Full Bust Adjustment Guide | Giant FBA on a Cowl Neckline

What’s a “giant” full bust adjustment?

This post is part of a series on “giant” full bust adjustments — adjustments for sewists who need to add more than 2-3″ to their garments. The series is a response to the fact that almost every FBA tutorial out there assumes you’re only adding a couple inches to your bodices, but for many of us, that’s just not true.

I, for example, need to add 9-11″ to most patterns.

Other posts in this series include:

Most patterns are drafted for a 2″ difference between high bust and full bust. This is commonly referred to as a garment sewing B cup (which, importantly, is different from bra cup!!). To learn more about garment sewing cup sizes and how to determine your own, check out this post.

If you are bigger than a garment B cup (more than a 2″ difference between your high and full bust measurements), you probably need a full bust adjustment. Most FBA tutorials will give you instructions on adding a couple more inches on top of that standard garment B cup.

I’m currently somewhere between a garment K and M cup (9-11″ difference between high and full bust) — depending on how full of milk my boobs are — so the couple inches most FBA tutorials add isn’t enough for me, and it’s not enough for a lot of other folks either.

That’s who this series is for (though the techniques are mostly applicable for smaller FBAs too!).

Building a nursing-friendly wardrobe

I had my (adorable) baby Arthur in August, and ever since, I’ve been trying to focus my sewing efforts on two things (1) garments that fit my postpartum body and (2) garments in which it’s easy to breastfeed. That’s what brought me to this cowl neck pattern, the Zen Llama Cowl Neck Top, which is designed to be nursing friendly.

That said, while I’m demonstrating this giant FBA for cowl neckline patterns using the Zen Llama pattern, this tutorial can really be applied to any bodice with a cowl neckline. (Struggling with an FBA? Post on the Sew Busty Facebook group or reach out to me!)

Let’s get started!

Choosing a base size

This is maybe the most important step when doing a full bust adjustment, because it’s the step that will ensure your top fits your shoulders and neckline. Fixing the shoulders and neckline is wayyyy harder than fixing any other part of the pattern, so choosing a pattern size that already fits your skeletal frame must be a priority.

Fair warning, if you’ve read my previous FBA posts, you can probably skip this part. It’ll be redundant.

Start with your high bust measurement, measured braless.

Measuring the high bust without a bra captures as little breast tissue as possible, which gives us a more accurate look at your skeletal frame, which is really what we’re trying to measure. Again, the high bust measurement is a proxy for your skeletal frame.

On their older patterns (of which the Cowl Neck Top is one), Zen Llama doesn’t include a high bust measurement. I reached out to the designer, though, who indicated that the older patterns assume a standard garment B cup — so the high bust is 2″ smaller than the full bust. My high bust is right about 35″, so subtracting 2″ from the high bust measurements on the size chart, I could choose a small or medium. I went with a medium, which gives a full bust range of 37-39.5″.

how many inches to add?

This tutorial should work on both knit and woven cowl neck patterns. If you’re working with a woven pattern, your math is simple: take the full bust measurement that your pattern was drafted for, subtract it from your own full bust measurement, and that gives you the number of inches to add. For example, if I was working with a woven pattern drafted for a 35″ high bust (my high bust size) and a 37″ full bust, I’d take my full bust (46″) minus the drafted full bust (37″) for a result of 9″ needing added to the pattern, or 4.5″ per side.

But things aren’t so simple with knit bodices. Let’s walk through it.

First, we need to find the finished measurements for the pattern. This isn’t the body size the pattern is drafted for, but instead the number of inches of fabric in the resulting garment.

For the size medium that I chose based on my high bust measurement, the finished full bust measurement is 36-1/8″. It’s drafted for up to a 39.5″ bust. In order to maintain the same percentage of ease across my bust as indicated in the original pattern, I want take 36.125″ divided by 39.5″ to get 91.5% — meaning this pattern was drafted for a maximum of 8.5% negative ease.

The next step is to figure out what I need my finished measurement to be, which I know needs to be 91.5% of my full bust measurement. Therefore, I take my full bust measurement (46″) and multiply that by 91.5, giving me a result of 42.09″. I’m going to round that down to 42″, which should be my finished full bust measurement.

Then, I take 42″ and subtract 36.125″ — the finished measurement for which the pattern is drafted. This gives me a result of 5.875″, but for simplicity, I’m going to round up to 6″. This means I need to add 6″ to the full bust of this pattern.

Here’s my handwritten version of this math:

If you’d like to see a video of me going over this math, I did so on instagram live here (for my previous post on knit bodice FBAs)!

Performing the FBA

Removing the self facing and finding your apex

My pattern had a self facing, so the very first thing I did was remove that. We’ll add it back at the end, but it’s going to complicate things in the meantime.

To do this, I just drew a straight line across starting from the dart where the self facing starts, and then I cut this off:

The next step is to find your apex. I’m not going to go into vast detail on this here, but will point you back to my post on performing an FBA on a knit bodice for my trick on using a knit top you already have and some washi tape.

Drawing the lines

Please ignore (to the best of your abilities!) how wrinkled my pattern was. I took it on vacation and things got wild.

Once you’ve identified your apex, the next step should be familiar. We’re going to draw some lines:

  • Line A from apex to the hem, parallel to the grainline
  • Line B from apex to 1/3 to 1/2 way up the armscye
  • Line C from apex to side seam
  • Line D from Line A to the other side
  • Line E from apex to midway through the shoulder seam

If you want more detail on where to draw these lines, you can reference this post, which goes over the same lines!

cutting the lines

Now that we have those lines drawn, we need to do some cutting. But first, mark your seam allowance at the armscye on Line B and Line E:

It’s also a good idea to add a bit of tape at the apex as well as at the intersection of the seam allowance with Line B and Line E.

Now, cut along Line A from the hem to the apex, then along Line B and Line E from the apex to — but not through — the seam allowance marking. Then, cut along Line C from the side seam to but not through the apex. Finally, cut along Line B and Line E from the armscye and shoulder seam, respectively, to but not through the seam allowance marking.

You should end up with something like this:

Adding those inches

Our next step is to add those inches that we determined earlier. If you recall, I determined I needed to add 6″ to the full bust of my pattern, which means I need to add 3″ per side.

Grab a scrap piece of paper, and draw two straight lines, up and down, the same number of inches apart as you need to add per side — so 3″ for me.

Tape down your pattern piece, lining up each side of your cut Line A with the lines on this scrap paper. When spreading your pattern, you want to pull down and out, so that the upper part of your pattern remains flat.

Truing the hem

You’ll notice that this creates an uneven hem. To fix this, we’ll cut along Line D and pull that lower corner down to be even with the other side of our pattern, like so:

Redraw your foldline and true up your hem.

Removing the dart

Now, you’ll notice our FBA added a dart. You can keep this dart, but you do not need to.

If you choose to keep the dart, you can follow the “drawing your new dart” section in this post, and essentially you’ll be done.

But if you want to move that dart back into the cowl neck for a dartless look, that’s possible too!

Drawing more lines

In order to rotate your dart into the cowl neck, you need to draw yet another line — this time from apex to somewhere along the neckline. We’ll call this Line F.

When choosing where to mark your new apex, you have a few options:

  1. the part of the original apex point that’s closest to the center front,
  2. the part of the original apex point that’s closest to the side seam, or
  3. somewhere in between

Because of how I find my apex on new patterns (by lining the pattern up with an existing pattern or garment along the center front and marking), I choose the first option — the part of the original apex point that ends up closest to the center front after performing the full bust adjustment.

You also need to connect the ends of the dart to the apex point:

Cutting and pivoting

Go ahead and throw another piece of tape on your apex point to reinforce it, as it will become your pivot point here in a sec.

Now, cut from the side seam along one of the dart legs — it doesn’t matter which one — to but not through the apex. Starting from the neckline, also cut along Line F to but not through the apex, creating that pivot point at the apex.

You’ll now pivot that dart closed, opening essentially a new dart at the neckline:

Tape this into place. Add a piece of scrap paper behind the dart at the neckline and tape that into place, too.

reducing the waist and truing lines

Redrawing the side seam

Next, we need to true up our lines and make the waist fit. Start by identifying your waist, and measuring inward the same number of inches you added above during the full bust adjustment. This will be your new waist point.

Continue making markings at this same number of inches (so, in my case, 3″) all the way down the side seam. This will become your new side seam.

Next, true the line from your bust line (where we closed the bust dart) to the new waist point. You can use a French curve to do this, but I generally prefer to just freehand it. For us curvy folks, this will be quite a curvy line. That’s okay!

Truing the armscye

You also need to true up your armscye. Since we pivoted along the seam allowance, you should be able to just draw it in following the seam allowance.

Truing the neckline and re-attaching the facing

You’ll also need to true up your neckline where you added a “dart” there. I did this by re-attaching my self facing, matching the shoulder seam. I then needed to extend the self-facing by the same number of inches as my resulting dart was wide:

Finally, you’ll need to true your self facing by folding it onto the main and clipping:

You should now have a full pattern:

Sewing it up!

Now, you can just sew your top according to the pattern instructions! (If you added a dart, you will of course want to sew up that dart.)

Here’s how my initial go went (while I was still pregnant!):

I felt like this was a bit low cut for my preferences, so I did decide to raise the neckline for my next version. I’ll write another post soon about raising necklines in cowl neck tops, but this post is plenty long for now!

Here’s my version after I raised the neckline, when I was about 2 weeks postpartum (after my milk came in, so please excuse it being a bit tight at the bust — should have added more than 6″ it seems!):

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 3.75″ 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!

Full Bust Adjustment Guide | Gathered Bodice FBA

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know I LOVE a good jumpsuit. I know a lot of people are anti-jumpsuit because they have to get naked to go to the bathroom or whatever, but, to be completely honest, IDGAF. I love them. They’re ultimate comfort.

So, when I found out I was pregnant, I immediately knew I needed to make myself a maternity jumpsuit. Onto a pattern search!

I checked all my normal busty-friendly designers: Designer Stitch, Itch to Stitch, Cashmerette. None of them had a maternity jumpsuit (or really many maternity patterns at all! Cashmerette has a few, but they don’t yet come in her smaller size band, which is where my upper bust falls). I went through the Busty Pattern Database hoping for a good option, and, alas, didn’t find one.

So I got desperate and I went to etsy: “maternity jumpsuit pattern.” And I found this:

Butterick 6226. Maternity jumpsuit of my dreams.

I immediately ordered the pattern. The only problem? I’d have to do an FBA. And, not just a simple, darted FBA. A gathered bodice FBA.

Thank goodness I had done this before, because the results were amazing! I love this jumpsuit.

Gathered Bodice FBA Tutorial

Let’s get started, shall we?

choosing a base size

Just like with other full bust adjustments, the first step is to figure out what base size you’ll be making. Choose based on your high bust + 2″ as the “bust” measurement on the chart. I’ve talked about this before, but most FBA tutorials will have you choose based on your high bust substituted for the size chart’s “bust” measurement. I’m honestly not sure why tutorials teach this way, as this instruction fails to consider that almost all patterns are drafted such that the high bust is 2″ smaller than the full bust.

Thus, if the high bust measurement is not offered on a pattern, you must add 2″ to your high bust measurement, and choose the size with a bust measurement that most closely corresponds to this HB+2. My high bust measurement is about 35″, so I need a size with a bust measurement that is around 37″. According to the size chart on the Butterick 6226, that put me at a size 16.

Now, let’s take a quick moment to talk about Big 4 pattern sizing and why I ultimately chose a 14 even though the boob math put me in a 16: After reading reviews of this pattern and chatting with some folks on Instagram who had made this pattern before, the feedback was unanimous: This pattern runs big. That wasn’t a surprise; almost all Big 4 (Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue) run big. Most people I talked to said they got the best fit by choosing two sizes down from what they measured. Since 14 was the smallest size I had, though, I decided to go for it. (After making, I can confirm I probably could have made a 12, had I had the pattern for it.)

Okay, back to the FBA.

Doing some full bust adjustment math

Now, to start our FBA, we must do a little math. Butterick, like most pattern companies, drafts its patterns for a 2″ full bust to upper bust difference. My full bust is currently 45.5″, and my high bust is 35″ — meaning I have a 10.5″ difference. I need to subtract 2 from 10.5, for a total of 8.5. This means, in theory, I should have done a 8.5″ full bust adjustment, adding 4.25″ on each side. If you are working with a woven pattern, this is absolutely what you should do.

But this jumpsuit is a knit garment with a lot of ease, so I decided to do a few more steps.

First, I looked at the finished garment measurements. At a size 14, the finished bust measurement of 43.5″, so it’s drafted with an intended 7″ of positive ease (since the 14 is intended for busts of 36″). My chosen fabric also has 30% comfortable stretch (meaning not stretching it to it’s absolute limits), so—if I made the pattern as-is—I would have ended up with a possible 56.5″, after stretch.

As those of you who follow me on instagram know, I thought about being lazy and just making the pattern as-is. I asked you all. And you all very wisely told me to do the damn FBA.

But I didn’t necessarily want the full 7″ of positive ease, so I decided to do a smaller FBA than the basic [my full bust minus high bust] – 2″ equation was telling me. So I settled on doing a 5″ FBA—adding 2.5″ on each side. This would result in a finished, unstretched bust measurement of 48.5″—so 2″ of positive ease. This also meant that, if my boobs keep growing (please NO!), the garment could comfortably stretch to 63″.

Alright. Let’s do the thing. Add 2.5″ on each side.

Marking the pivot points

The apex was conveniently marked on the Butterick 6226!

(If, on your pattern, the apex is not marked, you’ll need to find its approximate location. The pattern may indicate bust-to-bust measurement, which can be divided in two and measured from the center front to find the horizontal alignment of the apex. Similarly, some patterns will list a shoulder point to bust measurement, which can then be measured from the shoulder point on the pattern to find where the apex lands vertically. Find where these points intersect, and you have your apex! If your pattern doesn’t list any of this, just make your best guess as to the apex location.)

You’re then going to draw two lines, seen in my photo in red: one vertically down from the apex to the waist, and one diagonally from the apex to the armpit, about 1/3 of the way up. We will call the vertical line “line A” and the diagonal line “line B.”

The next step is to draw two horizontal lines: What we’ll call “Line C” will go from the apex horizontally to the side seam. What we will call “Line D” will go horizontally from Line A to the center front. Don’t worry too much about exact placement of Line D — it’s really not important. Just needs to be somewhere from Line A to center front.

Cutting your pivot lines

Now, we’re going to begin snipping. Cut along Line A and Line B to the seam allowance. Snip carefully on Line B at the seam allowance to allow it to hinge—cutting to, but not through the seam allowance line.

adding Room for large breasts

Place your pattern on another sheet of paper, and tape down the right side of your hinge. Now, measure from the right side of Line A to however many inches you need to add — in my case, 2.5″. Draw a line on the scrap paper to mark this measurement. We’ll call this “Line E.”

Now you’re going to cut through Line C. Hinge the left side of Line A to meet Line E. Tape this down for now, but with the recognition that you’re going to have to close Line C in a few steps.

Truing the length

Next, you’re going to cut along Line D. I like to draw a straight line down from the right side of Line A so I know where I’m going to reconnect this cut off piece in the next step.

Tape down the piece you just cut off below Line D to your pattern, keeping it in line with the right side of Line A:

Then, we’re going to untape Line C. I know, taking tape off is a bitch, but I find it less fiddly than not taping down Line C in the earlier step. Up to you, I suppose.

You’re going to close Line C, creating a weird, contorted looking pattern piece. It’s all okay. I promise.

We’re nearly done! Your next step is to draw a curve to close off the bottom of your pattern piece. You can see my curved line in red, below. You can use a French curve to do this, but I honestly just freehanded.

Cut out your pattern, and voila! You have a newly-FBA’d pattern.

The only further change you’re going to have to make is that the gathering line — marked on my pattern piece as a purple dashed line — will need to follow the line of the bottom of your pattern piece, curve and all.

Dealing with the Waist

Usually, when we do large FBAs, we have to redraw the side seam or add a waist dart to prevent from adding room at the waist. But, with a gathered bodice, the extra room you added at the waist is going to be dealt with when you gather the waistline. You’re just going to have more gathers than someone with a smaller bust would.

Sewing the B6226 — General Thoughts

I’m glad y’all talked me out of being lazy and into doing a full bust adjustment! The jumpsuit feels like it fits well, with a bit of room to grow in the bust when my milk starts coming in.

The jumpsuit definitely feels a bit roomy through the shoulders, waist and hips, and I certainly could have sized down to a 12 if I had owned that size in the pattern. But it’s comfy even in the 14, so I’m not too worried about it.

There’s definitely plenty of room for my belly to grow. In fact, there’s so much room at the front crotch that things look a bit strange seated. This is really common in maternity wear, even store bought, so I’m not concerned. It just means my belly has plenty of room as it expands.

Have questions about this full bust adjustment tutorial for large busts? Drop a comment below or or ask on the Sew Busty Facebook group or subreddit.

Full Bust Adjustment Guide | Sleeveless Princess Seam FBA

For Community Thursday this week, I’m doing something a little different and joining in the fun of a community sewing challenge! When Jess (@SoWhatIfISew) asked me to participate in her #SewNewInJune challenge, I KNEW this meant I needed to expand my horizons. I love sticking to my comfort zones: cotton poplin, patterns with built-in cup sizes, minimal pattern adjustments …

As you probably know I’m a pretty lazy sewist. I’m more here for the creative parts of sewing, like choosing which fabric to use with which pattern, than the technical parts. I suck at spatial reasoning, geometry, and math, and therefore I’m not the biggest fan of pattern adjustments.

But I knew #SewNewInJune meant I should do an full bust adjustment. I haven’t done an FBA in … probably a year. But here I am, running a blog called Sew Busty and being challenged by Jess to try new things.

So I chose an FBA that I’ve personally seen people struggle with: the sleeveless princess seamed full bust adjustment. And Sew Over It was kind enough to gift me the Rosie dress pattern to work my magic! (While Sew Over It is drafted for a D cup at larger sizes and offers cup options at all sizes in some of their patterns, the Rosie dress is drafted for a B cup at my size.)

While doing research for this, I discovered a couple of things:

One: It’s different enough from a traditional princess seam FBA that this alteration can be intimidating.

On a traditional princess seam full bust adjustment, you use the armscye as an anchor point, like in this tutorial from the Curvy Sewing Collective. But, on a sleeveless dress with princess seams, you don’t have a traditional armscye, but are instead altering part of the neckline, so it can feel a bit tricky. It’s honestly not that much different in practice, but it definitely feels different.

Two: Most full bust adjustment tutorials assume a small (1″ or so) full bust adjustment.

My bust certainly isn’t the biggest, but I need a 3.5″ total full bust adjustment, or 1.75″ on each side. This is much bigger than the 1/2″ on each side that most tutorials expect you to be doing. For example, I tried to follow this tutorial from Closet Core Patterns that was written for a dress with very similar lines to the Rosie, but unfortunately, it wasn’t cooperating with my large bust.

Sleeveless Princess Seam FBA Tutorial

Alright, LET’S GO!

choosing a base size

The first step is to figure out what base size you’ll be making. Choose based on your high bust + 2″ as the “bust” measurement on the chart. I’ve talked about this before, but most FBA tutorials will have you choose based on your high bust substituted for the size chart’s “bust” measurement. I’m honestly not sure why tutorials teach this way, as this instruction fails to consider that most patterns are drafted such that the high bust is 2″ smaller than the full bust.

Thus, if the high bust measurement is not offered on a pattern, you must add 2″ to your high bust measurement, and choose the size with a bust measurement that most closely corresponds to this HB+2. My high bust measurement is somewhere between 34.5 and 35 depending on the time of day/month, so I need a size with a bust measurement that is somewhere between 36.5 and 37″. On the Rosie, the size 12 has a 37″ bust, so I selected this base size. As a bonus, the size 12 also has a 30″ waist, which is very close to my 29.5″ waist.

The only place I didn’t match the size 12 (aside from my full bust, which we will get to …) is the hips, where I’m around a 37.5″. The size 12 accounts for a 40″ hip. BUT I decided not to grade the pattern down at the hip because the Rosie is designed to have a free-flowing skirt: The finished garment at size 12 has 86″ of fabric at the hips, meaning there’s 46″ of ease built in … what’s a few more inches of ease at that point?

Doing some full bust adjustment math

Now, to start our FBA, we must do a little math. As I mentioned, the Rosie is drafted for a 2″ full bust to upper bust difference. I have a 5.5″ difference. So I need to subtract 2 from 5.5, for a total of 3.5. Then, because you’re really working on half of your bodice, you need to divide this by 2. For me, 3.5/2=1.75, meaning I need to add 1.75″ on my bodice pattern.

Marking the apex and pivot points

Because the apex is not marked on the Rosie, you need to find it. On a princess seam, the apex is somewhat easy to find: It’s the place where the curve is largest. I marked this point on my side bodice:

You need to find the same point on the center front, which is a bit trickier. I did this by using my flexible ruler to measure down from the notch to the apex on my side bodice, then on my center front bodice:

Now, this point isn’t really the apex. The apex is really 5/8″ or 2 cm inward because of the seam allowance. This will mark your first pivot point. Mark this point and draw a line down, parallel to the seam line.

You can see in this picture that I drew my line parallel the grain line, not the seam line. This was a mistake. This is one of those times where you need to do as I say, not as I do. You’ll notice in later pictures that I went back and corrected myself. I just somehow forgot to go back and take a photo of the line marked correctly.

Now, you’ll want to draw a line from the apex to the first notch on the neckline. If your pattern does not have a notch here, choose a point an inch or two inward from the seam line.

You’ll also want to draw a line from the apex over to the side seam, about halfway between the notch and the armpit. Again, if you don’t have a notch, choose a point about a quarter of the way down the side seam.

Cutting your pivot lines

You’re now going to, very carefully, cut from the bottom of your bodice, up to the apex, then up to, but not through, the top notch. Leave a small bit of paper at the top notch so that your piece is still hanging together by a thread.

Similarly, cut from the side point to but not through the apex, again leaving this cut so it’s hanging together by a thread of paper.

You’ll see in this picture that I’ve corrected my line from apex to the bottom of my bodice, so it’s now following the seamline instead of the grainline. Yay!

adding width for large breasts

The next step in our princess seam large full bust adjustment is to tape the large side of your piece down to a spare piece of paper. Draw a line parallel to your cut line however many inches from your cut line that you determined you need for your full bust adjustment. In my case, this new line is 1.75″ from the cut piece:

Now, swivel your “hook” to match this line. This will open up a dart on the side seam of your piece. Don’t worry about that just yet. Tape down your “hook.”

Closing the Dart

Now, draw a line from the bottom of the dart you created to the apex point on the seam allowance (not just to the apex point where our cut marks are). On my bodice, this line is very close to the dart line – so much so that it’s hard to see. Yours may look much different, and that does not mean you’ve done anything wrong.

Tape down the bottom of your dart.

Now, cut from the curved side of your pattern piece through that line you drew, stopping at the apex point. Once again, cut to but not through this point.

Now, fold your dart closed. This will essentially move the dart from the side seam to the curved seam of your bodice.

You’ll now want to cut the “hook” piece at the lower notch, to cut the last several inches off. Move this downward to match the bottom of the larger part of your pattern piece, and fill in with scrap paper. Tape into place.

Tape this down, then draw a curve to connect the curved side of your bodice, as shown below. You can use a french curve for this or freehand. I personally freehanded this, even though I had my french curve next to me.

You also need to draw a slightly curved line to fill in the concave on your neckline/armpit area. Again, you can use a french curve to do this or you can choose to freehand it.

Dealing with the Waist

Now, obviously the problem with this full bust adjustment is that it has also added 1.75″ (or however many inches you did for your FBA) to our waistline, which I don’t personally want. The way to deal with this is to remove those same 1.75″ from the waistline.

Mark a dot however many inches inward from the side seam that you added for your FBA. If you added 3″, mark a dot 3″ in from the side seam. If you added 2.25″, mark a dot 2.25″ inward.

Using a french curve or freehanding, draw a gradual line roughly from the notch to the dot you just marked. You want this gradual line to start just below the bust line.

You’ll now cut along this line, and this will be your side seam. I know it looks weird as hell, but it’ll work out. I promise.

Now, I do want to mention that there’s some debate within the sewing community about where it’s best to take this excess. Some dressmakers suggest taking it from the princess seam rather than the side seam, and others suggest splitting this difference, taking some from the side seam and some from the princess seam. From my experiments in pattern drafting, this makes sense to me – the traditional approach in drafting is to distribute excess between multiple places, and when you add extra to one place (here, the princess seam), it also makes sense to remove it from that same place.

I’ve personally always taken the excess from the side seam, and I’ve been happy with the fit. I also note that every princess seam FBA tutorial I’ve seen (such as Curvy Sewing Collective, Megan Nielsen, Seamwork, Deer and Doe, In the Folds) does it this way. However, I’ve heard from some people with larger busts than me who have found this system to not work for them, and have found better success either removing the excess from the princess seam or half from the princess seam and half from the side seam. It’s always a good idea to try out different options and see what works best on your body! I encourage you to experiment 🙂

Altering the Center Front Pattern Piece

Since we added length to the side bodice, we also need to add length to the center front piece. To do this, you’ll first need to use a flexible ruler to measure the side front seam lines on both your side front piece and your center front piece.

Note: This is most accurately done by first removing the seam allowance, then measuring this seamline without the seam allowance. I didn’t remove the seam allowance first, because, as we’ve established, I am lazy. When I went to sew up my dress, this meant this seam didn’t quite “walk” – meaning, one piece was slightly longer than the other. I just trimmed after sewing this seam. But if you want to be super accurate, remove the seam allowance at this step, then add it back afterward.

Now, time for more math: We must figure the difference between the length of the altered side front piece and the length of the unaltered center front piece. For me, my side front seamline was 13″, while the center front was 10-7/8″, leaving me to add 2-1/8″.

You’ll add this amount by marking two lines: one at the apex, and one at the lower dart. Then, you’ll need to divide your total difference between these two spots. This shouldn’t be an even split. I added most of my extra – 1-7/8″ – at the apex, and only a little – 1/2″ – at the dart, and I actually ended up removing some at the dart in a later step.

Cut your piece on your two lines. On a scrap piece of paper, draw two parallel lines however many inches apart as you want to lengthen your center front pattern piece at the apex – in my case, 1-7/8″.

Now, align the bottom edge of the top piece of your center front pattern piece against the top line, and the top edge of your middle piece of your center front to against the bottom line. Tape down.

Repeat this with the extra you’re adding at the dart line. Re-draw the seam lines:

Walking the seams

The last thing I like to do is “walk” the seams. Basically, this means holding the two pieces together and pivoting them to make sure that you can line it up at the top, then that the notches match, then that the bottoms match. At this point, I realized I had added about 1/8″ too much at the bottom notch on my center front piece, so I amended that.

Like measuring your seamlines, this step is best done with the seam allowances removed, but it’s not the end of the world if – like me – you’re too lazy to remove them.

A final check

Okay, the real last thing I like to do is tape the pieces together and hold them up to myself. This helps me to see if the curve is reasonable.

It looked pretty good to me, so I went on my merry way sewing!

Sewing the Rosie – General Tips for Big Boobs

And the full bust adjustment for my big boobs worked! I’m loving the vintage vibes of this dress!

My biggest tip for sewing the Rosie is to try on your dress before you insert the lining. I highly recommend this step. You’ll want to do three things when you do this:

(1) Make sure the curve of your princess seams is correct. I had to change the curve of mine just a tad to lower the apex. This is easier to do before you’ve combined your main bodice and lining.

(2) Check the strap attachment points. The strap attachment points marked on the pattern didn’t cover my bra straps, which I didn’t realize until I’d stitched everything together and understitched. Ugh. Double seam ripping! So, try on your dress before attaching the lining and mark where, for your bra, the straps should be. Mine needed moved in about an inch in both the front and back.

(4) Figure out how long your straps should be. Again, I didn’t do this. I just sewed it up as is, not considering that the straps might not be the right length on me. They were 4.5″ too long. When I unpicked to move the straps, I also shortened them.

Another note: I did not use boning. I just skipped this step entirely. While I had boning in my stash, I felt like the boning wasn’t going to be enough to support my large breasts — I’d still need a bra — so I decided to skip this step for ease. This makes the Rosie a comfy, easy-to-wear summer frock!

Have questions about this full bust adjustment tutorial for large busts? Drop a comment below or or ask on the Sew Busty Facebook group or subreddit.