Full Bust Adjustment (FBA): Adding a Horizontal Dart

In my last post I showed you the Edwardian dress I sewed for my SIL.  Despite using reference books and websites with directions on FBA, I wasn’t able to put my finger on the  directions for adding a horizontal dart while narrowing the shoulder.  Since I’m not sure I can describe what I did for the narrow shoulder adjustment, I can show you how I made the full bust adjustment (FBA).

This Past Patterns #903 pattern was the starting point.   Given that the bodice only has vertical darts, my options were to slash the pattern, eliminate the darts and make it into a princess line dress or to add a horizontal dart.  While I chose the latter, I now wonder if it would have been easier to convert one of the vertical darts into a princess line and forget the second dart, especially because of the narrow shoulder adjustment.  Maybe the next time?

Tutorial:

1.  Copy the pattern piece onto a separate piece of pattern paper, leaving several inches around all of the edges so you have space to make adjustments.  Out of the envelope, the front pattern piece looked like this.

Original pattern piece – front bodice

2. Start by adding width to the side of the bodice front (and back if needed), making sure that the dress pattern is equal to the wearer’s full bust measurement plus wearing ease.  I did this by adding to the side of the front and back of the dress top.  On the photo below, if you look to the right side (arrow #1), you can see that my pattern is much wider than the largest size of the printed pattern.  Note: By taking this step you have accommodated for the wearer’s circumference, however in order to avoid having the dress pull up in front, you will also need to add length to the dress front.  That’s where we’re going now.

3. Slash the pattern horizontally at the wearer’s bustline.  Note:  If you slash the pattern at the full bust line, the dart should fall in the correct position.

4.  Physically separate the top and bottom pieces of the pattern and add an amount that is consistent with the wearer’s fullness.  For me is was guesswork to start and then I made further adjustments with each muslin.  There’s probably a formula to calculate this but I couldn’t find it.  In the final muslin I added nearly 4″ to the bodice front.

5. Fill the slashed area with a piece of pattern paper and tape in place (not visible on my photo).

6.  Draw a dart at the center of the area you added to the pattern. (Arrow #3).  Note the bottom of the pattern – the revised pattern is much longer than the original.  (Arrow #4)

While this will likely not be your final alteration, it’s a great place to start, and you can make changes based on how the muslin fits.  In the end you should end up with something like this:

Narrow Shoulder Adjustment:

Unfortunately I don’t feel that I mastered this technique or could even offer advice on what I did to narrow the shoulders while adding several inches to the side seam.  Essentially this was so the armhole wasn’t oversized for the sleeve.   All I can say is that I followed Nancy Ziemen’s Pivot and Slide technique .

Readers, if you have suggestions on how to make this alteration differently, please leave a comment.

Long Distance Sewing: Margie’s Edwardian Dress

So lovely in her new dress

This dress took sooo much longer to make than I anticipated, mostly because it’s really difficult to fit a dress when you’re not in the same state (excuse #1, I know).  Interestingly, when we got to the point of having a good muslin, it only took a week or two to sew the dress.

Nearly a year ago, my SIL Margie asked if I would sew a replica of a historic dress for her.  For their volunteer work at a 1900’s historic home in their community, my BIL John and SIL Margie needed a dress from that era.  Delighted by the request however unfamiliar with sewing historical garments, I searched for patterns online and thankfully found PastPatterns.com.  Specifically, their 1890’s Day Dress pattern was the pattern of choice.

Here’s a chronicle of the events leading up to the dress completion:

Summer, 2011 – request to sew the dress

Aug/Sept 2011 – Once again, Jomar’s in Philadelphia rose to the occasion.  We planned for our long distance fabric selection and one evening I spent an hour or two digging through the fabric options at Jomar.  After photographing candidate fabrics, I emailed the photo to Margie and John from my iPhone.  “Yes, I like that one; I don’t care for that color; no that’s too blue; that green is nice”  They settled on a lovely light green cotton brocade.

November 2011 – In my possession was a pattern and some fabric but we hadn’t been together so I could take measurements.  Margie and I (with others) traveled to Spain together, so like a diligent sewist, I had my tape measure in my backpack.  This preliminary set of measurements allowed me to alter the pattern and make a muslin.  

Christmas 2011 – Margie and I saw each other for only an hour but had enough time to fit muslin #1.

January 2012 – Muslin #2 completed and mailed to her as then we lived a thousand miles from each other (now ~60 miles).  John kindly took photos of the muslin and pinned some of the areas requiring alteration and returned the muslin to Philadelphia.  His eye for detail was crucial for me to make the needed changes.

February – March – Now things really slowed down as the project was packed away in a moving box while I secretly hoped Margie wouldn’t need the dress.

April – Finally we had an in-person fitting of muslin #3.  I was ready to cut the fashion fabric and start sewing the dress. 

May – Margie stopped by our house for a fitting.  I made a few sizing tweaks and pinned the hem.  A week later my niece picked up the dress and delivered it.  Whew!

All of my sewing friends know that the above outlined events were underscored by showing photos of Margie in the muslin followed by requests for fitting assistance. Thank you to my sewing colleagues who helped me along the journey.  

I was so excited to be finished with the dress that I failed to take inside or construction photos however I can share a few details with you:

Fabric – cotton brocade was pre-washed twice to assure that it wouldn’t shrink in the future.

Lining – lightweight cotton-linen blend for the top only.  The lining and fashion fabric were sewn as one.  This was also pre-washed.

Seam finish – Hong Kong finish with silk organza to reduce bulk.

Buttons – vintage shank buttons purchased on Ebay.  They even smelled vintage, or musty.  The smell passed quickly.  The 22 buttons forced me to learn an easy 2-minute buttonhole technique.

Pattern alterations – added a horizontal dart for bodice fitting.  More about that on another post.

Details – a watch pocket on one of the side front seams.  Margie has since purchased a pocket watch and chain.

Summary:

This was a great project as it really stretched my skills at fitting.  Margie said she got lots of compliments on her first wearing and I am very pleased with the outcome.