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Holly Jumpsuit Sewalong - Alterations week - part 6: Small Bust Adjustment (SBA), 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 Small Bust Adjustment to the cowl bodice of Variation 2. The technique is essentially the same as a basic SBA, with just a couple of extra simple steps at the end to put back the length we will be taking away from the side seam and waistline. 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!

How do I know if I need a Small 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 your answer is 'yes' to the latter, you've come to the right place my friend. Now let's investigate further...

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

  • Your high bust measurement is up to an inch less than your full bust measurement
  • Your full bust measurement falls into a smaller size group than that of your waist measurement
  • Waistlines on dresses often sag down, falling below your natural waistline (avoid the temptation to shorten the bodice before determining if you need an SBA first)

OK guys, let's do this.

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 SBA, 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, or close it in on itself in this case, to reduce the unwanted excess fabric.

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 SBA

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

We are now going to reduce the apex by however much we need to decrease 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 31" - and therefore 2" smaller than that of a size UK8/US4, you will need to decrease each apex by 1" to reduce the total bust measurement by 2".

Move the bodice in on itself, pivoting at the armhole and apex. When you have reduced the apex by your desired amount, tape it all securely down.

You'll notice that by slashing and reducing your bodice, the side seam will have become slightly shorter. Because of this, we now need to shorten the centre front to match. Simply move the bottom right piece (where we cut horizontally along the orange line) up, keeping the centre front perfectly vertical and flush. Tape into place.

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

Step 5

To retrieve the length at the waistline, we need to imagine that the orange line extends across then entire width of the bodice, 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!). Cut along this imaginary orange line on the lefthand side of the bodice until you get to the red line that you cut earlier on. You should now be left with a rectangle-ish shape cut out of the bottom lefthand side of your bodice:

Slide your rectangle out so that the red line, which was previously sliced in two, meets once again. 

Tape it down, place a scrap of paper under the side seam and draw a new, smooth side seam line (shown below in red) from the underarm to waistline.

OK. The waistline is now back to normal. All that's left to do is open up the overlapped pink line to get our side seam back to its original length. 

Step 6

Draw a line (shown in blue) from the apex up to the neckline, using the image below as a guide.

Cut along this blue line, AND open up the pink line that we previously slashed. Take care not to cut right through the apex; we need the apex to be a pivot point.

You'll see now that if you open up the pink line, pivoting at the apex, the blue line will start to overlap, thereby reducing the volume at the cowl - an added bonus when dealing with smaller busts!

Tape the pink line so that it meets again, and tape the overlapped blue line into place.

And now lastly but not leastly, we need to slip a piece of scrap paper under the cowl in order to re-draw the curve at the neckline to get it all smooth and pretty once more (illustrated in red below).

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 Small Bust Adjustments, we also have tutorials for the following:


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