After searching through patterns I had on hand to find the shirt pattern, I thought Butterick 5333 would give me the look I wanted. It’s fitted and simple and I like the midriff piece. I thought of splitting Vogue 2902 in half for a shirt and full circle skirt, but in the end, decided to go with patterns already drafted as separates – plus, I REALLY like the midriff piece!! Here’s the pattern on the model and the drawing.
This shirt, as usual, poses some fitting problems. I cut out a size 20 and, according to the measurements on the envelope, I’d need to add 4 inches to the bust, 7 inches to the waist and 8 inches to the hips. The waistline is marked on the pattern right at the top of the skirt piece. With the three separate pieces, however, the fitting is a little delicate as each piece has to line up smoothly with the next. I considered taping the three pieces together to do the adjustments like it was one piece for each side, but realized that wouldn’t work with the darts only in the bodice piece! I pulled out my pattern-hacking supplies and laid everything out…
Here we have everything I need. Clockwise, from the top, I have the pattern pieces laid out – front on the left, back on the right; wax paper, which I usually use for pattern adjustments as the tape comes off and on easily, and it’s handy right in the kitchen! A collection of fat and thin sharpies – only the fat ones work on the wax paper. Scissors and a little slide ruler. Fit for Real People, an excellent resource, a notebook, notepaper, tape and pins.
Doing a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)
Here is a close up of the bodice piece. There are already some markings and cuts on it because I had already done a FBA to add 2″ to the pattern piece for 4″ total to the bust area. When I wrapped the tissue around me, it wasn’t quite enough to get all the way around! I removed all the wax paper, taped it back together and decided to start fresh doing a 2.75″ adjustment.
It’s a little hard to see because of my markings, but this pattern originally had one vertical dart. The bust apex is marked with a circle. As part of the FBA, I’ll be adding a horizontal dart as well.
The first cut
For the first cut, cut straight through the center of the dart to the bust apex, then angle to cut the rest of the way up to the center of the shoulder. Cut all the way to the seamline, then cut from the edge of the shoulder to the seamline, leaving a little slice of pattern paper (less than 1/8 inch). This way you can swing the pattern pieces away from each other while keeping the length of the shoulder intact.
Once the cut is made, measure HALF of your intended additional measurement, starting at the bust apex and moving toward the left (my ruler is sitting where I measured). For this adjustment, I wanted to add 5.5″ total to the bust. So first I divide that in half to get the amount of the FBA on this pattern piece (it will be doubled because this is only half of the bodice!) So my FBA will be 2.75″. I make the first mark 1 3/8″ (half of 2.75″) from the edge of the pattern piece.
the first cut
The second cut
The second cut is made from the original bust apex to about 1/3 of the way up the armscye, again leaving a small hinge so that the length of the armscye is not altered.
Once the second cut is made, measure the rest of your FBA out from your first mark (my first mark is the black line on the right, the second is the black line on the left. You can see in the photo how I have taped the right side of the pattern down, and secured the center piece of the pattern with a pin (it has a white head! sort of hard to see!) I do pattern alterations by laying down my cutting mat to protect the table, then laying a towel over that so there’s something to stick pins into. Cardboard works better, but every time I secure a nice cardboard piece, it inevitably gets taken out with the recycling by my very-industrious husband!
the second cut
The third cut
For the third cut, start from the outer edge and cut toward where the bust apex will be. This will be your new horizontal dart! I just sort of eyeballed it, as the original marking of the bust apex has been cut apart and my bust apex is normally much lower than what is on the pattern. The placement of the apex and the endpoint of the darts is easier for me to decide after making the first muslin.
Once the third cut is made, secure the hinge area in the armscye and then swing the lower left part of the pattern down to open up the dart. You swing until the inside edges are parallel and are the same distance apart near the bottom as your FBA measurement – shown here with my blue ruler. So for this adjustment, the edges of the pattern are 2.75″ apart! At this point, you can tape everything down! Except for the lower right part of the pattern, which still needs to be lengthened a bit.
the third cut
The fourth cut
The final cut for the FBA is made on the lower right piece of the pattern, pretty much wherever you’d like. Just make a straight horizontal cut, then slide the piece straight down so that it is in line with the left side of the pattern – you can see here that I’ve set the ruler up to help me. Even though you are adding length to the pattern, it won’t affect the hem length of the shirt because the extra length is being used to cover the additional distance needed by your larger bust! It’s magic!
the forth cut
The final pattern piece
Here is the final pattern piece, with the little ends of the darts drawn in and everything nicely taped up and trimmed. I marked with stars the endpoints of the darts as well as the bust apex. I redrew the vertical dart, using the original points on the lower edge and the new end point, creating a much deeper dart. The horizontal dart as I said above is the entire new wedge added in. Once these darts are folded/stitched in, the side and lower hem measurement are the same as the original pattern piece.
the FBA is done!
Tissue fitting and adding length
So now it’s time to see how things look. I’m not a huge fan of tissue fitting, but it certainly can be helpful to get a reasonable first muslin! Here I’ve pinned the darts in, and then pinned the tissue over a pretty close fitting tank top (yes, that’s a black bra and an iPod tucked into it. I like listening to Harry Potter while I’m sewing!!)
You can see here that the center and side seams are where they should be. The lower seam looks pretty good, although I thought I might end up adding a little length after the first muslin, I decided to leave it alone for now. What is obvious, though is that I need a lot more vertical length – see how the top of the shoulder of the pattern piece doesn’t even come close to the center top of my shoulder? I checked with a measuring tape, and the distance was close to 3 inches (including the seam allowance.)
So, I need to add 3 inches length in somewhere. I know from RTW that empire waistlines NEVER fit me right, the seam goes right across my bust, or if it will lay correctly, it’s inevitably WAY too lowcut. As I looked in the mirror, I noticed that the armscye is much lower and more forward than I like, and that once the seam allowance in the center front is turned under, this would be a fairly low cut shirt.
the first tissue fitting
I decided to add the length in above the bustline. I made the cut in a diagonal pattern and just slid the bottom piece 3 inches down. I made sure the cut was below the dot marking the zipper stop on the side seam. When I slid the pattern pieces apart, I kept the center in a straight line, so the side ended up a little wonky and I had to redraw the angle a bit – you can sort of see an extra little wedge of wax paper right above the horizontal dart.
adding length to the bodice
Here’s the second tissue fitting. You can see that the extra length in the upper chest area brought the neckline and the armscye to a better placement!
the second tissue fitting
Finishing the adjustments and the first muslin
I actually had a little bit of a problem with the rest of my adjustments! The last FBA I did was on a shirt with two ended darts, so the width added with the FBA was added to the whole length of the garment, not put into the dart like with this pattern. So, on auto-pilot, I went on to add 2.75″ to the midriff and the skirt piece, thinking that I needed to do that so the seams would all line up!
A very silly adjustment!
As almost anyone (except me) will immediately see, once the vertical dart is sewn, the midriff and the skirt are going to have FIVE AND A HALF extra inches!! This is good, as I need to add to the waist and hip area anyway, but it was impossible to sew the pieces together! I ended up just cutting the midriff back to the original size, which I knew would be small, but figured I could deal with after the first muslin – and my midriff isn’t the biggest part of me – it’s my HIPS!! I kept the length in the skirt piece, and just gathered/eased when sewing up the muslin, so I could get a sense of what further adjustments would be needed.
The final adjustment I made before sewing the muslin is what could loosely be called a full butt adjustment I have a VERY full back end and/or swayback. I found with my last shirt project that adding a wedge to the center back part of the pattern over the hip area helps everything fit a little better. I added about a 4″ wedge by just measuring out then extending the hem line and drawing a new center back seam line that met up with the original top seam line so I wasn’t adding any length to the top of the piece and it would cleanly meet up with the midriff piece.
the wedge was added to the center back part of the skirt
So how does it look?
I tried on the muslin. It was definitely too small, but I was able to get it on, even though I just sewed up the side seam and didn’t put a zipper in!
FIRST – good lord, it’s about 900% humidity here in Minneapolis, so it was definitely a crazy hair day! And no lipstick! I’m wearing with the muslin for the full circle skirt, which is hanging crazy and the bias droop is out of control, but it gives me an idea of how the final outfit will look!
The front turned out better than expected! It’s hard to see in the photos, but there is a bit of gaping in the neckline that can be fixed by pinching out an inch or so. The top of the midriff piece fits fairly well, although I need to add a few inches of width to the bottom. The skirt piece doesn’t look great, but that’s partially because of how badly it was sewn in. I think I just need LESS fabric at the top and a little more in the bottom. I also think that adding just a wedge in the center front will help it lie nicely. It will mean a seam in the center front, but I think that will be OK.
I’m SUPER pleased with the side and back profiles!! I need to pinch about 2″ out of the back neckline, and there’s some gaping in the back armscye that I’m not a fan of. But I LOVE how the wedge I added to the center back skirt gives a little flair back there! And the midriff and skirt look very flattering – or at least I think they WILL look flattering once I get the kinks out!!