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High bust measurement

wlric | Posted in Patterns on

In a few postings I have seen the recommendation that purchases of American patterns should be made using the high bust measurement. Now, I know what the high bust measurement is, I just do not understand how to use it when purchasing a pattern. Do I use it instead of the bust measurement? Is there a chart somewhere that tells me what high bust measurement corresponds to what full bust measurement regarding pattern size? Or is there something else involved entirely? And, after I have used this measurement to guide my purchase, do I then need to make an alteration in the pattern?
I am confused. Any advice is appreciated.


  1. solosmocker | | #1

    In my fitting book by Nancy Zieman there is a chart that corresponds the measurement to pattern size. This book is out of print and has been replaced by Fitting Finesse by Zieman. Not having the Finesse book, I don't know if the chart is in there. She has you measure from underarm crease to underarm crease across the upper chest, not a measurement you can do correctly on your own. Hope this helps. I have also heard to just buy the pattern by your upper bust measurement, all the way around, particularly if you are small in the neck and shoulders. Then you can adjust for a C or larger bust if need be. Hope this helps a little. I am sure others will chime in.

  2. Josefly | | #2

    Because the big four American pattern companies draft patterns for B-cup figures, I believe the recommendation is to use high bust measurement when you wear larger than a B-cup bra. In that case you buy the pattern size with bust measurement closest to your high bust measurement. Then you will need to make a full bust alteration (FBA) to the pattern. This allows for better fitting of the neckline, upper chest, shoulder, and armscye, which are more difficult to fit than the bustline. The FBA has been described in Threads, and I believe, in other postings in this discussion group, which you can search for using the "advanced search" feature.The European pattern-makers like Burda generally draft for C-cup figures, I've read.

    1. wlric | | #3

      Thank you! Now I have a much better understanding of what is being recommended. This is very helpful.

      1. lorisews | | #4

        Actually I am still not sure I understand this. Supposedly for a B cup, which is standard for patterns, the bust measurement is 2" larger than the high bust measurement, right? So if you want the right upper body size ignoring the cup size, shouldn't you add 2" to the high bust measurement and buy that size, then alter to fit the bust?

        1. solosmocker | | #5

          No, because you will now have to alter collars, armholes, necklines, shoulders. So you use the highbust measurement to give accuracy in those more difficult to alter areas and then do a full bust alteration, much simpler, for c or d cups, or larger. I have been doing this for years and it works.

        2. Teaf5 | | #6

          I agree with solosmocker that you should buy the smaller pattern and add to the bust and lower bodice to fit, but check the pattern against a well fitted shirt before you decide for sure. Many patterns have 3-4 inches of ease across the bodice front and bodice back, way more than most of us need or want, and which result in very "homemadey" garments.Buy the size pattern that fits perfectly in the neck, shoulders, and upper bust area. It's easiest to try a multi-size pattern and then compare it to a finished garment that fits well in the upper area. Use that size for all the collars, facings, closures, etc., and then modify the area below the armhole for bust, waist, and hip hip. On my favorite blouse, I use a size 12 in the upper area and a size 18 in the lower; it seems impossible, but it fits perfectly!

  3. tmorris1 | | #7

    Wlric;When a woman is fitted for a bra, the high bust measurement refers to the 32" 34" 36" etc. The cup size is the difference between the high bust and the full bust in inches. For example if a woman is a 38C, then the High bust would be 38", and the full bust measurement would be 41". All patterns are graded to a B cup (2 inches fuller than the high bust). When you buy a pattern, you use your high bust measurement and then alter from there to accommodate the cup size.

    1. PegHead | | #8

      OK,  I'm 5'8 and 125lbs.  My high bust is 34, my full bust is 33 1/2.  My waist is 27, hip 37.   I buy size 12 sewing patterns marked 34,26,36   because on American patterns, the size 12 will fit up to the size 14 measurements of 36, 28, 38.   Thus fitting my shoulders.   In my experience, Vogue size 12 fits up to the size 12 measurements of 34, 26, 36.  So I need to buy size 14 Vogue to get my shoulder and neck correct.  I don't have any European patterns except Burda,  the size 12 fits up to 14 measurements.   So.....from a flat chested person, use high bust plus 2"  and check the "Garment Measurements" at the bottom of the envelope.

    2. Teaf5 | | #9

      Interesting...the bra specialists have always measured my ribcage just below the bust (not my high bust) to determine 34,36,38 and then measured full bust to determine cup size. Even so, I wear a different size in different brands, so it doesn't seem to help much.Bodice fitting doesn't seem very mathematical at all; my sisters and I have nearly identical measurements, but completely different torsos that require completely different alterations.For example, one of us has a more rounded, full torso, while another has a very wide but not deep torso, and I have a small rib cage, flat upper chest, and full bust. The same size pattern has too little fabric for one sister, too much for the other sisters, and too much in some areas while too little in other areas for me!

      1. PegHead | | #10

        I have read that the first number is the band size.  Measure rib cage and add 4",  round up to an even number if it's odd.  The cup is determined by subtracting the high bust from the full bust.

        In my case, my rib cage is 30 and my high bust is 34, so getting the right band size would work either way.  But what cup is -1/2"?  ha ha ha   Hello sports bra.

  4. spicegirl | | #11

    I take the fullest bust measurement and compare to the measurements on the pattern envelope and my size in inexpensive* RTW.  The only change I have to make is the side dart position. 

    But then, I am sewing for myself and am not so picky.  This could be more involved if sewing for someone else.....you want your customer to be happy.


    *The more pricey the RTW garment, the smaller the "vanity" size seems to be!

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