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Full & small bust adjustment for the Eloise dress - FBA & SBA

Bust adjustments are kind of a rite of passage for sewists it seems. So daunting in theory that we tend to put them off until we're well and truly fed up of making clothes that we know could fit so much better! We bite the bullet, have a look over some books and tutorials, and finally pluck up the courage to give it a go... and guess what? Turns out it's a pretty straightforward process that totally makes sense, and even better - makes the world of difference to the fit! 

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

FULL BUST ADJUSTMENT (FBA)

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)

Step 1 

Please note that we are using itty bitty replicas of our pattern to demonstrate - it's not full scale!

We will be working on the dress front piece A.

We need to begin by marking out the apex (basically the nipple - this is roughly 1"-1 1/2" inches out from the dart point). We also need to mark out the seam line of the armscye, 5/8" or 15mm in from the edge of the armhole.

Because this dress has no waistline seam, or waistline dart therefore, we need to isolate the bust area in order to perform the alteration without messing with the waist measurement and the rest of the dress. To do this, cut along the "lengthen or shorten here" line and keep the bottom portion of the pattern to one side for now.

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 down from the apex (red).

Draw a line through the centre of the bust dart to the apex (pink).

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

Draw a horizontal line about an inch up from the bottom going from the red line and out to the centre front (orange).

Step 3 

Cut upwards through the red line, 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, through the bust dart and 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 left piece (where we cut horizontally along the orange line) down, keeping the centre front perfectly flush. Tape into place.

Now we have to re-draw the dart. Peasy!

Mark out the new dart point by measuring 1 1/2" across (towards the side seam) from the apex. Using a ruler, re-draw the dart legs starting at the new dart point and going out to the dart notches at the side seam. This now much wider dart will close the extra length we created at the side seam. 

Finally, we need to rejoin the bottom portion of the pattern piece. Keeping the centre front line flush, tape the bottom portion of the dress front pattern piece back to the top portion. You'll notice that the side seams don't match:

Using a French curve, or your best freehand skills, redraw the side seam to join the slightly wider bust section to the narrower waist. In doing this, we have created more space at the bust, but kept the waistline the same. 

Trim away the excess scrap paper.

No alterations need to be made to the dress back piece to match. Now that you've done your FBA, check the dart - the point needs to be pointing directly towards your nipple. If it doesn't, you may need to lower or raise the dart.

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

 

SMALL BUST ADJUSTMENT (SBA)

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.

Step 1 

Please note that we are using itty bitty replicas of our pattern to demonstrate - it's not full scale!

We will be working on the dress front piece A.

We need to begin by marking out the apex (basically the nipple - this is roughly 1"-1 1/2" inches out from the dart point). We also need to mark out the seam line of the armscye, 5/8" or 15mm in from the edge of the armhole.

Because this dress has no waistline seam, or waistline dart therefore, we need to isolate the bust area in order to perform the alteration without messing with the waist measurement and the rest of the dress. To do this, cut along the "lengthen or shorten here" line and keep the bottom portion of the pattern to one side for now.

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 down from the apex (red).

Draw a line through the centre of the bust dart to the apex (pink).

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

Draw a horizontal line about an inch up from the bottom going from the red line and out to the centre front (orange).

Step 3 

Cut upwards through the red line, 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, through the bust dart and 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

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 left piece (where we cut horizontally along the orange line) up, keeping the centre front perfectly vertical and flush. Tape into place.

Now we have to re-draw the dart. Peasy!

Mark out the new dart point by measuring 1 1/2" across from the apex. Using a ruler, re-draw the dart legs starting at the new dart point and going out to the dart notches at the side seam. This now narrower dart will keep the side seam measurement the same as when we started.

If you can't see one of your dart legs due to the overlap, just fold the overlap out of the way so you can see the notch at the side seam.

Finally, we need to rejoin the bottom portion of the pattern piece. Keeping the centre front line flush, tape the bottom portion of the dress front pattern piece back to the top portion. You'll notice that the side seams don't match:

Slip a piece of scrap paper underneath at the side seams and uing a French curve, or your best freehand skills, redraw the side seam to join the slightly narrower bust section to the narrower waist. In doing this, we have reduced the unwanted volume at the bust, but kept the waistline the same.

All done! No alterations need to be made to the dress back piece to match.

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

And there you have it! With all alterations, we highly recommend that you make another toile to check that you're happy with the alterations that you made before cutting into your delicious fashion fabric! 

Comments on this post (1)

  • Aug 18, 2018

    thank you for this easy approach to a FBA

    — Alice Boudreaux

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