Editor’s Note: Since we are sewing up Cashmerette Roseclair wrap dress/peplum for the July 2021 sew along, I’ve asked a couple community members who are ahead of the curve to write community posts on their experiences and their tips and tricks. If you’re a beginner and following the Roseclair Sew Along as part of our Beginners’ Sewing Series, I’d bookmark these posts for later use, and stick to making the pattern as-is for now. For all you adventurous or intermediate-to-advanced sewists, yesterday, Christy talked all about getting perfect bust darts, and today, Karey is chatting about curing wrap gape.
Many sewers struggle with getting a good fit on cross-over wrap bodice styles. This post will address the most commonly raised issue of neckline gaping. Because it is raised so often, I Google searched ‘FBA wrap dress’ or ‘gaping wrap dress’ for solutions, but while there are plenty of tutorials, none seem to address why wrap dresses gape, especially after a full bust adjustment (FBA) for larger boobs, and few wrap dress FBA tutorials provide specific advice for fixing neckline gape.
From SewBusty FB group with permission © EE
The wrap dress tutorial on Sew Over It is typical, with instructions for a regular full bust adjustment with no specific adjustment for wrap fronts.
Sure Fit Designs provides some advice for why a wrap crossover style bodice with a “dart width … correct for your body, … would … still gap? The simple answer is because that crossover in on the diagonal or bias of the fabric.”
The Cashmerette tutorial for their Roseclair wrap dress also identifies a risk of the bias edge of the neckline stretching and creating a gaping neckline. Cashmerette recommends staystitching the neckline edge before starting construction in order to avoid this happening. Both Cashmerette and Sure Fit Designs provide instructions for taking a dart out of the center front edge if there is gaping due to the neckline being too long, but don’t explain why that would happen in a bodice drafted for your cup size, or after you have done an FBA.
By Hand London also has a good tutorial on adding a dart from center front to apex and rotating it to bottom dart, it doesn’t explain what causes the gaping.
Figure 3 shows foam half scale boobs (b) that approximate Lily Fong’s examples (a) of standard root – standard projection; wide root – standard projection; and, narrow root high projection. I combined these with Sure Fit Designs free Half Scale Bodice Templates to create the bodice models I have used in this post.
Figure 4 shows how the scaffolding of a standard B-cup bodice is like a tent with a ridge pole connecting the two bust apexes, with the side poles sloped down to the waist on one side, and to the neck on the other side of the ridge (a). In contrast, once the breasts are divided by a wrap bodice, you need more like a dome tent structure over each breast, connected to the CF seam in the canyon between the breasts (b).
In order to examine wrap bodices on bigger boobs, I first needed to do FBAs on the half scale B-cup bodice to fit my projected and large, wide boobs.
Figure 5 shows a) left: the B-cup boobs and bodice; b) centre: the projected narrow boobs and Y-dart FBA; and, c) right: the wide large boobs and standard FBA, I constructed with the half scale boobs and bodice template. In Figure 4 b) and c) the Y-dart and standard FBAs have been spread to fit over the projected and wide boobs, but the gaps this creates have not been filled in yet. Note the extra length over the apex ridge poles required to reach the waist on the projected and wide boobs (Figure 4 b) and c), bottom).
Figure 5: a) left: B-cup boobs and bodice; b) centre: projected narrow boobs and Y-dart FBA; c) right: wide large boobs and standard FBA
Figure 6. a) left: projected boobs, regular FBA; b) right: projected boobs Y-dart FBA
I wasn’t intending to do a Y-dart FBA, but when I tried the standard FBA on projected boobs, I got armhole gaping. I had previously read the Curvy Sewing Collective post suggesting the Y-dart FBA as a cure for Honking Great Darts, however Figure 5 shows the result of my experiment, which found that the Y-dart (b) solved the arm gaping issue of the standard FBA for high projection boobs (a). Consequently, I then stuck with the Y-dart FBA for all my projected boobs examples.
Once I had bodices for B-cup, projected, and wide boobs, I created wrap fronts by joining a half front to its mirror, drawing a center front seam down the canyon between the boobs, then mirroring this wrap front to create left and right versions.
Figure 7 shows how even B-cups gape at the neckline, if the length of the center front is not reduced with a dart, to convert bodice from ridge pole structure (a) into dome structure (b). The same thing happens with the projected FBA bodice (Figure 8) and the large wide FBA bodice (Figure 9). This demonstrates the requirement to replace ridge pole scaffold on standard bodice, with dome tent structure for wrap bodices.
Figure 7. a) left: B-cup wrap front gape; b) right: adjusted B-cup front no gape
Figure 8. a) left: projected boob wrap front gape; b) right: adjusted projected front – no gape
Figure 9. a) left: wide boob wrap front gape; b) right: adjusted wide boob front – no gape
In order to show more clearly why the wrap bodice needs center front darts I measured the wide boob FBA wrap bodice over the ridge pole and through the canyon (Figure 10). The center front length over the half scale ridge pole was 28cm (11’) (a), while the length through the canyon created by the wrap front was only 26cm (10 ¼“) (b).
These half scale results are proportionate to the measurements I get on my petite height G cup front. When I measure myself from one shoulder, over the ridge pole to my waist under the opposite boob I am 22”. Through the canyon between my boobs I am 20”. This means a standard FBA on a wrap which creates ridge pole bodice, will be up to 2” too long for me on a wrap bodice.
Try taking these measurements on yourself and see if you get similar results, I’d love to see you post what you found in comments.
Given I found neckline gaping in wrap fronts for all bust shapes, you may be wondering why everyone doesn’t have problems with neckline gape. The main reason is that designers mostly correct their bodices so they don’t gape for the block they are designing for. This means people with B cups will mostly not have gaping problems. The same applies for designers that include cup sizes, they have probably corrected all their sizes to remove gape.
However, the larger your boobs, the more chance your boob shape does not match the block the designer uses, even if they provide cup sizes, increasing the chance of gaping. And if you have to do an FBA on a wrap front, you are adding length (as we saw in Figure 5), almost inevitably creating gaping issues. Removing that length from pattern by folding out a center front dart (or darts) creates the dome structure that wraps the fabric close to the bust.
Figure 11: a) left: B-cup wrap front with waist darts (top) and darts folded out (bottom)
b) left: projected wrap front with waist darts (top) and darts folded out (bottom)
c) left: wrap front for large wide boobs with waist darts (top) and darts folded out (bottom)
Figure 11 shows the center front and low front darts marked, then folded out. You then need mirror front for the other side. As I started with full front on which I did FBA, before I marked cross over center front seamline, my left and right bodices should match. However, when you are adjusting a wrap pattern for a smaller cup size than you need, doing an FBA on the half of the front that goes below the bust is tricky. The Sewing Divas have a helpful tutorial for how to check that side seams of left and right fronts align after you have done an FBA on a wrap bodice.
Karey Harrison is a feminist philosopher of science and linguistics, environmentalist, retired academic, home baker, sewist, gardener. Karey also wrote the guest blogpost: #AllButtsWelcome: Unmentionables: Crotch Variation in Pantie Fitting. You can catch Karey on instagram @kareylea and see Karey’s academic profile here.
Images: unless otherwise noted, images are by Karey Harrison (CC BY-SA 4.0).