Monday, December 19, 2011

Wherein I Brag and Why FBA Measurements Are Dubious Things

The Brag Part of the Post:

You know, when the inside of my garments look as if gerbils have assembled them, I confess. (No, I don't actually show you the evidence, cuz I do have a modicum of pride...) But when I make something and it's fantastically constructed, I'm not going to be all modest and coy. I mean, freakin' hell, that's the reason I spend half of my waking hours learning the craft.

To wit, meet Vogue 8323 the second:

I know it seems as if the arms don't fit, but I swear, on me they do.

Alas, whether it was the fabric or the lighting, this garment just would not take a good photo. There's no justice.

I would happily show you the inside seams, if I could bring myself to undertake the irritation that is undressing the dress form.

In this iteration, I did figure out some things:
  • Though I removed 2 inches of funnel neck, it wasn't enough. I'm starting to wonder if it's got something to do with the way the neck meets the front. Maybe this pattern is designed for a gazelle.
  • There's no option to roll down the neck and flip back the front v-pieces. The front does this very nicely but the seam going up the centre back piece prevents it from working at the back. I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to remediate this but, if it's doable, my brain couldn't crack the code. I even used some seam binding to try to pretty things up (you can see that in the photo with my rather unkempt thumb) but it was a no go.
  • The great thing about making half my wardrobe in navy is that I always have all manner of notions hanging around in the right colour!
  • In addition to altering the neck, this time I removed width from the arm by slimming the pattern piece at the centre. Unfortunately this made the shoulder totally pointy and I didn't think to smooth it on paper (really, I didn't know if that would wreck things). Now I know that shortening the shoulder by rounding the top of the piece is the right move. I was able to adjust this in the sewing, but it was a pain in the ass.
  • I shortened the sleeves.
  • I re-lengthened the waist (last time I made the "petite" modification) and I'm glad I did. After shortening the neck, I needed the extra in the waist. Does that even make sense?
  • This fabric likes my serger, and vice versa, much better than the coffee-coloured fancy fleece.
  • The fabric is beautiful - very slim. Totally elegant. I think it's a wool jersey.
  • Though I like this version, I think I'm done with the pattern. The neck thing bothers me. The whole shirt would look much better on me if I could roll open the v (and roll down the funnel).
The FBA Part of the Post:

At any rate, this is the other thing I did on the weekend: I rotated the dart on the FBAed bust piece of the Ruby Slip and I'm pretty sure I've got the same dimensions that I would have got if I'd simply followed Sherry's tutorial. Of course, I'm going to try her version to compare before cutting my fabric, but I find it endlessly fascinating that I might come up wit the same end result by using a completely different method.)

And apropos of the additional inches you'll need to add when doing your own FBA: The general rule is to add an inch for each cup size that your bust size deviates from the bust size that the pattern was designed for. Sherry designed for a B cup (as do many, if not most, commercial pattern companies). By this logic, if you have a D cup, you'll need to add 2 inches. This may work well for women who are not narrow in the back. But I can tell you from personal experience that the narrower your back, the less of an FBA you'll need to do, relatively speaking.

Think about it: The size 12 (which I'm making) has a full bust dimension of 36.5 inches. My full bust measurement is 37 - 37.5. My chest is, as we know, quite a bit larger than the B cup Sherry designed for. And still I only need to add 1.5 inches onto the pattern piece. My own version of the FBA (pinned to my dress form) bears this out. (Note - I've further adjusted the length since the version I posted photos of. Wait till my next post on this to see the side by side views.)

The point is that bust size in clothing is as much about the relationship between underbust and full bust as it is about actual dimensions. My underbust is 33 inches. My chest gets to pick up the fabric slack, as it were, that my back doesn't need.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this - basically all the time I spend making clothing - and I'd love to know if any of you have discovered this principle works for you too.

Let's chat about any of the 8000 things I seem to have written about in this post. Please!


  1. Ooooh - pretty! (I'm too tired to discuss much else!)

  2. I totally get what you mean about the FBA. I have a broad back, but I also have an A cup chest so the B cup patterns seem to fit me ok as long as there aren't too many darts. Essentially, I have the reverse fitting issue from you.

    The Vogue looks gorgeous, but that neck would bug me a bit too. Perhaps if you wore it for a while you'd get used to it?

  3. I want to make a version for a friend who's getting married in the spring; she's a D-cup, so it'll be my first go at an FBA!

    Underbust/bust/high bust measurements confound me. My high bust measurement is the same as my full-bust. My underbust is only 1" different from my waist. /confused.

  4. This looks gorgeous, but I can see the neck being bothersome. Cheap fix idea: how about stitching a few small horizontal tucks into the back of the neck? The excess would release at your shoulders and perhaps work as a design element?
    nice work!

  5. Very nice shirt. I think that collar is so unique you might not want many more in your closet.

    It truly was an epiphany reading sewing blogs and finding out I should pick patterns by my high bust. That said, I'm still faking my way through most FBA's. Lingerie adds another layer of complication because there isn't a bra holding up the extra breast so shape and positioning become a little bit trickier to gage.

  6. Excellent - I love it - congratulations on a perfect result!! Your production is so impressive! Love your blog!

  7. I was reading somewhere (and I can't find it!) that you can snip the seam allowances at the part where the collar rolls, and then you could take out the old stitching (from the snip to the edge of the collar), and sew the seam allowances going the other way so that there would be just the seam showing at the folded part, instead of the seam allowances. It's really hard to describe, but hopefully you get my drift. Once you do this though, you're going to be stuck wearing the collar folded down, so I'd only recommend it if you never plan to wear the collar standing up.

  8. The top is beautiful but the neck thing would bother me too.

    I too am fascinated that you might get the same FBA results as Sherry using a completely different method.

    What you say about the underbust and bust relationship makes sense in determining the bust size, assuming you've chosen the pattern size based on the high bust measurement and added to the back if needed, to make sure there's adequate room for the broadest section of the back. Even though I have a 38-39 full bust (wear a 38 C bra), I find I don't need to add to the B bust in patterns if I've done the above. Does that make sense?

  9. Gail: I get that! Thanks...

    LSCG: Yes! That's exactly what I mean (but the inverse).

    T: I think this is one of the more challenging dimensions of sewing, one I'd be just as happy not to have to deal with. (But, natch, it's great learning...)

    Kimber: I'm going to consider that further... Thanks for the tip.

    Sera: Ain't no way I'll be wearing this thing without a bra! :-) But I hear you. The fit needs to be that much more precise.

    Pammie: Why thank you!!

    CGC: I considered this but the thing is I don't want to be limited in wearing it down anymore than I want to be limited in wearing it up! At least this way it's clean, if you know what I mean.

    Susan: I'm so glad to know that others have considered the relationship of bust to underbust (in your case the back).

  10. I agree with you about the FBA stuff - I actually did some fitting stuff with a pattern drafter once and she commented that I should consider cutting a size up for the front of pieces and a size down for the back and then they might fit without many more alterations.

  11. Rachel: I'm totally going to use that principle going forward. When I was a new sewist, I considered doing that but I didn't know enough to know if it would be a complete disaster. No time like the present to give it a try.