Fitting! For many of you it’s the scariest aspect of sewing your own clothes, and as always we want to make this part as fun and intuitive as possible, so we’ve created a great resource for you today. Getting the fit right for our Fiona Sundress is probably high on your priority list if you’re making one, so we have broken down the most common issues you’ll encounter with fitting princess seams, along with explanations on how to diagnose and correct each issue. While this post uses Fiona as an example, it will also be helpful for all princess seamed bodices and darted skirts, so I would suggest pinning this info even if you don’t need it right this very minute.
To make it even easier, we’ve collected the entire post into a handy ebook; you can access it by signing up for our newsletter below. We’ll send you the password to our Sewing Resource Library where you can download this ebook, among our many free patterns and other fitting guides.
FULL BUST ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: Bodice will be tight across bust with diagonal drag lines pointing from bust to side seams and top of dress. The buttons will gape and horizontal drag lines may appear between breasts.
Solution: Create more width and length along bodice to accommodate larger bust using slash and spread method. To determine how much to add, measure full and high bust; if the difference is more than 2”, you need to add each additional inch divided by two (ie. if the difference between full and high bust is 5”, you will be adding 3” in width to the bodice total (the remaining 2″ is built into the pattern). Since you are only modifying half the bodice, you will divide the 3″ in half and add 1.5” to your full bust adjustment).
- (A) Draw a line straight down from bust point to waist. (B) Draw a diagonal line from top of bodice to bust point, halfway between notch and center seam. (C) Draw third line from bust point to side seam, halfway between top seam and notch.
- (A) Cut along straight vertical line from waist to bust point and then up to top seam, leaving a small hinge at the top. (B) Cut from side seam to bust point, but do not cut all the way through, leaving a small hinge. Spread pattern pieces to add the width needed (see note under “Solution” to determine how much to add).
- Fill in the “hook” area with paper (A from the previous step). (A) Draw a line from the fullest part of the bust to the bust apex. Cut along it, leaving a hinge near the apex. (B) To remove the dart you created at the side seam, rotate the top piece down and tape along the seam so it matches up – this will widen the short line you cut at step A. Fill this with more paper.(C) To true up the bottom waist seam, cut a short horizontal line as indicated and lower this piece so waist is level. Measure the new seam line. (D) Finally, you must remove the 1” you added through the bust from the side seam or else the bodice will not match the skirt. Remove a 1” wedge from side seam.
- You now must add the same amount of length to the center front panel. Measure the existing seam on the center front panel and subtract from the length of the modified seam on the side panel – this is how much you need to add. Draw two lines across the piece at approximately the same spot where you added length on the side panel.
- Cut along these lines and split the desired amount. Fill with paper and true/smooth seam line with one continuous line.
ADD VOLUME TO BUST
Symptom: Bodice will be tight across bust with diagonal drag lines pointing from bust to side seams and top of dress. It will not be quite as pronounced as a full bust adjustment.
Solution: This adjustment should be made if you need to add just a little bit of width across the bust (1/2” or less). Draw in a more pronounced curve at the fullest part of the bust on the side front panel and fill in with paper. Measure the new line and compare to the center front panel seam; the difference will be added by slash and spreading the center from panel. Split the piece, add the difference and fill in with paper, and smooth the new line.
REDUCE BUST VOLUME
Symptom: Bodice will be loose across bust with vertical lines along the fullest part of the bust – you should be able to pinch out the excess.
Solution: Start by pinning or pinching out the excess along the side front panel only. Mark the difference on the pattern piece and trim to remove. Measure the new seam line; if it is shorter than the seam line of the center front panel, cut the panel and overlap the pieces to remove the necessary length.
RAISE BUST APEX
Symptom: The fullest part of the bodice is too low; you will notice puckering or excess fabric under the best. You need to raise the apex of the bust so the fullness of the bodice sits at the proper spot on your body.
(1) Draw a rectangle around the fullest part of the bust on side and center front pieces.
(2) Cut the boxes out and raise the desired amount. Using a smooth continuous line, redraw the bust curve joining the original pattern and new bust apex.
LOWER BUST APEX
Symptom: The fullest part of the bodice is too high; you will notice puckering or excess fabric above the breast. You need to lower the apex of the bust so the fullness of the bodice sits at the proper spot on your body.
(1) Draw a rectangle around the fullest part of the bust on side and center front pieces.
(2) Cut the boxes out and lower the desired amount. Using a smooth continuous line, redraw the bust curve joining the original pattern and new bust apex.
GAPING AT SIDE SEAM
Symptom: The bodice is too loose under the arm and gapes rather than sitting close to the torso.
Solution: Pinch and pin out the excess on your muslin. Transfer amounts to pattern pieces, and draw new lines to remove width.
GAPING AT LOWER BACK
Symptom: The bodice is too loose at the lower back and does not sit close to the body.
Solution: Pinch and pin out the excess on your muslin. Sew a deeper dart, and take in the upper bodice the same amount, grading to nothing towards the top of the bodice. For the backless version of the Fiona sundress, increase the overlap of the back pieces after sewing a deeper dart.
Symptom: There is not enough length through the torso. Vertical wrinkles form at waist and pull the waist seam up.
Solution: Cut all bodice pieces along the indicated line and spread the desired amount; fill with paper.
Symptom: The dress is too long through the torso. Horizontal wrinkles form at waist.
Solution: Cut all bodice pieces along the indicated line and overlap the desired amount.
SWAY BACK ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: There is excess fabric pooling at the lower back along the waist seam.
Solution: The dress needs less length/fabric along the back. Pinch and pin out the excess on your muslin and transfer amounts to pattern pieces. Length can be removed from skirt and/or bodice depending on how much you need to remove. For more pronounced sway backs, it made be necessary to rotate the skirt waist seam and dart down slightly.
MOVE PRINCESS SEAMS
Symptom: The front princess seam does not sit at a flattering spot on the body. It is not drafted to sit directly at the true apex of the bust, but you may want to shift it for aesthetic reasons.
Solution: To move the line towards the side seam, cut a straight line down the center front panel and spread the desired amount. Remove the same amount from the side front piece by cutting the pattern piece in a straight line, and overlapping the two pieces.
To move the seam line towards center front, do the inverse: slash and spread the side front and overlap the center front.
HIGH SEAT CONTOUR
Symptom: The curve of the bottom is higher than what is drafted, creating a horizontal wrinkle below the waistline.
Solution: Try sewing a shorter dart – this will raise the apex of the dart and move the volume a little higher.
LOW SEAT CONTOUR
Symptom: The curve of the bottom is lower than what is drafted, creating a bubble or fullness around the bottom of the darts.
Solution: Try sewing a slightly longer dart – this will lower the apex of the dart and move the volume a little lower. If the dart is too long it may look odd, so consider taking in the side seams slightly as well.
HIGH HIP ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: The curve of the hip is higher than drafted, creating tightness in that area. The fabric will bunch above curve of the hip.
Solution: Add width and length to the hip by drawing in a new, higher hip curve as illustrated to front and back skirt.
LOW HIP ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: The skirt is loose at the side seam above the hip, creating fabric volume in this area.
Solution: Remove width and length to the hip by drawing in a new, lower hip curve as illustrated to front and back skirt.
LARGE SEAT ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: The skirt is tight across the seat, and the side seams curve towards the back. Diagonal drag lines will radiate out from the fullest part of the seat.
Solution: Add more length and width to the seat. Add width to center back, and rotate the waist seam from the side seam to add length. Sewing a shorter dart will also help.
SMALL SEAT ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: The skirt is loose across the seat, with soft folds forming under the seat. Less fabric is needed to accommodate a smaller seat.
Solution: Remove length and width to the seat. Remove width from center back, and rotate the waist seam from the side seam to remove length.
Phew!! Hopefully you find this helpful with your Fionas – and don’t forget you can download this baby too!