Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Darling Ranges: bodice fitting notes & queries

I mentioned when I posted my Darling Ranges dress that I would be back with details on fitting the bodice. I personally love to see how other people approach their fitting and muslining, and, well, this is a post for my fellow process geeks :-)  It's also partly to remember my own notes, partly to share them in case others are reading up on fitting this pattern (something I found really helpful), and partly - but very far from least importantly - a plea for your help. As you'll see, I still have not satisfactorily fit this bodice, and I am a bit stuck for where to go next. 

Behold the rose tinted picture whence I began...

This was my first, freshly-traced front bodice piece. But before we get down to the adjustmental nitty gritty, how about some vital statistics? Here they are, with the corresponding pattern size each one falls under (see the pattern envelope here):

  • High bust 86 cm (XS)
  • Full bust 96 cm (M)
  • Waist 81 cm (L)
  • Hips 99 cm (S-M)

As you can see, I span quite a range. Usually, I pick my dress/top size based on my high bust and then do an FBA to add ease in the full bust. This generally results in a bodice that fits fine across the shoulders and back, with enough room for the bosoms too. However, in this case I strongly doubted that beginning with the XS would be a good idea - for a start, I am way out of the other measurements for that size, and I had read that the shoulders in this case are narrow to begin with. So I plumped for the S, graded out to an L at the waist, and did an FBA:

Now I had seen many, many comments about the placement/size/shape of this bust dart and the difficulties of fitting it. As I have rarely come across a bust dart I actually liked, I had decided a long time ago to deal with this by rotating it to a french dart instead, which is supposedly more flattering on fuller busts in any case. (Megan has good tutorials on her blog on how to do this). I'm now not so sure that doing so immediately was a good idea, but we'll get to that later.  So, my first bodice front pattern piece then looked like this:

And here is the resulting bodice muslin (almost stomach flashing on the internet, oh my goodness!):

I'm not sure how obvious it is, but this was basically so tight I could hardly move - despite being too big at the waist (it falls above the natural waist which I suspect accounts for that in my case. I am what you could politely call "thick" in the stomach area). You can see some excess fabric gaping at the neckline at my right shoulder, so that already jumped out as a thing, and from the back you could see bra lines. For a dress made in woven fabric, that closeness of fit is definitely not what I call wearing ease.

Thus, on to the next size up. Here I faced an unusual situation: the pattern's bust measurement for the M is 1cm larger than my full bust measurement.  I don't think I've ever made a straight up bodice without an FBA, at least not in non-stretch material. As I had decided to go down a size at the waist from my first muslin, the only change I made to bodice pattern piece #2 was therefore to rotate the dart again:

Here's the result. Clearly already a much better fit, and it felt more comfortable too.

However, do you see those bubbles at the end of the darts, just sort of sitting there on my boobs? That's no good! (Please ignore the drawn-on nipples where I had been experimenting with the location of bust points). Again, there was some gaping at the top right of the neckline, and also some armhole gape, which you can see pinned out on the right armhole above. I pinched out a small armhole dart and rotated it into the main dart:

But it didn't help. No pictures of muslin #4, it was late and I was fed up. At this point I gave up muslining and spent some considerable time Googling things like "bust dart fabric pooling". I'm not sure how conclusive this was, but my conclusion was that the large size of the dart probably had something to do with it, and splitting it in two might work. My next pattern piece was the M again, with no FBA, the bust point lowered 3cm, and the dart split equally between the waist and the side:

And that, oh persistent readers for making it this far! That is the pattern piece I used to make my dress. I did do another muslin, decided it was the best so far, and that I was going to get on with the thing I actually wanted to be making, instead of obsessing about making it fit.  And yes, I do truly believe that it's OK for things to not fit that well, as long as you don't mind wearing them - after all, that's how I wore shop-bought clothes for years. I mentioned before that I can live with this one. But, I want more of these dresses, and I want them in plain fabric - which doesn't camouflage like this print does.  So, please, cast your expert eyes over these pictures and tell me what needs to change!

First and most importantly: that fabric pulling towards the armhole over my bust:

Do I need to add some ease with an FBA after all? Or should I just have left the bust dart where it was originally (maybe shortened slightly?), with the fullness therefore at the high bosom level instead of nearer the waist?

A side view of the same thing - but here you can also see, on the right, that the neckline doesn't actually lay flat at my shoulders. Do you think I could just shorten the neckline a very little bit at the shoulder seams? (Does anyone know what I mean??)

And then there's this weird bubble of fabric between the darts. I guess this is like my boob-placed bubbles from muslin #2, but moved, and moved to a location I can live with in fact. I just sort of wonder about it, and whether/how this 'excess' can be moved to somewhere I want it rather than somewhere I don't.

I don't want to fall into the trap of overfitting, but at least that pulling from centre front to armhole must go. I don't really want to convert the dart to princess seams as I like the lines of the pattern as it is. Any other ideas, from those with full busts or none? A dart cluster like this? Or do I just give up? Can you tell that I'm really quite determined not to?

Any and all suggestions will be welcomed and very likely acted on. I will happily document my next series of muslins if that's any encouragement to you!

And THANK YOU fellow sewists and sewcialists - at time of writing I may be stuck, but I'd never have made it this far without you :-)


  1. One thing I noticed is, is shoulder seam Sitting too far back?

  2. What I'm seeing is definite pulling at the fullness of the bust. I think you need more ease there for sure. I also think that your bustline is higher than the pattern is drafted for. I have this problem a lot, since I am short waisted with a higher bustline. What I generally do is a petite adjustment above the bust and through the armhole. This has the added benefit of raising the armhole to give me more freedom of movement there. That would take care of your gaping neckline.

    So, what I would do would be a small FBA and shorten the pattern above the bust. You may need to add back that length below the bust to get the waist to the right spot.

  3. This is exactly the kind of stuff that happens to me! I think you could pinch out above the bust for what I think is called a petite shoulder alteration. It's from using the larger bodice. Our larger busts create a hollow in the high bust area which you just have to pinch out. I also wonder if you need less length above the bust but a little more length below the bust. If I don't need an FBA in the circumference, I usually add a little bit of length which looks like you could use. The excess between the darts can be absorbed into the darts or you can create a third dart. Hope that helps.

  4. Oh my goodness, thank you so much Katie - this is illuminating!! I'm also pretty short waisted but had never put 2+2 together - this sounds like it makes a lot of sense! Now weirdly excited to get muslining again :-)

  5. Yes, it helps a lot, thank you!! Definitely going to try reducing length above the bust, and will look into the petite shoulder alteration too. I was so thrown by falling into a size that appeared not to need an FBA, I couldn't think what other things I might need to do with it!

  6. Yes, it is! I hadn't noticed so much before these pictures but you're absolutely right - and I hadn't realised how the sleeve fit was affected by it either. Thank you!

  7. I can't help you with the fitting because I'm hopeless at fitting myself - but I just wanted to comment and say that I really enjoyed reading this post. It was like a mystery waiting to unfold! Good on you for getting to here with it and I know there are some great sewcialists who'll help you out!

  8. Oh I glad you found it interesting - I was wondering if it might just bore people to death!

  9. I don't have anything new to add either (especially as I have a SBA to make), but also really wanted to thank you for such a great and informative post - I love learning how other sewists think things through, rather than just "TaDa!" - I do like TaDa!, but I appreciate the work behind it ;)

  10. yes, me too! And I realised I hardly ever do it, so it was time to rectify things! And we all have something to adjust don't we, small/large bosoms or bums or everything in between :-)

  11. disqus_JsdLeX1GSeNovember 07, 2013 4:07 pm

    I am so happy to read your post. I am currently on toile number four for a lovely little fabric that I am so desperate to make into a dress. It makes me feel so much better to know that other great sewers also still have fit problems and that it's not just me. Gold stars for perseverance (three of my toiles are in the bin and I'm starting on a new pattern).

    Why doesn't someone create an online pattern software that you can input all your dimensions into and then you get a pdf of the fit for your body … they would make a fortune. Still, the tracing paper manufacturers would probably go out of business!


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