Darts are a garment construction detail that is not used today as much in mass retail as they were in decades past. Part of this is because of the widespread use of knitted fabrics and elastic fibers in apparel. However, if you ever owned a tailored suit, white dress shirt, or evening gown, you've seen a dart.
What Exactly is a Dart?
A dart is a fold of fabric sewn into a garment to provide shape at curves like the bust or sometimes the elbow.
Why Are Darts Needed?
Darts are needed mainly for garments made from woven fabrics that do not have added elastic threads in it. Woven fabrics have no stretch or give to them, unless they are cut on the bias. Since there is no stretch, woven fabrics cannot be molded over the shape. So areas of stress or curve like the bust, hips, waist, and elbow tend to have too much fabric or ease in those areas. Darts take in that ease and help to mold the fabric over these curvier shapes. Darts are almost exclusively used in women’s apparel.
How Are Darts Sewn?
There are different styles of darts. On the reverse side of fabric, where you see all of the seams, a plain dart looks like a right triangle sewn into the garment. Before the dart is sewn, its placement on the garment looks like an isosceles triangle outlined on the reverse side of the fabric. It has a wide base and long sides coming to a point.
When the two sides of the triangle are brought together, they are pinned in place. Now you see the fold of fabric on the reverse side. When you sew the dart, you will sew along the drawn line of one of the sides, joining the two sides together. When you flip the fabric to the right or face side, that dart you sewed will look like a line. There are other steps needed to help secure the stitching and reduce bulk.
This is the basic gist of what a dart is in (almost) plain English. It is a bit more technical that this explanation. This is just to give you a basic understanding of what a dart is and how it works to help give the clothing you wear its fit.
Main Image Credit: By kellyhogaboom [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons