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Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong - Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)

Aloha Sewists, and welcome to the Alterations Week for the Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong! Throughout these posts we will be going through as many pattern alteration tutorials as we can physically crush in, relevant to the Orsola. But it doesn't end there - the extra great news is that a lot of these tutorials will be applicable not only to Orsola, but to a huge amount of other patterns too as we tackle most of the common issues surrounding pattern fitting. 

Today, we'll be showing you how to:

  • Perform a full bust adjustment (FBA)

And you will need:

  • Your Orsola Dress & Skirt pattern
  • A tape measure
  • Some extra pattern paper - we like dot & cross or baking paper
  • Pens, a pencil and a ruler
  • Tape - masking tape is good as it is easily removable if you make a mistake
  • Paper scissors

Before you begin, have you read our posts on how to take accurate body measurements, and how to download, print & assemble a PDF sewing pattern

*Click here to be taken to all the posts in the Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong*

Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)

How do I know if an FBA is in order?

  • Your full bust is more than 2" bigger than your high bust measurement (see this post on how to take accurate body measurements)
  • Your full bust measurement falls into a larger size group than your waist measurement
  • Dresses that fit your waist tend to squish down the ladies
  • You find that your waistlines often ride up (avoid the temptation to lengthen the bodice)

Step 1 

We need to begin by marking out the apex (basically the nipple - this is roughly the point where the seams of the bust and waistline darts, if extended, would intersect). 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 through the centre of the waistline dart up to 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 (green).

Draw a horizontal line from the middle-ish point of the waistline dart 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, 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 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 - the last thing we now have to do to the bodice front is to re-draw the darts. Peasy!

Starting with the waistline dart, mark a point level with the top of your original dart, but bang in the centre of the space we've just opened up. Using a ruler, re-draw the dart legs starting at the point you marked and going out to the waistline dart notches either side. This now much wider dart will close the excess we created at the waistline.

Re-draw the bust dart keeping it level with the slightly higher apex point. Use your ruler to re-draw the dart legs from the new point out to the original side seam dart notches.

As you can see, both the waistline dart and the bust dart have become bigger - don't worry! When they're all stitched up, the side seam and waistline will be exactly the same length as they were before the FBA. That way we will have increased the space at the bust, but kept the waistline and side seams the same. No alterations need to be made to the bodice back piece or the waistline of the trousers to match.

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 a straightforward adjustment to make, no one wants to have to do it twice...

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