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Fitting a jacket with princess seams

Solveig_ | Posted in Fitting on

I am having trouble fitting a Burda jacket with princess seams. According to the measurement chart I am a size 12 for waist and hips and size 14 for bust. Since I wear a D-cup I decided to cut the pattern in size 12 and enlarge the bust area. I did the enlargement by adding 1 cm at the bust point on the side front pattern piece and lenthening the front center piece 1 cm at the same spot. (I read this was how you were supposed to do it somewhere.) Then I made a test garment. The result was bad. The front center pieces don’t hang straight! Instead the bottom parts are wide apart. When I bring them together, as if in buttoning the jacket, there is a bubble in the front very close below the bust. Very uggly. How should I have done the modifications??? The side front pieces seem to fit okay.

A secondary problem is that I get vertical bubbles of cloth starting above the bust ending close to the shoulder seam. The bubbles are close to the armcy. I have this problem also when I make other garments. What kind of change do I need to make?


  1. lin_hendrix | | #1

    Hello Solveig,

    Princess seams for a full busted woman really do make sense. You can get a flattering fit with the slimming lines of the seams.
    However, altering up princess seams sized for a b cup is one of the most difficult pattern alterations there is. In addition to the bust area, the shoulder area and general vertical dimensions are challenging to fit from an already drafted pattern.

    My first suggestion is to switch to a darted pattern. If you like the lapels and other details on your jacket pattern try substituting a darted front from another similar Burda and transferring those details to the new pattern front. Obviously you'll still need to alter; it's much easier doing this on a darted pattern.

    While it may sound like more than you bargained for you could try draping a princess style sloper and then using this to alter your pattern. Of course you should sew this up in cheap fabric as a test. Threads had an article about draping for oneself a while back. There are lots of books on draping.

    If this sounds like it's too involved, then buy some really cheap muslin or gingham fabric. Buy a lot, at least 2x your jacket's pattern requirements. Re-cut just your front, back, and sleeve pieces out leaving huge seam allowances on the princess seam and extra on the side seams. Mark the original seam allowance and baste front and backs together. Try on. Let the basting out where you need to, pin to fit, baste again.

    Pay close attention to the grain (easy if you bought gingham), keeping the cross grain parallel to the floor, lengthwise grain perpendicular to the floor; if a piece gets off-grain then you're altering the wrong piece or area; you'll be letting a bit out alternating between the side piece then the front piece. Once you've got the bust area fitted without wrinkles or pulling, start the baste/pin/baste sequence again on the area right above the bust. You'll probably be taking in instead of letting out in this area. Attack the side seams then the sleeves last. Your sleeve cap may change.

    If you didn't leave enough seam allowance and run out of fabric to let out then recut that piece with your new sizing.

    Once you think you've got a decent fit, trace your altered pieces with a decent seam allowance and re-cut the whole thing out again just to make sure; baste together and double check the fit.

    Play around with letting out and taking in. You can see pretty clearly where problems lie and how to fix them using this method. If you've got wrinkles or pulling then it's not right.

    hope this helps,


    1. Bill_Stewart | | #2

      *Solveig, i think you only did 1/2 the alteration, based on the above. You slash both the front and the side panel for length, with the side panel pivoting at the side seam and letting out the side panel in its seam allowance. remake the body in a cheap fabric on which you have penciled the seamline on each piece and sew up back if it's ok and pin fit the front seams. begin by slashing the front panel exactly on the bustline and continue across the princess seam just to, but not through, the side seam. insert a piece of scrap to lenghten based on your best guesstimate. when lenght is about right let out the side panel seam on the front if your bust points match those of pattern in distance from bust point to bust point. if you are wider pt to pt let out the front allowance also to properly seat the princaess seam on the pts. trial and error from here to perfect the fit. with the penciled seamline from the pattern you can tell how much to add by measuring to your pins and the cut edges . when a good fit, slash you pattern, or better yet a copy of it, and translate changes and try a new muslin. D cups are very hard to adjust for unless you use a method like this. hope this helps. Bill

      1. Evita_ | | #3

        *Solveig, I agree with Bill: at this point, your alteration is not complete. You need to open up the side panel in the amount of the center panel lenghtening, otherwise, there is not enough fabric for the seam. This will change the shape of the armcye, which you also need.I also agree with Lin that this type of alteration is difficult and needs a lot of fine-tuning (ask me how I know!). I have gotten a lot of help from the book "Fit for real people" by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto (NAYY). Tons of photographs, step-by-step instructions... you will find solutions for fitting almost every style to your non-B bust.I find that I learn more easily with illustrations and photographs ... as I will be fitting my larger bust for the rest of my life, I do not regret investing in a guide !Good luck !

        1. Trina | | #4

          *Another excellent text for fitting is Fitting and Pattern Alteration. It covers nearly every type of alteration under the sun and includes fashion styles. It covers princess seams, skirts, full front thighs, bow knees, and everything you never thought you'd need. One of the most important things you can do is purchase the correct pattern size. If you are making a jacket or bodice, purchase the pattern according to the high bust measurement (measured across the chest under the armpits). The waist and hips can be let in or out as needed, but it is important that this high bust measurement be accurate. Secondly, trace your original pattern onto some tissue or exam table paper, so that you don't ruin your original when you are cutting, taping, and getting frustrated (which will happen). Paper fit your pattern over what you would likely be wearing under the garment (underclothes, blouse or sweater, hose, skirt or slacks, etc.). People don't often think of this step, but it makes a difference. If you fit the jacket over a thin blouse, it may not fit correctly (or at all) over a heavy sweater. If you wear hose while fitting and don't wear them (or wear some which fit another way) while wearing the garment, it will not fit the same. Fit for Real People and Fitting and Pattern Alteration are only two books out there on fitting. The new group of books from Taunton (Easy Guide to...) also includes some fitting. There are many books out there and many techniques. I mostly prefer the seam allowance method, but I use whatever method produces the result I seek. Fitting yourself is more difficult than if you have an assistant, but it is not impossible. You must make the pattern alterations where you need them. Your fullness may be at a point higher or lower than where the fullness is indicated on the pattern. This will require additional altering. I just experienced this and had to move darts and do several additional steps on a dress I made. The end result was spectacular, however. Fitting is so very important. It can take more time than the actual sewing, but it is well worth it in the end.Best of luck to you.Trina

          1. Evita_ | | #5

            *Trina, who is the author of that book ? Do they use the seam allowance method ?

          2. Trina_Drotar | | #6

            *Evita, the authors of Fitting and Pattern Alteration by Fairchild Publishing are: Elizabeth G. Liechty, Della N. Pottberg, and Judith A. Rasband. They show several methods (including the seam allowance)of pattern alteration. It's a really big book and it covers elements and principles of design, selecting and using equipment, evaluating the figure, selecting patterns, learning from the contents of a pattern, recognizing correct fit, learning to fit a garment, methods of fitting, methods of pattern alteration (slash, seam, and pivot), personalized patterns and slopers, and an illustrated alteration guide (hip area, legs, neck, shoulders, rib cage, and arms). While I don't use this book exclusively, I refer to it on nearly every sewing project. I own more than a dozen books on fitting, and use each of them as they are needed. Different books offer different options. Some of the designer patterns can be quite tricky, so other methods are helpful to learn as well. Judith Rasband also put out a book covering simply the seam allowance method, but it also covers only the basic sloper. The Pattern and Fitting Alteration book include diagrams for a variety of fashion designs as well as the sloper. Hope that this helps. Trina

          3. Fran_Skobieranda | | #7

            *Am nearly done letting out all of the vertical seams in the sides, and front sides princess curved seams in a princess garment but I did not let out the back side curved seams. Now, I find the short sleeve is not as loosely comfortable as I would like for a mother of the bride suit. The rest of the jacket fits ok but for some tightness when I stretch my arms forward as for dancing. The sleeve is not a set-in sleeve but one which has a seam through the outer edge of the sleeve through the shoulder, something like a raglan sleeve. How can I get more room in the underarm area?

          4. Koushite | | #8

            *I'm new to the Taunton Discussion Group, so I'm going through various threads and just wanted to say I'm so happy to come upon people who really appreciate and understand the importance of pattern alteration and fit. I also found the book Fit for Real People very helpful, but agree that there are so many good books out there, you really have to check them all.I recently altered a jacket pattern for the "full bust adjustment" and so many other things (made it petiteable, length, width, forward shoulders, slight high round back, etc.), that I started thinking how nice it would be to just go for ready-to-wear. But the jacket fits absolutely great! I'm ready to try those princess lines. It's nice to know others are out there struggling to get "just the right fit" like I am, and consider it imporant.Thanks for the encouragement.

          5. Chris_Dunn | | #9

            *Last summer I made bridesmaids dresses for two daughters. I used a Vogue pattern with a princess seamed bodice. The flat chested daughter was a snap. The D-cup daughter was a nightmare. I had no idea that it would be so difficult. I did so many muslins that I lost count. I finally got it right but it all went to hell when I put in the lining. It was only after the wedding was over that I realized what my mistake was. The lining was not cut in the princess style, but had regular darts. I had forgotten to alter the lining to fit the bodice. But I can't even imagine how to attempt that! This summer I made a princess seamed dress for the same daughter and it was very successful. I have saved the pattern and I will never get rid of it. I found Fit for Real People very helpful. And I guess I can say that I learned a lot.

          6. Lisa_Gregory | | #10

            *I've just created a jacket with princess seams too...my first ever! I'm a size 12, 36B and although the jacket fits perfectly everywhere, I have a problem when I raise my arms up in front of me. It gets tight across the shoulder blades and upper arms. I've been sewing for about four years but still consider myself a beginner. I usually sew dresses and blouses with short sleeves and have never had this problem before. I intend to line this jacket as soon as I figure out how to fix the tightness problem. Can anyone help?

          7. Ghillie_C | | #11

            *What is the armscye like? should you be fitting the sleeve higher up into the armpit, 'European' style to improve mobility?

          8. Heidrun_Jung | | #12

            *Lisa,I had the same problem recently. In my case the armhole was too big. The sleeve fitted nice and all looked good. But when I started to move, it was no free movement possible. The armhole pulled all down. To repair this I sewed the sideseam tighter und put in shoulder pads. To look if this is the fault pin the shoulderseam maybe an inch higher and try.Heidi

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