – do the two lines of edge stitching show on the outside (right side) of the garment?

    • Tania May 11, 2013 at 1:46 am #

      Anna, the two lines of edgestitching are both inside the seam allowance at the top of the skirt pieces; the bodice is attached afterwards so that all these seamlines won’t be visible on the outside of the garment. Genius idea, isn’t it? I will definitely use this on my next waistline. Thank you, Tasia.

    • Nancy May 11, 2013 at 4:39 am #

      it is sewn within the seam allowance – I think

  19. Nancy May 11, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    This is really great and thanks for sharing and explaining in wonderful detail. That helps ever so much. I will be doing this because that area takes a lot of wear and I have had stitches to come apart – this will help stabilize this area so much.

  20. Candace Duffy Jones May 11, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    My mother bought a fabric shop and sent me a bunch of old (some even vintage) sewing notions, including seam binding. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but this tutorial is great and now I will be using in all my dresses, especially ones with a full skirt.

  21. Rebecca May 11, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    I luv it! Thank u! To me personally there is nothing more annoying than a traditional ribbon waist stay so thank u!!

  22. Kerry May 11, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Really neat, I like how it is concealed

  23. Kris May 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Oh, I love it! Definitely something I need to do on my next woven skirt.

  24. Pauline May 12, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    That looks like a very neat technic, I’ll be sure to try it on my next dress project. Thanks for showing us this beautiful dress pattern Tasia.

  25. Ginger May 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    I found this technique in another vintage McCall’s pattern (5995, from the early ’60’s), and it really works beautifully!

  26. Amanda May 13, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    This is so clever, and looks very easy! I actually have two rolls of seam binding sitting around, and I’m DEFINITELY going to try this with the next dress I make!! Thanks so much for explaining this to us – sometimes even the MODERN sewing patterns have pictures I don’t understand, and it helps to see someone demonstrate the how-tos through pictures. :) (I’m referring to the Big 4 – your patterns are always so clear!!)

  27. Nadia Lewis May 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Great tip!

  28. Helen May 30, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    I’m a costume student, and we both make costumes, and manage our schools costume stores. Between these, I’ve seen something similar to this in some of our costumes – ballet costumes in particular seem to have a similar stay in the waist – as my teachers have put it, ballet costumes have to be very firm so they don’t move when the girls are picked up.

  29. Neeno - Sew Me Love October 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    I prefer your waist stay method – with the hook. I feel more secure knowing that the hook is there to take some pressure off the zipper.


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