Saturday, 12 March 2011

The reason why I haven't made any dresses recently


Or to be more precise, the cursed fact that patterns are made for a bust size about 100 times smaller than my own.  I actually decided to start sewing my own clothes because all the cute little summer dresses I liked never fitted me, blouses and shirts I wanted to buy always gaped and showed things they shouldn’t, and I resented having to buy clothes that didn’t fit properly or splash my cash on speciality companies' clothes which cost a lot more.  I wanted to make things that fitted me properly!

Now the irony is that my bust is again the thing holding me back from making all the dresses I have bought patterns for, such as the ones below.

To explain why involves 2 examples of things I have made that don’t quite work [in my opinion anyway].

Exhibit A

This is the very first piece of clothing I made, which I completed in the sewing class I was going to at the time.  It’s view A of Burda 7798.

Apart from finishing the neckline it was pretty easy to sew.  The neckline was basically bias bound but the way they instructed you to do it had me totally confused and even both of my teachers were head scratching and furrowing their brows for a couple of minutes before they figured it out.

But anyway back to the problem.  I made no adjustments to the pattern even though I knew the bodice might not fit my bust, but it was my first ever garment so I just wanted to get on with the sewing.

The bodice should end just below the bust (empire line stylee) but in my case it stops about 2/3rds of the way down.  And it isn't exactly roomy for me either.

It’s not massively visible, but I know the seam is there!  Plus it just doesn’t sit right on me; I can feel it even if it doesn’t show that badly.  I wear this dress at home but have only worn it out once.  It just felt too weird and uncomfortable, like I was basically wandering around naked, so it has not got past my front door ever again!

Exhibit B

Now this dress I made all by myself. from New Look 6557.

This pic was taken during the same "shoot" as my reversible apron, and was taken at the point when my boyfriend got bored and wanted to try taking pics from strange angles.  You can see from the expression on my face how much I was enjoying this!

This dress was also actually surprisingly easy to make, apart from a fiddly facing turning inside out weird bit about half-way through.  It's also really nice, and i do like quite a few of the different bodice views (especially view E).

On this dress I knew the bodice would fall far too high on my bust so planned ahead and bought myself a pattern fitting book and did a full bust adjustment (ah ha, take that B-cup patterns!).

Here’s a pic of it, looks fancy right?

Now to also try and be all big and clever I did a toile / muslin / prototype [whatever you want to call it], of the main bodice.

The first one still hit me too high on the bust, but was pretty good in terms of boob coverage.  So I did another, bigger full bust adjustment and tried again.  Now the second prototype was made, and alarm bells should have rung.  The bodice is gathered to make it look all pretty and the FBA made tonnes of extra gathering, too much in fact on prototype 2.  But it fit fine length-wise. 

BTW, The FBA I used was from the book Fit for Real People, by Pati Palmer & Marta Alto.  It gives you width and length but ultimately keeps the side seams the same length so they still match with back pieces, and I think it is a good method to use.

What is should have done now was keep FBA 1 from prototype 1 but increase the length of the bodice a smidge.  Only then it wouldn’t have matched up at the side seams with the back bodice.  So I didn’t do that as it confused me.

So instead the dress was made with FBA 2 and alas, I feel like there is too much bagginess in the gathering.  It makes my bust look at least and inch bigger just because of the extra fabric. 
Well I did wear this dress on holiday (but have no pics to prove it), but wore it only once as again I felt like a weirdo, and was just constantly paranoid everyone “knew” I was wearing a home made dress (as if that is something to scorn and stigmatise someone for)!  In reality if anyone knew it was homemade (but how would they “know”?) I doubt they would have run up to me pointing and yelling and shooing me off like I carried the plague, but I just felt like they would!

And since then I’ve been too scared to make any dresses.  Admittedly both dresses are a bit long so I feel a bit frumpy in them, and should really adjust the hems.  But I hate hemming so haven't bothered yet. 

The whole FBA process has totally confused me though.  I know I need to add a bit more length after doing an FBA, but do I extend the back bodice pieces too, because surely that’ll make the bodice slant backwards.  If I don't make the back longer then how do I match the side seams of the back and front bodice, as the front bodice will be longer than the back?  And what about any waist or skirt pieces (depending on the pattern) that attach to the bodice.  Do I need to shorten them to account for lengthening the bodice?

Oh I don’t know and my head hurts just thinking about it.  Curse you B cup pattern makers, you’ve beaten me.

Can anyone offer advice on this issue?  As it is seriously holding me back at the mo.  I love dresses and to make my own, that I can wear down the road and not feel self conscious in, would be lovely.


  1. I started sewing for the same reason that you did - my boobs! I'm a DD, so clothes from shops just look wrong. My fitting skills are also holding me back. I think 'practice makes perfect' is the best advice. I'm going to keep trying, we'll get the hang of it eventually :)
    Ashley x
    ps. I have that book too, I love it! :)

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement Ashley. I think you're right i just have to keep trying and learn some patience!

  3. Hi Law
    I think you must continue as Ashley says- you are nearly there. You already know so much more than me about altering for fit - I am so impressed. I'm sorry I haven't got any answers, but please keep going. Maybe you could crack one dress, get it fitting perfectly then make a few dresses from the same perfect pattern?

  4. Oh wow, i LOVE the New Look pattern! So many beautiful options! I think i may have to hunt it down. And i think your dress is lovely - the fit is certanly no worse a fit than you would get from many "off the rack" clothes. You should feel proud of your acheivements, i bet if people knew you were wearing a handmade dress they would be impressed, no pointing and laughing involved! x

  5. Thanks for the morale boost ladies.

    Kat, the new look pattern is great and easy to sew, do get it. I will make it again for definate.

  6. I think its not so much the FBA as the style, one of the things you have to bear in mind with FBA is that it tends to increase the size proportionally, so the gathers get bigger too. I tried to make a gathered top too and I had exactly the same problem. If it helps yours actually look pretty darn good whereas mine looks terrible! I think its totally wearable, but then I know how slightly too much fabric in that area can make you feel massive, even if you don't look much bigger to others.

    The main problem appears to be (and is on mine) the extra gathers at the sides, where your bust isn't as curved, you could try and adjust the original pattern piece to keep the fullness further forward, it would look odd in the piece but might make more sense when made up. For the smaller busted ladies, to make the gathers, the bottom seam line needs to be bigger than the middle of the bust as there isnt enough difference, hence the flaring of the piece, whereas with our more ample bosoms we have far more difference between the widest part and under busts so it ends up much more gathered, you could try rotating in the side seam, so that there is less length along the bottom seam, ideally without messing to much with the curve under the bust, so you keep the fullness where you need it. This fits with the main problem with the fit for real people method in that you usually have to take the waist in by masses once youve done it.

    In terms of lengthening the piece without affecting the sides, you have two approaches, either you need more fullness (ie the length of the piece going right over your boobs isnt long enough to reach) in which case you need to do a bigger FBA, or, the fullness in the bust is at the wrong height, in which case you slash and spread the front above the bust (ideally not messing with the armholes) and then slash and overlap a corresponding bit below the bust. The second one is quite often needed as generally the larger the boobs the lower the fullest part.

    I seem to have waffled on a long time about this, hopefully it helps.

    I would try a princess seam dress, its way easier to FBA, Tasia has a great tutorial at (and you can see my wrestling with how to do this on my blog -its still not finished-I get distracted so easily!)If you cant find a princess seam pattern you like, just pick one with simple darts and turn it into one, I did this with my pattern and its really easy. Princess seam is ideal as you can pinch out or add bits in really easily and intuitively.

  7. Hmm, lots of food for thought there, thanks for the info Monkeysocks. I'm not a fan of the princess seam "look" but it sounds like it's worth a go if it's easier to get to grips with.

    I think i need to fight the fear and try again with a simple pattern like you suggest. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who finds this a little tricky though.

  8. In case you have not solved this problem - I have been struggling with full bust adjustments as well. i folloed the palmer plesch method as well and was disappointed with the fit. not that I blame P&P, because I followed their directions. all of my dresses and tops seemed baggy, and the shoulders were too wide, and became trash can fill. I blamed it on my larger dimensions then that of a few years ago. Just recently, I decided to try again - with patience and a commitment to try many times if necessary.

    I studied FBA's on the web and in Sewing Pattern Reveiw. one of the reviewers said that she did a FBA for length because the width at the bust on the pattern was sufficient. AHA! Light bulb. My previous attempts created too much width. perhaps, i did not need more width, just length to cover the bust shape, as in having an empire line fall below the bust, not on top of it. perhaps you need more length than width.

    With this in mind, I tried again. Using also, this time, concepts from the new fit book that stresses keeping the horizontal lines, horizontal. i dress horizontal and vertical lines on my muslin pieces. well, i have succeeded in a basic muslin or toile for both front, back and sleeve! studing the lines and folds on my muslin and with creative pinning, i discovered that while I had a large bust (well that was not news), my large bust was creating a hollow between my neck and the top of my bust. I pinned a horizontal dart shape about the length of my bust points. i also pinned a dart shape vertically that fixed my shoulder seams and extra fabric perpindicular to the hollow-dart. who would have guessed that a larger busted woman would also have a petite torso? I just assumed that I was large everywhere when I was not.


  9. I am not sure if my long reply posted, in case it has not, i will add shortened version. As another commenter offered, you may need more length than width. i used to just jump into a fba, make the garment and be disappointed because i had too much width in front. as a larger busted gal, i also discovered that I had a hollow chest which I believe to be caused by a larger bust. i contoured that with a horizontal dart and am so much happier with my fitting.



Please comment, I'd love to hear from you

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...