Sewing the Francoise dress? Let's talk about boobs.
The pattern is fitted at the bust and - since our chests and boobies are all different shapes and sizes - you might find that you need to alter the bust on the pattern to fit your body. Today I'm going to show you three fitting alterations that you may or may not need - moving the darts, adjusting the pattern for a fuller bust, and adjusting the pattern for a smaller bust.
Moving the darts
Let’s talk nipples. (Teehee, nipples!) Our nipples don’t always necessarily land at the point where a sewing pattern hopes they will, in which case you may need to tilt the tip of the bust dart. You want the tip of the dart to point towards your nipples but end about 2cm / 3/4in before them to avoid them looking too pointy.
Personally I find the simplest way to tilt a dart to fit my body shape is to move it on the toile. Unstitch the original dart and refold it in the new position. Pin it in place and baste stitch (tack) it to check the position. Mark the new dart lines onto the paper pattern - like in the photo above, but your darts may be higher or lower or pointing in a different angle.
All you need to do now is “true” the dart, ie. get the dart leg lines the same length and redraw the side seam of the dart so that when you sew it together you don’t get any weird sticky-out bits at the seam allowance. Fold the dart closed temporarily, bringing the two legs (lines) together, folding the dart downwards, and taping it in place. Redraw a smooth side seam across your new (folded) dart, then roll a tracing wheel over it.
Untape and unfold the dart and you should see the perforations made by the tracing wheel – draw over these lines from the centre fold to make the side seams of your dart.
You may also want to redraw the waist darts so they are also pointing towards your boobs.
Adjusting bust fullness
If your boobies are on the larger side, you may find that the pattern fits your bust but is baggy above the bust at the upper chest and shoulders. Our sewing patterns include a 5cm / 2in difference between the full bust (measured around your nipples) and high bust measurement (measured around your upper chest just under your armpits). If you have around 7.5cm / 3in or more difference between your full bust and high bust, then what you can do is pick a smaller pattern size based on your high bust and then add extra room at the full bust by doing a full bust adjustment – AKA an “FBA”.
If, on the other hand, your bosoms are on the smaller side, you may find that while the full bust fits you, the upper chest and shoulders are too tight. In this case you can pick a larger pattern size based on your high bust and then subtract room at the full bust by doing a small bust adjustment, an “SBA”.
Measure your high bust (around your upper chest just under your armpits) and add 5cm / 2in. Choose the pattern size with that measurement at the bust to do your bust adjustment on. How much larger or smaller is your actual full bust measurement from the bust measurement on that pattern size? If it’s 2.5cm / 1in bigger, you’ll be adding 2.5cm / 1in when you do your full bust adjustment; or if it’s 2.5cm / 1in smaller, you’ll be subtracting 2.5cm / 1in when you do your small bust adjustment, and so on. Since the front dress pattern represents one half of the front dress (as the fabric is cut on the fold) – or one boob – you’ll be adding or subtracting half of that difference - 1.25cm / 1/2in in this example - to the pattern piece.
Both adjustments start off the same way by marking some cutting lines on your toile or pattern, slashing them open, then either spreading them apart or overlapping them depending on whether you want to make the bust larger or smaller. I’m going to show you how to do them on the pattern pieces since it’s easier to see what’s going on, but the same principle applies to altering the toile – you might prefer to make the alterations to the toile first, before transferring the changes back to the pattern, so you can be sure that you’re increasing or decreasing the fullness by the right amount for your body. Whichever method you choose, trace off copy of your pattern so you can keep the original one intact in case you need to go back to it.
Okay, let’s do this.
Mark the apex of your bust on your toile or pattern – ie. where your nipple lands. Now draw three lines fanning out from this point – one through the centre of the bust dart; one vertical line straight down the dress (parallel to the centre front line and perpendicular to the lengthen/shorten lines); and one diagonally through the raglan seam. We’re going to ignore the seam allowance so we don’t change the length of the raglan seam line – mark a point 15mm / 5/8in in from the cutting line on the line you just drew through the raglan seam.
Cut up the long vertical line to the bust apex, and from here up the diagonal line to the point 15mm / 5/8in from the raglan seam. Snip in from the raglan cutting line to a teeny bit before the point you just stopped cutting to, creating a hinge. (If you accidentally cut through the hinge or if it falls apart, don’t worry, just keep the pieces touching at this point when you come to move them later.) Cut along the dart line too, from the side seam to the bust apex, again stopping just short of it to create another hinge.
Full bust adjustment
Lay your pattern over a new sheet of paper, taping the centre front of the pattern to the paper to hold it in place. Spread the pieces apart at the vertical cutting line by the amount you need – either based on what you added to your toile or the amount you calculated based on your high bust measurement (see above). The bust dart will open up and the seam allowance at the raglan seam will close. Pin, tape or glue the pattern to the new piece of paper.
Now to redraw the enlarged bust dart lines. Draw a line through the centre of the new dart to the tip of where it’s been opened up. Mark a point about 2cm / 3/4in to the left – this is now the tip of your new dart. Draw in the dart legs from this point out to the points where the old dart legs started at the side seams. Redraw in the side seam lines, connecting at the centre line.
The changes we’ve made have also made the hemline uneven – now to tidy it up. Extend the centre front line downwards, and extend the hemline from the piece on the left across to meet the centre front line, making sure that there is a 90 degree angle at the corner.
And that’s your new pattern piece!
Small bust adjustment
Overlap the pieces by the amount you need – either based on what you subtracted from your toile or the amount you calculated based on your high bust measurement (see above). The bust dart will become narrower and the seam allowance at the raglan seam will open up. Pin, tape or glue the pattern in place.
Redraw the narrowed bust dart legs from the tip to points where the old dart legs started at the side seams. Draw a line through the centre of the dart, then redraw in the side seam lines, connecting at the centre line. (See the green lines.)
The changes we’ve made have also made the hemline uneven – now to tidy it up. Extend the hemline from the piece on the left across to meet the centre front line, making sure that there is a 90 degree angle at the corner. Cut off the piece below the line you just drew.
And that’s your new pattern piece!
I'll be back soon with some more fitting tips for you...