Sewing Techniques

A cup full!

A cup full!

A beautifully fitted dress looks stunning but for those of us with bigger than average busts, fitting can be tricky! Wendy Gardiner shares a clever fitting tip.

Lots of fashions nowadays have the empire line (high waist just under the bust). On those of us with larger cup sizes, this seam can actually end up right across the centre of the bust, with the rest of the top or dress then hanging down loosely as if we were thoroughly pregnant!

So I was delighted to find and make a pattern with a bra-style bodice that I could fit to suit my own size and shape! As with most patterns, the tissue was sized for a B cup, whereas I have an E-F cup so I knew that I would have to alter the bust area. Because of the styling, this meant I had an upper bra, lower bra, side front and centre front section to work with. Making alterations to these pieces meant I could have the seams exactly where the designer intended.

It occurred to me that I could make the alterations with the help of a well fitting moulded bra. So I tried it!

I cut the tissue pieces out to my bust size and pinned them together along the seam lines. NB: when larger than B cup, determine which bust size to start with by using the High Bust measurement as your ‘bust’ size then alter the tissue pieces to create the fuller cup size needed (High Bust is taken underarms but above bust). This avoids having to remove excess fabric above bust and around shoulders or through the midriff which occurs if the actual bust measurement is used to pick size.

Having pinned together the pieces and created the tissue shape for the front, I then pinned this to a moulded bra and could immediately see where the pieces had to be extended in order to get the seams in the correct place. 

HANDY HINT: Working with the bra on a table, rather than on me also meant I could do the alterations so much easier.

Upper bra piece – I cut up the centre of the piece from bottom edge to half way up shoulder strap and opened it out by 20 mm at the bottom. I then had to take a small dart out of the front edge to compensate. I also added 10 mm to the scoop of the armhole, tapering to nothing at armhole seam because I often find that sleeveless dresses and tops can gap at armholes otherwise.

Lower bra piece – to the top of the pattern piece, I added an extra 40 mm (1 1/2”) to the fullest part of the bust tapering to 6 mm (1/46 mm (1/4”) at the sides.

Side front panel – I added 10 mm to the side seam, tapering to nothing at the waist.

Having added the extra tissue to each piece, I repinned them to check fit. Next step was to make a calico toile of the front only (as this is the area that I need to alter) to check fit in fabric. Once happy, I could confidently make up the dress with lined bodice without a hitch.

Further information

The fabric used is from the Andover Fabrics Fete des fleurs range by Makower fabrics.; E:, T: 01491 579727

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