Community Blog | Making a Ruched Dress from the Allie Olson Kila Tank with Sasha

Hey it’s me, Sasha from Kingdom Daughter Makes and Im here with my first blog post with SewBusty.

With the help of the Sew Busty database, I was able to find this Allie Olson Kila tank. I had been on a hunt for patterns that accommodate a D Cup because I had just grown tired of doing full bust adjustments on every pattern. While I don’t mind learning and making sure I get the fit right, I’d like for the FBA to be one less step for me. So I was glad to see the tank came in a D cup.

From there, I decided to design this ruched dress. Now this is not an original design and I’m sure we have all seen this dress somewhere on Instagram or pinterest. The top half of the dress is just the tank top chopped off at the waist.

When it came to drafting the bottom pieces, I found the apex of my tank and then drew a straight line down from there. I looked for my apex by measuring down from the top of the sleeve cap. I also took my apex to apex measurement. There are a ton of videos that help you determine where your apex is on a pattern but my favorite people to watch are Made to Sew and Lifting Pins and Needles. Lifting Pins and Needles has a series of videos on pattern adjustments for tops and bottoms. Whoops! Looks like we may have gotten a little side tracked there, back to this dress. 

Then I cut the two pieces from the waist down and added a half inch seam allowance. This became my middle front and side front (same applied to the back). When lengthening my skirt portion I just decided to bring it down to just a few inches below my knee. I didn’t want a ton of ruching. And you will see in the pictures that my ruching is not nearly as exaggerated in most skirts you will see. This was an experiment more than anything.  So I just drew straight line down. I’ve seen YouTube tutorials where they chop the patterns pieces into 2 inch slices and then spread them out to create a new pattern. I decided not to do that. 

When I joined my middle and side pieces with a zigzag stitch, I stitched down the seam allowances to the dress to create a casing. You can see here that I was undecided on if I was going to create two channels or one for each panel. But I thought one channel was easier. I created my drawstrings by just cutting long strips of fabrics and sewing them down. I found out quickly that the zig zag stitch was best to prevent thread popping. I chose to leave my edges raw on this dress but you can also create a hole on the right side of the dress at the bottom where sits so that you can hem it properly.

Sasha is from New Jersey and has been sewing since 2015. To her, the most fascinating part about sewing is pattern adjustments and fit. You can find her website here, and see her makes on insta @kingdomdaughtermakes.

Community Blog | Seeing the Full Bust Adjustment as a Series of Adjustments with Kerry

Over the past couple years, I’ve gotten quite confident in my ability to do a successful FBA on a standard two-dart bodice pattern. 

McCalls 6696, my first (successful) FBA!

I’ve even gotten comfortable with the idea that you can pivot darts anywhere you’d like around the apex and that they can be split and transformed into gathers. 

McCalls 6696 again, but modified to have a front yoke and two waist darts.

But I haven’t had a lot of practice with doing an FBA on other types of bodices.

Enter the weekend sew-along hosted by Marika of Enchanted Rose Costumes for McCalls 7974. 

Line art for McCalls 7974

This pattern not only doesn’t have standard darts, it has a plunging neckline and a curved underbust seam. My experience with this style of bodice in RTW has been that plunging necklines are prone to gaping and that underbust seams rarely sit under the bust.

I knew fitting this bodice would likely take several tries, so I started with a straight 1” FBA on the size corresponding to my upper bust measurement. (This is always a bit off for me, since I’m in between upper bust measurements on most standard size charts. I err on the side of slightly too big and then use my toiles to refine if necessary.)

Toile #1. 1” FBA.

This bodice was undoubtedly better than the standard pattern, but the underbust seam didn’t sit against my ribcage. So, even though it seemed like I had added enough width, I had not added enough length. Also, I was able to pinch out some fabric along the front neckline – suggesting it wasn’t going to sit tight against the body.

Back to the drawing table.

The FBA is often treated as a single adjustment, but it’s actually a series of changes. The obvious change is that you’re adding width right at the apex. This makes sense because doing an FBA is often triggered by noting that the full bust measurement on a pattern is smaller than your own full bust measurement. But an FBA also adds length – specifically travelling over the apex – because it assumes that the change in width is at least partially driven by a higher point the cloth must travel over (more forward thrust, if you will). This might not be the case! Or the distribution of that forward thrust may not be distributed above and below the apex in the assumed ratio. There are an infinite variety of body shapes and untangling which standard adjustment assumptions work for you and which ones do not can take time.

For my second attempt, I added length to the entire bodice piece after doing my 1” FBA.

Comparing attempts #1 and 2 with the original pattern piece.
Toile #2. 1” FBA & 1” length at underbust.

This toile puffed out along the sides. (I didn’t bother to cut new back pieces for this toile which is why they don’t match at the side seams.)

The fact that this didn’t work made a lot of sense once I thought about it. The underbust seam actually sat in the right place along the sides in my first toile – it was just under the bust itself that it seemed to float out and ride up. So I marked where along the underbust seam it started to sit in the right place. Then I did my 1” FBA and added on extra length right below the apex and tapered it out to the side seam.

Attempt #3.
Attempt #3 compared to the original pattern piece with bonus sewing cat.
Toile #3. 1” FBA, 1” length under apex tapered to nothing at the side seam.

The style of this particular dress made it really obvious, but as I thought about it I realized that I have had this problem before! Even if I have no other drag marks or pulling after an FBA, I do notice the center front waist pulling up a little. Whatever the assumption in a standard FBA is about how much length to add for how much width, it isn’t quite enough for my particular shape. In hindsight this seems obvious, but I think it took the full process for me to really start to see the FBA as a series of adjustments rather than a rigid formula.

For the actual dress, I also raised the neckline and sewed a strip of organza into the neckline seam to stabilize it, so I wouldn’t have any gaping. 

Success!

Kerry learned how to sew from her mother as a kid, but only recently started sewing consistently for herself. You can see her sewing projects on both her IG @kamtrouble and on her blog.

Community Blog | Hacking the Ogden Cami for Busty Bodies with Helen

The Ogden Cami by True Bias seems to be one of those sewing patterns you see everywhere. I’m sure anyone who has spent even the smallest amount of time browsing sewing hashtags on Instagram or scrolling through a sewing Facebook group will have seen this pattern pop up everywhere! I absolutely love the simplicity of it with its lovely clean lines, stylish neckline and plunging back. That being said it took me a long time to get around to making one because I just couldn’t see how it could work for me. 

The Ogden Cami comes in two size ranges, and whilst it’s not clear from their website I *think* the larger size range is drafted for a sewing D cup (4 inch difference between upper and full bust). Unfortunately, my measurements fall firmly into the smaller size range which is drafted for a sewing B cup (2 inch difference, again this is not clear on the website). I opted to cut out a size 4 and went with a 1inch full bust adjustment (half inch on either side). When doing the FBA I decided to leave the newly created bust darts to provide a bit of shaping as the roomy shape of this top which hangs from the bust could easily become tent like on a larger chest.

As a busty sewist one of my main considerations was that I would want to wear this pattern with a bra – I really cant stand the faff of a strapless bra and finding one in my size is pretty difficult (and I’m not up to making one quite yet!). Unlike our small-chested friends busty bras tend to have wide straps and the lovely spaghetti straps on the Ogden would just leave them on show. So I set about make this pattern bra friendly. Firstly I measured the width of the straps on the bra I want to wear this with – they are 3/4inch wide so I widened the strap pattern piece to 3/4inch plus seam allowances. I then made the corresponding change to the front and back pattern pieces where the straps join. To do this I cut off the strap attachment section about 2 inches down from the top. I then cut it in half vertically and spread the two halves apart to add in the extra width I needed. 

I also wanted to make sure that the position of the straps would lie over my bra straps – in my case this meant that the front straps needed to be moved out a bit (toward my shoulders) and the back needed to be moved in towards the centre back. I measured how much I needed to move them by and then reattached the top part of the pattern offset by the amount required. I then smoothed all the curves using a French curve and I was done!

Hopefully this little diagram will help visualise those adjustments:

And heres a photo of it on the pattern piece itself!

I made up the top in this really fun bright viscose and it was almost perfect. After a bit of wear I noticed it was riding up over my bust…a good indication I needed a bit more bust room.

I decided on an extra half inch all round so I added the extra to the side seams rather than do another FBA. I also decided I wanted the lining lengthening a bit as it finished right at my bust line. After making those changes I cut out another version in the same fabric and this time the fit was perfect.

Now that I’ve got this pattern to work for me I can definitely see it becoming one of my go-to patterns for summer. In fact I dived straight in for another go and this time hacked it into a sundress by adding gathered tiers. To do this I sewed up the top as normal and then marked where I wanted the first tier to start being sure to get it level to the ground all round (this means it needs to be much longer in the front to go over my bust). I then gathered the skirt and attached it and repeated for the second tier. I also added some faux ties to the straps. It really is perfect for summer, light and breezy with very little fabric touching my skin, and I can still wear a normal bra underneath!!

Helen is a UK based scientist who loves to create her own sustainable handmade wardrobe to suit her personal style and shape. You can find her makes on insta @hshandcrafts.

Community Blog | No Gape Roseclair with Karey

This post documents the lessons I applied from ‘Cross your heart woes’ to fitting the Cashmerette Roseclair peplum blouse.

Cashmerette Size Calculator recommends that I “start with a size 6 G/H with a 1″/2.5 cm full bust adjustment, size 10/12 waist and size 8 hip.”

What I did to start with was print sizes 6, 8, 10 and 12, and tissue fit my tracing of the pattern. I followed the Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting (PP) process to double check the size calculator recommendations and identify any other fitting issues.

I expected to have to do an FBA, and I usually need wide round back adjustment. PP shows how to use gap between pattern and body centre front (CF) to measure size of FBA required, and gap between pattern and body centre back (CB) to identify width of wide back adjustment needed. Placing the pattern on my dummy suggested I needed to raise dart, but my dummy has perkier bust than me. My shoulders are wider than pattern shoulder width, but looking at armscye height on pattern, and gathering at top of sleeve, I left that for muslin fit, as it looked like sleeve sat over shoulder.

Figure 1: tissue fit on dummy – green thread marks pattern seams, pink thread marks my seam locations (I got my colour code mixed up between dummy & body fit 🙂
Figure 2: tissue fit me – green thread marks seam locations, pink thread marks pattern seams

Once I had made these adjustments on the traced pattern I made up a muslin, to check fit and see whether the FBA had created gaping in the bodice front.

Figure 3: Muslin to check FBA, wide back adjustment, and sleeve fit
Figure 4: A little too much cleavage shows

Figure 4 shows the extra length over the center front created by the FBA did create gaping.

In the previous ‘Cross your heart woes’ blog post, I controlled the gaping by taking a wedge out from the apex to the cross over point on the CF:

Figure 5: high CF wedge
Figure 6: 1 – high CF wedge; 2 – mid CF wedge; 3 – low CF wedge
. These correspond to the dart lines 1,2, & 3 drawn on Figure 7

What I discovered was that the high (1) and mid (2) CF wedges took length out of the vertical CF measurement as well as shortening the cross over length as required to reduce gaping. The low wedge, however, did not affect the vertical CF length, and did not go to the apex, so did not have to be rotated to other darts, simplifying the fitting of all the darts.

Figure 7: locations of wedges 1, 2, & 3
Figure 8: CF height and cross over length on B cup & large boobs

Figure 7 shows that the location of wedges 1 and 2 cuts through center front, so shortens center front as well as shortening cross over length. In order to remove them, these darts have to be rotated into another dart. Wedge 3, on the other hand, gets folded out through the waist line, so does not remove length from the CF but does remove length from the cross over.

Figure 8 shows that in order to fit around large boobs, the cross over needs to go lower before turning around bust and turn more sharply. The red tie drawn on Figure 7 shows where the tie end of the bodice was after the FBA adjustment as compared with the original black line. After wedge 3 was removed, the tie end moved up to where it is marked in blue on Figure 7, wrapping the tie better around the large boob, like in Figure 8.

Figure 9: final front
Figure 10: final side
Figure 11: final back

Once I was happy with fit, sewing up this top was one of the quickest and easiest I’ve made. I love how it feels and looks. See Figures 9, 10 and 11.

I left off the ties and replaced them with hat elastic button loops and buttons. Figures 12 and 13 show the outside and inside buttons. Figure 14 shows the elastic loop in place on what will be the outside of the binding; Figure 15 shows the bias folded with the button loop inside, and stitched through; and, figure 16 shows the button loop completed.

Figure 12: outside button
Figure 13: inside button
Figure 14: Inserting hat elastic loop
Figure 15: bias band folded out and stitched through button loop
Figure 16: button loop attached

The ¾” FBA I did on top of the Cashmerette G/H cup gave me a dart that measured 5” (12.5cm) along the side seam. This means that while the fold of the dart is almost on the straight of grain and, once the dart is stitched and folded up, the straight of grain fold of the dart lies under the bias of the outer layer. This means the outer fabric can stretch along the grain, but the dart edge cannot. If the leg of the dart is sewn to the side seam it will pull on the outer layer when you move. To stop this happening I trim dart leg to 5/8”. In this fine rayon I finish the dart edge as a faux French seam. With non-fraying fabrics I would just cut the edge.

Figure 17: Watch video to see how and why large dart pulls on outer layer, and how to fix it.


Figure 18: 5”dart
Figure 19: trimmed, edges folded in
Figure 20: pinned
Figure 21: top-stitched

Finally, no gape Roseclair:

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).

Community Blog | Stitch Witch Tudor Wrap Blouse with Kei

Editor’s Note: For today’s community blog, Kei has been so kind as to share with us her experience making the Tudor Blouse (wrap front version) by Stitch Witch Patterns! This pattern comes in sizes 0-16 (waists 24-43″). Kei’s measurements are:

  • High Bust: 41”
  • Bust: 43”
  • Waist: 33”
  • Height: 5’3”

About the pattern:

The base pattern is a button front blouse, in either a cropped or regular length, with cute puffed, elasticated sleeves that you can wear up on your shoulders for a square neck look or dropped down your arms for an off-the-shoulder look. The pattern designer also includes pattern pieces for a wrap front version with long tails that tie in the back AND pattern pieces for a full bust version (“C and up”). There are full bust pieces for both the button front option and the wrap front option! Just a warning though, the size chart does not include measurements for the full bust pieces. 

I have been seeing this top all over instagram and quite frankly, I’ve been obsessed. Especially with the wrap version. The wrap feature creates more of a sweetheart shaped neckline and with the off the shoulder puffy sleeves, its an ultra romantic and pretty effortless look. Truthfully, most examples I came across seemed to be on sewists with less busty silhouettes so I had no idea how it would actually turn out for me! 

Choosing a size:

My measurements put me inbetween the 18/20 at my bust but squarely in a 16 for the waist. The pattern designer suggested I choose the size 18 and add 1” to the bust area and bring the waist in. I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about adding an inch at the bust (can’t wait to dig into the wrap bodice blog post from July 15th to help inform my second go!). There was no mention of upper bust measurements so I’m not entirely sure how to determine which pattern pieces will work best for you. But I decided to cut the full bust pieces in a straight 18. From looking at the pattern pieces it seemed like a full bust adjustment (FBA) already accounted for more volume at the bust compared to the same size for the small bust pieces.

Editor’s Note: From my conversations with the designer, the full bust pieces are drafted for a 3″ difference between high and full bust. 🙂

For reference, there’s not a huge discrepancy between my full bust and high bust measurements. My measurements don’t typically dictate using a FBA because I still need room in my upper bust area width wise. I almost always need material pinched out horizontally above my bust because I’m on the shorter side. I generally need more waist shaping below the bust.

Sewing:

I used a light, white cotton voile with little black polkadots. The wrap front pieces are fully lined by design and since the fabric was so sheer, I ended up fully lining the back and sleeves to match. 

This was a super quick and satisfying sew! It came together quickly and I was wearing it within a couple of hours. Woo! 

Fit:

This top is super cute, especially when I’m standing still. But as soon as I start to move the neckline shifts/opens and the sleeves start dropping off my shoulders. Tying the top a bit more snuggly helped to reduce shifting and helped define my waist. Unfortunately, the wrap would either cut across the opposite boob or bunch up underneath it awkwardly. My shoulders are not narrow by any means but I do have a bit of a downward slope. I always have to bring my bra straps inward to keep them from slipping off so it doesn’t surprise me that I’d need the same adjustment here.

It’s Instagram ready but I would not feel comfortable wearing it out of the house much or for any activity beyond lounging. I’d need some real adjustments to make this something I’d want as a standard piece in my wardrobe but heck, it’s so cute it might be worth the tinkering needed to get it there!

Adjustments for Version 2:

I’ve thought about how I would approach Version 2 for a while and my thinking keeps evolving. Currently, I’ve landed on making the following changes (as drawn on the images below – click to zoom in):

  • Start with a size 20 full bust piece. I definitely need a bit more room across my full bust. 
  • Raise the neckline to give a bit more coverage but drop the centre front to more easily cross under my bust. (Red)
  • Add a dart at the neckline to reduce any additional gaping. (Yellow)
  • Add length and change the angle at the end of the armscye to bring the sleeve inward on the bodice and hopefully on my shoulders. (Blue)
  • Add waist darts. (Purple)
  • Adjust the sleeve to match bodice armscye, narrow the top of the sleeve and shorten the elastic at the top of the sleeve to help bring the bodice up a little higher and hopefully keep the sleeves up. (Green)

Advice for other sewists:

I think most busty sewists would want to add more coverage by raising the neckline as there is quite a lot of decolletage on display! One other busty sewist who made this also mentioned the sleeves slipping off her shoulders. I’m guessing this would be especially important if you have a comparatively small upper bust measurement as the sleeves are very wide set and attach right at the upper bust. 

Kei Muto is a wedding florist in Hamilton, Ontario who has been sewing for 1 year. She’s happy to tackle all kinds of garments when she’s not sewing bras for herself and friends. You can find her makes on instagram @stuffkeimakes.

Community Blog | Cross Your Heart Woes: Causes and Cures for Wrap Bodice Gaping with Karey

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 3: a) breast shape types: image on the left from LilypaDesigns.
b) The foam domes I found on the right approximate her standard root – standard projection; wide root – standard projection; and, narrow root high projection

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).

Figure 4: a) Left: Ridge pole scaffolding on basic B-cup bodice
b) Right: Dome scaffolding on B-cup boobs

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.

Figure 10. Wide boobs CF length
a) left: over ridge pole 28cm (11”)
b) right: through canyon 26cm (10 ¼”)

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).

Community Blog | Sewing Perfect Darts (for You!) on the Roseclair Dress with Christy

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, today, Christy is talking all about splitting your bust dart!

Dart Splitting, Turning, & Adjustment

So – you have completed your first bodice muslin of the Roseclair Dress, and you found and fixed the big issues: the shoulders hang correctly, right on the top of your shoulders; you added a FBA if needed; and you fixed any gaping in the neckline.

Congratulations! Now your bodice fits, but you might have ended up with a new difficulty: The Big Honkin’ Dart. The Roseclair Dress already has a fairly large dart in some sizes, so it is especially susceptible to the BHD, but full-busted sewists find themselves with this problem when making adjustments to many different patterns. The BHD technically fits, but it looks blocky, and it is impossible to sew so it lies smoothly. The good news is that with all this dart-y room, you have the opportunity to adjust the fit of the bodice so it is perfectly and precisely your shape. In this article, I will go through everything you really need to know about turning large darts into a beautifully fitted bodice:

  1. How to split the BHD into smoother chunks
  2. How to decide where to place your new darts
  3. How to sew darts smoothly

1. How to Split a Big Honkin’ Dart into Smooth Chunks

When I had to add a couple inches of neckline into my already-large Roseclair dart, I figured out quickly that I needed to turn it into multiple darts, but after a ton of internet research I was still completely confused how to do that. I finally just traced my pattern piece and started messing around with it, and it made more sense. I will describe here the way of thinking about it that works for me, give links to a couple different tutorials that might work for you…. but if none of that makes sense, I encourage you to just start manipulating the pattern piece. I think it is easier to physically do than it is to describe. 

Method: When I started manipulating my darts, I traced my pattern piece (with the first-level adjustments) onto a large roll of tracing paper, and I just kept making new tissue-paper tracings. That way my main pattern piece didn’t get muddled up. For this tutorial, I just free-hand drew the pattern piece on a regular sheet of paper. It is not perfectly to scale, but it should make sense. If I were doing it again, I would start with a mini version like that, to play with so I can see what I am doing.

Tools needed:

  • copy of pattern piece
  • scissors (for paper, not fabric)
  • pen or marker (a couple colors)
  • ruler for making straight lines
  • tape
  • scratch paper (to put behind pattern piece)

Here is the pattern piece after my initial adjustments. I had over 4 inches of width in that side dart.

For this first section, I am going to demonstrate how to turn the one large side dart, into three small side darts.

  1. Draw straight lines from close to the dart apex to the edge of the pattern piece. You’ll want to use a straight edge/ruler on the real pattern piece.
  2. Cut along those lines.
  3. Cut out the triangle of the Big Honkin’ Dart. (You can also just cut one side, but I think it’s easier to see if you just cut the whole thing.)
  4. Now you have two triangles of paper. As you move them up and down on the pivot point, you create three triangles of negative space. Those are your new darts. (This makes way more sense when you actually do it!)
  5. Put a piece of scratch paper behind your pattern piece, so it fills in the negative space.
  6. Tape the two narrow triangles of paper onto the scratch paper, making three similarly sized triangles behind them. These are your new darts. I colored them purple.
  7. Trim the scratch paper so it matches the edges of your pattern piece. (If you were going to sew it up, you could make a slight outward angle for each dart, like there is in printed patterns.)
  8. Voila! Now you have three darts of manageable size, instead of one gigantic dart.

2. How to Decide Where to Place Your New Darts

You can just sew your bodice with three small darts on the side, and it will work much better than the BHD. But now that you know how to move darts around, you might as well move them to create the perfect fit for your body. This part is not about the size of your bust or your measurements, but about the way your personal body fits together – the shape of your torso, how high or low your breasts are, which way they face – and also the way that you, personally, want your dress to fit and look.

First of all, if the pattern’s bust apex (the point of the triangle) is nowhere near your bust apex, make a note on your first-draft muslin and then your pattern piece. You will just move the point of all your triangles (the pivot place) so they are pointing towards your bust apex. If your bust apex is close to the pattern but not exact, don’t worry about it yet; we will adjust it naturally in the next steps.

In these diagrams, I am dividing the original BHD into three darts. This is what I did with my pattern; my BHD was over 4.5″ and I wanted each dart to be less than 2″. It also makes it easier to demonstrate in pictures. However, you can split your dart into two – or four, or whatever you want.

Method: This is all about fit, so experimenting with what works for your personal body! I traced the basic pattern piece (with first-level adjustments) onto tissue paper; drew new darts into place with the method described; cut my new pattern piece out of a sheet; drew the darts onto the fabric; and sewed the darts. I did sew a basting stitch down the front angle of the muslin pattern piece, so that neckline distortion would not be affecting my decisions about fit.

I did a different dart pattern on each bodice piece (so they looked different on my right and left), and once I had two, I basted them to a back bodice piece. I had about three sets with a back bodice piece and two differently-darted front bodice pieces.  I pinned them together onto my body where the ties would have held them in place.

This is super quick to sew, and allowed me to go back and forth and compare different options. 

In this picture, you can see how simple this muslin is; that I basted the neckline; and pinned together the edges. You can also see where I used marker to note the apex points of the experimental darts, and drew the darts in where I can see them.

Note: In the final version of the dress, the neckline is finished and folded under. Do not adjust the neckline in this step!

For this tutorial, I am just using my small version of the pattern pieces. I’m not including pictures of what it looks like on me – I think it’s incredibly difficult to see the 3-D fit on the muslin fabric. Once again, this is something that makes so much more sense once you just do it!

Darts in Any Direction:

Remember how we drew a new line from (almost) the apex of the previous dart? You can draw that line in any direction – not just to the side seam, but to the shoulder, or to the waist, or to the neckline – and that will be your new dart and your new shape … well, where you draw these lines depends on your pattern.

In the case of the Roseclair, some of the directions head to the neckline of the wrap dress, and if we adjust the neckline then it will no longer fall right. So for the Roseclair, we are going to ignore all the directions that go to the neckline, although if you are doing a different style bodice you can play with that too! I also did not demonstrate a dart going straight up into the shoulder. To my eye, that doesn’t fit the look of this particular bodice, but you certainly can go straight up to the shoulder, and if you are having trouble getting the shoulder-to-bust proportion to fall right, using a dart might be a good way to solve that problem.

French Dart:

A French Dart is a fancy name for a dart that goes up from the corner of the pattern piece. Because it is at an angle, the dart is longer, and a longer dart gives us more room to sew it gradually and gracefully, making for a smoother finished look. So let’s draw a line to the lower corner and rotate our triangles to make one dart in the original place, and one French dart from the lower corner …

The two new darts are colored in purple. It makes the corner of the pattern piece look like a funky shape, but it works out fine once it is actually sewn up.

Dart Apexes:

Now, when we are rotating our paper triangles, we have to use almost the same apex, just leaving enough paper to allow the triangles to rotate. But if you actually sew up several darts with an almost-the-same apex, you end up with a nice, pointed, Madonna-esque breast. If you want Madonna breasts, now you know the secret!

In case you don’t want pointed breasts (I didn’t), you have to adjust the points of your different darts, so they don’t all end up in the same place. In this example, I drew a new point, farther back towards the seam line, for the original side dart, making it a shorter dart. I then drew lines (in black) defining where I would sew that dart. So in this example, now I have one long French dart coming from the bottom, and one short dart coming from the side, and the tips of the two darts point in exactly the same direction.

Having a shorter side dart worked for my body, probably because my breasts are rounder at the side, so that dart didn’t have to go as far to get towards the top of my breast. However, in real life, I pointed my darts in slightly different directions. The pattern apex was accurate for me, but once I was adding more darts, I placed them so they aimed differently around my breast, which created a rounder, softer look. 

This is also the step where you adjust the pattern apex if it wasn’t quite right for you. You have to move the points of the triangle anyways, so move them wherever you want them.

other Dart types:

The next pattern piece shows three more possible darts:

Multiple Side Darts: Having darts next to each other on the side works well for some people, and the darts will be less visible because they are near the seam. You could make them next to each other, but different lengths, as they step around the larger and smaller parts of your breast.

Curved Dart: A curved dart also allows for a longer, smoother sewing line. It is also a good way to solve a problem of having a distinct shaped curve to match a more distinct breast shape. It looks confusing on the pattern piece, but it sewed up nicely. I have heard that it is much easier to create the right curve of a pattern piece with a helper, who can pin up (and mark) the pattern piece as it is on your body, and solve the exact problem (folds of fabric) that you are having. Obviously, the curve can go any direction, and come from any direction (I just showed it from the lower corner here). On this particular pattern piece, the curved dart did not help me at all, so I did not experiment with it further. My breasts are wide and round; my guess is that it would help more with breasts that are held up more distinctly.

Armcythe Dart: If your armcythe fits perfectly (once you have the sleeves on), then you probably want to leave it alone. However, if you have a little extra fold of fabric, or it feels a little tight as you move your arm backwards, you now have the perfect opportunity to tweak it. Draw your line up into the armcythe – I went fairly far towards the back, again so I ended up with a nice long line. I had a little extra fold of fabric, so I drew in the dart just at the right amount to compensate for the BHD, and then when I draw the dart in, I extended it ¼ ” outward, to make the dart slightly bigger. It worked like a charm, and made the perfectly-good armcythe even better. If you wanted a little extra space, draw your actual dart slightly smaller than the triangle you created from swinging the triangles.

The first picture shows the three new lines drawn in to make the new darts. Then I cut on the lines and arranged the negative space to make new darts (colored purple). Then I drew in adjusted apexes for each dart (except for one – one can point to the original place!), and drew the legs for each new dart in black. I would sew on the black lines.)

Note that I adjusted that top dart apex farther over towards the middle. This worked for me, because it creates a longer line, makes the curve of the breast more broad, and followed along the top width of my breast.

Bottom Dart: Your dart could also point at the bottom of the pattern piece, either straight or at an angle. Or both. Then you can adjust how far up it needs to go in order to get to the height of your breasts. It’s up to you!

That Other Dart Hanging Out Over There: There is a second dart in the pattern, which we haven’t talked about yet. That is more of a waist dart than a bust dart, although of course it also shapes the bust. Can you move that one too? Of course you can! You are a dart moving mastermind!

Personally, I kept the apex and one leg of that dart, and moved the other leg equidistant (from the first leg) towards the center of the bodice. This gave me a longer dart (again!), and I think helped shape the inner curve of my breasts. Adjusting this dart is another way to change the waist line, like we discussed with the armcythe. You could also move part of the BHD into this dart, although I think it would be easier to add a second dart on the waist seam instead – but whatever works for your body! You just have to cut out muslins and test it.

Just for funsies, here is my finished pattern piece: This isn’t “the” right way to do it, this is just the result of what worked for me. It’s kind of messy looking because I adjusted some of the darts on the same tissue paper piece so I could keep what worked. Once again, the purple shows the original paper dart when swinging from the pivot point; the dot shows where I put in the bust apex; and the lines show where I actually make the lines/legs of the dart. 

And here is what it looks like when cut out of fabric, with the darts traced on:

Which brings us to our final section …

3. How to Sew Darts Smoothly

If you are an Expert Dart-Sewist, this section will probably be review. If you are a less-confident dart sewist, then this article is your one-stop shop for darts! And here’s some really good news: all the articles about sewing darts say to get lots of practice, and suggest getting out some scrap fabric and just sewing a bunch of random darts in order to get the hang of it. Well, if you are like me, and end up sewing half a dozen bodice muslins of the Roseclair, and each one has four darts, you can skip the random darts step – by the time you are done with your muslins, you will have graduated to Expert Dart-Sewist level. Or at least upper intermediate!

  1. Draw your darts onto the wrong side of your fabric, including the legs and the apex.
  2. Pick up the fabric at the dart apex and the middle of the dart, so the two legs of the dart hang down and are more or less on top of each other, on opposite sides of the fabric. 
  1. Lay your fabric down flat, and pin along the legs. Here are two pins going across the leg of the dart, holding the fabric in place, and I can sew over them. The third pin is placed so the head of the pin is on the apex of the dart. This is optional, but it can make it easier to see where you’re going. You must take that pin out as you sew.
  1. I like to draw and pin all the darts before I start sewing. It looks like this
  2. Now, the trick is that you are not going to sew on that line. A straight sewing line makes for a blocky dart, because you are not straight! You want to start at the “feet” of the dart, and head towards the apex of the dart in a slightly concave line. 
  3. Then, at the tip of the dart, you sew parallel to the very edge of the fabric for the last few stitched. Because this angle is so miniscule, it doesn’t matter if you exactly hit the apex of the dart. It is shaping more than taking out chunks of fabric.
  4. To create a subtle tip of the dart, lower your stitch length as you get towards the end. Here I have marked the stitch length that I use, as seen below. The first part (towards the right) I am making a curve with the stitch length at 2.4mm (the “normal” stitch length on my machine). At the first arrow, I reduce the stitch lengh to 1.8, and follow the line towards the tip of the pin and the apex. At the next arrow, I reduce the stitch length to 1.0mm and stitch right at the very edge of the fabric for about ⅛-¼ inch.
  1. Reducing the stitch length also means you DO NOT backstitch, which reduces bulk (aka a bump). You also do not have to leave tails of thread and tie them together (which I see some people recommend), which might work fine but is an annoying extra step (in my humble opinion!). Several 1mm stitches will hold your dart in place, and you can just trim the thread right at the end.
  2. The finished dart looks more or less like the image below. Note: more or less is just fine! Each of these things is subtle, and you are not going to notice little imperfections when it is finished. You can see that my concave line has a little convex bump, and I meant to go more parallel at the tip. It doesn’t matter, because you are going to …
  1. Iron it smooth! 
  2. First of all, just lightly iron the darts in the direction you want them to go. Cashmerette recommends up. I aimed them away from each other.
  1. Now put your garment over your pressing ham. (If you do not have a pressing ham, the general recommendation is to use a towel, but in this case you need a firm and breast-shaped surface…. maybe a towel rolled over a softball would work? A pressing ham is not expensive and it is much easier to create a good bust shape using one.) Separate the fabric away from the dart, and rub your iron around the seam, especially at the curve and the tip. I make little circles with the tip of my iron.
  1. Now turn your garment right side out over the pressing ham. You will need to pull the sides away from the seam, because from the wrong side it will have made more of a triangle than a curve. Shape it around different parts of your pressing ham, and smooth out all the curves and tips.
  1. Here are the tips of the finished four seams, at the tip of the pressing ham. This is not quite shaped like my breast, but it is also less forgiving. You can see that the tips of the darts are not making any bumps on the outside of the garment!

Conclusion, Next Steps, and Pictures

Now you know how to divide up a Big Honkin’ Dart, how to adjust the position and angle of the darts so they match your shape, and how to sew the darts so they look smooth from the outside. It will take a bunch of “quick-n-dirty muslins” to get the best shape for you, and meanwhile you’ve gotten lots of practice sewing beautiful darts! 

Next, you might move on to making adjustments on other parts of the dress, like a Full Bicep Adjustment, changing the waist measurements, or adjusting the length. Or, if the dress more or less fits, you might be ready to make a wearable muslin! Cashmerette warns that this dress behaves differently in different fabrics, so you might want to use something closer to your final fabric than a stiff muslin or sheet. 

I made a peplum version in a rayon/linen to test the fit of the shoulders, waist, and sleeves. I made some more adjustments once I could see how the whole piece fit together; I moved one dart again, and made a number of adjustments to the waist. (The peplum version takes approximately 2 yards of fabric in my size; used the top layer of the skirt from View A.  I suggest adding 3 inches to the length of the peplum, which I did not do but admired in other people’s pictures.) 

The dress is very fabric-hungry, so it is really worth making a peplum top, and then your first dress version can come out perfectly!  

For many people, the Roseclair is not the easiest dress to get a perfect fit. Many people need to adjust the bodice in order to get the neckline and darts to lay properly, and the darts might not fit the first time. But this bodice is very well drafted, and once you put in the time to adjust it for your own body, this comes out as a spectacularly well-fitted dress.  I enjoy both the look and feel of my Roseclair dresses, and I think they look stunning and graceful on many other sewists of different body types. I hope this tutorial helps you make a beautiful Roseclair dress of your own, now that you know how to sew perfect darts – for you!!

Here are some examples of how this method works for me:

This was my first peplum. The waist sags below my natural waist, so I adjusted that. Here I have two darts in the side seam and one French dart, and the original waist dart is in its original place.

Roseclair in linen. For this version (and subsequent), I moved the higher side dart into the armcythe (see how it changes the wrinkle in the first version) and put the waist dart at an angle.

The dress behaves differently with this slippery rayon, and it is hard to see the darts in the busy print. It just looks like the bust magically fits around my shape, just the way dresses are supposed to do!

When her fourth child grew out of infancy, Christy realized that she was a better mother (and human being) if she spent less time worrying about whether the house was clean, and more time making beautiful things. She is now raising and homeschooling five children, and her current textile art passions are hand embroidery and dress-making. She shares her work, and ideas about life, at Sonata in So (which is a double entendre with her past life as a musician).

Community Blog | My First Full Bust Adjustment with Stine

Editor’s Note: I’m excited about today’s post, because Stine is reflecting for us on how their first full bust adjustment went, a few years ago. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

I have a large bust and a small underbust. My back is also small.

If I choose size based on my bust measurement, I have so much extra fabric billowing out below my bust. If I choose size based on my torso, the garment is to small at my bust.

Enter FBA.

I own a book of sewing patterns, ‘Sew Many Dresses, So Little Time‘. It is unique in that you yourself combine the various elements which make up a dress, to make you own dress.

It also advises on how to make an FBA, Full Bust Adjustment, and this was the first dress I made an FBA on.

I was initially a bit scared of FBAs, I thought they seemed rather complicated.

But I followed the instructions closely: Mark bust points. Measure 2 cm from the bust point. Draw lines outwards and downwards. Cut and spread.

And that was it … was that all there was to it? And it looked right!

Then just to tape pattern paper under the spread areas. It was so much simpler than I thought.

I also made a swayback adjustment and a high round back adjustment (HRBA).

But if course the real test was if the fit in the final dress was good.

The dress underway.

The final dress fit so well (in the photo I twist my body slightly). Very happy with loosing the underbust billowing.

I very much appreciate being able to “build” my own unique dresses. No more bad fit.

Pattern:
– Bodice: Basic.
– Neckline: Scoop.
– Sleeves: Cap sleeve.
– Skirt: 3/4 circle.
Fabric: 100% cotton from Stoff & Stil (2016)
Size: Bodice and sleeves size 5, skirt size 6. These sizes roughly corresponds to size M and L.

Modifications:
 FBA, Full Bust Adjustment.
– Swayback adjustment.
– High round back adjustment.
– Adjustment for short shoulder to waist length

Stine L. Larsen is a 41 year-old Dane, barefoot shoe geek, and mom. Lifelong crafter, and avid sewist and upcycler since 2010 when they stopped buying new clothes. You can see more of Stine’s makes on instagram @barefootsaga or on their blog: http://www.sagaifarver.dk (under reconstruction).

Community Blog | July’s Monthly Sewing Challenge with Christine

Editor’s Note: I’m so excited that for the month of July, Sew Busty will be teaming up with my dear friend Christine (@HouseOfMorozin) for her Sew Monthly challenge! This month’s Sew Busty + House of Morozin Sew Monthly Challenge will be to make a summer dress! You’ll have until August 2 to post on social media using #SewBustyChallenge and #SewMonthlywithHOM, and you’ll be entered to win some swag!

The year is … I don’t actually remember, like most people who have been sewing since they were younger. I am Christine from House of Morozin. My sewing journey was started in the early years. For as long as I can remember my mother had a sewing machine in the house. I was fascinated with trips to JoAnn’s and Walmart, back when they had a huge sewing center. 

Flash forward to my twenties and sewing had become a more intermittent hobby. Until one day in 2018, I decided “Hey let’s bring my machine to my house and sew something”. This was the moment I truly became a sewist! 

Come 2021 and I am a professional seamstress who has sewn for two brands with plans for my own. I have a background in lingerie and high knowledge of working with stretch fabric. Fun Fact: my favorite brand to sew on is Pfaff!

Shot of Christine from Madalynne Intimates modeling shoot

I have a busy life, which pushes my hobbies to the side. My love of going fabric shopping did not get any dimmer. And so my stash grew and grew. 

I recently had an opportunity to become a seamstress and sew for a living! With that, I met IRL sewing friends. After helping with the great Lady Bird jeans workshop, we decided to work on the Ginger Jeans by Closet Core pattern together. Over the next month we worked at our own pace asking questions about the others experience during a sewing section and cheering each other on. 

In progress photo from jeans sewing

*SPARK* This was so fun! I want to do a project like this every month! Suddenly I had the idea for the Sew Monthly with House of Morozin Challenge. It is a challenge that has no daily requirements, loose pattern specifications, and a community of helpful individuals. 

As a busy sewist, I found myself failing at challenges like Me Made May because I forget to post every day, or have no time. It was hard mentally to keep up even if I was wearing self made clothes. I knew I wanted to start something where one could feel accomplished and not bogged down. We can do that in May! (Which I love to see all your makes during!)

Everyone and every body is different. We like to sew different things from different pattern companies. I didn’t want to keep the form of you sew this specific pattern for those reasons. You get to choose what works for you, your sewing skills, and your comfort level. This will also broaden your known database of known pattern companies as different suggestions come through.

The community input on Sew Monthly is one of the top reasons I wanted to create this challenge. Already, we have suggestions for fabric sourcing that I’ve personally never heard of, patterns that are multiple people’s TNT, and a encouragement to get over some scary moments like sewing swim elastic for the first time. 

Christine at a bralette workshop

This sewing challenge has basic instructions. Find a pattern you like in the loose parameters for the month and sew it up within the month The monthly breakdown is as follows:

June: Swimwear
July: Summer Dress 
August: The one you’ve been eyeing
September: Pants
October: Jacket /  Coat
November: Holiday Outfit
December: Pjs
January: Lingerie Set 
February: The one you’ve been avoiding
March: Jeans
April: Jumpsuit / Faux Jumpsuit
May: Favorite Fabric

For example: in June we just completed the Swimwear challenge. Sewers participated by sewing a swimsuit, any pattern they wanted. The challenge was met by many. We talked about different ways to find your starting point, different ways to add elastic, and other difficulties sewers met along the way. 

Sew Monthly with House of Morozin is an open to everyone challenge. The year has a lot in store for us. Let’s sew together! 

Christine Morozin is a professional seamstress, specializing in lingerie. She is the creative mind behind House of Morozin and the Sew Monthly Challenge. You can find her on Instagram @HouseOfMorozin

Bra Month | Community Blog | Fitting Considerations for Large Bra Cups with Carla

Editor’s Note: I’m excited to attend the Great Bra Sewing Bee here in about a month, and I’m excited to have Carla, one of the fantastic instructors for the Bee, on the blog today to talk about fitting bras for big boobies. The timing is especially fantastic as we wrap up bra month! As we get nearer to the GBSB, promo code SEWBUSTY will get you 10% off the Josey, Josey Plus, and Ingrid kits. Even better, for those new to bra sewing, you can go from following Sew Busty’s Jet Set Sew Along to learning EVEN more about bra making at GBSB’s Beginner Bee day!

When it comes to bra making, regardless of the cup size, we need to define a good fit before we can determine if a bra fits poorly. This is specifically for underwired bras.

A well-fitting bra should provide coverage without spillage of breast tissue on the side, over the top, or from underneath. It should shape, lift, and corral the breasts according to the silhouette of the bra. Underwires should always fit in the inframammary crease under the breast and hug the side of the breast tissue. The straps should not slide off the shoulders, nor should the back ride up.

I have just a couple other nuggets to share before we discuss fit.

Your first bra will probably not fit. If you have large cups, your first few bras will probably not fit. Don’t’ be discouraged. This is normal.

A bra is the most structured article of clothing and must be made to fit a variety of bodies.  As a pattern maker, I can tell you it is impossible to design a 36G cup pattern that will fit every 36G cup perfectly. We are all uniquely shaped, so of course we will all have different issues with fitting.

Additionally, and I can’t stress this enough, you must use your “final” fabric in all your bra making. You will never be able to get the same fit using cotton muslin that you will with a highly technical fabric. Bra fabric is unique and can’t be found at your local fabric store. Thankfully online vendors, such as BraBuilders.com, have made bra fabric shopping easy.

Now we can talk about what may be causing your bra not to fit.

Underwires

Having the right underwire shape for your breast root is one of the most important, yet overlooked factors in bra making.

Editor’s note: For more info on underwire fit, check out the Sew Busty guide to underwires and performing a breast root trace here as well as this post from our underwire bra making guide, which goes into even more detail on wire alterations.

The underwire should fit precisely in your inframammary crease on the bottom and fit right next to your breast tissue on the side. The wire should not go wandering towards your back, past your breast tissue, nor should it sit on top of your breast tissue.

To find your breast root, get a flexible ruler and form it around your breast. Start from the side, go under the crease and around to the center. Without bending the ruler, take it over to a piece of paper and trace the inside curve. Then choose an underwire that most closely resembles that shape. Keep in mind the underwires will come in a variety of gauges and will splay open when the bra is worn. The underwire should never be wider at the top when compared with your breast root trace.

A diagram of a breast root trace, showing a flexible ruler starting at the outside of the breast root, curving around the IMF under the breast, and ending

Center Gore or Bridge

This goes along with the underwires. The gore needs to be the same shape as the space between your breasts. If you have wide set breasts and a narrow gore, the underwire will not be encasing your breasts correctly. You may need to widen the gore at the bottom center. On the other hand, if you have narrow set breasts, you may need to lessen the width at the top center.

A diagram showing a center gore of a bra being

Direction of Stretch

Is the stretch in the correct direction? The stretch should go around the body and be directed toward the apex. If it’s not, that will create some distinctive warping in the cup shape.

Band

Is the band tight enough? It should fit snugly, but still be comfortable. If it rides up, it could be because the band is too loose and will not support the weight of the breasts. The band is responsible for about 80% of the support. Without a snug band, your breasts will sag, and you will feel this right away.

Another issue with the band that you will not feel right away is when the back straps are set too close to the center back. If the band is snug but it still rides up after a few minutes of wear, you may need to adjust the pattern to move the straps farther out. This will be discussed in further detail by Apparel Intimates in the class called Pattern Adjustments for Size Inclusivity at the Great Bra Sewing Bee.

Editor’s Note: Also check out the blog on July 6 for a post all about making what we call a fitting band, which helps ensure perfect band fit!

Straps

Are the straps adjusted properly? They should not be so tight that they are causing an indentation in your shoulders, but they should not be so loose that your breasts are sagging. See if your straps are too long or too short and adjust accordingly.

Cup Size

Sometimes you may just need to go up or down a size or half a size. I see many ladies taking darts here and there. If you have to take a half-inch dart or more, then I would suggest you just go down a cup size. Taking out darts can change the intended shaping.

A note of caution: if you’ve already found your correct size underwire, it may not fit with the cup that usually goes with that size. In that case you will need to adjust your cup at the wire line to fit your size underwire. When the bust diameter at its fullest point is wider than the underwire, you will need to make the Omega adjustment, which you can learn more in my Making the Josey Bra online course or during the “All things Omega Boobs” class at the Great Bra Sewing Bee.

If your breast does not fall into the bottom of the cup, then you will need to add more volume. If the bottom cup is one piece, you can split the cup vertically, add a slight curve, and add 1/4” seam allowance. The curve will allow the breast more room to drop into the cup. Or you may need to increase the curve of an already two-piece bottom cup.

If the top cup is just a little too small and you have a slight cutting-in at the top (otherwise known as “quad boob”), you can just add 1/4”. Do this by cutting the pattern piece all the way to the edge without cutting it completely. Open it up the desired amount, then tape open and redraw the lines, similar to the gore procedure pictured earlier.

Want to learn more about fitting large bra cups? The Great Bra Sewing Bee is coming up August 4-8, 2021, and La Bella Coppia and Apparel Intimates will be some of the many teachers with sessions all about fitting. When it comes to fitting large cup sizes, you can never have enough patience and persistence. Don’t be discouraged if the fit isn’t just right. I started back when only a handful of bra patterns were available. It took me 33 tries to get the right fit. The great news is that once I got the right fit, I never went back to ready-to-wear bras again. You can do it. Just keep sewing. 🙂

By the way, if you are curious about my bra-making journey, join me during the “Beginner Bee” where I will be sharing my story.

Carla Musarra-Leonard is a custom bra maker and lingerie designer. She also makes large cup bras to order under her own label, La Bella Coppia Lingerie. She is the designer of the Josey and Josey Plus bra patterns. This post was written in collaboration with Evyone Credle and Margarita Sheflyand of Apparel Intimates, LLC.