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Sewing alterations to shorten a long leotard bodice on a Latin dance costume.


Have you ever tried on a competition skate or dance costume that was too long in the body…. and then you wondered how to fix it?

Today’s blog features Kerry, one of our Sew Like a Pro™ members from the United Kingdom.

Our sewing and fitting topics today are:

    1. How to shorten a bodice that is too long for the new owner.
    2. Sewing alterations to make the dress have more bust support so the woman does not feel like her breasts will fall out the side.
    3. How many ruffles are in this skirt?


Kerry is a wonderful dressmaker who, since enrolling in the sewing school, has made beautiful ballroom dance dresses for her clients.  This adorable pink Latin dress you see here has a removable ruffle skirt.  To complete the ensemble, Kerry also made a removable ballgown skirt.  Perfect for a young teenager who dances both Latin and Standard!Youth Latin dance dress with ruffle skirt and back crisscross straps, made by Kerry Kouture in the United Kingdom. Kerry is a member of Sew Like A Pro™ sewing school.

Sometimes though, unusual things happen and we are given a Latin dance dress.  Really?  Yes, Kerry’s daughter’s ballroom dance instructor gave her this cool animal print competition dress you see below.

Why turn down an awesome free dance dress when it only needs a few fittings and moderate-difficulty alterations?

Animal print Latin Dancesport dress need sewing alterations to shorten a long leotard bodice and create better bust support.

Which brings us to the point of today’s blog post.

How can Kerry shorten the bodice of this Latin dance dress without changing the neckline or the ruffle skirt?

Kerry got her answers during one of my Sew Like a Pro™ Mentorship Coaching calls with the sewing school members.

Not very often do I publish these Q&A style coaching calls because, well, they are for members only.

These coaching sessions are part of the live, supplemental training I created to make my online dressmaker programs – the Complete Latin-Skate and Complete Ballgown Programs – as comprehensive as possible.

I want the sewing school members to get answers they need to continue making progress on their dresses.  Plus, it really fun hanging out with the sewing school members on Zoom!  I love being able to answer the members’ questions live and to see their dresses as they are being made.

I have been hosting these live coaching calls every ten to fourteen days since 2016 and it is still one of my favorite parts of running the sewing school.

Dancesport ballgown during a dress form fitting. Sew Like A Pro member Liddy is the dressmaker.

“Q&A coaching calls are so beneficial.  It gives us a chance to learn and gain knowledge from other members. Thank you, Teresa.”
Liddy in  Alberta, Canada

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In this Mentorship Coaching excerpt, Sew Like a Pro™ member Kerry had three questions about how to alter a ready-made Latin dance costume:

    1. How to shorten a bodice that is too long for the new owner?
    2. What alterations can she do to make the dress have more bust support?
    3. How is the flared skirt made?

Let's fix this Latin dance dress Kerry was given for free so she can sell it to a new owner who will love it!

NOTE: most members in the Sew Like A Pro™ school have made and sold enough costumes to more than pay for the tuition.  Click here to learn more about the dressmaker programs.


Kerry's dressmaker Q #1: shorten the leotard

"My daughter's old dance teacher had this Latin dress made professionally.  Recently she gave it to me to use because she no longer dances Latin.  She is really long in the body, so this dress is very long. Is there any way I can make it shorter in the body so other dancers can wear it?" 

Teresa's answer: The simplest way to shorten the bodice would be to cut the dress in the middle, where it is narrowest, and overlap the fabric.  You can overlap it until the pink strips meet each other.

Luckily this is a simple set of sewing alterations with not very many rhinestones to peel off so you can stitch it with the machine.  Or, you can remove less rhinestones and hand-stitch the overlapped area.

Question #2:  increase bust support

Okay, this was not really Kerry's question, but a dress fitting issue that Teresa noticed needs to be fixed.

The leotard needs to be re-shaped to better mold to the shape of the bra cups, which in turn will offer better bust support.

I suggest stitching elastic along the inside of the leotard from where you cut the middle to shorten it.  Continue the elastic all the way up under the armhole to the criss cross back straps.

The back strap look like they are old and stretched out of shape.  It is probably best to replace them to increase the re-sell value of this dress.  You can even use one long piece of elastic that goes from the criss cross strap, along the inside of the leotard, to the overlapped area at the tummy.

Hand stitch the elastic inside the dress about every 1cm, and you won't need to remove or replace any rhinestones.

Sew Like A Pro™ Dressmaker Tip:

If the bust area still feels too loose after adding the elastic under the pink fabric and replacing/tightening the back straps, then you can create bust darts under each breast to improve the shape and support.

Whether you hand stitch or machine stitch the darts, this unfortunately requires removing and replacing rhinestones,

How can you determine how many ruffles are in a Latin dance skirt?

Dressmaker Q #3: how is the skirt made?

Kerry said, "I love this skirt and want to know how to make it. I think the front is a circle but I can't work out the back."

Teresa's answer:  Determining the amount of ruffles to use on a skirt is the most difficult part of making a ruffle skirt.  Every fabric looks different and moves in a unique way, even when the same amount of circles are used.

For this animal print skirt, my guess is there are two circles in the back and two in the front, for a total of four full circles.

I think the skirt may have been straight across at some point in time and someone added an extra long godet panel to create the "tail".  That is a guess though since I cannot see it clearly in these photos.


For more details on how to shorten a long bodice and other fitting and sewing alterations, watch the video.



Did you enjoy watching this Mentorship Coaching excerpt?  Click here to watch another video featuring SLP™ member Lauren, who wants to use sequin appliqués on her new dress.


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If you enjoy my videos, please share this post with all your dancing, skating, sewing friends.

Thanks sew much,

Teresa Sigmon

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    4 replies to "How To Shorten A Bodice That Is Too Long"

    • Amanda

      Very useful tips particularly on how to add the elastic without removing the stones. Thanks

      • Teresa Sigmon

        Thanks for posting, Amanda! My sewing school has a LOT of information (sometimes so much information the students cannot find what’s they’re looking for.)

        However, I love it when my SLP members ask me questions that are not included in the sewing program! That’s the cool thing about the live Q&A calls.

        In the case of this clever elastic tip, since I don’t use that technique when making a new dress, I didn’t think to include it in the course. But now this elastic excerpt will be in the sewing school in the elastic bonus section 🙂

    • Michele

      I loved your instruction on adding the elastic from the new seam to the top.

      • Teresa Sigmon

        Thanks, Michele. Now that you’re a Sew Like A Pro™ member, you’ll get a million times more training than this! The sewing school has a LOT of information (sometimes so much information the students cannot find what’s they’re looking for.)

        The Q&A replays are a great resource for you to get extra training.

        It’s only been a few days you’ve been an SLP member, you’ll get the acquainted with the site and all the training. Right now, it may seem a little overwhelming because there is SEW much information! 🙂 You can always email or ask our SLP family if you have questions.

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