Tutorial: Full Bust Adjustment on Princess-Seamed Bodice

Hi everyone! I'm really excited about a new sew/knit along I'm participating in called the "Outfit Along."  The goal is to knit one piece and to sew one piece that can be worn together. It's hosted by Andi of Untangling Knots and Lladybird. You can sew and knit whatever you wish, or you can use the suggested patterns. I'll talk about the sweater I plan on knitting later. 
Today, I'm going to talk about the dress, Simplicity 1803. It's a pretty fit-and-flare design. The bodice has flattering princess seams and several neckline variations.

Lladybird already wrote up some great advice about picking out appropriate fabric and some basics on choosing the right size. I wanted to expand on her advice a little. She notes that the Big 4 pattern companies typically build a lot of extra ease into their patterns and suggests looking at the flat pattern measurements rather than the numbers on the pattern envelope to get a better idea of how the garment might fit. That's very smart.

The amount of ease you find comfortable is a matter of personal preference. Lladybird says she prefers her garments to be very close fitting. I know I prefer a little breathing room in my clothes.

One of the best ways to figure out how much ease you like in a dress, is to put on a dress which you feel fits you well and then pull all the fabric fullness to one side and pinch it. If you can take a 1” deep pinch of fabric, then you like 2” of ease, etc. According to Fit for Real People (one of my favorite fitting books), a tailored-fit dress typically has 3-5” of ease at the bust and 2-3” at the waist/hips. A figure-hugging dress would have 0-almost 3” of ease at the bust.

  EASY enough, right? (pun intended)

Where it gets tricky for some of us is the bust area. The Big 4 Pattern companies typically design for a woman who wears a B cup. If your bust is smaller or larger than that, you may need to do a bust adjustment. I can't speak to the small bust adjustment, but I do know a little about altering patterns for a larger bust.

1. First, choose your size based on your upper bust measurement, not your full bust.

2. Next, trace out all of the bodice pieces for that size. For this pattern, you should have the side bodice, the front bodice, the back bodice and the front and back bodice facings.

3.  Start by altering the side bodice piece.


4. Measure 1" down from the armhole and draw a line across the bodice perpendicular to the grain line. Mark this line 5/8" from the side to indicate where the seam line will be, then cut across the red line from the front center to that dot. Next, clip in the seam allowance on the side, leaving a hinge at the dot.


5. Put a piece of scrap paper under your side bodice piece and then pivot the top part of the bodice up 1/2" for every cup size larger than B. I pivoted up 1" for a D cup.Glue or tape these pieces in place.


6. Draw a smooth curve at the opening and then trim away the excess.

7. Now you have to alter the bodice front so that where the two pieces join is equal in length.


8. Draw a line perpendicular to the grain line in the corresponding spot (same distance from the bottom of the front piece as where the cut was made across the side bodice).


9.  Cut along the red line.Glue/tape this piece onto a scrap piece of paper and extend the grain line upwards.


10. Draw a line perpendicular to the extended grainline the same distance from the top of this piece as the amount you opened up the side bodice. In this case, I drew my line one inch above the piece.


11. Glue the top part of the bodice piece onto the scrap paper aligning it with the grain line and the line you just drew.

12. Draw a smooth curve along the side and trim away any excess paper.


There you have it!  I hope that helps. Feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer.

This method is described in Sandra Betzina's excellent book, Fast Fit. If you plan on doing a lot of sewing, I recommend picking up a copy of it!

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