I don't know what's more questionable: that I'm about to recommend a sewing FBA (of sorts) or that I'm doing any sort of tutorial on fit at all (given my level of experience) - and this without so much as a photo series to accompany it.
Let's start with the requisite proviso: Reader beware. I am not expert on: sewing, fitting, alterations or tutorials. Hell, until recently I hadn't sewn much in 2 months. I am an expert on certain other things in my universe - let's not be all down on me - but you see where I'm coming from. Furthermore, as I learn more about alterations as my skills improve, I reserve the right to advise you all that this was a crude and/or crazy idea.
I'm calling the alteration, for want of a better term (please tell me if there's one that already exists): The Narrow Frame / Deep Bust Adjustment (NFDBA "for short"). In fact, if you can tell me anything about this method - someone else already made it up, you've tried it and it works on you (or doesn't), you think it's stupid etc., I'm happy to hear your feedback. In large measure, I've written this post in the interests of discovering someone else who may know more, different or better. And, natch, I'd love if it were to have some actual merit or to help someone.
Background: You know that S and I have worked on bodice fitting for quite some time (though we have been on a bit of a hiatus due to life responsibilities of late). It sounds trite to say that I have learned a vast amount from S and the experience. Truly, it's changed my perspective on practically everything three-dimensional. Additionally, I have read a number of useful fit resources, amongst them (and just to name a few):
I did work out a very useful FBA method on princess seam garments (in which Taran and the Singer book were instrumental). But what about all those other tops in the world I want to make and wear??
Who's the NFDBA For?
- A woman with a proportionately large bust on a proportionately narrow, small- to medium-boned frame
- The size you'd make to fit your full bust should probably not be more than one size larger than that which you'd make to fit your high bust i.e. if you're a 12 in full bust but a 10 in high bust, that's fine. If you're a 12 in full bust but an 8 in high bust, that might be problematic. I can't say with certainty - I've only had the chance to try this on my own body.
- The bust should be DEEP, not wide, and breasts should not splay excessively to sides (see why below)
- A short waist is preferable
- An hourglass shape is also preferable i.e. a waist that indents, though it doesn't need to indent a tremendous amount
- A bodice with bust darts in a woven.
- A bodice with bust darts (or without them i.e. T shirt) in a knit
- In addition to the above, it's best to work with a pattern that highlights the waist
- It's easier (as are all things) on a pattern that has no sleeves, but you can do it with sleeves, you just have to note if the shape or size of the armscye changes
- It's also easier to work this on a knit
What Else Do I Need to Know?
You'll start by making your muslin in the size that fits your full bust. Oh, I know - this is HERESY. You're supposed to fit the upper chest and then FBA and make other required alterations. But seriously peeps (and I'm having a blog-writing deja vu!) I'd rather make everything else smaller, if that's what it takes, and get a garment that fits in the end, than do an FBA that ends up wrecking the line of the garment.
Pls. note: I suspect that many of you are feeling queasy right now. I respect that. I, too, feel queasy. But stay the course. I'm going somewhere with this and, really, in the end, it all comes down to whether this will work for you, if other FBAs have not.
I'm positing that, for the small framed-large busted woman, it's actually easier to adjust from the larger size than the smaller. Of course, I could be out of my mind.
OK, What The Hell Is This Adjustment And How Do You Make It Happen?
The adjustment is a way to allow for extra room in the bust without adding extra width in the bodice. The reason you need a narrow frame, deep breasts and short waist is that the depth of your breasts will be compensated for by the length of the front bodice. If your torso is not narrow, you won't be able to maximize length in the front bodice. If your torso is long, you can still do this (I suppose) but it may be more complicated.
What's the salient construct of the alteration? You shorten the back bodice above the waist and below the bust.
I'll use my latest project as an example: When I constructed muslin 1 (unaltered bodice) in the size that fits my full bust (apparently, 38" when measured recently), I found the following:
- It fit nicely in the bust BUT
- The shoulders were a bit too wide
- I needed a symmetrically wider seam allowance in the side seams (it's slightly to big around the true waist to high hip) - this means I'll need to take about 1/2" symmetrically out of each side seam, pretty easy and the line of the top is retained...
- This it the thing I noticed most of all - a scant inch of fabric pooled at my lower back!
Seems pretty reasonable that I should simply hack out that amount of fabric from the back bodice and go. But, it's not entirely that simple.
When one removes length on one side of the pattern only, it screws with the alignment of the side seam. Now, there are various ways one can deal with this, I imagine. But since this seems to work for me, I'll suggest that you add back the length just below the armscye. Walking your pattern will tell you how much you need to add (or at least act as a guide); there's a certain amount of intuition in this alteration - which is to say, at this point, I don't know how to explain why I go off-road when I do.
What's walking the pattern? This is simply aligning the edges of the seam allowances (on the paper pattern) of adjoining pattern pieces. For example, your side seams on your actual garment, will need to line up when you sew that seam. Perhaps you take it for granted that this should automatically occur. You did pay for your pattern, after all. However, some patterns are inaccurately drafted. Also remember, once you start to make alterations on a bodice, those alterations are likely to impact the length of one or both side seams, rendering them unequal.
So, I walk the pattern from the hem, see where it stops at the underarm, note the discrepancy between the lengths of front and back, and add on to the back piece / sometimes take away a bit from the front piece. It's 2 parts engineering, 1 part intuition. Sometimes it doesn't work on the first try.
Big Time Note: Once you start screwing with the armscye, if your garment has sleeves, you're going to have to factor this in and adjust them to fit. Also: For good fit, most sleeves and armscyes already, and independently of other alterations, need to be adjusted - so I see this as part of the process, not an extra alteration. And I promise not to write a tutorial on that!
Other Big Time Note: Before you walk the side seams, always close your dart. Darts impact the length of the side and they're closed in the garment, so you'll need to close them for measuring the pattern length.
Order of Operations Recap:
- Walk side seams on unaltered pattern to make sure they align (optional). If they don't, alter the pattern so that they do.
- Make an unaltered muslin in the size that correlates with full bust - as long as it's not more than 1 size larger than your high bust size would be. (You might still try this if these ratios are more extreme, I just don't know what the outcome will be.)
- Try on the garment and review. You probably need to make a small shoulder adjustment, take in the side seams a bit, and symmetrically i.e. just increase the width of your side seam allowance, and remove pooling from the back waist. If this isn't the case, email me. I really want to talk about it.
- Reflect the required adjustments on paper (as indicated above). Note that I haven't talked about marking up the muslin and pulling it apart in the interests of altering the paper pattern. That's cuz you might want to wear your existing "muslin" i.e. that top you've been making for a while. This allows you to make an altered new version without deconstructing the original one. According to whom you ask, it's a good plan or a less good plan. I vacillate between the two perspectives. Right now I'm into wearing things for a while till I have a better fitted version. Unless, of course, the muslin is a disaster.
- Try it on again. If the alterations didn't quite get you there, refine them.
Pattern designers and Experienced Pattern Alterers: Are there flaws in this reasoning we should discuss? I mean, does it just work on me - or should it work on others?