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Adding a Side Seam Gusset

Sometimes, bad things happen to good costumers. Like, your sister is throwing an 80’s party the next evening and you bomb out finding anything that can be mangled into some reasonable approximation of Cyndi Lauper so-unusual-excellence, and every bit of vintage you can find is a size 4. Now, that’s maybe not to traumatic if you actually are a size 4. I wouldn’t know, because as it turns out, my left thigh is a size 4. But I found the jacket of my dreams, and it was merely 4 or 5 sizes to small. What’s a girl to do? Gussets. Gussets will save you here.

Fortunately, yon jacket came with a skirt that was utterly, tragically useless to me as a skirt… But perfect as a source of matching fabric.  Here’s the general process:

80's jacket, ready for mutilation
Oh, gawd, the 80s…. The terrible, terrible 80s, when fashion wandered between merely conflicted, and actively at war with itself. This is the miniature jacket of my desires.
sides ripped
I’ve ripped up the side seams and sleeve to about elbow level.

When you’re doing a massive addition at the side of a garment, it’s a good idea to fade it out into the sleeve. If you don’t, you  have to fade it out by the armscye, and often you need to expand the chest and shoulder with this level of surgery. (Because otherwise the armscye will be bigger than the sleeve head. Trust me.)  You can still do this alteration if the side seam of the body and the sleeve seam don’t line up, but it requires more careful cutting and sewing.

I need to add a bare minimum of 6″ into this garment. Since I plan to eat the day of the party, 7″ will be slightly better. 7″ divided in two gives me 3.5″ gussets. The original garment has 1/4″ seam allowances, so each gusset is a convenient 4″ wide.

Skirt as fabric
I’ve ripped the skirt up the center back seam, and detatched it from it’s teensy-weensy-darted-in-front-elasticated-in-back waist. I’ve also marked my cutting lines and center lines.
gusset strips
The center line of the gusset strips will help me fade the gussets evenly into the sleeve seam.
pinning the gusset
I’m pinning the gusset to the front side, with right sides together.
fading gusset out in sleeve
I want the end of the sleeve portion of the gusset to be on the center line I drew earlier. Once I have the armscye pinned, I start angling towards the center of the gusset so it is a gradual fade.
When I sew, I’m following the existing stitch holes from the original seam. (I’m coming up from the gusset’s arm fade here.
slight waist decrease
I’ve allowed the gusset to follow the waist curve of the jacket slightly. This gives me a slightly tighter fit at the waist.

The original dimensions of the jacket were 36″ at the bust and 29″ at the waist – like most of the 80s, it was cut for the other side of the fruit bowl. I have a curvier figure, so I needed more at the bust than the waist anyway. If you need more at the waist than the bust, don’t follow the waist curve on the gusset. Keep everything lined up edge to edge.

To finish the gusset, you’ll want to do the exact same thing to the other side.

You want the stitch lines at the arm seam to fade into each other at a point, even with the existing sleeve seam and with no puckers.

Then you need to do the same thing on the other side of the garment.

As a side note, I hear the 80s are coming back. I am terrified. For those of you trendy young things who either a) don’t realize why the 80s were a bad idea the first time and just need someone to guide you, or b)  you won’t believe me that it was a bad idea and you really want to know how to spot a real live remnant of the 80s at thrift, here are two key signs:

80s shoulder pad
Does the garment contain a shoulder pad that is a solid inch thick at the center and permanently curved around the shoulder and top of arm? Good odds it’s from the 80s.
details that don't agree
Do the design elements seem at war with each other? Like, does it combine a craze miniature leopard print organic element with a bold strip of the same color, but without the print?
most amazingly psychotic print ever
Is it made of a print that can only be explained by experimental drug usage? (The fabric is literally a remnant of the 80s. I’m making a shirt as a gag gift for a friend. Note how the border fails to make any sense with the body of the print. My poor young fashion kids were mystified and offended, but couldn’t look away. Oh, the 80s… The terrible, terrible 80s.)
wearing the jacket
So how wrong is it that I am actually slightly in love with the finished jacket? It’s so … so … Well, I don’t even know what. It’s so wrong and so horrible and so utterly fabulous! Also, you can do 80s model pose in it and look like a stick. It’s the peblum.

And I have finally achieved my preteen dream of wearing a size 4. You can diet, or you can cheat. ;)


  1. Laura
    Laura March 23, 2013

    LOVE that jacket! Nice to see you back!

    • missa
      missa April 5, 2013

      I wish I *was* back! I am working on un-burying myself….

  2. Colures
    Colures March 24, 2013

    I feel totally dorky and normally hate anything 80s, but that jacket is absolutely awesome!

    I’m honestly kind of curious what it would look like on top of a full parlor skirt.

  3. Jaquelinne
    Jaquelinne March 27, 2013

    Now you just need some fingerless lace gloves and some enormous hoop earrings. <3

  4. Margarete Jones
    Margarete Jones April 14, 2018

    What a joyous tutorial. I learned how to insert a gusset with cleverness and a lot of humor, thank you

    • missa
      missa April 14, 2018

      Glad to help, Margaret!

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