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What Is a Side Seam?

A side seam is the stitching that runs vertically down the sides of garments, joining the front and back panels. It's crucial for structure and fit, often dictating the silhouette of clothing. From sleek dresses to casual tees, the side seam's role is both functional and aesthetic. How does this hidden detail influence your favorite outfits? Explore with us.
Janis Adams
Janis Adams

A side seam is a seam in a garment placed strategically to fall at the side of the garment. Seams are a way of joining pieces of fabric together. Nearly every garment contains some type of seam, and most have more than one seam. A side seam should fall in the middle of the side of the leg, approximately at the location of the ankle bone or at the side of the upper body, continuing on to the middle of the under arm.

Due to the fact that people are not the same size from front to back, this type of seam seam does not always fall perfectly in the middle of the two sides. For the average person, the back of the garment needs to have a greater material allowance when determining where a seam should fall. However, given that not all people fall within what has been deemed average size, seam allowances range greatly depending on the size the completed garment will be. If these dimensions are not allowed for prior to sewing the seam, the seam of the garment will either pull to the front or to the back.

A side seam may include a zipper.
A side seam may include a zipper.

While there are a number of different types of seams, the most commonly used kind is the flat seam. The reason the flat seam is often chosen is because it creates the least bulk of material at the point the two pieces of fabric are joined. The flat seam is the least visible of all the different types of seams, so it is the most common choice for a side seam.

Side seaming is commonly used in knitting accomplished via the mattress stitch.
Side seaming is commonly used in knitting accomplished via the mattress stitch.

When making a garment, a seam is often the most difficult part of the garment to sew. A seam must not only accommodate the width and breadth of the person wearing the garment. By falling in the true middle, it also must withstand the movement of the wearer. For this reason, the stitching used to create a side seam is often a very tight stitch. This seam is also often where a zipper will appear within a garment.

A side seam is not only used in sewing, but it is also used in knitting. The most common stitch used for side seaming in knitting is the mattress stitch, which alleviates any added bulk. Whether sewing or knitting, it is important to have a flat seam.

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Discussion Comments


Oh, heck. I'd rather take a beating than hem a dress or skirt! There have been times I've made a skirt or dress and have completed it, except for the hem, and paid a seamstress $10 to do the hemming.

A properly hemmed garment looks good. A badly hemmed garment looks like a first grader got a hold of it. Hemming isn't difficult, but it is fiddly as all get out. The hem has to be flat and should make the skirt hang correctly. On trousers, it isn't such a big deal, unless you're talking about linen slacks or something. For a plain pair of knit pants or shorts, the hemming doesn't have to be perfect.


It depends on the side seam as to whether it's difficult to sew or not. If it's just a plain seam, putting two pieces of an A-line skirt together, say, or up the outside of a pair of shorts or casual slacks, it's no problem to do. Takes about five minutes.

Seams get tricky when you start talking about something like princess seams, which give shape to the front and/or back of a garment, bodice seams that attach the bodice of a dress to a skirt, inseams for slacks, seams that attach a waistband to a garment or sleeve seams. These are problematic, or can be. It depends on how experienced the sewer is. A good sewing machine can also help in this regard, and sometimes, basting something together by hand is the best solution for fitting a garment before putting in the final seams.

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    • A side seam may include a zipper.
      By: smuay
      A side seam may include a zipper.
    • Side seaming is commonly used in knitting accomplished via the mattress stitch.
      By: apelavi
      Side seaming is commonly used in knitting accomplished via the mattress stitch.