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Fitting a Full Bust

Learn why patterns don't fit straight out of the envelope, and how to adjust the bust for a smoother, more flattering fit.

Video: Cari Delahanty, Jeff Roos, Carol Fresia

Full-busted women often have trouble finding a good fit in ready-to-wear garments, and it’s not much easier when working with commercial patterns. Daryl Lancaster, a frequent Threads contributor and sewing instructor, explains how to determine the pattern size you need for your body structure. Then she explains how to add or increase a bust dart to improve the fit.

Find your pattern size

Daryl suggests working with the chest size, rather than the full-bust measurement, to determine which pattern size to sew. Take the chest measurement around the body, above the bust and under the arms. Then measure the full bust. There’s an easy formula for using these dimensions to calculate the pattern size you need.

You’ll also learn how commercial pattern sizes were developed in the decades following World War II, and why they don’t fit most women straight from the envelope.

Add or increase a bust dart

Patterns are drafted for a figure with a bust circumference 2 inches larger than the chest circumference. If your measurements have a larger difference, you need to add a dart (if the pattern doesn’t include one) or increase an existing bust dart. Daryl takes you through this process step by step, noting that a similar adjustment can be used to reduce the bust cup for A-cup figures.

Once you’ve added or enlarged the dart, you redraw the dart and lengthen the hem at center front. For figures with a full bust but slender midriff, some of the added width below the bust can be taken out with a vertical dart. Again, place the dart point 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches directly below the bust point.

Insiders can learn more expert techniques from more Daryl videos, including “Tips for Cutting Bias Strips” and “Pro Techniques for Applying Bias Binding.”

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Threads comes to life with Threads Essential Techniques. In this web-only video series, we show you how to execute some of the must-know techniques, methods, and skills seen in our print magazine.

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  1. Deleted | | #1

    “[Deleted]”

  2. User avater
    Sue1143 | | #2

    Thank you for such a complete presentation of this- MY! - sewing issue. Daryl is an amazing teacher

  3. user-7028407 | | #3

    Enjoyed this! Very clear and helpful!

  4. JinglefishArt | | #4

    Great information and clear presentation. Well done. Thanks!

  5. tinainanderson | | #5

    Where can I get a copy of those 2 charts Daryl uses in the video?

  6. user-6942640 | | #6

    When doing the FBA on pattern without a dart, how deep should the dart be?

    1. Marsha428 | | #7

      Having wrestled with this issue my entire sewing career, I would say the dart needs to be as deep as it is once the FBA is done. However, this can create a HUGE dart, particularly in woven fabric which can necessitate a different way of handling the construction. I've learned how to manipulate some of the fullness to other areas. In knits, like a tee shirt the fullness can be eased into the side seam if you don't want a dart. I hope this helps you.

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