Tips for better fitting from sewing patterns – Small Bust Adjustment

I get requests on how to get better fit from patterns.  One thing I continually complain about is the Small Bust Adjustment or SBA.  Much is written for you gloriously fuller girls but in some fitting books the SBA is completely omitted.  Or as one fitting book suggested ” wear a padded bra”.

There is a great tutorial here for a SBA but if you are still having problems you may want to look at some of my tips here.  For an SBA what is being done to the pattern is reducing fabric over the bust and this is done by slashing through the dart (or darts) and essentially lapping over to reduce width.

  1. What if your pattern doesn’t have darts?  The pivot method works well.  Or you can use a smaller size, look at the ease measurements.    Patterns without darts are not fitted and created with a lot of ease so you maybe able to go down a size or 2.
  2. Measure your high bust measurement. For years I was using the regular bust measurement.  I read in the great book Fit for Real People to use the high bust measurement when buying patterns.  Made a big difference.
  3. Smaller bust size means smaller, shorter darts. Or, the bigger the dart the bigger the boob.
  4. Remove darts altogether.  I have not done this but a friend does this all the time in knit patterns and her dresses look smashing.
  5. How much should I lap?  Unfortunately, I’ve found that it differs with pattern design and manufacturer. I’ve taken from 1/2 inch to a whopping 2 inches.  So do a test in a muslin and then write down how much you lapped over.
  6. Do I have to adjust the back bodice?  No.  Unless you are doing the pivot method and bodice has no darts.
  7. What about the patterns specifically for A cup?  I found one dress pattern from Vogue and I still needed to make an adjustment.
  8. Try princess seamed patterns.  I am sewing this pattern here and I was speechless when I did not have to make any SBA at all.  It fits like a dream and is very accentuating to my form.  But, I did use my high bust measurement when picking out the size. Which is a 10.  I then had to make adjustments to the waist area.  
  9. Try flat pattern measurements of bodice area.  Check your measurements against.  This is a great step before the muslin.
  10. Try the junior size patterns.  I’ve never done this but the bust is smaller than regular women’s sizes. Might be great if you are really small.
  11. Janet White of JM Designs said that patterns with a waist and bust dart are usually more difficult for fitting than bodices with just a waist dart.
  12. MUSLIN.  Take the short amount of time to do a muslin on the bodice and you will save yourself a lot of salty dressmaker tears.
  13. Take notes!  Good Lord, if I followed this one thing I’d be Queen of the World.

Hope this helps!  Let me know if you have any tips and techniques for this alteration.  


8 thoughts on “Tips for better fitting from sewing patterns – Small Bust Adjustment

  1. When you talk about removing the bust darts completely, how is this done? I think this would be the best option for me, being a AA at best. I have searched lots trying to find a site that explains this, and I know it isn’t the same as just moving a dart. Thank you for any advice!

  2. Fantastic tips here! Thanks so much for sharing with us 🙂 I completely agree about making a muslin version of the dress first – I’ve been getting so confused trying to work out the final bust measurement of a garment from the pattern, so I think I’ll follow your advice and do a muslin one first and see how that fits 🙂

  3. I can’t quite believe in all of the year and a half I have been blogging, and reading blogs, that this is the first time I have come across reference for SBAs. Thank you so much Jill. I always wing it but this all makes good sense. 🙂

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