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Fitting Princess Seams for the Small Bust

Draw the bust line across the entire pattern first.

It seems that many of the bust-fitting articles we read these days are for adjustments to accommodate a larger-than-average bust. But what adjustments for those with a small bust? Most pattern companies base their fitting models on a B-cup. If you’re smaller than the norm, then you need to adjust your pattern or you’ll have unsightly folds and excess fabric on your bodice.

Fitting the form

Let’s think for a moment about the topography of the female form. Often, we think of bust fitting as a horizontal measurement issue (34, 36, 42 etc). So the temptation is to add or subtract width to adjust for differences in bust size. But consider this: bust cup size is more a measure of length of the front torso than it is the width. A graphic example of this is to take a standard size-10 fitting bodice and put it on 3 different bodies with the same basic measurements, but different bust cup sizes: A, B, and C. The B cup will fit the bodice just fine. The C cup will ride up in front, and the A cup will droop  toward the waist. We’ve already addressed the full-bust cup (C and larger) issue. Here we’ll take a look at how to make the adjustment for a smaller cup size. We’ll focus on a princess line seam.

Adjusting for the smaller bust

1. Mark the bustline across all front pattern pieces.
In this case, we are going to adjust a pattern to fit an A cup. The first thing to do is draw the bustline across the entire pattern front, both center-front pieces and side-front pieces, perpendicular to the grain.

2. Pinch out the excess length in the center front.
To adjust to an A cup, you need to take a half inch from the pattern’s length at the front. You can do this in one of two ways. Make a 1/4 inch pleat in your pattern piece at the line, perpendicular to the grainline and fold your pattern piece down. The other option is to slash your pattern at the bustline and overlap the slashed pieces by 1/2 inch.

3. Pinch out the length at the side-front seam.
For the side front, you want the amount taken out at the side-front seam to match that taken from the center front (1/2 inch). Taper that to nothing at the side seam, or your side front and side back won’t match. As with the center front, make a 1/4-inch pleat at the side-front seam, tapering to nothing at the side seam. If you prefer, you can slash your pattern from the side-front seam to, but not through the side seam. Overlap the side fronts by 1/2 inch, tapering to nothing at the side. This will remove the needed length from the front without distortion at the side or back.

Side pieces of pattern
I used the pleat method on the center-front piece (on the right) to remove length from the pattern. I slashed and overlapped the side front (on the left).

Tape your pattern pieces in place, and you are ready to cut.

Previous: Learn How to Adjust Princess Seams | Insider Video Next: Quick Fixes for Bust Fitting


  1. MicheleHen | | #1

    This might sound like a silly question. Once you remove the amount from the bust area, instead of slashing and tapering the side piece, can you pinch pleat across both pieces and then lengthen the bodice front and side towards the bottom again?

  2. user-4367132 | | #2

    This tip was just what I needed to help me With alterations on my daughters dress. Here is my post on my blog using this Method https://sewingforfun.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/reducing-the-bust-size-on-a-princess-seam-dress/

  3. user-6875750 | | #3

    Thanks for a great tip, Being a VERY small busted person the princess seams are a nightmare for me. I always end up with the actual seam that's supposed to go over the bust nearer the armhole!!!

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