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Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong - Small Bust Adjustment (SBA)

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 small bust adjustment (SBA)

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*

Small Bust Adjustment (SBA)

How do I know if an SBA is in order?

  • Your full bust is less 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 smaller size group than your waist measurement
  • Dresses that fit your waist tend to be baggy at the bust
  • You find that your waistlines often droop or sit too low (avoid the temptation to shorten 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 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 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 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 - 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 the point in the middle of where the top of the original dart now overlaps. Draw a straight line from the top of the new dart down to the original dart notches along the waistline. This now narrower dart will keep the waistline measurement the same as when we started.

Repeat this process for the bust dart.

All done! The great thing about this adjustment is that we now don't need to make any further alterations to the bodice back or the trousers, as by reducing the volume in the bust, we've also reduced the width of the darts, meaning that both the side seams and waistline remain the same length. 

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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