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Holly Jumpsuit Sewalong - Alterations week - part 4: Full Bust Adjustment (FBA), cowl bodice Variation 2

Hellooooo and welcome to Alterations Week for the Holly Jumpsuit Sewalong! During Alterations Week we will be going through as many pattern alteration tutorials as we can physically crush in, making this our most comprehensive Sewalong yet! The extra great news is that a lot of these tutorials will be applicable not only to the Holly Jumpsuit, but to a huge amount of other patterns too as we tackle most of the common issues surrounding pattern fitting. 

*To be taken to all the posts in the Holly Jumpsuit Sewalong, please click here!*

In this tutorial we'll be showing you how to do a Full Bust Adjustment to the cowl bodice of Variation 2. The technique is essentially the same as a basic FBA, with just a couple of extra simple steps at the end to rotate out the extra length we'll be creating at the side seam and waistline, which would usually be swallowed by a dart. Anyway, I don't want to confuse you before we've even begun, so let's get stuck in!

What you'll need:

  • Your traced Bodice Front piece of the Holly Jumpsuit (Variation 2, cut out in the size dictated by your waistline measurement).
  • Ruler
  • Pens
  • Paper scissors (not the fabric shears!)
  • Extra paper
  • Tape

Please note: We are using itty bitty replica's of the pattern pieces to illustrate the alterations as simply and clearly as possible - please make sure that you alter your real-life pattern pieces, complete with notches, pattern info and grainlines!

So how do I know if I need a Full Bust Adjustment?

There are a number of ways to determine whether or not you'll need to alter your bodice pattern, and by how much. The first thing to be asking yourself (and you probably already have if you're taking the time to read this post!) is how do your clothes - homemade or shop-bought - usually fit you? Do you find that dresses and tops squish down or flatten your tatas? Or is there room for an extra padded bra or two?! If you find that you're of the former, more boobalicious variety, you've come to the right place my friend. Now let's investigate further...

Some more tell-tale signs that an FBA is in order:

  • Your high bust measurement is more than 2" less than your full bust measurement (see this post on how to measure yourself)
  • Your full bust measurement falls into a larger size group than that of your waist measurement
  • Waistlines on dresses often ride up and sit higher than your natural waist (avoid the temptation to lengthen the bodice before determining if you need an FBA first)

Please note: When altering the cowl bodice of Variation 2 (which in your pattern tissue is given as one whole pattern piece to be cut on the bias; not the usual half a bodice to be cut on the centre front fold, for example), we only need to apply the alterations to one half of the bodice. To do this, simply fold your pattern piece in half down the centre front and trace off as normal. Apply your alterations as follows below. Then take another large, bodice-sized piece of paper, fold it in half, and aligning the centre front of your bodice piece with the fold in the paper, draw around your altered bodice (remember to transfer all markings and pattern info again!). When you cut it out and unfold your paper, you will be left with one whole bodice, with exactly the same alteration applied to each side.

Step 1 

We need to begin by marking out the apex (basically the nipple!). With a cowl neck bodice such as this, it can be a little trickier to pinpoint the apex, as there are no bust or waistline darts to help us! Your apex can be found approximately 4" from the centre front (although this will vary from gal to gal - have a little measure of your own bust separation, ie. measure from nipple to nipple, then divide by two and this will be how far out from the centre front your apex needs to be); and about an inch below the underarm, in the case of this sleeveless bodice.

We also need to mark out the seam line of the armscye, 5/8" or 15mm in from the edge of the armhole (shown in blue).

Step 2

To do the FBA, we're going to use the 'slash & spread' alteration method. Sounds a little creepy and murderous, I know, but slashing & spreading is basically just the technique of cutting along key lines through the pattern in order to open it up to allow more space for the ladies.

Draw a vertical line from the waistline up to the apex (red).

Draw a line from the side seam to the apex, using the image below as a guide (pink).

Draw a line from the middle of the armscye (from the seam line) to the apex (green).

Draw a horizontal line from the middle-ish point of the red line and out to the centre front (orange).

Step 3 

Cut upwards through the red line from the waistline, through the apex and along the green line ending at the armscye's seam line.

Now cut along the pink line from the side seam, ending just before the apex - do not cut all the way through it, we need the apex to be able to pivot.

Cut the horizontal orange line.

Finally, snip into the seam allowance at the armhole up to the green line, but not through it - this will be another pivot point.

Step 4 - The FBA

Take your slashed bodice and place it onto a spare piece of paper. 

We are now going to open up the apex by however much we need to increase the bust by.

For example, if your waistline measurement is 26" - and you have therefore cut a size UK8/US4, but your full bust measurement is 35" - and therefore 2" larger than that of a size UK8/US4, you will need to increase the apex by 1" to give you the 2" total extra space around the bust.

Spread out the bodice, pivoting at the armhole and apex. When you have opened up the apex by your desired amount, making sure that the vertical opening is even and parallel, tape it all securely down.

You'll notice that by slashing and spreading your bodice, the side seam will have become longer. Because of this, we now need to lengthen the centre front to match. Simply move the bottom right piece (where we cut horizontally along the orange line from the waistline dart out to the centre front) down, keeping the centre front perfectly vertical. Tape into place.

Almost there guys - we've done the bulk of the FBA, but we're left with a wider waistline and a longer side seam. Not cool.

Step 5

To eliminate the extra length at the waistline, we need to cut up the red line (the righthand half of the red line, if that makes sense!), stopping at the orange line. Now, imagining that the orange line extended across then entire width of the bodice, cut horizontally out to the side seam (of course, you could draw the orange line to extend the entire width of the bodice - which I probably should've done in order to illustrate this more clearly... duh!). You should now have a rectangular-ish shape cut out of the bottom left of your bodice.

Slide your rectangle under so that the red line, which was previously sliced in two, meets once again. Tape it down, and draw a new, smooth side seam line (shown below in red) from the underarm to waistline:

Snip away the unwanted excess.

OK. The waistline is now back to normal. All that's left to do is rotate out that bust dart-looking shape we've created into the cowl. This will ensure that the side seam goes back to how it was, and it will also give us a little extra room in the cowl - always a good thing when we're dealing with an ample bosom!

Step 6

Draw a line (shown in blue) from the apex (the part of the original apex that intersects with the pink line) up to the neckline, using the image below as a guide.

Cut along this blue line, AND cut out the "dart" created by the pink line having been slashed. Take care not to cut right through the apex; we need the apex to be a pivot point.

You'll see now that you can close the pink dart, and in doing so, you'll have opened up some space along the neckline. Tape the pink line. Place some scrap paper under the opening made at the neckline and tape into place.

And there you have it folks. I hope this hasn't boggled your brains too badly! If you're still awake and reading this, I'd like to take this moment to recommend my pattern fitting Bible - Fit For Real People, and indeed any other of the books in the series. This book has been, and continues to be absolutely indispensable to me.

Tip from the top: Always check your adjustment by making another toile to check the fit. Once you're happy with your newly adjusted pattern, copy it out onto some card for extra safe-keeping! Although this is an easy adjustment to make, no one wants to have to do it twice...

For further reading on Full Bust Adjustments, we also have tutorials for the following:



Comments on this post (3)

  • Oct 06, 2014

    Hi Charlene,

    The reason we close the side seam dart and open up the neckline is twofold – first, by eliminating the new bust dart we keep the original slinky design of the bodice, and secondly, by rotating that bust dart into the neckline it gives a little extra volume to the cowl so that it sits right on the fuller bust.

    Hope this helps!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Oct 06, 2014

    Thank you for this post. Can you please tell me why the dart was closed on the side and more room created at the neckline? Thanks, Charlene

    — charlene moultrie

  • Oct 06, 2014

    Thank you for this post. Can you please tell me why the dart was closed on the side and more room created at the neckline? Thanks, Charlene

    — charlene moultrie

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