I’ve never considered myself an overly busty girl. In high school, I would’ve given anything to actually have some boobage. Once I hit 30, though, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I suddenly had… a rack. Now, I still don’t consider myself overly busty (I mean, come on… a D cup isn’t that crazy), but in the sewing world, egad! Nothing fits!
Since most patterns are drafted for a B cup, a full bust adjustment (or FBA) is in order for me, at least when working with woven fabrics. The thought of chopping up a pattern makes me nervous, though, so for my first iteration of the Megan dress from Tilly’s Love at First Stitch, I chose my size based on my full bust measurement and did not do an FBA. I graded the pattern to size 9 (by tracing the size 8, then lining up my trace lines along the size 7 lines and tracing the 8 again, outside of my original lines). I did this for both the bodice and the skirt and hoped for the best.
I was shooting for a wearable muslin, working with some $3/yard quilting cotton from Walmart. This pattern calls for fabric with some structure, and I love the retro-ish fabric Tilly used in her sample dress. My fabric had a similar aesthetic and I was really looking forward to this dress!
Cute, yes – but there are some fit issues. The obvious problem is that the waist line falls across the lower part of my bust, about 3/4 of the way down my lower bust curve.
An FBA would help this.
The bodice is also overall too big. The front neckline is gaping a bit, and in the back, the gaping is excessive. All of the advice about choosing a bodice size based on the high bust measurement to fit the more difficult shoulders/neck seems to make some sense, in my case. I am happy with the size 9 fit in the skirt, but the bodice is definitely too big in the wrong places, and not big enough in the right places.
I took to the web and researched FBA techniques. There are at least a dozen tutorials out there on how to do a full bust adjustment, so I studied the slash-and-spread examples and hacked away at my pattern.
At the shoulder and neckline, I cut my pattern down to size 8, and graded out to size 9 at the waist. I had planned to do a 2″ FBA, but the pattern tissue was gaping and I thought maybe it was too much, so I ended up around 1 1/2″ for the FBA spread. What I didn’t understand, though, was what I was actually accomplishing – other than cutting and measuring and taping. I didn’t understand how the FBA worked, and most of the tutorials didn’t explain the whys to go along with the hows. I also skimmed a bit too quickly over the parts about truing the darts. I assumed the dart had to stay the same, and so I drew my new dart the same size as the old dart.
This, of course, defeats the purpose of adding fabric to the center bust area! I just didn’t get it until I tried to sew my second Megan together. The slash and spread that happens in the FBA is adding fabric in to the center bust area. However, you don’t need the extra fabric along the side seam – so the purpose of the dart is to remove that fabric and shape the fabric from the smaller side area to the fuller bust area. The more fabric you add to the center area, the more you have to take away on the side – so the dart will (and should) get bigger. You’re folding out more fabric – thus, bigger dart. The dart legs will be farther apart after an FBA than before the FBA.
I didn’t understand that, so I drew my dart too small and did not true the legs. When I sat down to sew and tried on the bodice, it was just a mess. That’s when I realized my darts needed to be larger (light bulb moment #1!). My bodice side seams were also a mess, because I didn’t true the dart legs. That’s when it clicked that folding out the new dart on the pattern and re-drawing the side seam gets rid of the excess fabric at the dart legs and lines the side seams back up. (Light bulb moment #2!)
Still, I didn’t want this to be all for naught, so I did my best to fix my darts and bodice side seams on the fly and forged ahead with Megan dress #2. This was another $3/yard quilting cotton from Walmart, after all, and was intended to be another hopefully wearable muslin. The fabric is oddly soft for a Walmart cotton, and probably has too much drape for this pattern, but I soldiered on.
I ran into a bunch of other problems with this make, all my fault. First, I botched the invisible zipper and had to unpick it and set it in again. (Grr – but I did finally learn how to properly use my seam picker). I also found myself over-thinking the zipper and ended up taking an inch out of the back seam, which did not bode well for the overall fit of the dress through the middle. Lastly, I decided to shorten the hem a bit (why?!?! it was fine?!?!)
Here’s the result of Megan dress muslin #2:
The bust is much better, despite how badly I botched the FBA, but the bodice is still crazy-big in the front and back neckline.
Verdict: there was still a lot of work to do on this pattern. With all of the lightbulb moments I had during this make, I had nothing but FBAs running through my head for a few days. I was determined to get this right.
For Megan #3, I re-traced the bodice, facings, and sleeves in size 7 – the size that corresponds to my high bust measurement. I did the full 2″ FBA on the size 7, which added enough width to the bodice to match up to the size 9 skirt. The bust dart was enormous, but I kept at it, trued the dart, re-cut the bodice side seam, and felt pretty good about it. I folded out all of the darts on the bodice and skirt and lined everything up, measuring and checking everything at least a half dozen times. I took just a little bit of width out of the skirt darts to give a little more breathing room (since I carry extra weight at my lower waistline), and felt confident that despite my pattern hacking, everything lined up and was good to go.
At the last minute, after watching a segment in a Craftsy pattern fitting video about fitting the lower bust curve, I added an inch and a half of length under the bust to the front bodice. I did not realize how this would affect the dart tucks in the front bodice, so I ended up with too much fabric in the front. I pinched it out and ended up with 2 dart tucks on each side – not ideal, but that’s what I get for not trusting the work I’d done and panicking at the last minute.
When I tried on the bodice, I also saw that I still had gaping at my back neckline. The internet told me to use shoulder darts to fix that, so I added one 3/4″ dart on each side of the back neckline/shoulder. In hindsight, I can probably take just a little more out.
Here’s Megan dress muslin #3, in a fabric that is pretty awful for apparel. While my blue #2 fabric has too much drape, this stuff has too much structure. About half way through this make, I decided that the fabric would be better suited as sheathing for a patio chair than my body.
The size 7 bodice definitely fits better in the neck/shoulder area. I can’t decide if I need the extra length under the bust. There’s a whole lot of extra fabric going on in the red version above, but that could also be aggravated by the awful drape of this fabric. My seams did not line up as well as I had expected after all the measuring I’d done, but I guess that’s par for the course when making major pattern adjustments. I just wish I could figure out what I was doing wrong so that I could make everything line back up, because I really thought I’d gotten it right.
So, 3 Megan muslins. I’m not quite there, but I’m close. I think I will try removing that extra bodice length I’d added and increase the back shoulder darts on my next make, and fingers crossed – that will be the winner. I’d really like to master the FBA on this pattern, because I don’t foresee the girls shrinking anytime soon – meaning, I will have to do an FBA on just about every woven pattern I sew. I have picked up a couple more Colette patterns (drafted for a C cup), so I might not need the FBA on those. We will see. I hope to get this Megan pattern to a TNT state on my next go of it, to help with future pattern adjustments and to give me some easy summer dress options to make up!
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