I want to get both of them in there
June 7, 2012 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Help me work out how to alter this dress pattern for a big bust. A friend walked me through doing one with a bust dart, but I want to avoid frustration with this and hopefully get it right myself.

This is exactly the sort of pattern I won't fit in ready to wear so I'm keen to have a go. Here's a clearer picture of the bodice. In RTW, I would normally have to go up a size and have the waistband loose just under my bust still. I've made a princess-seam dress with a higher neckline but it would be nice to be able to make something for warmer days, and I think this pattern would be very adaptable! However, first I need to work out how to get both the girls in there...

From the measurements, I think I would be a 14 on the waist and in the skirt, but the size 16 (the biggest size) for the bust is too small - the cut pattern piece won#t even cover my bra. The method my friend showed me to alter a top (a New Look pattern with bust and waist darts) was to draw round the piece and move the darts, and I now have a pattern which should fit when I sew it up properly. (This method made a lot more sense than the slash and spread type methods I have seen in fitting books, which really confused me.) But I can't work out how to make this piece bigger in the right way.

I have started by making the pattern piece longer at the 'shorten or lengthen' line - the back piece seems the right length, so it must be the, um, fullness at the front that's made the front bodice bit small. However, what do I do with the dart - draw it in at the top and the bottom and then connect it up?

Secondly, holding up the traced, longer piece up against me suggests it will be still too small at the top. If I want to transition down to a size 14 at the waist, how do I make a piece that's kind of an 18 at the top and a 14 at the waist - do I trace round it as my friend showed me and then kind of join up the two sizes, or would this lead to a really weird shape? And how would this affect the fit at the back - would I need to make the back part a similar 'triangle' shape to be able to sew them together properly?

It'll be a while before I can get someone to sit down with me and show me what to do, so any tips would be great - I don't want to give up on trying to make my own clothes with frustration at the fit issues.
posted by mippy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I just noticed this on the pattern description:

Sizing is proportioned for a pear-shaped figure: smaller bust and waist, larger hips.

So I think I'm on the right lines in sizing the waist smaller than the top (I'm an hourglass, hence fitting being difficult) but right from the packet it's not designed for a big bust. Dammit.

If It helps I'm a 34GG (UK) and my full bust measures 44".
posted by mippy at 6:57 AM on June 7, 2012

You should go with the size that fits in the shoulder and do a Full Bust Adjustment. There are several ways to do this, Debbie Cook has several tutorials on her blog (FBA tutorials - under 'alterations' down the page.

The Cambie dress is a modified raglan sleeve sort of style, so I would go with Raglan FBA tutorial. Or post on Tasia's blog (creator of the Cambie dress pattern), she is super helpful & probably could give you some pointers.
posted by lyra4 at 7:14 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Purchase the pattern the fits your bust. Then, take the dress in at the waist. Since the dress is gathered, gather the skirt more on the skirt or take everything in an inch.

I would take a dress that fits properly in the waist, turn it inside out and use that as a guideline as well.

It is much easier to take in the waist and skirt than to expand the top. So anything that you buy, buy to fit your bust and alter the rest of the dress.
posted by Yellow at 7:53 AM on June 7, 2012

It sounds like the largest size pattern is too small for her bust so buying big and bringing in the waist isn't an option. I have the same problem and totally feel for you, resizing buntlines isn't fun.

One little suggestion— when you re-build the pattern I would make just the top part in a cheap muslin first to make sure it fits. Sometimes when I re-size for my bust I go overboard and make it too fitted or pointy and it looks weird.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:16 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm going to make a muslin, but I need to get something that will fit me first to work on! I had a search and found a blogger who did a 1" bust adjustment by making the top piece wider and longer, which is kind of what I did with the blouse pattern my friend and I worked on. I just don't know how to do this and also make it fit a smaller size on the waist. If that even is what I need to do.

Yellow - almost none of my dresses fit properly at the waist, because there is a ten inch difference between my hips, bust and waist. I can't buy anything that will fit all of them that isn;'t made from a stretchy material - the nearest thing I have is a dress that's kind of like a tunic/smock, but I still need to belt it in at the waist to get any shape at all. Also, I'm planning to make the A-line version rather than the gathered (gathers scare me) as I have some fabric already that will work with that. There is a fitted waistband which means that just gathering in the skirt won't help, unfortunately.

I tried making something based on my bust size once before and ended up with a tent that I had no idea what to do with to make fit.
posted by mippy at 8:50 AM on June 7, 2012

Cute dress!
I think you will need to do a combination of "grading the pattern" up to the size you need and also a full bust adjustment. Lyra4's links are great for FBA and for grading a pattern up in size there is this one and this one which I use alot. And are not slash and spread! I do the grading first then do a FBA if needed and just blend into the areas that dont need changes.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 9:12 AM on June 7, 2012

If you look at the pattern measurements, the finished bodice for size 16 is 44" in the bust. It would fit you tightly if you just cut out a 16, but maybe you don't need to make it too much bigger if you are ok with a snug fit.

To make the bodice pattern pieces bigger, you can use a tutorial on grading patterns. Megan Nielsen has a pretty basic one. You could add a few inches that way. However, you are going to need more depth in the bust, too, because Tasia designs her patterns for a B cup. A full bust adjustment as mentioned above will help with that.

Then, regardless of what the instructions say, I would probably baste together the bodice pieces first, try that on (maybe baste the zipper in, too, to check the fit) and then adjust the waist darts on the front and back to fit at your waist. Keep them even - the two back darts should take in the same amount, as should the two front ones. Sew the darts in place. Measure around the hem at that point and cut the waistband size that fits there. Measure the waistband pattern piece and cut the bigger size if it's not an exact match, you can always trim down the ends.

You can adjust the darts on the skirt too, to take in more or less fabric there. The hard part here is going to be making the darts on the top and bottom line up. Pin the middle of the skirt to the middle of the bodice (and same in back), figure out where the dart line on the skirt should go to line up with the one on the bodice, and make the dart there instead of where the original piece says it should go. And do the same on the back pieces. Then sew the skirt darts in, attach the skirt to the waistband and finish the dress.
posted by kyla at 9:41 AM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: tipsybumblebee- oh! That's the method my friend showed me for grading. I think I need to grade the front bodice piece up for the 44" then FBA, is that right? I just had a look at this because the Macaron pattern is a similar shape in terms of a piece that kind of clings to the shape of the bust.

I've cut the 16, but the measurement is a 42", and I thought the 44" included ease, so I don't want it super tight - ready to wear dresses always give me 'pancake boobs' so while I don't want it loose I want to make sure there's enough room there. Should I start with the 16 and then FBA, or grade up first?

"Keep them even - the two back darts should take in the same amount, as should the two front ones." - why is this if there is more room needed at the front?
posted by mippy at 9:48 AM on June 7, 2012

There is probably a slash and spread method that would work (I imagine what she's done with this sleeve here) - and I was looking over at Slapdash Sewist, as I feel that I've read a SnS method there lately but I'm coming up empty.

If the largest size has a 44" bust, I'd measure those pattern pieces and deduct seam allowance, of course, to check for a true 44" bust. For your muslin, I'd start on the bodice with a 1/4" seam, and go up to a 1/2" if necessary, etc, to test fit. Often when the measurement is close, just taking a smaller seam allowance helps enough.

Regarding front and back darts taking up equal amounts - that's possibly true, but will depend on your figure and how you want the dress to fit. I am more hourglassy myself, but the girl at Slapdash (Trena) is a different shape than me - I still read the hell out of her blog because she talks so much about alterations, and it helps me makes sense of them, even if I'm not doing the exact same things.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:54 AM on June 7, 2012

The front dart and back dart can be different, but the two front darts should be the same amount as each other and the two back darts should be the same amount as each other. The front doesn't have to be the same as the back. Sorry, that wasn't very clear.
posted by kyla at 9:55 AM on June 7, 2012

The book Fit for Real People is a really valuable resource. Even better is taking a class by a Palmer/Pletsch teacher. These are totally worthwhile investments if you're going to sew your own clothing!

Definitely check out the tutorials that Lyra posted. Debbie Cook has lots of good advice. Sadly, Yellow's recommendation is not a good one. Sure, it's easier to take in the waist, but the result will not be as flattering as a proper bust adjustment!

My advice is to measure your high bust and do an FBA based on that size. If you wear a 34GG bra, you're probably 36" or 38" at the high bust Grading up from the size 16 (41" bust) will make a top that's way to big in the shoulders! I would trace the size 14 and start from there.

If you do a FBA, you'll end up with a side dart as well as a waist dart and THAT'S TOTALLY OKAY!!!!
posted by vespabelle at 10:57 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the slash and spread method, and correcting everything in a muslin. The FBA tutorials look pretty good.

Since you're probably going to need two darts (one under bust, one next to it) why not try converting one of them to gathers in the center front? Adds some extra shape to the sweetheart neckline, and can be quite flattering on a larger rack. Also, if I were you, I'd be looking for a fabric with some Lycra content.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 11:42 AM on June 7, 2012

Hi mippy, I'm just about to attempt an FBA on the cambie too. I fit mostly out of the pattern, going my my high bust measurement (taken under your armpit) but need a bit of space in the bosom. I'm not too familiar with FBAs, as this is my second attempt and the first that I tried was for Hazel by Colette patterns and didn't get out of the muslin stage.

This FBA is confusing me because there isn't a side bust dart. I'm going to ask Tasia and I'll get back to you!
posted by jonathanstrange at 6:48 PM on October 13, 2012

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