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HELP!!! altering a bust pattern piece

Ocrafty1 | Posted in Fitting on

I really need your help.  I have Vogue 8542 and want to make the top. It is a fitted bodice with princess seams, but the bust area is more like a bra. Here’s a link: http://www.voguepatterns.com/item/V8547.htm?search=8547&page=1

My problem is that I have a 34DD bust and I don’t know how to adjust for the cup on this style of pattern.  There is a wide dart at the bottom of the cup pattern, but it is still made for a B cup. The line art on the website shows pretty well what the actual pattern piece is like….all curves with a dart at the bottom…sort of like a swimsuit or a bra. I’ve altered blouses, jackets, etc. and had no problem fitting them, but this is something different.  I’ve tried adapting similar patterns in the past, made muslins and threw them all away!  Nothing I tried worked…so I know I’m doing it wrong.

I REALLY want to make some tops from this pattern; (it would be perfect to wear while riding the Harley, and also under jackets…lots of support) and if I can make it fit properly, I’ll probably make the dress at some point.

I know there has to be a way to do this…PLEASE HELP!!  I’d love to be able to alter the pattern and make the top this week.  I bought fabric for 3 of them and want to do some sewing for me, before I have to do alterations for a new client who’s coming on the 16th.

BTW: I’m planning on putting underwire in and possibly boning if needed.



  1. fabricmaven | | #1

    Hmmm, I see what you are saying. Why not try using a bra that fits you well? Try tracing just the cup part onto paper and then lay the original pattern over your drawing. If your bra is moulded  and not pieced the I would lay fabric over one cup and pin it smoothly then trace around all edges of the cup. Establish the bust point and draw a straight line from there to the bottom. Remove the fabric and compare it to the pattern to see how much you have to increase the dart or pin the pattern piece to your bra when you have it on to see how much you have to increase the dart plus over all length and width of the pattern piece. Hope this helps.

    1. Ocrafty1 | | #2

      Thanks so much for responding.  I only wear Body by Victoria bras, which has a one-piece, soft-stretchy cup. (Most regular bras just don't fit correctly....muffin top.)  I took one apart...the underwire had poked through... and tried to figure out a way to fit the pattern to that...I think I'm going to have to cut the bra cup from the bottom (dart area on the pattern) to try to make a 3-D fabric piece fit on to a 2-D paper pattern. I know I'm going to have to add to the overall dimension, but am not sure about how to adjust the dart.

      With the old bra being stretchy, I'm not sure how that will work with the fashion fabric being woven (with a very slight give). Its almost like a stretchy brocade. It has some substance to it, but has a little give.  This is really taxing my brain...and my patience! I know this should be a fairly easy fix, but for some reason my brain just isn't wanting to wrap around it and figure it out.

      I am really getting frustrated. After messing with it for about 2 hrs., I had to put it away today, and made myself a different top that I had purchased fabric for yesterday.  It came out just fine.  DH didn't even grumble when I didn't fix supper tonight...he knew I was frustrated, and that doesn't happen often when I'm sewing.

      But I WANT to make that other top before next week. Now I'm on a 'mission from God.' If I can get this figured out I'll make several tops from it. I can see it in a black satin with a chiffon overlay, red something-or-other with a georgette overlay..(or I might make the dress from that), denim...for riding on the Harley, white with a crinkly organdy fabric that I have already....I just need some help to figure this out!!!!!!


      1. fabricmaven | | #3

        I don't know if I can add to what I offered. I don't know a better way to reproduce your body than to drape or take guesses in flat pattern design until you get it right. I looked at the vogue pattern site and see that there is that middle seam in each cup. I don' t know if the layout of the woven fabric is cut on the bias. I feel your frustration. The only way to create your desired effect is to expirement with like fabric that is less expensive than the one you intend to ultimately work with. It seems to me that the larger the bust the more extreme the dart which creates bias unless you are working with a knit fabric which is more forgiving.

        1. Ocrafty1 | | #4

          There is a large dart at the bottom of the cup pieces. They then attach to the lower part of the bodice, which attaches to a lower band. The band is the top part of the skirt if you make the dress. The top has an invisible back zipper. 

          I won't have time to experiment with it today, as I have a fitting with a client this AM, then I have to get some housework done.  Hopefully, I'll be able to work with it tomorrow or the next day. 

          Thanks for your suggestions.


  2. alotofstitches | | #5

    Sorry to discourage you but I've never sucessfully enlarged a cup that had darts!  Only the lower part of the bodice has the princess seams!  You might try using a bra cup pattern instead of the cup offered in your pattern.  Some bra cups have a seam across the nipple area similar to a dress with princess seams across the bust.  To fit a DD breast into a B cup you'll definitely have to add length to the cup to adequately cover from the top, across the nipple and to the bottom of the breast and then from the side of the cup toward the bust point too.

  3. sewelegant | | #6

    Since this pattern has several sizes on it have you thought about trying out the larger size for the top?  It goes up to size 20 and you may have to buy the larger size pattern to get the size you want, but I think one might be able to figure out with a few test patterns which one would fit.  The top strap part would probably have to be adjusted inward as in sizing up, the pattern companies figure your shoulder width increases with the rest of you!  After you find the proper bodice (or bust) then attach it to the size you would regularly sew.

    1. Ocrafty1 | | #7

      If that is the case, I should be able to just 'grade' the pattern to make it bigger. Your response prompts another question about patterns. Do they use a B cup for ALL sizes as a general rule?  I know I've seen a few patterns that are supposed to have adjustments for C and D cups, but aren't they usually for only B cups? If that is the case, how would buying a bigger pattern help with a DD cup?


      1. dressed2atee | | #8

        Even if you get a larger size pattern it will still be a "B" cub.  I've tried that and failed.  I have several references for altering busts that have worked in the past and send to you off line.

      2. sewelegant | | #12

        The reason I mentioned the larger sizes was because somewhere in my past I read that different cup sizes were interchangeable, but I could not find it.  This site used to have a good educational print out and I do have it somewhere.  I have to admit I have never tried to make a halter dress.  I did order a bra kit once though and had it almost figured out but did not like the style of the bra that was the only option for a full bust so put it away and never finished.

        This site is interesting reading, I think as well as a good source for supplies for bra making.


        1. Ocrafty1 | | #13

          Thanks for the site. I made many halter tops back in the '70's, but my body has changed much since then. LOL.  This pattern is not a halter, which is one reason I purchased it. I can wear a regular bra with it, if I can get the cup to fit. I'm hoping to play with the pattern and make a muslin on Sat.


        2. dressed2atee | | #14

          Great site, thanks for posting.

  4. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #9

    Because you need more depth and width in the cup, you need to do a FBA to the cup. The problem is going to be that you will end up with a very deep dart at the bottom of the cup. This will give you pookie bust! You need to divide and separate that dart into smaller darts for better shaping. You will probably want to make a small side dart to aid in the shaping, and it should not interfere with the style. You could incorporate the darts into a seam, curved across the cup, similar to a shaped bra, but that would take a lot of engineering to get the fitting right. So my suggestion is to do the FBA with darts, and consider adding built in support such as bracups or a built in bra. Cathy

  5. [email protected] | | #10

    I too really feel your frustration as a 36DDD and this is definitely one of the hardest style tops to get your mind around. I can't speak from successful experience yet but it seems to me that some of the dart after a FBA is going to belong in the seams under the bust and more of it can be hidden in the shoulder (effectively transfering the dart into the neck line). I have also seen darts transferred to between the breasts. If you spread out the huge dart we get going 7" from band to bust I think you will be able to ease most of it. I think I might consider deconstructing one of the old playtex cross your heart style bras to see where they put it (if they are still available).

    1. Ocrafty1 | | #11

      Well, I most certainly am not going to get this top done this week. :(  I think the ideas that you and the others have posted will help. It seems like I am going to have to do an FBA with several darts in the cup itself. 

      I can't work on it tomorrow as I have to get brakes put on my car, and Fri. I have to have more work done on my teeth. Hopefully, I'll be able to play around with it on Sat.  The more suggestions I get, the better chance I have of making this work.

      I think what I will try is to cut out a very large piece of muslin in the same shape as the pattern piece. Then pin it to myself while wearing a bra and pin darts where they will be most inconspicuous.  If I then sew it as I normally would a muslin, that should show me what other adjustments I need to make.  It is just so hard to do it on yourself.  I have an old dress form that is pretty close to my shape for most garments I make, but the bust on this pattern needs to be fit more closely and I haven't yet had the opportunity to make a padded 'body double' to put on it. 


  6. Teaf5 | | #15

    A lovely top! I can see why it would appeal to a 34DD; you probably have a smallish ribcage along with a full bust, so that the fitted lower part looks better than baggy tops.

    Here's one to try: slash and spread. Using the top piece of the front bodice tissue (or a copy of it), and slice one, two, or three radiating slits from the bottom of the dart up to the shoulder seam, leaving the last 1/8" of the tissue attached at the top. Carefully fan out the bottom pieces, then retrace the outline on a new piece of tissue, taking care to mark the center of the original dart.

    There's a mathematical calculation for how much to spread for different cup sizes, but I can't think of it at the moment, and it's usually easier to tissue fit the pattern to your body anyway. The slash-and-spread method works better for FBA than a larger pattern would because you're adding only a little at the top, but much more over the fullest part of your bust, where you need it.

    Now you will have to create a new, bigger dart so that the top fits onto the original lower bodice piece (assuming the bottom half of the bodice fits you); you may also have to shorten the new dart so that it doesn't come too close to your bust point. If you have to add considerable fullness, the dart may get too large, and two darts would be preferable, though that might ruin the lovely line coming up from the lower bodice piece.

    Let us know what works--FBA is a continual challenge for some of us!

    1. Ocrafty1 | | #16

      Glad you like the top pattern. I really like that it has straps...which I may widen a little to accomodate my bra. It will be stylish and not as revealing or as impossible to wear as those little tops with the spaghetti straps and shelf bras.

      You're correct. I do have a small rib cage. I'm only 5'2" and lost over 60 lbs. a few yrs. ago. I wear size 4 jeans now (down from a size 16) and, depending on the style and construction of RTW, SM to LG in a top.

      Having a large bust makes it difficult to find attractive and well fitting tops for summer wear that don't look like something my "70 something' mother would wear. I don't want to wear the same style that my daughters who are in their 30's would wear, either.  I've made several new tops over the last few weekends, but haven't had trouble making FBAs for them. This style is much different, and with prom/wedding season beginning, I want to know how to alter for this style which shows up quite a lot in the fashion magazines. 

      I really appreciate all of the suggestions that everyone has posted here. I had planned to play with the pattern alterations this weekend, but got hit suddently with a really nasty flu bug last night. Hopefully, I'll feel well enough to play tomorrow. For tonight, I'm gonna sit in my recliner, watch TV, and sew hand hems in 7 pr. of dress slacks for a client.


      1. Cathie | | #17

        Very helpful posts. I am 45 inches DD, and shelf bras do not work (LOL), and I hate the available plus clothes/patterns (too baggy). I got a number of formal type patterns, and thought they could also become tops. At a local charity shop. I did find an older Qwik Sew bra pattern, useful for the grading/sizing, and up to D/DD. Maybe try them and modify the pattern after.


        1. Ocrafty1 | | #18

          What is the Quik Sew pattern number?  I'd like to look for it...sounds like it would be a valuable investment.


          1. Cathie | | #19

            Hi  there. Sorry, it's Kwik Sew. Mine is an older pattern,  from 1980, and it is no. 1018. It is for 36 to 40, from A to DD. I am really impressed at the grading. I got at a charity shop, unused. Maybe they have something similar again. Kwik Sew site has lots of sizing info, and alteration "handbook", we can print. Maybe you can get the pattern on e-bay, or at some sites that sell older patterns.

            Glad to be of help. Cathie!!!!!!

          2. SewistKitty | | #20

            I googled "Kwik Sew" patterns and then found pattern #3594 which has bra patterns in many cup sizes. This pattern looks like the best available on the site.

  7. kathlann | | #21

    Have you tried sending an email to the pattern company asking for their suggestion? I was having trouble figuring out where to do the FBA on a Burda pattern. It was for my niece who is a 32G!! They got back to me to say that it was not a suitable design to do a FBA on. I ignored them and did my version of it and they were right. It didn't work.


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