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armhole adjustments for large busted …

Cindy_White | Posted in The Archives on

I have three very full busted daughters who are perfectly wedge shaped. They go from 38D’s down to tiny waistlines. Whenever I make anything sleeveless, if I make the bodice large enough to fit the fullness in their busts, I wind up with a great excess in the front armhole. The only way I have ever been able to correct it is to put a dart there, which I know is wrong. Please help!!


  1. Linda_in_Colorado | | #1

    I would recommend a book called "Fitting and Pattern Alteration" by Liechty, Pottberg, and Rasband. It's pretty technical, but they use all three popular methods of alteration to address something like 85 common alterations. I have found the seam method of alteration the easiest to use, but it seems that everyone has a favorite. The problem with a large bust alteration is that the alteration MUST be made between the side seam dart and the bottom of the armhole. To adjust for a larger bust, you must first decide if the additional fullness is just width, or if you also need extra length down the front. I have a freind that I sew for that has a larger bust, that is spread or distributed across the bodice front. She needs extra width, and the seam adjustment for that is pretty straight forward. I cut the seam allowance away from the pattern starting at the bottom of the side seam, up AROUND the dart, then to, but not through the underarm seam. At the junction of the underarm seam turn and continuing the same cut release the seam allowance for the armscythe up to the point that on the body, the breast tissue begins. You will need to clip the corners from the outside in almost to the cut you made. Now clip in through the center of the dart, almost to the dart point. This long thin piece of seam allowance can now be manipulated to add width, and to create a larger dart. The armscythe will look funny with the bottom curve coming up quite high, but this is not a problem, because it allows you to add the additional material where you need it, not in the armhole area. When you sew the dart, the armhole WILL work, because you have not really changed it, just added more material below it. I know this sounds confusing, and if you want, email me your snail mail address or a fax number and I will gladly send you a photo copy of the drawings of the process. Good luck:-)

    1. Donna_Tremblett | | #2

      *Cindy, The best adjustments for a large bustline are made in the pattern first. Draw a horizontal line and a vertical line that intersect at the bust point.slash your pattern to but not through these lines to the point . Spread your pattern apart the needed amount of fullness and tape in place. Retrace a new pattern from your old one. This may seem complicated but it really isn't.I have adjusted many patterns for myself and have had good results.

      1. sheri_post | | #3

        *hi Linda in Colorado!!!!Could you please send me via snail maila picture description of the alterationyou are talking about? If you would like,I can send to you a SASE so you wouldnthave to incur the costs of mailing.Thanks!sheri

        1. hannelore_palmer | | #4

          *Hi Donna Tremblett,Hi just saw your note about adjustments to the bust area of patterns. I have had this problem for a very long time. I wear a 42DD. I am a visual person, so a can't picture the cuts you describe. Would it be too much trouble to FAX or snail mail a quick sketch. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks in advance.>Hannelore Palmer FAX 803-321-6169Snail mail can come to:>1618 Lindsay St.>Newberry, South Carolina 29108If this in inappropriate, please let me know.My e-mail is [email protected]

          1. Marion_ | | #5

            *I posted this message recently to another discussion group about how I solved the problem of the gaping at the armhole of a vest pattern that didn't have a bust dart. It would apply to a bodice pattern also. This is what I wrote about the vest:I, too, have that problem of gaping armholes on vests that don't have a bust dart. I solved theproblem by making a new dart from the underarm seam to the bust, that I transferred there from one I pinned in at the armhole. The dart barely shows without any effort at all to hide it, and the lines can be hidden when used as edges of appliques, patchwork, or a yoke (I leave the dart unsewn until embellishing is finished). Here is avery complete description of how I did it. I cut out a vest pattern I liked, in an old sheet and basted together the front and back at the shoulders and underarms, leaving the sean allowances on and all the edges unfinished. I tried it on and pinned in a dart right where the gap was at the armhole, so that the dart started at the armhole and pointed toward the bust point. I marked an X where the bust point was. Then I took the vest off and measured how big the fold was at the edge of the pinned-in dart and how far from the underarm seam it began. I also measured exactly where that X was. From then on, everything I did was on the pattern piece, using the measurements I had made. (I let the seam allowances remain on the pattern piece.) I located the bust point and made a X at that point on the pattern. I located where the dart should start at the armhole, measured over for how big the fold should be at the edge, then drew in the dart so that it started at the edge of the armhole and ended up in a point at the bust point. Then I transferred the dart to the underarm seam by drawing a line from the underarm seam line to the point of the drawn-in dart and then slashied the pattern all the way along this new line. Then I folded and taped the sides of the armhold dart together so that it was no longer there, and that operation opened a dart along the slash from theunderarm seam. I played around with the new dart until the top edge was perpendicular to the center front. (I did this by drawing a new line and slashing on that one until I got a right angle with the center front.) That made the dart be on the crosswise grain. I then pasted paper under the new, opened dart and also at the underarm edge where closing the original dart had caused an unwanted jog in the armhole. I drew a new smooth armhole curve, which ended up smaller than it was originally, and I also shortened the new dart by putting a dot one and one half inches from the bust point in the center of the dart lines, and redrew the dart making the dot be the end point of the dart. To true up the underarm seam in the pattern, I then carefully folded and pinned in the new dart with the fold pointing down toward the bottom of the vest, and I laid the pattern on the table so that the dart and the underarm seam line were flat on the table with the dart point at the corner of the table and with the center front hanging down off the edge. Then I drew a smooth line for the underarm seam, and while the dartwas still pinned, I cut along this underarm seam line in order to get the necessary extensions on the dart ends. Then I cut out a new front from the sheet, sewed it to the back and tried it on to find that it fit perfectly. I have used this pattern many times and love the way it hangs. I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone has. (I'm procrastinating on doing my taxes and am looking for any excuse.)Marion

          2. Marian_ | | #6

            *This is another question on the same subject.In ready-to-wear, the most graceful fit I've found is a shoulder-yoke with the bodice front gathered gently (or sometimes smocked) against it. It gives me the fullness I need in the bust without gigantic darts, although some garments have modest darts as well. It also seems to drape more flatteringly ABOVE the bust.But I've had no luck when I look for a pattern designed that way. Has anyone else found one?

          3. kelley_maxfield | | #7

            *Dear Cindy,The easiest method to fix your problem is to take a high bust measurement first and buy your pattern from this measurement and then adjust the side seam to increase the circumference of the shirt. I have a 36gg chest and am very familiar with this problem. I also have a sewing business and use this measurement to pick the best pattern size out. The reason why you are having trouble is your daughters shoulders are narrow and the bust is large, therefor you need to fit the shoulders first,then the bust area. The high bust is measured by taking the measurement like a traditional bust measurement but, lay the tape measure on top of the bust,on the chest wall. /This measurement will probably be about4 or more inches bigger, don't worry it will work. Let say your high bust meaures for a size 14 but your bust is an 18. you would cut out the 14 through the arm holes then when it came time to cut the side seams you would add 1/4 of the difference in the 2 measurements.If you needed to add a total of 4 inches you woul add 1 inch per seam. I hope this will help you if you need anymore help e-mail at [email protected] Kelley Maxfield

          4. Martha_M. | | #8

            *The shoulder/neck/armhole area is crucial to a good fit for any garment. As you must increase fabric in width and length for a fuller bust, you must first ascertain the correct pattern size to use for this upper chest area. Speaking as a mom of another well endowed teen, and as a narrow shouldered individual, I think Nancy Zieman's fitting methods make the most sense. The high bust measurement can be misleading, inasmuch as if you have a broad or rounded upper back, the shoulder width measurement, and neck measurement are distorted. Nancy's front chest/shoulder measurement works much better and will most likely put you in a smaller size for this area, which will be more realistic as a starting point. Nancy's book is called Fitting Finesse and I highly recommend it.

          5. Rosemarie | | #9

            *Marion, I just recently purchased two Burda Patterns with a yoke where the front gathers. They are Burda Studio #3695, a blouse pattern (size 10 to 28, or Eur. size 36 to 54), and #3416 which is a dress. Hope this helps you!

          6. Eve_Benoit | | #10

            *I totally agree with Martha. I too, have narrow shoulders and a large bust, and Fitting Finesse is the only method that consistently gives me good results. In a nutshell, Nancy Zieman recommends measuring the front chest above the bust, from one armhole crease to the other. If you get a measurement of 14 inches, choose size 14. For each additional half inch, add one size, the same going down (for example, 12 inches across means a size 8). This will ensure a good fit across the upper chest, shoulders and usually the neck. You then enlarge the other measurements to fit. The book will give you more details and how-tos.Good luck !

          7. Marian_ | | #11

            *Thanks, Rosemarie! I'll look up those Burda pattern numbers!

          8. fiyo | | #12

            *I saw earlier where Hannalore asked for a fax of a sketch. I just e-mailed Sean, our wonderful webmaster, and asked him how people put graphics with their posts (they do it on the Taunton "Fine Homebuilding" discussion!). I will let you know when I find out - now, won't THAT be fun!

          9. acampbel | | #13

            *Hi I am new to this disscusion sp?. I am a large busted girl but I have been wearing shoulder pads to balance my hips. I have a duct tape double and have been trying to fit "fitting" pattern from Vogue. I have bought 3 different sizes 18, 22, and 24. They are all too big accrossed the high chest. They are also too short in the back shoulder. I am at a lost at how to alter this pattern. I own many of the recent fitting books, G-street, Nancy Zieman, Sew-fit, Fabulious Fit and Fit for Everybody. The double needs some adjustment in the arm. It is too big compared to my body. We probably taped too close to my body and did not tape the arm seperatly. Any help would be [email protected] too am procrastinating on doing my taxes.

          10. thimble_ | | #14

            *hello,my experience with large busts and fitting them have proven to be most disturbing, I have however found a cure, what works for my clients anyways.Here it is: Usually when you buy or draft a pattern it rarely accomodates a larger than average bust... but inorder to allow for it, you MUST add not only width , but length as well, by slashing through the bust point, vertically and horizontally. I add appx 1" to each, dependant of course on the degree of oversize. But don't forget that the armhole must remain the same size, after all it is the bust which is larger not the armhole which is smaller! Only practice will give you the right formula...I then cut the new bodice, enlarged, on a muslin...YOU HAVE TO CUT IT ON MUSLIN, paper patterns will NEVER work., dont forget to do the back piece at the same time, and I always find it easier to do both sides rather than a half, because usually the bust is uneven and will need different size darts or different bust point positions. Don't sew the muslin darts in...pin them out on the body, then stitch them in and test fit...I know it is time consuming but at least this way you will have a perfect sloper. I find that if the pattern needs lots of alterations, then it is sometimes necessary to cut two or three muslins. also do not forget to true up all seam lines and armholes making sure to take this opportunity to check for things like shoulder width, waist position, neckpoint, neclkline, etc! whenever I work with large busts I find that the extra width that goes into a dart at the shoulder or side seam often comes at the cost of length, it could be as little as a 1/4" or as much as 1/2" or more. It is crucial to add this back or no matter how well the bust may fit the garment will always be tight! Also don't forget to alter the back as well at the same time, you will find that in small framed women with large busts that there is an unusual amount of back curvature above the armhole that will need to be addressed. Often time I have found that I need to reposition the neck point, by either passing it forward or back/adding or removing back balance/ to have a smooth fit over the shoulder and into the bust area. One more tip I have found, never allow the bust dart to become too wide , this will distort the fit to such a point you won't know what is going on! in large busted figures I almost always add a dart under the arm, even for princess line garments or add multiple darts as a design feature...it works well!good luck!thimble!

          11. Penelope_Else | | #15

            *Dear All,I have much the same problem as you, and I found the perfect article about it in Vogue Patterns (UK) issue Mar/Apr 1999. It is about sizing up patterns generally (which you may find useful), but has excellent drawings showing how to adjust for large busts for princess-line and darted bodices. I'd half-understood what to do before, but having read this I can now adjust patterns in minutes without error and without stress!

          12. scrubble4 | | #16

            Hi:  thanks for this detailed explanation of not just how to do it but why to alter a large bust.  I immediately made the connection to my need to scoop out the seat for my long large seat.  When you have more curve in a part of your body,  the circumference is larger and you need more length. I just had not made that connection until reading your great explanation.  Thanks Scrubble4

            PS I did a search on fitting bust darts, and came up with your thread. 

  2. Sewmanysewers | | #17

    I too have a rather large bust and round shoulders. I have solved the fit problem by purchasing Wildginger Patternmaster Boutique 3 software. I can now make my own patterns and get a fantastic fit.

    1. TrishyBob | | #18

      I am not familiar with the software you mentioned and wanted to ask a question about the patterns. Does the software make the pattern and you   run them off on your printer. If so do you have to tape many pieces  together to make for example, a front or back piece,  or do you get measurements and then draw your own pattern.  I just couldn't determine how you actually got the pattern pieces.  The software sounds like an answer to many problems. Do you think the results  justify the price or   would you recommend something else.  I have had a terrible time trying to adjust commercial patterns and am about ready to quit.  Last year, I had a mastectomy and fitting has turned into a nightmare even with a prosthesis.



      1. Sewmanysewers | | #19

        Yes, the pattern is printed out page by page and it is a bit of a chore taping  all the pieces together.

        I took a while to get used to it but , because the fit is just so good, I am delighted with the results.  If you take the time to make the slopers out of muslin or calico (same thing??) and make any adjustments ,you get excellent fit. 

        I can never get commercial patterns to fit my bust or my back. The armhole area was always a problem.

        I don't know of any similar products but someone else might.

        Good luck and Merry Christmas.


        1. jjgg | | #20

          use banner paper. then there is much less taping

          1. Sewmanysewers | | #21

            That is a great idea. I will find out if it will work on my printer.

            Thank you.

        2. TrishyBob | | #22

          Thanks for the info. If the fit is that good, it will certainly be worthwhile to check into the software. I'm surprised there is no more software available for sewers to use since it would probably be a good seller.

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