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Georgia Dress Sewalong #3: Full & small bust adjustments (FBA & SBA)

Happy Monday Sewalongers! Is there such a thing as a 'happy Monday'...?! Well, there is when the sun is shining and you've got a knockout Georgia Dress in the works - so without further ado...

Today we will be:

  • Talking about the importance of making a toile/muslin
  • Explaining cup sizes in dressmaking (not your bra size!)
  • Showing you how to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)
  • Showing you how to do a Small Bust Adjustment (SBA)

And you will need:

  • A tape measure
  • The bodice centre front and side front pieces from the Georgia Dress pattern
  • Pens & paper
  • Some scrap fabric to toile your bodice (as close in weight and stretch to your chosen fabric as possible)
  • A ruler
  • Sellotape
  • Paper scissors
  • Extra pattern paper

*To be taken to all the posts in the Georgia Dress Sewalong, please click here*

Making a toile

Boring and time consuming as it may sound, with a figure hugging dress such as the Georgia, it is vital to make a toile before you get going with your main fabric. You'd be forgiven for foregoing this part with a more easy going shape, like the Victoria Blazer maybe, but not this one guys. Nothing worse than a slinky, sexy dress that fits all wrong! Think puckering seams, bumpy boobs and lumps in all the wrong places... Convinced? OK!

In our last post, we talked you through grading the skirt panels to accommodate various waist and hip ratios to ensure a dress that perfectly hugs your figure. We'll have yet another opportunity to fit the skirt panels when we get to sewing them up, but the bodice can be a little tricker to fit, requiring a little more technical know-how to get the best results.

On measuring ourselves, we found that both myself (Elisalex) and Charlotte have a 33" full bust. Interesting, as physically we appear pretty different. So we made up a size UK8 bodice in our scrap fabric (this is our toile) and both tried it on...

How the toile looked on Charlotte:

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand london

How the toile looked on me:

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand london

As you can see (and bearing in mind that we used a pretty gross, crunchy fabric for our toile!), the bodice fit me pretty well, but seemed too big on Charlotte - notice the excess ripples of fabric distorting the shape at the bust points. But if we both have a 33" bust, how is it possible that the same size fits us so differently? This is where the High Bust measurement comes in...

Finding your cup size (not your bra size!)

By looking a the relationship between our Full Bust and High Bust measurements, we can determine our cup size. Please note, this will most likely be different to your bra size. Sewing patterns are drafted to a B cup (again, nothing to do with your bra size), so if your bust is larger or smaller, it will affect the way a pattern fits you. If your high bust is smaller than your full bust by...

 

Up to 1" - A cup (you will need an SBA - Small Bust Adjustment)

Up to 2" - B cup (all fine! No adjustments needed here)

Up to 3" - C cup (you will need an FBA - Full Bust Adjustment)

Up to 4" - D cup (you will need an FBA - Full Bust Adjustment)

Up to 5" - DD cup (you will need an FBA - Full Bust Adjustment)

 

What we found when taking our high bust measurements was that Charlotte's is 32" (1" smaller than her 33" full bust), making her an A cup and in need of a Small Bust Adjustment, whereas mine is 31" (2" smaller than my 33" full bust), making me a B cup, and needing no adjustments. So, despite both of us having the same full bust measurement, our cup sizes are different, and therefore the size UK8 bodice fits us differently.

Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)

For this demonstration, we're going to assume that you have a C cup - that your high bust is up to 3" less than your full bust measurement. To increase the cup by one size (given that the bodice is drafted to a B cup), we need to add 1" of extra volume to the cups, therefore adding 1/2" to each individual cup

Step 1:

  • Start by taking your bodice centre front and bodice side front pattern pieces. Use your high bust measurement to choose your "size".
  • Identify the Apex - this is the fullest part of your bust, basically your nipple. Mark this point at the curve of both pattern pieces (fig. 1).
  • Now draw a line from the apex out to the side seam/centre front seam (fig. 1).

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand london

Step 2:

  • Cut along the marked line, from the curve and out to the side seam/centre front seam, being careful to stop just before the side seam/centre front seam. This will be your hinge to enable you to open out the curve and create more space in your cup.
  • Lay your pattern pieces onto another sheet of pattern paper. Open up the curve by 1/2" on both centre front and side front pieces, thereby elongating the curve and increasing the cup's volume (fig. 2). Stick the pattern pieces securely down onto the sheet of paper.

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand london

Step 3:

  • Straighten out the side seam/centre front seam and draw a curve to close the gap where you enlarged the cup (fig. 3). 
  • Cut out your new bodice pattern pieces.

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand london

Small Bust Adjustment (SBA)

For this demonstration, we're going to assume that you have an A cup - that your high bust is up to 1" less than your full bust measurement. To decrease the cup by one size (given that the bodice is drafted to a B cup), we need to remove 1" of excess volume from the cups, therefore removing 1/2" from each individual cup.

Step 1:

  • Start by taking your bodice centre front and bodice side front pattern pieces. Use your full bust measurement to choose your "size".
  • Identify the Apex - this is the fullest part of your bust, basically your nipple. Mark this point at the curve of both pattern pieces (fig. 1).
  • Now draw a line from the apex out to the side seam/centre front seam (fig. 1).

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand london

Step 2:

  • Cut along the marked line, from the curve and out to the side seam/centre front seam, being careful to stop just before the side seam/centre front seam. This will be your hinge to enable you to open out the curve and create more space in your cup.
  • Overlay the the top half of the pattern pieces by 1/2", thereby shortening the curve and reducing the volume. Stick into place along the cut line (fig. 2).

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand london

Step 3:

  • Straighten out the side seam/centre front seam and smooth out the curve where you overlaid (fig. 3). 
  • Cut out your new bodice pattern pieces.

georgia dress sewalong - fba & sba - by hand londonNow that you've made your adjustments, it's still a good idea to quickly whip up another bodice toile - just to make sure that your altered pattern pieces are an improvement!

We really hope this post has helped to shed some light on the (unnecessarily) daunting task of pattern alteration, and we're sure you'll agree that it's so worth it for the end result! The fiddly bits are almost over folks, by the end of the week we'll be cutting and stitching all over the place... Until then, I'm off to take a mental bath, and maybe sew myself up a quick skirt or something to make up for all this technical talk!X
  • Elisalex de Castro Peake
  • AW 13-14dressGeorgia DressGeorgia Dress Sewalongpattern alterationSewalong

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