In the nearly two years that the Curvy Sewing Collective has been in existence, we’ve had quite a few posts about adjusting patterns for larger busts–typically, tutorials for different types of Full Bust Adjustments (FBAs) that you can use to get a better fit through the bust area of your garments. Today, I’m going to talk about a pattern adjustment that isn’t quite as well known but often is still needed if you have a larger than average bust: lowering your bust darts.
You probably already know that most commercial patterns are drafted for a B-cup sized bust (if you’re not familiar with the concept of pattern cup sizes, read A Guide to Pattern Cup Sizes to brush up). Additionally, most patterns are also drafted for a “perky” bust with a relatively high bust point. When you have a large bust, your bust point will tend to be lower than that of commercial sewing patterns, both due to gravity (even if you’re only in your 20’s) and the fact that a larger bust takes up more vertical space on your body.
Bust darts are supposed to point towards the apex of your bust–the fullest point of your bust. If you’ve ever tried on a darted blouse and thought that the dart placement looked funny (often pointing well above your bust apex), then you’ve encountered the issue of the dart placement being off for your particular figure. Luckily for us, lowering the bust point of a sewing pattern is a relatively easy alteration to perform.
Before you start
For this alteration, you’ll want to use a bodice or blouse pattern with bust darts. (If your pattern has princess seams, save it for later–we’ll cover lowering the bust point of a princess seamed pattern in a future post.)
If you expect to need an FBA for your pattern, perform your FBA before lowering the bust dart. An FBA typically lowers the bust point a little as part of the alteration, so you’ll want to start from your altered pattern piece so as to not lower the point too much.
How can I tell how much to lower the dart?
You’ll need to try on a muslin or tissue fit your pattern pieces to figure out how much to lower your bust darts.
To determine how much to lower your darts:
- Find the as-drafted bust point on your pattern:
- If you’re lucky, the as-drafted bust point will already be marked on your paper pattern. Typically, this marking looks like a small cross with a circle around it. Transfer this marking to the pattern piece or muslin that you’re working with.
- If the bust point isn’t marked on your pattern, use a ruler, and trace a line through the middle of the bust dart, through the point, and out to ~1″ past the point of the dart. Add a marking at that point. (Most commercial patterns are drafted so that the dart point is about ~1″ away from the assumed bust apex.)
- Try on your muslin (or pin together your front and back pattern tissue at the shoulder and side seams).
- On the muslin or pattern tissue, mark the spot where your actual bust apex is.
- Measure the distance between the drafted bust point and your actual bust point. That distance is how much you’ll want to lower your bust dart. For reference, depending on the pattern, I typically need to lower my bust darts 1″-2″ (2.5-5cm). Unless you have a very, very low bust, you probably won’t need to lower your darts more than 2″ (5cm).
Lowering the dart on your paper pattern pieces
Now that you know how much you need to lower your dart, you can make the appropriate alteration to your paper pattern pieces.
- Draw a box around the entire bust dart on your pattern piece.
- Cut out the box that you just drew.
- Keeping the inner edges aligned, slide the box down the amount that you want to lower the bust dart by. For example, if you’re lowering your dart by 1″, slide the box down 1″.
- Tape the box into place in its new position, and tape backing paper behind the gap that was left by sliding the box.
- True up your side seam as needed.
That’s all there is to it! You’ve just lowered a bust dart!
The process for lowering the bust fullness on princess seams is similar but involves a few extra steps. I’ll cover that alteration in an upcoming post.