Hello all! Shaerie here, with the first in a series of posts designed to take some of the mystery out of fitting your body correctly when using commercial patterns. We teach a class here at Sew L.A. using Colette's awesome Parfait Dress pattern, which is drafted for ladies with a C cup. Most commercial patterns are drafted for B cup ladies, so while this is a boon for some of us it ends up looking too baggy in the bust for many petite ladies.
The technique illustrated herein is sometimes called a small bust adjustment and can be used on almost any pattern. You can also use this technique to remove a bust dart on any pattern that has one, like our Best Party Dress (Kwik Sew #3521) or our 1950's Dress (McCall's #4769). This tutorial may look long, but it really doesn't take a long time to do. We just have so many pictures! Shortly, I'll be posting the opposite technique - a large bust adjustment or how to add or enlarge a dart if needed.
How do I know what my cup size is? you may ask yourself. Don't listen to what those ladies at Victoria's Secret tell you! They are helping you find a bra that fits, not a pattern size. For pattern sizes you need two measurements: the fullest part of the bust and also what is called your high bust measurement - this goes under your armpits and over your bust. The difference between the two is what determines your cup size.
1" or less: A cup
around 2": B cup
around 3": C cup
around 4": D cup
around 5": DD cup
Extra paper - pattern paper or copy/printer paper
a sharp pencil - a mechanical pencil is best
2 x 18" clear ruler
clear tape - the matte kind you can write on
push-pin type thumbtacks
a small Vary form curve or french curve ruler
The Parfait Dress pattern has only two inches of ease at the bust - we can tell that by comparing the bust measurement on the size chart with the finished garment bust measurement on the back of the pattern. We measured the bust and came up with 35", so we started with the pattern size 4. On this specific pattern, check the waist measurement as well - there is only 1/2" of ease per size!
1. Choose size by full bust measurement
2. Cut out pieces A and C: bodice front and midriff front
3. Draw in 5/8" seam allowance on the bottom of A and the top of C
4. Pin the tissue pieces together by overlapping and lining up your penciled-in seam allowances: first pin center fronts, then the side seam to the dot gets pinned flat, then fold up the extra tissue where gathers will be and pin in place.
5. Pin the pattern to the person (this is called tissue fitting and a snug tank top works well!): line up the center front and smooth over to the side seam. Pin a little pleat in at the top where the strap will go to account for the gathering. You will be able to see how much extra fabric you would have if you sewed it up without adjusting!
6. Mark bust point with a Sharpie - we'll need to know where this point is so we can adjust from there. Unpin everything and trace your pattern piece A onto pattern paper using tacks to hold it in place. I like to keep the original pattern intact in case I need to trace it again! Use straight and curved rulers to even out all the lines, mark the bust point, transfer all the dots and label your pattern piece. I have labeled which lines are which because I'll be referring to them a bunch.
7. Draw in your grainline, parallel to the center front. Now, draw your first line from the bust point down to the bottom edge of the bodice parallel to the grainline. Use your clear ruler to make sure it's even!
8. Next, draw your second line perpendicular to the grainline through the bust point - use the crossing lines on your clear ruler to make a 90 degree angle. For the third line, draw from the bust point up to the arm curve (which is a straight line in this case). If this pattern had sleeves generally you would draw your line from the bust point to the notch in the arm curve, but since it's sleeveless we'll draw our line to the middle of the curve.
9. Cut on the pencil line from the bottom edge to the bust point, then pivot and cut up the diagonal line to the edge of the arm curve. Don't cut past the arm curve line - we want a little paper hinge there. Next, cut from the side seam over till you get close to the bust point - again, we want a hinge so don't cut through to the bust point. Leave about 1/16" still attached.
10. Now, draw a line parallel to your first pencil line (and first cut) up from the bottom of the bodice and extending past your bust point. This line is drawn on the center front side of the bodice. If you are a B cup, the line should be 1/2" away from your cut and if you are an A cup the line should be 3/4" away from your cut. Pull the cut edge that is closer to the side seam over to your new parallel line and smooth out the other cuts. The cut that goes to the arm curve should overlap and lay smooth, as should the cut from the bust point to the side seam. Tape everything in place!
11. Take the original pattern piece and re-trace the side seam and a few inches of the bottom edge.
12.The new bottom edge is now lower than the original traced line. Use a curved ruler to even out the bottom edge as shown below. Make sure the bottom edge is at a right angle to the center front when they join up. The arm curve will also be pulled so it bows out a bit - re-draw this line so it is straight again.
13. Cut out your new pattern piece completely. Use the new piece and your original C piece to cut one each on the fold from muslin or test fabric and sew it up with gathers from dot to dot across the center front and also the gathers on the strap edge.
14. Try it on by pinning your center front and side seams to your tank top! You can see that we have retained the design details but there is obviously less fabric so it fits better. Hooray!
15. The last step is to adjust the front facing piece to reflect our changes. You can do one of two things: one, you can trace your new pattern piece to make a new facing or two, you can use the facing that came with the pattern by folding the arm curve edge to match your new pattern piece.
Phew! Now it's time for a margarita. And then you can get started on your fabulous Parfait Dress!
Note: I learned how to do patternmaking a million years ago from Linda Faiola at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Sometimes I have to refresh my memory regarding certain techniques and so I have a library of books about this kind of thing. The two I referenced for this project were:
"Fit for Real People" by Pati Palmer and Maria Alto ISBN #978-0-935278-65-1
"The Perfect Fit" published by Creative Publishing Intl. ISBN #1-58923-227-5