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Elsie Sewalong: Full Bust Adjustment for Princess Seams
Instead of darts, the close-fitting Elsie bodice is flatteringly shaped with princess seams over the chest. On this Elsie Dress Sewalong we’re going to show you an adjustment you can make to the pattern if you have a full bust, which will help you get the bodice fitting just right.
In Tuesday’s post on Measuring and Cutting, we discussed how to work out if you might need to make a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) by measuring your high bust. (Head back for a read if you missed it.) Once you’ve got your high bust measurement, if you’re answering yes to any of the below, it’s likely you’ll need to make an FBA:
Start by making a toile (or muslin), using the size that best corresponds with your waist measurement. It’s important to insert an invisible zip into the centre back seam so you can close the toile properly (but make sure it’s long enough so that you can get it on and off!).
If you find the toile is tight across your bust, there are strain lines (generally these will be diagonal and point towards your bust) or there’s gaping in the armhole, you will need to do a FBA. Let’s learn how!
Adjusting the toile
1. Begin by marking your bust apex (usually where your nipples are!) onto your toile on both the centre front and side front panels using a felt tip pen. (This isn’t shown on our example below.)
2. To find out the amount you need to adjust the bodice by, use a seam ripper to open the seams over the bust. You will need to do this on both sides to get an accurate measurement. You should undo enough of the seam so that the stress lines in the fabric relax.
3. Measure the distance across the opening between the apex markings you made on the toile earlier. For the example in this tutorial, we need to add 4cm across the whole of the bust, so we’re going to be adding 2cm into the side panel to end up with 4cm across the bust in total.
Full Bust Adjustment pattern alterations
1. Take the side front bodice piece and draw in the seam allowances (which are all 1.5cm).
2. From your toile, transfer the bust apex point onto your pattern. Then you will need to draw in three more lines.
3. Cut through lines 1 and 2, but on line 2 stop when you reach the seam allowance on the armhole.
For line 2, cut through the seam allowance on the armhole from the other direction, but leave a small amount unsnipped so you can use this as a ‘hinge’ to move the pattern.
4. Cut through line 3, but again leave a small amount uncut at the bust apex.
5. Tape your pattern down onto a piece of pattern paper, just along the princess seam to start with. Next you’ll need to pivot the pattern so that along line 1, there is the increase of 2cm (or your own measurement) that we need, and this needs to be even all the way down to the waist. Tape in place.
6. Line 3 will have opened up to accommodate the width you’ve added, so tape it in place where it has opened up.
7. As the waistline is now uneven, you need to adjust this. Snip off the little square of seam allowance on the princess seam and slide it down until it is in line with both the princess seam and the waist line. Tape in place.
8. Trim down the excess paper around the pattern piece so there’s just 1cm or so left around the edges.
9. To close the dart that has been created, first extend line 3 across the seam allowance on the princess seam.
Cut along the bottom of line three from the side seam, stopping when you reach the bust apex point.
10. Then cut along this line from the other side, starting at the princess seam and stopping right before you reach the bust apex. Using the apex as a pivot point, fold the pattern piece closed at the side seam so that the top and bottom of line 3 meet again. The smaller cut on the princess seam should open to create a smaller dart. Tape this down.
11. The extra room that has been added at the waist now needs to be removed again, so you’ll need to draw a new cutting line at the side seam. At the bottom of the pattern, measure across from the side edge by 2cm (or the amount you added) and draw a straight line from the point line three meets the side edge to this point (the solid orange line). Draw in your new seam line a further 1.5cm in (the dashed orange line).
12. Finally, to finish, you will need to add the same amount of length into the centre front panel, to make sure the princess seams align when the bodice is sewn up. To do this, draw a line from the bust apex across the pattern piece, perpendicular to the centre front.
13. Draw another line parallel to the the waist, 1.5cm up from the bottom edge of the pattern. Cut through these lines to separate the pattern into three pieces.
14. Tape down the uppermost part of the pattern, and measure how much you opened up the side panel by (the distance on the side panel between the top and bottom of line 3 at the princess seam). Make sure to measure the seam line, not the cutting line. Do the same with the amount added at the waistline. Tape the pieces down and draw in your new cutting lines.
And that’s the Full Bust Adjustment done! Cut out your pattern pieces along the new cutting lines, and there you have your newly adjusted bodice!
Now you can cut out your fabric (following the original grainlines) ready for the next sewalong.