Monday, April 2, 2012

The Tailored Suit: The Successful FBA is an Urban Myth

OK peeps, I'm at the point that I'm willing to say this: FBAs don't work on me. True confession: Every FBA I've ever done has either yielded a wadder or I've had to rework it in some other way to make the garment fit.

Don't sigh with amusement and assume I'm doing them wrong. I follow EVERY FUCKING STEP TO THE FUCKING LETTER OF THE LAW and they always fail. That is to say, no matter how restrained I am in the amount (never more than 2.5 inches) the finished product is always a freakin' tent. I am not an incompetent alterer. Most things I try work well to very well because I follow all of the steps - just as I always do with an FBA.

Admittedly, this is the first time I've done a princess seam FBA (as opposed to a regular darted bodice one). I was tame. I added 2.5" overall. 20/8 inch spread over 2 sides. 5/8 inch over front (x 2) and 5/8 inch over side front (x 2).

But this time the end result was far worse than it's ever been:
  • The bust was significantly lowered.
  • The front shoulder seam got an inch wider than the back shoulder seam (even though I was very careful not to alter that line at all).
  • The waist disappeared.
  • The princess seam definition was obliterated.
  • Have no idea of what's up with the armscyes - but I'm afraid to even try inserting the original sleeve at this point.

I'm not taking photos - it's too demoralizing. Think of a tent. Then think of what it would look like on me. That's where I'm at.

So here are my options:

  • Throw myself off a bridge.
  • Throw this pattern and all of the muslins off a bridge.
  • Reprint the pattern and cut a size 8. I have a feeling that will give me the ease I need without too much size increase in all of the other places. (Gotta be better than the FBA version.)
  • Do what an awesome 1973 tailoring book I just bought (stay tuned for post) recommends if you are trying to add 2 inches or less on a princess seam bodice: add to the full bust on the side front (tapering at the waist and shoulder) and likewise to the side seam of front piece.
  • Add 5/8 inch to the side seams (where the side front and side back meet) - for a total increase of 20/8 inch. I mean, it's not like my sleeves are fitting in particularly well at this point. And I could even taper slightly under the arm so as not to add too much width to the armscye.

Which of these options would you choose? Note: If you think they're all going to fail, feel free to be blunt.

I suspect the safest option is to just start again with the size 8. (Tree killers of the world unite.)

Mind you, wouldn't it be interesting to try the tailoring book instructions? I sense that it's just what I need - a bit more room for the boobs but not a lot more room everywhere else.

At this point, I am so confused I'm really leaning towards bullet 1, with bullet 2 thrown in for good measure.

So, here are tonight's questions: Does anyone else out there have an FBA-resistant body? What do you do - in lieu of an FBA - to make your clothes fit beautifully? I suppose I should consider the fact that I may, actually, be messing up every FBA - but I really don't think so. If you are convinced that's my problem - can you explain how?

Oh please, fabulous sewing community, pull out the big guns with your advice. xo

47 comments:

  1. Can I tell you something? I never, ever do a FBA. I use a side dart to accomplish the same thing. I honestly don't understand the FBA love...shhhhh! I didn't say that out loud, really I didn't...just ignore that! *LOL*

    I'm sorry I have no fitting advice to offer since I seem to barely be able to fit my own body. Hopefully you will get some good advice from some of the fitting zen masters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for saying this. Seriously.

      Delete
  2. I haven't conquered the princess seam FBA. When I was learning how to do the regular (bust & waist dart) FBA, I produced a lot of wadders. The FBA adds width and depth from the high bust to the end of the garment which produces a tent. I know on the next fitted blouse I sew, I'm going to taper below the bust to my waist size. In other words, I'm going to blend sizes. I hope that makes sense. When I look at Dolly Parton's dress , the designer HAD to taper in her waist and hips AND do an FBA to get the dress to fit. I might be wrong but I'm going to try it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I've been thinking of all the really busty celebrities and I KNOW they're not wearing clothes produced by a standard FBA. The size blending sounds a bit like the option from my tailoring book - don't you think?

      Delete
  3. Sorry to hear about your troubles! I ALWAYS have to do a FBA, on jackets and tops. The princess seam type usually takes me some trial and error to get the fullness where I need it. However, I usually compare my alteration to a pattern piece I know works, a big 4 blouse pattern that came with a "D" cup option. This helps me estimate whether I'm adding volume in the right place. Also, I always take the added width back off at the waist, by tapering along the princess seam on both front and side front pieces. This results in a much sharper curve below the bust, but i get the shape I want. I can email a picture of what I mean if you want.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just having one prototype that works makes all the difference! I took the width off at the side and side front pieces (somehow more inches than I had added to begin with) and it was still a low-busted wreck. What's with adding the width only to remove it all again?! :-) (I know, it's all about removing it and adding it into the right places, but still!)

      Delete
  4. Oh dear, well, I vote "No" for bullets one and two. And I've never had to do a FBA personally, usually I'm "petiting" things and doing an SBA.
    I haven't read through your previous posts really closely, but it might be better to go down a size and choose it based on your upper chest/bust measurement rather than your full bust measurement. This sounds like it will fit the rest of you better (shoulders, waist, etc.). Have you looked at Debbie Cook's blog "Stitches and Seams"? She has a tutorial for a princess seamed FBA http://stitchesandseams.blogspot.ca/2001/03/alterations-full-bust-alteration-for.html
    Hopefully this is not a duplication to you. However, I think that the 1970s tailoring book suggestion would work with the smaller size for you.
    That being said - what the hell do I know. Like Carolyn, I sometimes have a hard time fitting my own self and still have never sewn myself a decent fitting pair of pants.
    But... in any top/jacket, often the trick is the shoulders - fit those and work from the top down.
    Hope this helps - good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. J: I have gone down a size (inasmuch as I can tell) - I've gone down as much as I can so that the fit is right in the shoulders. So I'm starting at the best fitting vantage point, according to what the books say. I'm going to re-review Debbie's post to see if it's like the FFRP and Patty's. I think the issue is that the FBA is not an optimal alteration for small people with big breasts. Of course, I could just be saying that cuz I can't make it work. Sour grapes, you know.

      Delete
    2. Jodie: Debbie's method is the same as the one I tried...

      Delete
  5. I have no first hand advice to give, but I would do what Carolyn says because she is Carolyn and a sewing star, or start over with a size 8, I live in BC and we still have a ton of trees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You west coasters! :-) Thanks for your advice. I'm keeping a tally of everyone's choices!

      Delete
  6. Oh, rats! Well, please don't do option one or two, that would make us all sad.

    The old tailoring book suggestion you mention sounds like the Perfect Fit princess seam FBA (I've uploaded the page here:
    https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-k1lvZ7Bzc9k/T3pi-DZTEcI/AAAAAAAAAwU/l43DXXS3KcQ/s144/princess%2520seam%2520fba%2520from%2520The%2520Perfect%2520Fit.jpg

    which has always appealed to me more than the Palmer & Pletsch method...

    On the other hand, shaving a squidge off the shoulders is probably not that hard either...

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, can't wait to read this. Thank you!

      Delete
  7. I'm in the same boat as you regarding FBAs in that the traditional ones never seem to work for me as I have a 10" difference between my bust and my waist, so any option that adds to the waist won't work. Also I'm fairly short busted, so I don't really need the extra length (just some extra width to cover the girls). For darted busts, I use an usual way- I think I saw it somewhere, or I may have made it up- I find the bust point on the pattern piece and then I use a rotary cutter to make a plus sign- I then spread the plus sign apart and tape it down. It's not the prettiest way, but I have found it works the best for me. I have never attempted to do one on princess seams, but will have to in a couple of weeks when I begin my starlet jacket. I think though with the princess seam you could just exaggerate the curves of the bust area, and this would add the width without adding the extra height overall and width in the waist. I could be completely wrong about that (since this is not the way anyone tells you to do it, but it makes sense to me). Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the tailoring book method I'm speaking about. It does seem like a good option. But now I wonder if I just need more room overall (which would lead me to cut the 8 and alter from there)??

      Delete
  8. First of all, stay away from options 1 and 2 ;)

    I've never had to deal with FBA's myself (quite the opposite really) but I have experience drafting patterns and alterting those for fit.
    To me, it seems like you list includes two good options: the tailoring book option (which is what I would have tried as an FBA on a princess seamed pattern in the first place) and your idea of starting with the size 8 and altering from there.
    The latter comes with the vast advantage of having a muslin to work with which actually fits, so you can just pin down any excess fabric.

    With both methods, there is one issue of which the importance can't be underestimated: take accurate measurements and draw honest conclusions from them. So many people decide to sew up a pattern in whatever size they would buy RTW, or forget to look at things like back length, which can have a huge impact on the overall fit (a fuller bust would hide issues with a short/high waist at the front of the garment, driving the seamstress to despair later, when inspecting the horrible bunching at the back, which at that time is usually mis-diagnosed as a swayback).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :-)

      Oh, I've taken accurate measurements and I'm unwilling to settle for bad fit - since this thing has already taken upwards of 50 hours and I'm sure there are at least a hundred hours left to go. I've already removed the length from the back above the waist (showed this in an earlier post) which was entirely necessary. I'm really starting to think the 8 might be the way to go - but maybe (first) I should try the tailoring book method to increase the princess seam on the 6. Hmmm...

      Delete
  9. One small thing that may or may not help: once I completed my princess FBA on the Pendrell, I found raising/lowering the full bust point the EASIEST alteration ever. I just followed the directions in FFRP. (Just in case you had skipped over that page - it's just before the princess FBA instructions, page 149 in my book.) I'm not sure how exactly to avoid lowering it in the first place - you might be able to figure it out for future princess FBA's though - i.e. drawing the line either higher or lower than they recommend from the full bust point to the FBA "hinge"? Good luck!

    I just think princess FBAs aren't ever going to be perfect - once I completed one with darts I was like, "OH, wait, this isn't as impossible as I thought." SO MUCH EASIER to remove fullness in darted patterns! (In my opinion, anyway.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw that alteration but, sorry, I am all FBA altered out. At this point, I should have just redrafted the pieces by draping them on my dress form. BTW, the only successful bust adjustment I've ever done was the one I draped myself on my dress form. Interesting, no? It's the only one that increased the bust without increasing the waist.

      Delete
    2. Have you found that to be true with darted FBAs as well? See, those ones I find so easy because you can just rotate the extra fullness from the waist back over to the bust dart, or create a waist dart, or whatever you like. No need to keep any extra fullness anywhere - unless you want a dart-less bodice, I guess!

      But yeah, I understand why you'd want to throw in the towel on this. I'll admit, I pretty much don't even consider princess-seamed patterns anymore for this reason. Too much headache for imperfect results.

      Delete
    3. Less so, but still not my fave adjustment. Mind you, I might have failed because I made the FBA too extreme. I'm starting to realize that a very small FBA goes a long way.

      Delete
    4. Did I ever tell you about the time I tried to FBA the Sencha pattern? I may have made the classic mistake of adding the entire FBA amount to one pattern piece (i.e. I needed 2" overall and I added it to one half... therefore adding 4" overall.) Derp.

      Delete
  10. This discussion is so great. I've had trouble with FBAs - tent-like is the perfect description. Big breasts on a small body is an issue they don't address. I tend to add to the seams as needed, but would love a method that works consistently.
    I had stopped sewing for myself for a few years because I can't get the fit right, but am starting up again, using tips and advice gleaned from bloggers like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true! See my next post for the way I'm tackling this next - don't know yet if it's worked (I'm too afraid to put it together tonight) but it's the next step on the (seemingly endless) path.

      Delete
  11. I am so sorry for your problems. As I said in my comments on your last post, I can't even do the simplest adjustments on myself with confidence. I think cutting the 8 is the way to go, but again, I had to do a SBA. The 8 is larger than my measurements, but I want to be able to wear something a little thicker under the jacket. All I did was cut the 8 and shave off some of the fullness in the side and front pieces. I think that is sort of the solution of your tailoring book, but the other way around (remove rather than add). Maybe you could to a frankencut with the back of a 6 and the front of an 8. I'm not sure what that would do to the collar. Good luck. Don't pick #1 or #2.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the 8 may be where I end up - but I've decided to try one trick first. See my next post for details! (Weirdly, it's essentially an 8 in the bust and a 6 elsewhere...)

      Delete
  12. I'm really sorry I have no advice to give you but want you to know I feel your pain.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey there, I have been using Silhouette Patterns by Peggy Sagers that are sized by bust size. She is a pattern maker and so cute! SHe has webcasts for free on her website that are so helpful. My G-d given 34DD's are happier in clothes that don't pull! I also have studied the seam method of altering patterns at a workshop called Fabulous Fit. Judith Rasband has 2 great books out that address all alteration.
    Mary :) Keep on sewing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary: Thanks for this great info!

      Delete
  14. I'm so sorry you are having so many issues with alterations.

    Have you ever considered making your own basic slopers to your exact measurements and using them to alter your patterns? I learned how to do this in pattern making class and it forever changed the way I use commercial patterns. I am short waisted with a full bust, wide ribs and a tummy. My basic sloper looks very different from those used by the pattern companies, but they fit me perfectly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be a very smart solution. I have a pants sloper - and once I've got this sorted out I will consider it my "princess seam top" sloper - but I really should come up with a sloper for all of the general patterns I sew.

      Delete
  15. Oh, and I don't agree that a FBA on a princess seam is impossible. I made my own wedding gown with princess seams and used my personal slopers to make the changes. The muslin fit me perfectly the first time around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why doesn't this surprise me?? :-)

      Delete
  16. Hi K.Line! I just found your blog and love your sewing attitude. Last night I cut out Butterick 5568 and didn't really want to do a fba. I decided to watch Peggy Sager's fitting video where she said that a princess seam is the dart moved to the shoulder. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this but am thinking that if the circumference is correct, then the "dart" adjustment should be in the princess seam. So I've added to the seam allowance and hope to adjust to fit there.
    Any thoughs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I wouldn't even try to interpret that - I'm not successful enough at FBAs to be providing advice :-) What I would say is that Fit For Real People would probably address that - as would the DVD about Full Busts by the same people. Also, Adele Margolis writes some great things about pattern drafting and dart placement. Her books might also be edifying. Best of luck and let us know how it goes.

      Delete
  17. I winged it and just added to the fullest parts of both pieces and tapered at the waist and shoulders. Just make sure the length of the two pieces stays the same so they fit, add more notches to be sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm moving towards that philosophy of adding fabric over a full bust. There are so many distinct shapes of bust that I don't think one alteration method can address them all. There are probably as many subtle alteration variations as there are shapes of torso!

      Delete
  18. Have you solved your FBA dilemma? Below is a link which shows a FBA on a princess seam without added waist inches. Hope it helps.
    repository.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/87748/pdf_689.pdf‎

    ReplyDelete
  19. Not entirely - to be honest. Thank you for the link. Unfortunately it isn't working for me! It appears to be broken, alas. If you can resend it, that would be terrific. K

    ReplyDelete
  20. The linked worked for me and it looks exciting! I tried drafting a sloper using different instructions and I gave up because I think the directions are all written for people with different proportions...so I'm frustrated and I've barely cut any fabric. LOL.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This tutorial gives the option of adding or not adding width at the waist:
    http://www.cuttinglinedesigns.com/simple-bust-enlargement.aspx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kushami - will check it out!

      Delete
  22. Ya know what hit me right off - which may be the reason you get a tent result - is wondering if when you do the FBA if you are actually doubling the amount needed. It's not hard to forget you are working with only one side of the front bodice which is approx. 1/4 the overall dimensions. So, when you add 1" you are actually adding 2.

    I'm larger than you and like a finished measurement of 40". I often leave off the band process on shirts by extending the bodice fabric to make a self-facing which gets top-stitched to look like a band from the front. I've noticed I need to be extra careful not to get mixed up between where the real (finished, final) front edge is as versus where a cut next to seam line would be. If I get an extra seam allowance' worth of fabric in the centre (that's seam allowance times 2) between bust apexes it balloons out and seems so huge; whereas if that same amount were hidden under my arm in a side seam it wouldn't look so large.

    I got sold on FBAs after buying a Simplicity Amazing fit shirt pattern. It comes with different pieces for different cup sizes. I compared all of them and made both C and D. Overall, I've abandoned or altered much of the original pattern but found the FBA a better result than my old way of adding to the side seam and adding length in front. I use either the C or D depending on the fabric. I'm sold.

    Remember, if you figure you need to add 2" or 3" you need to divide that amount by two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi There: Thanks for your comment. Alas, I do account for the full adjustment by halving the extra room needed over both sides - although, the first time I did an FBA I did 2 inches on each side and it was excessive. Live and learn, right? What I've discovered is that my narrowness, coupled with proportionately extreme projection, just makes the standard FBA ill-suited for me.

      Delete
  23. re the link that didn't work. seems they moved their repository. use the url which will take you to a notice page and you can click on the new link. it looks like a good article with clear, concise drawings. cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info. I'll remove it...

      Delete