Full Bust Adjustment Guide | Giant FBA on a Woven Bodice

Let’s talk again about Giant full bust adjustments

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago in a post about performing a giant full bust adjustment on a dartless knit bodice, most full bust adjustment tutorials out there assume that busty sewists are needing to add maybe a couple inches to their bodices.

Fit books seem to think that people with large busts/projected chests top out at a garment sewing DD. (Remember that bra cups aren’t the same as your garment sewing cup size! Learn more about determining your garment sewing cup size here!)

Well, as a current garment sewing K cup (11″ difference between high and full bust), I call bullshit.

Giant full bust adjustments can look so different from what you see on normal FBA tutorials. That’s why I’ve started this series on GIANT FBAs.

I’m here to show you what it looks like when you need to add more than 4″ to your bust/projected chest — without adding to your waist!

Fitting the cashmerette Roseclair … again

As avid Sew Busty readers will recall, we’ve had a lot of Cashmerette Roseclair content on the blog. Last year — back when I fit perfectly into Cashmerette’s G/H cup size (remember that Cashmerette uses a nonstandard nomenclature for their cup sizes, such that their G/H is equivalent to a standard garment DD cup) — I did a Roseclair sew along. We’ve also had a couple of posts about altering the Roseclair to eliminate neckline gape, as well as a post on altering the Roseclair’s dart for different bust/projected chest shapes.

When I saw this dress from Baltic Born (knowing it would never fit my bust correctly), I was inspired to make something similar for my upcoming maternity photos. In comes the Roseclair!

Inspiration dress from Baltic Born

I wanted a faux wrap, surplice neckline and a gathered skirt that would accommodate my growing tummy without being only usable for maternity.

So this is not only a FBA tutorial, but also a Roseclair hack — I’ll give a quick run down of how I took the wrap style and turned it into this surplice + gathered skirt.

It’s worth noting that while I’m demonstrating this giant FBA for woven bodices on the Roseclair, this alteration is 100% do-able on other woven, darted bodices. The steps will essentially be the same. (Struggling with an FBA? Post on the Sew Busty Facebook group or reach out to me!)

Getting prepared for your FBA

Choosing a base size

As usual, you need to start with your high bust measurement, measured braless.

I will repeat this every time I write about performing FBAs: You need to measure your high bust without a bra on because you want to capture as little breast tissue in this measurement as possible. This is because you’re not really trying to measure your high bust, as it’ll measure in the garment (when you’ll probably be wearing a bra). You’re really trying to measure your skeletal frame; high bust is just acting as a proxy for this.

Lucky for me, the Cashmerette Roseclair lists the high bust measurement on the size chart. I measure about 35″ at the high bust, which puts me at a size 10 for my base size.

If your pattern does not include a high bust measurement, choosing your base size will require a bit of math. It will also require you to know what garment cup size the pattern is drafted for. Most garment patterns are drafted for a garment B cup — a 2″ difference between high and full bust — so if yours doesn’t specify, this is a semi-safe assumption. That said, it’s worth taking a peek at the Busty Pattern Database to double check that the designer doesn’t draft for a larger cup size.

If this pattern was drafted for a garment B cup — again, 2″ between high and full bust — I’d add 2″ to my high bust measurement for a total of 37″. I would then use this to choose size based on the full bust line. (We’re adding 2″ because we’re assuming that the high bust the pattern is drafted for is 2″ smaller than the full bust measurement.)

For example, on the Tilly and the Buttons Lyra Dress — which does not have high bust listed and is drafted for a garment B cup — I’d need between a 4 and a 5 based on my high bust + 2″ measurement of 37″. Again, this is assuming that the high bust of the size 4 is 34″ (36-2) and the size 5 is 36″ (38-2), while my high bust is 35″. Since I’d be between sizes, I’d probably look at the finished garment measurements to decide which size to go with — size 4 if the pattern appears to include more ease, and size 5 if the pattern doesn’t include much ease.

figuring out how many inches to add

Remember how figuring out how many inches to add for a knit top was sort of complicated, considering percentages and ratios and such? And remember how I said it’s easy for a woven bodice?

Well, let me deliver on that promise.

For a woven bodice, you just need to do some subtraction.

Take your full bust/projected chest measurement (in my case, 46″) and subtract from that the full bust measurement given on the pattern size chart. That’s it.

For me, that means:
My bust: 46″
– Drafted bust: 40.5″ (the full bust measurement for the 10 G/H cup)
= 5.5″

I needed to add 5.5″ total. (However, I rounded up to adding 6″ since pregnancy/postpartum boobs are unpredictable, so I’ll be showing a 6″ FBA.)

Going back to the Lyra for reference to a pattern that doesn’t include high bust, if I were making a size 4, I’d do 46 – 36 = 10, and know I’d need to add 10″ total.

You’ll need to divide this total by two to figure out how much to add on each side:

5.5″/2 = 2.25″ per side (but, again, I’m rounding up to 3″ to give myself some extra ease).

Doing the FBA

Finding your apex

I happen to know from making Cashmerette patterns in the past that the apex is pretty much spot on for me, so I didn’t bother moving the apex. However, if you’re using a pattern by a designer you’ve never sewn before, it’s a good idea to double check apex placement before performing your FBA.

I like to get the apex placement mostly correct before doing an FBA, and then fine tune after, since the FBA can move the apex slightly.

There are a couple ways to do this on a woven bodice:

  1. You can hold the tissue pattern up to your torso, marking roughly where the tissue skims over the “peak” of your bust/projected chest.
  2. You can use your bodice sloper to compare and mark the apex.
  3. You can use a well-fitting pattern to compare and mark the apex.

If you need to move the apex, I recommend following this tutorial from Curvy Sewing Collective.

Preparing the pattern

With your apex in roughly the right place, we need to make some markings:

  • Line A: from the bottom of your pattern to the apex, parallel with the grain line
  • Line B: from the middle of the bust dart to your apex
  • Line C: from about 2/3 up your armscye to your apex
  • Line D: perpendicular to the grain line, across the bottom of the pattern (I just used the lengthen/shorten line — this needs to be all the way across the pattern)
  • Line E: from your apex to roughly halfway through your shoulder

As I mentioned in the Giant Knit FBA Tutorial, many FBA tutorials will tell you to put Line C lower on the armscye. This doesn’t work very well for larger FBAs, as it causes too much armscye distortion.

Mark your seam allowances at Lines C and E. This will be super important later.

Cutting the Lines

Let’s start snipping! But first, stick a piece of tape at the apex and the seam allowances on Line C and E.

You’re going to start at the bottom of Line A and cut to the apex, then from the apex along Line C to — but not through — the armscye seam allowance. Then snip the seam allowance from the opposite direction, leaving a pivot point at the seam allowance.

Then you’ll cut up from the apex along Line E to — but, again not through — the shoulder seam allowance. Then snip the seam allowance from the other direction, again creating a pivot point at the seam allowance.

Finally, cut from the side along Line B to but not through the apex, making a pivot point at the apex.

Adding inches

The fun part: adding room at the bust/projected chest!

At this point, I tape down the center front side of my pattern along Line A onto another piece of pattern paper. I then draw a line however many inches from Line A on the extra paper (in this case, 3″ since I’m adding a total of 6″ — 3″ per side).

This line allows me to line up the side seam side of Line A with, which is the next step.

Pull the side seam side (here, the left of the photo) down and out to match that side of Line A with the line you just drew.

As you’re doing this, evaluate how much space you’d like to add along Line E — which is essentially the high bust — versus how much you’d like to add at Line C. I prefer to add as little at Line E as I can without distorting the armcye. You can see the options in this slideshow:

Deciding how much to add at Line E versus Line C is really about knowing your body. If you have a fuller high bust, adding more at Line E might work great for you! I do not, so I try to aim for a balance between inches added at high bust and limiting armscye distortion.

Once you have everything where you want it, go ahead and tape everything down, just being sure not to tape along Line A below Line D.

Adjusting length

Now we need to level the bottom of the bodice. On most FBAs, this is going to involve lowering the center front side of Line A to match the side seam side. But, you may notice that at a certain point, the pendulum begins to swing back, and you may end up with a longer bodice at the center front than at the side seam. This is what happened to me!

Honestly, this has never happened to me before, so I’m not really speaking with authority here. But I went ahead and took a leap of faith and cut along Line D from the side seam to Line A, moving that down to be level with the bottom of my bodice at the center front. I recommend you do the same — it seems to have worked!

You may actually need to add even more length, because the “pendulum has swung.” Really, this only had me adding about 3/8″, which seemed like … not a lot. But I decided to go ahead and muslin this, especially knowing that I really wanted this dress to fit at the underbust rather than the true waist. Depending on your bust height, you may want to go ahead and add a bit more length at the center front before you muslin.

Now, this does make my side seam a tiny bit longer, but I also know I’m going to adjust my armscye down a bit in a later step, so that will solve that side seam issue.

splitting the dart

Now we need to deal with the GIANT dart we’ve created. I’m going to start by drawing in what would be my new dart, just so you can see how ridiculous it is.

First, I marked the center of the dart. Then, I draw the center line of my new dart — the dart I’m actually going to split — all the way to the apex. Along this line, 2.5″ toward the side seam from the apex, I mark the vanishing point.

The vanishing point is what prevents darts from being too pointy. For those of us with larger busts, our vanishing points need to be further from the bust. Here’s the chart of what I recommended for vanishing points in my Giant Knit FBA Tutorial:

I+ garment cup9″+ (22.85 cm+) full/high bust difference2.5″ (6.35 cm)
G-H garment cup7-8″ (17.8-20.3 cm) full/high bust difference2″ (5 cm)
DD/E-F garment cup5-6″ (12.7-15.2 cm) full/high bust difference1.5″ (3.8 cm)
D garment cup or smaller4″ or less (10.2 cm) full/high bust difference1″ (2.5 cm)

I then connect this vanishing point to the dart ends — the original dart ends. This gives me my new dart, which I’ve marked in the final picture of this slideshow in a dashed sharpie line:

If it’s not clear, this dart is HUGE. I measured the full dart, and it was 7.5″ wide. That’s not going to work.

I want to split this into two, roughly equally-wide side darts. To do this, I’m first going to draw a line from my apex to the side seam where I want my second dart to lay.

Next, cut along the center line of the new dart (the one that I had outlined in dashed sharpie), to but not through the apex. Also cut along the line for the new dart that I just drew, again to but not through the apex. This will create a pivot point at the apex:

Putting extra pattern paper behind my new dart (where you can see hardwood in the picture above), I’m going to pivot upward until my darts are roughly equal width — that is, until the width between my original dart legs is roughly equal to the amount I can see the new pattern paper.

Tape this down, and find the center of the new dart, drawing a line from the apex to the center:

Along this line, mark your vanishing point, using the chart above to select how far from your apex your vanishing point should be (again, I chose 2.5″).

You’ll similarly need to mark the center of the original dart (which is now quite a bit smaller!), draw the center line, and mark the vanishing point, using the same method.

Finally, connect this vanishing point to the dart ends. For the original dart, your dart ends are the same dart ends as on the original pattern. For the new dart, the dart ends are where you see the new pattern paper.

Here are my finished side darts, marked in solid sharpie:

Reducing the Waist (That Is, Creating Waist Darts!)

On a lot of FBA tutorials, you’ll see a recommendation to remove the amount you’ve added to the waist from the side seam. The problem is, that really just doesn’t work well when we’re adding as much as we’re adding here.

Removing 3″ from the side seam would have me end up with a wild-looking, angled side seam. And while that works fairly well in knits, as you saw in the Giant Knit FBA Tutorial, it doesn’t work so well in wovens.

You have a couple options instead. One, you can remove a small amount, say an inch, from the side seam, and take the rest in waist darts. Two, you can take it all in waist darts (what I chose to do, and what I’ll choose here). Three, you can take a small amount from the side seam, a small amount from center front (assuming you don’t need to cut on the fold), and the rest in waist darts.

Especially because I intend this dress to fit at the underbust/empire waist — meaning I have less room from bust to underbust to remove width at the waist — I chose to take all the extra width using waist darts.

The first step to this is to measure how much total width in waist darts you’ll need. Measure from one dart leg to the other, including the inches you added during the FBA. Mine was about 4-5/8″.

Now that you know the total width you need to remove using waist darts, divide that amount in two and mark that amount on either side of Line A (which should still be a line parallel to the grain line, running down from your apex). For me, I marked 2-10/16″ on either side of Line A.

Now, connect those points to the apex, drawing a triangle:

You’ll now cut that triangle out:

I want to split this GIANT waist dart into three darts, so I’m going to start by making some markings by the apex.

Perpendicular to each line of the cut-out triangle, draw a line 1″ down from the apex, .5″ outward. Then, connect the end of this line to the apex, like so:

Now draw from these triangles all the way down to the bottom of your pattern, parallel to the lines of the cut-out triangle:

Cut along these lines to but not through the apex, creating a pivot point at the apex. Place extra paper behind the opening you’ve created:

Now situate these strips of paper so that the space between them is roughly equal. These will mark your three waist darts.

Find the center point of each dart and draw a line to the apex.

Mark your vanishing point. The vanishing point does not need to be as far from the apex on a waist dart as it does on a bust dart. I marked mine 1.5″ from the apex:

Finally, mark your finished waist darts by connecting your dart legs to the vanishing points.

Truing the Darts

Now for my favorite part! We’re going to fold the pattern up along the darts, using washi tape to hold it in place (because washi tape is super easy to remove without ripping the paper), and cut along the side seam and waist seam lines.

I also love to take this opportunity to hold the pattern up to my body to see if it seems like it’ll fit. In this case, it looked pretty good.

Smoothing the armscye

Once you’ve trimmed the pattern at the side and waist seams, the last step is to smooth the armscye. As you may recall, I also like to drop the armscye just a tad — essentially as much as I added to the side seam. Just make sure that when you do this, you maintain the same total length of the armscye at the seam allowance so the sleeve will still fit.

You’re finished!

Yes, you now have 5 darts per side for the front bodice — that’s 10 bust shaping darts. And yes, it looks batty. But it’s going to work.

Again, cut and sew the pattern as usual. A couple things to note:

  1. You may want to reinforce the side seam, since the upper part is going to be cut on the bias.
  2. The darts may need some finessing, so I highly recommend a muslin. I’m usually not one for muslining, but when you’re adding a full 6″ at the bust, muslins are sort of unavoidable. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen in my stories that I needed to curve my darts a bit.

Other changes I made to hack the roseclair

In addition to doing an FBA, I also had to make a few other changes to hack the Roseclair into a surplice neckline with a gathered skirt (instead of the true wrap it’s designed to be). Essentially, I just lengthened the side of the bodice that would usually be attached to the wrap tie so that it would be long enough to sew into the side seam.

I also had to add a seam allowance to the back bodice and cut it not on the fold so that it can be attached to a zipper.

I then sewed the bodice in a slightly different order:

  • darts and stay stitching
  • shoulder seams
  • neckline binding
  • baste the two front pieces together along the waist, matching the center front
  • side seams — capturing back bodice and both front bodice pieces
  • sleeves

For the skirt, I just drafted a simple gathered skirt by measuring the total waist seam on the front bodice and tripling that, as well as measuring the half waist seam on the back bodice and tripling that. I then measured my chosen length and cut three rectangles — two back skirt rectangles that were my chosen length (27″) by triple the half back waist, and one front skirt rectangle that was my chosen length by triple my total front waist. These pieces got sewn together at the side seams, gathered, then sewn to the finished bodice.

I’m basically in love with this dress. Like, seriously. It fits like a charm. And I’m very excited to make a second, floor-length version for maternity photos!

Here’s a sneak peek at the material I’m planning to use for my maternity photos version … more on that later!

QUESTIONS? Be sure to hit up the Sew Busty Community Facebook group with any questions, drop a comment, or drop me a DM. I’m happy to help!

Full Bust Adjustment Guide | Giant FBA on a Dartless Knit Bodice (aka: Adding a Dart When You Need One)

The deal with Giant full bust adjustments

Being pregnant, my boobs have grown 6 inches in the last 6 months — I’ve gone from a garment sewing DD or F cup to a garment sewing K cup. (Remember that bra cups aren’t the same as your garment sewing cup size! Learn more about determining your garment sewing cup size here!)

Even with the ~80 designers on the Busty Pattern Database who draft for larger cup sizes or offer cup options, only one offers a cup option that fits me — Porcelynne’s I/J cup in her tank series is just right.

So full bust adjustments and I have become best friends lately. And not just small, 2-3″ FBAs, but BIG HONKIN FBAs. Even on a DD garment cup size pattern — the largest cup size offered by a substantial number of designers — I need a 6″ full bust adjustment (3″ per side). On a B cup pattern — the size that most designers draft for — I need a 9″ FBA (4.5″ per side).

The trouble? No fitting book or FBA tutorial I’ve seen really gets into what it looks like when you’re adding this much.

Which is annoying because it looks different. It can look a lot different.

So I’m going to start showing you what my FBAs look like when I’m adding 6-9″ to my patterns.

Fitting the Perfect Maternity Tee

This particular FBA was inspired by my search for a perfect maternity tee — partially because I need a lot of new shirts right now, and partially because I’m planning a bodycon style dress for my baby shower, and I needed a base pattern.

I started with the Agnes Maternity Top from Tilly & the Buttons (which also has a non-maternity version), but this tutorial can easily be used for any number of dartless knit top patterns, such as the Cashmerette Concord, Itch to Stitch Glenelly, or the Laela Jeyne Indigo Bodysuit.

Do I have to add a dart?

Okay, I’m really sorry. But I have bad news. Yes, if the difference between your high and full bust is more than, say, 7″ (17.8 cm), you’re probably going to need to add a dart, even to a knit bodice — especially if you’re hoping for a fitted look.

If you’re okay with the bodice being a more loose fit at the waist, you might be able to get away with rotating the dart out and easing the side seam — a process we’re not going to get into today. But, if you want a fitted look, it will be simply impossible to ease your front and back side seams together after adding so much. (Trust me, I tried. A lot. It doesn’t work.)

That said, I really don’t think the dart is super noticeable, and I promise it’s less noticeable than the armpit wrinkles that result from ill-fitting knit tops. (Tell me if you think the dart is noticeable in this side view!)

Getting prepared for your FBA

Choosing a base size

We’ve talked about this before, but I want you to start with your high bust measurement, braless. (The reason we take this measurement braless is because you’re trying to capture as little breast tissue in it as possible, and bras push breast tissue up!)

If you’re working with a pattern that lists high bust measurements on its size chart, that’s great! The work is done for you! Choose your size based on the one that corresponds with your high bust measurement.

But, if your pattern is like the T&B Agnes, you’ll need to do a little math, which will require you to know what garment cup size the pattern is drafted for. In my case, I reached out to T&B and was told that their maternity patterns are drafted for a D garment cup — 4″ difference between high and full bust. So I knew I needed to add 4″ to my high bust measurement. (If you’re working with a usual pattern with a B cup draft, you’ll add 2″ to your high bust measurement.)

For me the math looked like this: 35″ + 4″ = 39″

This number should then correspond with the bust measurement on the pattern.

On the Maternity Agnes, this put me between a size 4 and 5. Because I wanted a more fitted look, I went with a size 4.

How do I know how much to add? Math time!

On a woven garment, this is easy. If the Maternity Agnes were woven, I’d simply take my full bust measurement minus the full bust measurement for which it is drafted, and that would tell me how much to add. Divide this by two, and you get how much you need to add per side.

For example:
My bust: 46″
– Drafted bust: 38″
= 8″
Divided by two (since there are two sides to a front bodice!) — 4″ per side

However, I don’t like to do things this way for knitted/stretch patterns. My reluctance comes from the fact that stretch percentages mean you’re really adding more. For example, if your fabric has a 50% stretch, adding 4″ total is really adding a maximum of 6″, while adding 8″ total is really adding a maximum of 12″ — that’s a 6″ difference in maximum stretch for what’s supposed to be a 4″ difference. This problem is exponential, so the larger your FBA the more skewed things can end up being by simply adding inches like you would with a woven.

So I like to look at percentages. Enter the finished garment measurements.

For the size 4 I’m making, the finished bust measurement is 36.5″. It’s drafted for a 38″ bust. I want to figure out what this is as a percentage, so I’ll take 36.5 divided by 38 to get 96% — meaning this is drafted for 4% negative ease.

Now, I need to figure out what 96% of my full bust is: 46″ times 96% (0.96) = 44.16″. I’m going to go ahead and round that down to 44 to give me a nice even number (and I can confidently do that because I know my knit stretches plenty to cover a .16″ reduction). This is what I need my finished bust measurement to be: 44″.

Next, I’ll need to figure out how many inches that has me adding, so I’ll subtract the pattern’s finished bust measurement from my own needed finished bust measurement: 44″ minus 36.5″ = 7.5″. This shows me I need a total of a 7.5″ FBA, so 3.25″ per side.

If reading this is confusing and you’d like to see a video version, I walked through this process on instagram live here!

Doing the FBA

Finding your apex

Now that you’ve done your math, you can get working with your pattern! Here’s what my pattern looked like before I made any changes:

You’ll notice there’s no apex marked on this pattern. No worries! We’re going to find our own apex.

Put on a top that’s made from a fabric with a similar stretch percentage. Using washi tape, mark where your bust is fullest — this is sometimes the nipple, but not always. Look for the “peak” of your “mountain.”

(My washi tape is really lightly colored! I apologize that it’s hard to see here!)

Now, take off this top and fold it at center front. Lay the folded top under the front bodice pattern, matching the shoulder seam and center front (being mindful that seam allowances mean your pattern should slightly overhang the shirt).

You can see my washi tape through the pattern paper. This is where I’m going to mark my apex.

Preparing the pattern

Now that we’ve marked the apex, we’re going to cut the pattern at the waistline. On the Agnes, the waistline (or, in this case since it’s a maternity pattern, the empire waist) happens to be at the lengthen/shorten line, but this may not always be the case. Cut the pattern at the narrowest part and put the bottom of the pattern aside. We’ll come back to it later. (If you’re working with a bodice pattern that ends at the waist, great! No need to cut at this step.)

Now, we need to make some markings. First, draw a vertical line, parallel with your grain line, from the bottom of your pattern to the apex. We’ll call this Line A.

Now, draw a second line from your apex to about 1/3 of the way down the armscye. We’ll call this Line B.

Some tutorials will tell you to put this mark lower on the armscye. While this works for those who need to add fewer inches, for larger FBAs, putting this line low on the armscye causes too much armscye distortion, so higher is better.

Important: At Line B, mark your seam allowance. This will be very important at a later step.

Third, you need to draw a line from your apex to the side seam. This is Line C.

You can really put this anywhere along your side seam that you’d like, but keep in mind that where you place it on the side seam will essentially end up being the top of your bust dart. I like to make mine slightly angle upward, but only slightly. If I wanted a fully horizontal dart, I’d need to make this perpendicular to my grain line.

Finally, mark a Line D perpendicular to Line A about an inch above your waistline.

Cutting the Lines

Now it’s time to start cutting! But, before we do, do yourself a favor and stick a piece of scotch tape on your apex and on the seam allowance mark at the armscye.

Okay, now, starting from the bottom of the bodice, cut upward through Line A to the apex, then from the apex through Line B — stopping at the seam allowance mark. From the opposite side, starting from the armscye, cut through Line B, again stopping at the seam allowance mark.

Your pattern should be hanging on by a thread of paper at the seam allowance mark, allowing you to pivot at this point.

Now, starting at the side seam, cut through Line C, cutting to but not through the apex — creating another pivot point where the paper is holding on by a thread.

Your pattern will look like this:

Adding inches

Now it’s time to add some inches! I like to tape down the center front side of my pattern (on this pattern, the right side of the picture) along Line A onto another piece of pattern paper. I then draw a line however many inches from Line A on the extra pattern paper:

This line gives me something to line up the side seam side of Line A with, which is the next step.

Pulling the side seam side (here, the left of the photo) down and out to match that side of Line A with the line you just drew.

Note: You’ll see I’m only adding 3.5″ here, though earlier I said I needed a 7.5″ FBA, so 3.75″ per side. Well, that was a mistake. But since the pattern uses fabric with at least 50% stretch, I decided to just rock a bit more negative ease and not worry about it.

Evaluating Armscye Distortion

So this is what my FBA would look like. If I was adding fewer inches, I’d tape it down and call this my new pattern, essentially. But I’m adding a lot of inches, so I need to evaluate something first: How much did my armscye get distorted?

Depending on the pattern, the armscye distortion might be minimal and totally okay! In this case, tape everything down and use this as your pattern!

But, as you can see here, I got a lot of armscye distortion. It’s basically a J pattern, and I know that’s going to be super uncomfortable. But there’s a solution!

Doing the Y FBA

We’re going to add one more line. Draw a line from the apex to the middle of the shoulder seam — usually there’s a notch here, and if so, use that! This will be Line E.

Just like with Line B, you need to mark the seam allowance on Line E.

Now, cut from the apex along Line E to but not through the seam allowance mark. Then cut from the top of the shoulder along Line E to but not through the seam allowance mark, creating a pivot point with a thread of paper at the seam allowance.

Again, spread down and out to match the side seam side of Line A with the marker you created earlier to show how many inches you’re adding.

At this point, you need to decide how much of the added inches you want coming from the armscye versus the shoulder/high bust area. In the above slides, you can see how you can manipulate where things lay to have more of the added inches be along Line B or along Line E.

This is all about knowing your body. Adding more to Line E — like in the second picture — prevents more armscye distortion, but adds more width at the high bust/chest. Adding more to Line B — like in the third picture — creates more armscye distortion, but doesn’t add as much at the high bust/chest. Or you can choose something like the first picture, with roughly equal amounts distributed between Line B and Line E.

I don’t like to have too much added at the upper bust for my body, so I lean toward adding more to Line B than Line E — adding just enough to line E to avoid significant armscye distortion. I went with something like the third picture.

Once you have everything where you want it, go ahead and tape everything down, just being sure not to tape along Line A below Line D.

Adjusting length

Now we need to bring the center front down to the level of the side bodice. Extend Line A on the center front side down to be even with your new waistline from the side seam side, and draw a horizontal guideline at the same level as your new waistline on the side seam side.

Now, cut along Line D, completely detaching that bottom piece. Tape this down along the guidelines you just created, like so:

This is what we have so far, and we’re pretty much there!

Finishing Touches

Smoothing the armscye

Now we need to smooth out the armscye. You can do this by eye (which is honestly what I usually do), or break out your French curve to do it *technically* correct.

At this point, I like to drop my armscye just *a tiny bit* — like 1/4 to 3/8″ — making sure the armscye remains the same total length by measuring where I’ve dropped it.

Drawing your new dart

You now need to draw your new dart. Start by measuring the opening of the triangle you’ve created, and marking the center point.

Now, draw a line from this center mark on the dart to the apex. You’ll see here I moved my apex a bit. This was an experiment, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Just use the apex you marked — since the dot has been divided, choose the one on the center front part of your pattern.

Now, mark a spot along this center dart line some inches from your apex. The number of inches depends on the size of your bust. Here’s what I’d recommend as a starting place:

I+ garment cup9″+ (22.85 cm+) full/high bust difference2.5″ (6.35 cm)
G-H garment cup7-8″ (17.8-20.3 cm) full/high bust difference2″ (5 cm)
DD/E-F garment cup5-6″ (12.7-15.2 cm) full/high bust difference1.5″ (3.8 cm)
D garment cup or smaller4″ or less (10.2 cm) full/high bust difference1″ (2.5 cm)

So I made my mark 2.5″ back from the apex. This will be my vanishing point, or where the dart will actually end. You usually don’t want the dart ending too close to your apex, because this will make your bust look verrrrry pointy. (If pointy is the look you’re going for, then make your vanishing point closer to your apex!)

Now, you’re just going to connect this vanishing point to your dart legs. This is your finished dart!

Note: Do you need to split your dart? I answer this question visually. My dart was about 6″ long and 3-5/8″ wide, and, looking at it, I thought it would sew up fine. If your dart looks really wide, you may want to split it into two darts. This post goes over the how-to on splitting darts.

Truing the Side seam

We now must true our side seam. To do this, fold your dart as if it was being sewn. I prefer to have my dart go upward rather than pressing it down, as most instructions indicate. I find this makes a smoother line for larger busts. (Thanks to Cashmerette for the tip several years ago!)

You can either fold your dart up or down. It’s up to you.

I like to tape this shut using washi tape, so it stays closed while I deal with my side seam, but using a tape that won’t rip the paper when I remove it.

Use your French curve or eyeball a slightly curved line, connecting the armscye to the lower side seam.

You’ll see that I had a big jump from the upper to lower side seam. Since you can always remove but can’t add, I chose to go with the outer side seam — so the placement of the lower side seam. It’s worth noting, however, that I ended up skimming about 3/8″ off this spot when I sewed my muslin, so I probably could have/should have gone with the smaller of the lines — where the side seam is on the upper part.

Truing your waist

As you may recall, you’ve added inches (in my case, 3.5″) to your bust level down — including your waist. Well, if the waist was the correct size on the original pattern and you want the bodice to be fitted at the waist, this isn’t going to work. We need to reduce the waist.

On a woven, this would be easier. I’d recommend taking a bit from the side seam and adding a waist dart or two.

But here, I didn’t want to add a waist dart. This is a tee shirt after all! So it’s going to have to all come from the side seam.

To do this, mark along the waistline 3.5″ (or however many inches you added in your FBA) inward from the side seam. Draw an S curve, starting at your bust height and ending at your waist marker, like this:

You can do this with a French curve or by eye. I started with my French curve and ended by eye, which is why my line is so ugly 😂

I also had a bit of an extra challenge because I was making this with an empire waist rather than a natural waist, so that gave me less space to gradually skim off the side seam than you’d have using a natural waist. If you’re using a natural waist, this line shouldn’t look quite so angular.

Now, to finish truing the dart, cut along this line:

Open your dart back up, and you’ll see your finished side seam!

Reconnecting with lower pattern

Now our last step is to reconnect our upper pattern with our lower pattern!

Essentially, you just need to match your lower pattern to your upper at the side seam and center front.

At this point, I also do a bit more truing of the side seam and cut it out:

You’re finished!

Yay! All done! Here’s my finished pattern piece:

Now cut and sew the pattern as usual. If you have an extreme angled side seam like me, it might be worth reinforcing the side seam at that point with some seam tape or elastic, just to add some strength since the force of the fabric is a bit wonky there.

I feel pretty awesome about this pattern! I can’t wait to sew up my baby shower dress 🙂

If you follow Sew Busty on instagram, you’ll know that I ended up needing to tweak the sleeve for my fuller biceps, but the bust was on point!

Advanced Fitting Series with Designer Stitch | Contouring Gaping Armholes with Darts

Hi Ho my friends. Ann here from Designer Stitch and I am back with another fitting post in the Sew Busty fitting series – answering your questions about any fitting dilemmas or problems that you may encounter when sewing all of your fabulous me-made clothing.

And I bet you cannot even GUESS what I am going to talk about today?.

You guessed? – well YES – my favourite subject of all time. DARTS!!!

As you may know I have a huge love affair with darts. And all things DART related.

Darts are the ESSENTIAL fitting tools of a well made and well fitted garment.

So today I put on my My Teachers Hat 👩‍🎓 – this is what I call my how-to’s over in my Designer Stitch Pattern Support Group over on Facebook. Why not come over and say hello to us all. xx

What are Darts?

The above image – left – details the ABSOLUTE minimum of dart placement that you should have on a bodice. The minimum for fitting – and I say MINIMUM for a reason – are the side bust darts. They help contour the garment – alleviate drag – and also stop the centre front of a garment lifting. 

The above image – right – are the minimum CONTOUR dart/wedgies that you would need to have if you were fitting a sleeveless garment with a lowered neck. These are called contour darts or wedgies – as they facilitate the contouring of the garment over and around your entire bust mound. 

The darts added to the armhole stop your garment gaping around the side bust mound. The darts added to the neckline stop the garment gaping as the bodice comes off its contour of the bust mound into the flat surface of your upper chest area.

But Why Darts?

The image on the left shows a side view and a straight piece of cloth. A body is 3 dimensional yet the cloth is 2 dimensional. 

When the cloth has to fold over the body it creates folds or wedgies on itself at its hinge points. So really the folds and wedgies it makes are just the DARTS that we need. The cloth tells us what it wants to do. 

What Happens When There are No Darts in Play?

A garment that has no darts in play will never EVER fit your body properly. And the above images are perfect examples of this.

Over on the Sew Busty Facebook Group our Anouska W posted the above pics asking for fitting advice. The image on the left shows massive gaping in the side armhole. It is quite obvious.

The fullness in this area creates a type of “wing” that can be contoured back into the bust mound with shaping. And what shaping do we use – well, DARTS OF COURSE!!

The image on the right shows that the toile that Anouska made is actually telling us what it wants to do. The fullness and folds of the fabric are showing us that it wants to fold down on itself – hence creating that all important contour – in the form of a dart. 

Two pattern pieces are shown side by side. A caption reads "The above are the pattern pieces used. While there is provision of a "full bust fit" the shape has been widened only. Not a single dart for shaping is to be seen anywhere on the patterns."

I asked Anouska to send me a pic of the pattern pieces that she used. As you can see above there are no darts to help contour the pattern piece around the body. There is a separate pattern piece provided for a “full bust” – but this has just been done by widening the pattern.

Not a single dart for shaping is to be seen anywhere on the pattern. 

Adding Contour Darts to Your Pattern Piece

Two pattern pieces are shown with darts added at the armscye and side seams. A caption reads "The minimum required for this pattern is a side bust dart regardless of the standard fit or full bust fit. Each fit must have its own dart sitting in the side seam. Then to facilitate shaping a contour wedge/dart should be taken in the armhole for bust mound shaping."

The absolute minimum required for this pattern should have been in the form of side bust darts regardless of standard fit or full bust fit.

Each fit must have its own side bust dart. And the full bust fit would have a bigger side bust dart than the standard fit.

Then to facilitate the shaping around the side bust that Anouska’s toile is telling us it needs – a contour dart/wedgie – should be then taken for side armhole bust mound shaping.

And you may ask – How much should this be ? The toile will tell you.

Whatever you have pinned out to create your new contour dart is the full dart value amount.

Pinning out shape on your toile is the best way to ascertain how much shaping is needed in any part of the fitting garment. 

An image of a pattern piece with side bust darts, diamond waist darts, and armscye darts is shown. A caption reads, "This is the front of my Raven cami. The armholes have already been controured as you can see from the angle of the side seam and the curve of the armhole. If any additional contouring is needed you draw your contour wedge in position that you pinned your toile out – draw it onto your pattern as if it was a new dart.

When adding your contour dart/wedgie to your pattern you must ensure that the dart is angled correctly – again your toile will tell you – and that it finishes its length at the bust apex point.

The above image is the front of my Raven Cami/Slip Dress pattern. I have already contoured my armholes with a fitting dart as you can see from the angle of the side seam and curve of the armhole.

If you need additional contouring you draw your contour dart/wedgie in position – as if it was a new dart – to the length to the apex.

An image of a camisole pattern with darts at the armscye, side seam, and diamond waist darts is shown. A caption reads: "The new contoured darts in the armhole can then be shortened back from the apex point – anywhere from 3 cms or more – or they can be pivoted back into the existing side bust dart. But a WARNING – do not pivot all of your contour darts into the side bust dart – making one big huge dart. If the dart is too big it will not sit correctly and you may end up with a massive pointed cone shape sitting off your side seams and your side bust mound. Bust darts DO NOT do all the work for fitting your body. Your body needs shaping over ALL of its contours.

For the final pattern you now have a few choices.

You can either leave your new armhole dart in place as it is – but if so you must shorten this new dart back away from the apex to avoid pointy “boobs.” They are usually shortened back a minimum of 3 cms (1 1/4″) but this will be dependent on how it sits on your body. It may need more length or even made shorter. See what the toile is doing and then make your final decision. 

Alternatively the armhole dart can be pivoted back into the existing side bust dart. But a HUGE WARNING!!! DO NOT – and I repeat DO NOT pivot all of your fitting darts into your side bust dart. I see countless blogs and YouTube instructional videos advising this – and it is so so wrong.

Pivoting all darts into a side bust dart not only results in one massive DART – but you will have a dart that doesn’t sit correctly and may end up with a HUGE pointed cone shape sitting off your side seams.

And one thing I HATE that makes my eyes scared – it is pointy BOOBS. 

Side bust darts should not – and DO NOT – do all the work for fitting your body.

Your body needs shaping over all of its contours.

Hence why darts are needed in key fitting areas. 

I hope that you have learnt something by reading my story and please shout out if you have any thoughts to share.

The good thing about sewing and fitting our bodies – we always learn NEW THINGS.

Love to you all and please stay safe and well everyone xx

Cheerio my lovelies
Ann at Designer Stitch xx

Sloper Series: Using Your Bodice Sloper for Well-Fitting Bust Darts WITHOUT a Muslin

Back in May, I guest blogged for the Curvy Sewing Collective on drafting a bodice sloper for big boobies. In that blog, I experimented with four different sloper drafting methods, and ended up with a well-fitting sloper at the end! Maybe you followed along and have your own bodice sloper now, too! Well, what do we do with these slopers?! Let them collect dust?! I THINK NOT. In this new Sew Busty Sloper Series, I’ll talk you through different ways to use your sloper – from pattern alterations to drafting. See the whole series here.

Today, we’re going to talk about using your sloper to modify bust darts on any bodice pattern!

Now, I want to start with a note: I am not an expert seamstress, fitter, pattern maker, etc. What I am is a home sewer who has spent a lot of time reading and experimenting. And from those experiments, I’ve determined that some of this is more of an art than a science.

With that stated, let’s get started!

For today’s experiment in getting well-fitting darts without a muslin, I’m going to be using Designer Stitch’s Eden Jumpsuit. This is an older Designer Stitch pattern, dating back to 2018, but goodness, it’s on trend for today, don’t ya think?

Lindsie, a white woman in her 20s, stands on a sidewalk in front of a wall that is partially wood and partially marble tiled and models a jumpsuit. The jumpsuit is sleeveless and 7/8 length and is made from a tan-colored material with black outlines of hands throughout. Lindsie has her hand on her sunglasses and looks in the distance. End.

So, to get started, I cut the pattern according to my measurements, which, for this pattern, was a size 3DD. In Designer Stitch, I usually wear a 3DD graded to a 4 at the waist, then back to a 3 at the hip, but since this pattern has an elasticated waist, there’s lots of ease there. So I just cut a straight 3DD, no grading.

The first thing I needed to do was adapt my sloper to have darts that match the Eden. My sloper – the version I posted on the CSC blog – has a side bust dart, a shoulder seam bust dart, and a waist dart. But the Eden only has a single bust dart. So I first made a sloper version with a single bust dart by rotating my darts into a single dart.

I’m not going to go over dart rotation in this post, but suffice to say it’s SUPER EASY. There are a few ways to move darts, and I prefer the pivot method, shown in the second part of this video:

Now, you might be thinking, “But Lindsie, some of the shaping that would normally rely on darts is surely happening through the elasticated waist, right? How do you account for that?”

Well, remember when I said this was an art, not wholly a science? Let’s just keep going and see where things lead.

The next thing I’m going to do is place my newly-created single-dart sloper over my front bodice pattern. In this image, I’ve marked the correct bust point and the dart legs in pink.

You’ll notice that all the lines of my sloper are just slightly inward of the outer edges of my pattern. This is because my sloper has no seam allowances, while the Eden has 1/2″ seam allowances. So I placed my sloper edge roughly 1/2″ inward from the edge of the pattern.

You will also notice that The center front of the pattern piece is angled differently than the center front of the sloper. This is because the pattern has an elasticated waist, while my sloper is designed to form-fit my body.

Okay, so what can we learn from this?

Well, the biggest thing I noticed is that my bust point, marked here with a pink X, is about 1/8″ lower and 1/2″ inward from the bust point of the Eden pattern. You can see this a bit more clearly on the following picture, where I’ve marked the Eden’s bust point in blue:

Another thing that you might notice is that the angle of the bust darts is different on the Eden than on my sloper. Here, I’ve traced the Eden bust darts in blue:

What you may or may not be able to see in this picture, though, is that the bust darts – while ending at a slightly different apex and having a different angle – are actually about the same width.

In fact, moving my sloper to have its apex match the Eden’s apex and rotating to have the dart legs match, I could see that the darts were actually just about correct in size.

So, my biggest issue was the apex being ever so slightly off. (And frankly, this isn’t much of an issue, and this whole process really showed me why Designer Stitch patterns are some of my favorites … their block appears to match my bust very well).

To fix this, I drilled through the apex and marked the Eden pattern underneath. Below, you can see my new apex drawn as a purple X:

Now, this is the tiniest apex change. But, for a near-perfect fit, I still wanted to make it!

The most correct way to move the apex down is to cut out the dart and move the whole damn thing down. You can see a tutorial on this from the Curvy Sewing Collective here. Only then would we lengthen the dart to account for my closer-to-center apex.

But, I’m lazy, this was literally a 1/8″ lowering, and – looking at my sloper bust dart angle – I knew that I like my darts to be at a slightly more downward angle. So instead, I marked my dart’s disappearing point 1-1/4″ from my apex, and redrew the damn dart.

Here, you can see me trying it on before adding the elastic or zipper. This photo also happens to be helpful because it shows how the bust fit before I wore the thing and introduced mega wrinkles. (Ohhh cotton poplin, how I love you, but how you also get SO WRINKLY.)

That’s literally it, folks. That’s the dart I used. I did try the bodice on after sewing the darts, and ended up lengthening the darts by about 1/4″ and curving the ends – something I often do with darts, and something that didn’t surprise me, as I prefer my darts to end about 1″ from my apex, while Ann from Designer Stitch ends her darts 1-1/4″ from the apex.

It has pockets, y’all!
BIG POCKETS!

I am absolutely chuffed by the near-perfect fit on this jumpsuit!

How have you used your sloper to achieve better-fitting busts on your makes? Tell me in a comment below or post about it in the Sew Busty Facebook group or subreddit.


Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Using the affiliate links in Sew Busty posts is a great way to support the costs of running Sew Busty, as when you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me pay for the hosting, domain, design, and other costs associated with administering this site. All opinions remain my own.

Advanced Fitting Series with Designer Stitch | Darts: Essential Fitting Tools

The Advanced Fitting Series aims to answer all your intermediate-to-advanced fit questions. It is a collaboration between Sew Busty and pattern designer Ann Grose of Designer Stitch. Have a question about fit? Email it to fitquestions@sewbusty.com and you might see it featured!

Greetings my lovelies – Ann here from Designer Stitch. And welcome to my first blog post as part of the Sew Busty Advanced Fitting Series – answering your questions about any fitting dilemmas or problems that you may encounter when sewing all of your fabulous me-made clothing.

Over in my Facebook group I call this – My Teachers Hat 👩‍🎓 – so welcome everyone.

As this is my first post about fitting I am going to talk to you about my FAVOURITE subject – DARTS!!
You may have seen a few previous posts over on my blog discussing darts so you will know that I truly adore them.

Darts are an essential fitting tool that is needed in a sewing pattern. They are key in getting the correct fit of your sewing pattern as they enable the fabric to shape and sculpt itself around your body.

Darts give a fabulous silhouette to the garment to enable you to get the best fit possible.

What do darts do?

Darts are a contouring tool – where a flat length of fabric is shaped to contour around your body.

Darts are essentially a wedge of fabric – shaped liked an extended triangle – that is stitched in your fabric to convert that length of fabric – a 2D shape into a 3D shape.

Where are darts found?

Dart areas can be found throughout the body. Bust darts, waist darts, back shoulder darts, front neckline darts.

Even the shaped side seams of a pattern are essentially darts – except they are split apart to create individual front and back side seams.

Darts don’t always have to remain as darts. Darts can be converted in flare, gather, pleats and tucks.

What happens when there are no darts in play?

The above images are my render of two photographs that were submitted to Sew Busty where the submitter was asking about choosing the appropriate size of the pattern.

Her measures were High Bust = 36″, Full Bust = 38″. And she stated the pattern was drafted for a C Cup. (The body measures as detailed warrant a B Cup). She wondered if she needed a full bust adjustment, due to the wrinkling under the bust.

Regardless of this sizing – if you are trying to drape a flat 2D length of fabric over the body you need some type of contouring device – hence DARTS!!

And you may be saying – Why Darts? The images above indicate that the center front (CF) is lifting and there are drape lines radiating from the side seams to the bust point.

What is happening is that the bust is projecting – dragging the fabric – and then lifting the front hem line to accommodate the projection of the bust mound. (Note: the garment fitted the wearer except the drape lines were very visible. They were drape lines – not drag lines which indicate a garment that is too small).

To offset the front hemline lifting – and the drape lines radiating to the bust point – the length of the front pattern piece needs to be increased.

The above image indicates two lengths of measure – one from shoulder – over bust point – down to hem. The second – from shoulder but straight down without going over bust point.

You can see how much longer the length is that is going over the bust point – than the straight vertical measure.

The above image shows the more the bust projects – the need for a greater length of front pattern piece.

Adding extra vertical length to the front pattern will then allow the sewn piece to contour nicely over the body – but to do this we have to add shaping to that pattern piece to offset the extra length.

And that will be remedied by our friends – DARTS!

OUR FRIENDS – DARTS.

To add extra length to a pattern piece – to facilitate contour – the entire front needs to be lengthened – but as the center front (CF) of the pattern has to be cut on the fold the entire front piece needs to be split and extra length added in.

And so our lovely dart friends come into play xx.

The extra length added to the vertical front of the pattern is taken up with a side bust dart.

The side bust dart is placed at an angle – generally 8-9cms (3 – 3 3/8″) down from your original armhole/scye line – angled to the junction of your front bust depth/bust point separation known as the bust apex (bust point).

Then this dart is usually shortened back around 3 to 3.5cms (1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″) from your bust apex/bust point (but this can be variable)

Adding bust darts to a pattern piece is relatively easy – if you have your correct measures – and of course know how much is needed.

From the original photo that I drew the above images from I calculated that the OP need to split and add approx 2.5cms (1″) to her front length.

I hope that you have learnt something by reading my story and please shout out by commenting below if you have any thoughts to share. And don’t forget to submit your fit questions to fitquestions@sewbusty.com!

The good thing about sewing and fitting our bodies – we always learn NEW THINGS.

Love to you all and please stay safe and well everyone xx

Cheerio my lovelies
Ann xx