Hi, I am going to show you how easy it is to make a bust adjustment to your Reese pattern, whether that means adding a little extra ease or taking some away. However, there are two things we will need to check off first.
1- Are you sure you need a full bust adjustment? Made For Mermaids drafts for a curvy figure and that includes a larger cup size than many other commercial or independent pattern designers. Check the size chart, if your upper bust measurement and your full bust measurement fall within the same size then you should not need to make any changes to your pattern pieces for your bust. This pattern also includes the SEWING cup size it was drafted to fit in the measurement guide, which is really helpful in determining whether you may need an adjustment. For example, my upper bust is 45.5” and my full bust is 51”. To determine my cup size I subtract my upper bust of 45.5 from my full bust of 51 and this gives me a 5.5” difference which puts me in an F cup (don’t be concerned if this is a different size to your store bought bra cup size, sewing cup sizes are different). As you can see from the chart below, an F cup is what the pattern is drafted to for my size, which is a Red, so I don’t need to actually do a bust adjustment for this pattern. With most other designers I do, which is one of the reasons I love Made for Mermaids so much! Here is an excerpt from the measurement guide to refer to.
2 – Megan has very kindly already included pattern pieces for a 1 cup size variant of a Full Bust Adjustment and a Small Bust Adjustment within the pattern itself, so if your full bust measurement is one size above or below your upper bust measurement, then just choose the regular back bodice and either the FBA or the SBA front bodice to go with it and your job has already been done for you, how cool is that? No need to do your own adjustment at all!
Ok, still with me? That means your full bust measurement is more than 1 size bigger or smaller than your upper bust measurement, not a problem because I’m going to show you how to make that bust adjustment you will need.
Full Bust Adjustment
First, print out the regular front bodice piece that corresponds with your upper bust size. Get some plain paper, a ruler or measuring tape, a pen and some tape. Write down your full bust measurement, let’s presume mine is 55” (size lilac) and the size your pattern (going by your upper bust) is drafted for. Looking at the size chart I have printed out (the size Red for my upper bust) the full bust this is drafted for is a maximum of 51”. I subtract the 51 from the 55 and that means I need to add an extra 4” of ease into the bust (2″ either side on left and right front bodices). Using the FBA piece already included in the pattern would only get me to 54” (size ruby) which is why it won’t be enough. 1” may not seem like enough of a difference to care about, but with a fitted woven pattern like this, it is necessary.
Mark ½” in from the edge of the pattern at the armscye. This is your seam allowance.
Then continue marking around the armscye until you have a line marking the whole seam line. We do this because we don’t want to change the length of this line, or else your sleeve won’t fit.
Draw a line straight down from the bust apex mark to the bottom of your pattern piece. This is line 1.
Draw a line from the bust apex point straight through the centre of the bust dart. This is line 2.
Make a mark ⅓ up the armscye. Draw a line from the bust apex point to the mark on the armscye. This line is not numbered.
Draw a line from line 1 horizontally out to the centre front of the bodice, toward the bottom of the pattern piece. This is line 3.
Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut up line 1 from the bottom to the bust apex and then pivot and cut up toward the armscye mark you made, STOPPING AT THE SEAM ALLOWANCE LINE. Then cut very carefully from the outside of the armscye up to the seam allowance line from the other direction, leaving a small piece still attached at the seam line to form a hinge.
Cut line 2 from the outside of the bust dart up to the bust apex, but leaving a small section uncut to again act as a hinge.
Put some heavy weights on the left hand side of your pattern piece to keep it anchored and then swing the right hand piece down and out until the measurement between the end of line 2 and line 1 is 2″ (or whatever measurement you are personally adjusting to. Remember this will be HALF the full amount of extra bust ease you need to add in). Then tape these pieces down.
Cut line 3 completely and bring this piece down to match the right side we adjusted. Tape in place.
Add backing paper behind to cover the opened areas and tape down.
Lastly you just need to extend your dart base (shown on the yellow paper below), and then re-draw your dart lines into a point, following the original lines (the red lines shown here that the tip of my pen is pointing to).
However depending on fit (you can fold and pin the new dart in the paper pattern piece down, and hold it up next to your body to test this) you may want to extend the dart to get it a little closer to your bust apex now we have made this adjustment which swings the dart awa. Tthat would be the black line here. You could also look at re-positioning the dart, or changing the angle of the dart to get an even better fit, but I won’t go into those adjustments here today. You can find plenty of advice covering those more advanced adjustments online or in sewing books which you could get from your local library.
That’s your new FBA pattern piece adjusted!
Small Bust Adjustment
Again if your full bust is 1 size smaller than your upper bust, the SBA has been done for you. Just choose the SBA front bodice piece from the pattern.
If your full bust is two sizes smaller than your upper bust then you will need to do the opposite of the FBA above and overlap the pieces to make them smaller. So rather than opening the pattern out, you would overlap them by the amount you need to reduce (remember this is half the full amount of ease you need to remove).
Then cut line 3 and shorten by bringing it up to shorten the left piece to match the right.
Here you can see that I have overlapped by ½” along line 1. By the point of my pen you can see the width of the paper underneath the overlap.
If you have difficulty seeing through the paper here to check it is straight, you could tape your pattern piece to a window or use a lightbox app on your phone or tablet to light up the pattern from the underside.
You will need to fold the flaps of paper along line 2 out of the way of the dart to be able to re-draw it.
If you reduce your dart down to a very small size, say less than half an inch in width at the base (like the one to the right) you may be able to get away with a cheat used by professional costume makers! Overlap the dart on the paper pattern piece so that the lines of the dart are on top of each other (as they would be if sewn up), tape it down and then using a medium heat iron, smoosh the point of the dart down flat. This removes the dart so you don’t have to bother sewing it but still gives you the right shaping, however it only works on a very small dart!
That’s it! The great thing about making your own clothes is being able to custom fit them to your body, so it’s worth taking the extra time to make these adjustments and get a great fitting garment.
If you find yourself making a very large FBA, you may want to do some research and look into making a y-shaped FBA. This type of FBA splits the dart into two separate darts, one in the original position and one in the armscye.This will not only stop your bust dart from being unwieldy but will also give you the extra width needed in the bust and open the armscye up into the shoulder too, which may be particularly helpful if making the sleeveless version of the pattern, as it will give extra coverage and help stop bra straps peeking out.
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