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Challenged by fitting

Seams | Posted in General Discussion on

My fitting standards have been raised – I want that perfectly fitted sleeveless dress!

Can anyone coach me on a fool proof method for decreasing a pattern’s bust/cup size, dealing w/ forward thrust, and eliminating a gap at the upper section of the back armhole? I’m a nearly A cup size, petite -5′ 1′, and very small boned – 97#. I’ve been using a combination of size 6/8 patterns. Someone suggested that perhaps my chest frame is narrower than the pattern and I should special order a smaller size, yet my measurements are close to the size 8. I have altered the center front darts and the side seams to a fairly acceptable point. However, now I’ve got about 1 1/2″ gap at the back armhole. Should I pull up that excess into the shoulder seam, redraw the armhole opening with a dressmaker’s curve, and remake the armhole facings? I really would like to get an alteration procedure for my needs so that I’m not continually faced with these fitting challenges.

Help – I’m gotten myself so frustrated that I’m just about ready to quit sewing! Many thanks for your suggestions and input.


  1. User avater
    Becky-book | | #1

    Can you get your hands on a copy of Fit for Real People ? (library or purchase) The text and illustrations are really helpful!  Also fitting your own back can be very tricky without a helper.... two mirrors and lots of try it on - take it off, re-pin, repeat!

    How to fix the back armscye depends on why the gap is there, your shoulder angle could be off, or back rounded, or.....hard to tell w/o seeing it!

    Hang in there, it can be done!!


    PS can you post photos of your progress?

  2. User avater
    CostumerVal | | #2

    I agree with Becky-Book, get Fit for Real People and Vogue pattern 1004.  The book will tell you how to make ANY pattern alteration, and the "fitting shell"-sloper, can be used to "fix" any commercial pattern.  Threads has numerous articles on using your sloper to alter commercial patterns quickly.  Furthermore, the book has grading charts and ease charts to assist you in designing your own patterns after you fit the sloper.

    I am also small busted.  You need to decrease both width and length at the front.  For a simple darted style, take less in the dart, and recut the waist.  Check the armscye also.  Some patterns design the extra dart fabric into the armscye, but most add it to the waist.  For a princess seam, redraw a smaller curve in the side front and take in a pleat in the center front.  You'll have to pin fit the pattern to get it right.  For the shoulder, it's hard to tell, but try pinning the shoulder seam deeper, you may also need to lower the armscye then.  (Do this to a traced copy of the pattern, not the real deal.)  Now that I've totally confused you, the book has photo's to go with the explanations.  It's an easy read, I highly recommend it.  Val

    Edited 7/25/2007 10:22 am ET by CostumerVal

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    I agree with the other two posters--a good fit book (and that one makes a lot of sense to me) and a good fitting pattern.  If you can find one with specifically petite sizing, you'll be better off; even though I'm 5'8" and full-busted, most patterns that match my measurements are way too big in the chest/shoulder/armscye area.

    You might also want to try some of the basic "Junior" patterns, which are based on a feminine but much smaller figure, for fitting issues which you could then transfer to Misses patterns that you like.

    Don't give up-- there are plenty of folks on this forum to help!

  4. stitchagain | | #4

    Make a muslin first whatever you do.

    Here's something I found in a vintage sewing book I've always wanted to try: 

     To reduce bulk on the facings of your sleeveless garment rotate the facing under arm seam to the back.  Simply cut 1/3 off the bottom of the back facing pattern piece and attach it to the front facing pattern piece; taking into account the seam allowance when attaching and cutting out the facing.  The right underarm seam will still be in the same place, but the facing seam doesn't need to be. 



  5. jtp | | #5

    Hello all,

        I've been following the discussion on fit and decided to add my recent experience.  Although my problem with patterns is usually a bust that is too small for me if the rest of the garment fits, the frustration and time it takes to correct this is probably the same.  I recently spent over four hours tissue fitting, making a muslin, and refitting a sleeveless blouse with princess seams.  I increased the bust, petited the shoulder area, and rotated the shoulder seam forward.  I finally got the bust area and armscyes correct, but then had added frustration with the facings. 

      In the end, I threw the whole project in the trash and ordered the fitting kit from UniquePatterns.com.  It cost me around $46 for the measurement kit.  Unique now has a good assortment of Simplicity patterns which are custom fitted so I though it would be worth the investment -- but I have not received any patterns yet.   When I inquired about the fittings and measurements used, this is the reply I received:

    "Unique provides custom-fit patterns with each pattern carefully drafted specifically to your body measurements, consequently each pattern is sold separately. Due to the labor and time involved Unique patterns cost more - but are designed just for you. There are a set of 46 measurements to take.

    The manual measurement process is an excellent way to get started on your way to custom fit. The total cost is $46.45 including shipping and hanlding. The easy-to-follow instructional kit and membership includes:

    * Instructional CD showing you how to take all the measurements needed for custom-fit patterns

    * Coupon for one Unique style pattern to get started

    * A brochure outlining a selection of custom-fit styles by Simplicity, New Look and Unique

    * A sample of our fantastic textured weft interfacing

    * The Unique Guide to Fit educational brochure so you can sew with confidence

    * Access to the member-only section of the Unique Patterns website where you can access education and the complete selection of custom-fit patterns

    * Access to additional help with your custom-fit sewing projects through our member consultants @ 1-800-543-4739

    **Simply view the CD, record your measurements and body code/visual fit information along with your pattern order, forward to the address below and your custom-fit patterns will ship within 3-4 weeks. View our website http://www.uniquepatterns.com for details on the measurement process and our latest patterns."

    I will keep you posted about the progress!

  6. Tatsy | | #6

    Have you measured the distance between the bottom of your armscye and the shoulder? It's possible that you can solve the whole problem by just folding out the extra straight across the back.  If you haven't got anybody to measure for you, place the pattern against a garment that does fit and see how they compare.

  7. tmorris1 | | #7


    Patterns are always made to fit a b cup bra size. You will need to alter the cup size on any pattern that you buy. If you need the step by step, let me know and I will write the instructions out for you.

    You can dart out the gap in the back armhole by just pinning and sewing.

    Don't give up. The fact that you have become obsessed with fit just underlines the fact that you are a worthy sewer.


  8. Cathie | | #8

    The people here have stupendous suggestions. I was once an A cup (100 years ago), but, am now a D, thanks to breast feeding, and so on. I have always had unsatisfactory fit, especially in the upper bodice. Even though I am 5 foot 6, and curvy, I get these gaps in armholes. I think we both need a "petite" alteration here, folding out a tuck thru the upper bodice - front, back, or both. Sandra Betzina has info on this, and more, in Fast Fit (and a section on petite alterations). I too am obsessed with fit, very frustrating at times, but, finally I am making progress. My idea is to make some very basic fitting type shells, and check future patterns from them. You can choose any super basic garments. Good luck. As one poster said, the being obsessed with fit is the hallmark of a true seamstress. Also, have heard recommended an older book on pattern making by Adele Margolis. I have her basic sewing book, which does go into this too. Her approach is encouraging and simple, and, she feels everyone can have excellent fit.

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