11 May 2020

Full Bust Adjustment on a Dartless Bodice


Do you ever find that your clothes are tight across the bust, with excess fabric pooling above? If so, you may benefit from doing a full bust adjustment when you make your own clothes.

This blog post is going to cover how to do a bust adjustment on a dartless bodice. I'm going to show you how to add shaping, without having to create a dart.

You can use these steps to alter dartless bodices on patterns such as our Alexa jumpsuitStevie tunicBettine dress, Suki dress or Safiya wrap playsuit. You name it! We've previously covered how to do a bust adjustment for a darted bodice which is definitely worth checking out too.

If you're new to sewing or fitting adjustments it can seem a bit daunting. However, don't worry too much and take it step by step. Trust me, you've got this!

Fitting Alexa jumpsuit and playsuit sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

How do I know if I need a full bust adjustment? 

Generally speaking, dartless garments are less fitted as they don't have darts which would ordinarily be used to add shaping. Because of this, you might be able to get away with not doing a full bust adjustment on these types of garments, even if you normally do them on other patterns, as there's a bit more leeway in the bust area than on a more fitted garment.

But if your boobs are on the larger side and you usually find that even easy-fitting garments are either too tight in the bust area, or fit across the bust but have a lot of excess fabric pooling above, then you probably need to make a full bust adjustment.

I'm going to briefly cover how you would work out how much to add or subtract from your bust in the adjustment, but do remember this is just a rough framework, and you might not need to do it at all.

Measure your high bust (your upper chest, just under your armpits) and add 5cm (2in). Choose the pattern size with that bust measurement – this is the size you’ll do your bust adjustment on.

Now measure your full bust (fullest part, around the nipples) and compare it to the bust measurement on the pattern size you just selected.

If your full bust is 5cm (2in) bigger than the pattern, you’ll be adding 5cm (2in) from the pattern; if it’s 7.5cm (3in) bigger, you’ll be adding 7.5cm (3in) and so on.

Since the front bodice pattern represents one half of the top, as the fabric is cut on the fold - or one boob - you'll be adding half of that difference to the front bodice pattern piece. So, if you want to do a 5cm (2in) full bust adjustment, you'll need to add 2.5cm (1in) to the pattern piece.

To do a bust adjustment you will need: a ruler (or pattern master if you have one) glue stick and/or sticky tape pencil paper scissors extra paper.

As you'll be merrily snipping into your pattern piece with wild abandon for these adjustments, I thoroughly suggest tracing off the front bodice pattern piece so you can keep the original one intact in case you need to make any further adjustments. Make sure you trace all the notches, the dart and 'lengthen or shorten here' lines onto the new pattern piece.

Got your scissors and ruler at the ready? Ok, let's go!

Full bust adjustment
Fitting Alexa jumpsuit and playsuit sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Trace off and cut out the front bodice pattern in the size you've chosen. If you're making a dress you only trace off the top part, from the waist and above. Standing in front of a mirror and hold the pattern up to your body so the shoulder seam is overlapping your shoulder by the pattern seam allowance (15mm or 5/8in on our patterns) and the centre front line is running down the centre of your torso. Mark the position of your bust apex - the fullest part of your breast - in pen or pencil, on the pattern piece.

Fitting Alexa jumpsuit and playsuit sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Draw a vertical line through the mark you just made, all the way down the pattern and parallel to the grainline or 'place on fold' arrow (line 1). Now draw a second line from the apex to the side seam, around the underarm area (line 2).

Get a piece of paper a bit bigger than your pattern piece and lay the bodice pattern on top. At the top of the vertical line (line 1), snip 15mm (5/8in), or the seam allowance measurement for your particular pattern. Do the same at the bottom of the vertical line (line 1). Then, starting in the middle, cut up this vertical line, stopping a smidge before the snip you did at the top of the line to create a hinge. Then cut down the vertical line and stop just before the snip there to create another hinge.

Fitting Alexa jumpsuit and playsuit sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Keeping the pieces joined at the shoulder seam and waist, pivot the side seam and sleeve pieces away from the centre front piece so you create a gap at the bust apex. This gap should be half the amount you want to add to the pattern in total - remember, the bodice piece represents half of the front bodice, so you only need to add half of the desired measurement to the pattern piece. Glue or tape the pieces on to the paper below.

Fitting Alexa jumpsuit and playsuit sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Redraw the underarm curve, connecting it up with the side seam. Redraw the shoulder seam to straighten it out.

The bottom of the front bodice now needs to be lengthened slightly to accommodate the fuller bust. To do this, use a set square, a piece of card with a right angle or a pattern master ruler to draw a line from the bottom corner of the side seam, at right angles to the grainline or place on fold arrow. Draw a line from the bottom corner of the centre front to meet the rest of the pattern.

If your front bodice is going to join another pattern piece (i.e. you're making a dress or jumpsuit), measure the waist seam on the skirt in your size, add in any extra on the bodice waist seam so it's the same length. Finally square off the bottom corner of the side seam so it's at a right angle to the waistline. If your front bodice has a matching facing piece, place this over the top of your new pattern piece and adjust it to match. 


Fitting Alexa jumpsuit and playsuit sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

As you've added extra length at the side seam, you'll need to 'ease'  the extra fabric into the back bodice when sewing them together. You could turn it into a dart instead, however easing will give a more subtle finish that's in keeping with the original garment design. 

On your front bodice fabric piece(s), sew three rows of long ease or gather stitches (4-5mm long) close to the seam, from the underarm curve to about 10-15cm (4-6in) down - don't backtack, and leave long loose threads at both ends of the stitching. Pin the side seams together, leaving this part unpinned. Gently pull on the loose threads to gather the excess fabric until the front bodice side seam fits the back bodice side seam. Smooth out the gathers with your fingers and pin in place, then stitch. Unpick the ease stitching.

And that's it! I hope you've found this post helpful. As I said above, if you follow the steps I promise it's not tricky. Soon you'll be pleased as punch with your newly made outfit!

Liked this post? Check out How to Do Bust Adjustments for a Bust Darted Bodice and How to Combine Pattern Sizes.

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Author: Nikki Hoar