Sunday, 22 March 2020


Not so much a progress report this week, more of a ponder. Like a lot of people, I suddenly find myself with more time at home than I'd bargained for, and a need for something to take my mind off the news. Fortunately, sewing fits the bill. With all the things I want to make this year, I'm really not at a loose end. But just to add to the fun, I'm hoping to use the dresses I make for the UseNine challenge as a way of ironing out some fitting problems.

A long, long time ago, I wrote about the alterations I needed to make when I'm sewing. I have a short torso, and taking roughly 5cm/2" out of the bodice length seemed to do the trick. How much and where varied between pattern brands, but it was the same amount all round. I also knew that I was (rather to my disappointment) a B cup.

Well, in the words of Joni Mitchell, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

In the last couple of years I'd noticed that my dresses were getting a bit tight round the bust, but I just put it down to middle-aged spread. What I really couldn't understand though, was why bodices suddenly seemed to be slightly short on me. It was only at the front, so couldn't be a very late growth spurt! I even wondered if my posture had changed - was I standing more upright?

Eventually light dawned; my bust has got larger. This was one effect of the menopause that I really didn't expect. I've only gone up to a C cup, but dress patterns have traditionally been created to a B. So for all these years, while I've occasionally grumbled a bit about having to alter patterns, I've really been leading a charmed life. Bust alterations, I've been led to believe, are scary.


When I made Butterick 5748, I used a size larger than I normally would, shortened the centre-back by 5cm as usual, shortened the centre front by 4cm, and tapered the waistline between these two points. This seemed to work, but I wear the dress with a belt, and it's got a wide neckline, a full skirt and no sleeves, so I didn't have to worry about the fit of the larger size anywhere else.

Out of curiosity, I then took the bodice front in the size I'd usually use, added my standard shortening alteration, and then altered the pattern using this FBA method from the Curvy Sewing Collective. My first attempt at making the bodice up was dreadful (too dreadful to even photograph), because I'd got the bust point in the wrong place, so the darts were spectacularly wrong. The bodice length, width and neckline all seemed fine, however.

My altered pattern piece

The extra length at the bodice front and the extra width at the bust are quite similar to the changes I made myself, so I'll need to consider which method to use on future dresses. I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience of fitting a C cup bust, or who has had to alter their fitting practice in line with a changing body - this is all new territory to me!


  1. I'm going the other way as I age--I've been a B cup most of my adult life (except when nursing, when I go up to a wonky C), but now I hover between an A & B, which sometimes means I should probably do a small bust adjustment. I never seem to do them, though. Blerg. For what it is worth, Colette/Seamwork slopes for a C cup (one reason why their stuff never fits me right without tons of adjustments), and there are a lot of indie pattern makers now (Jennifer Lauren Handmade for one) that offer different cup sizes in the pattern packet so you can skip the whole ajustment part to start with! But I know you have a big pattern stash to work from, so probably better to master the full bust adjustment. Do you follow SewManju? She's a Brit with a curvy figure who makes that adjustment on everything--I'm pretty sure she's blogged her method. Just google sewmanju for her blog address. She has a great IG too. good luck with the alterations and the home time! Take walks, have dance parties! Don't let the walls close in...

    1. Thank you Juliana, I'll check her out. And thank you for the other comments too.

  2. Sorry I can't help you, I had the big 'deflate'...

    1. That is what I was expecting, Lodi, so I'm utterly bemused by what's actually happened!

  3. I'm somewhere in the DD-E area right now (I think - I'm currently in sport bras because I need to wear natural fibres, and good luck finding that in more structured bras :P). My torso is long, so I have the opposite problem to you in that, and in fact usually have to add length in the bust-to-shoulder area as well... But hopefully I can shed some further light.
    What I do is measure the distance between my apexes (which I then have to halve for the pattern, obviously), and the distance from the base of the neck / shoulder point to apex, and then check that against the pattern.
    You usually find the bust point on the pattern by following the central line of the dart forward... and the bust point will be somewhere in the area of one inch further from the dart point. Easier to do with two darts - you find where the lines cross... If there's more than two darts, or various more complicated seaming, it can get confusing again. :P So I find tissue fitting the altered pattern can help with a quick check whether everything sits where it should without spending the effort on a muslin if it doesn't. (But tissue fitting has its limitations because paper doesn't behave like fabric so a muslin is always a good idea anyway - tissue fitting just helps eliminate the number of muslins in my world!)
    ... so, yeah, I check those measurements I took on myself against the pattern to see if the pattern corresponds to my body, or not. Usually it doesn't at the start, and then as I make the adjustment, I keep checking until I get it right. :-)

    1. Thank you for this. Some pattern brands have the bust point marked, but not all, and the vintage patterns I often use certainly don't. It's one area I'm really poor at, so this is a great help.