Sewing techniques

How to adjust the bust point. Lowering or raising it on darts and princess seams. Tutorial & Video.

A bust point, or height, on a pattern, is different to the one on my body and has been a discovery I have made decades ago. This bust height used by pattern companies is based on a standard they consider to be more common, or average, usually always related to the B cup size.

There are many factors at play here. The bust height you have will most likely be higher or lower than the standard, or you might just be fortunate to have the standard measurement the pattern was drafted for.

Things to consider: your height (petite or tall), age, anatomical difference of bust volume distribution, cup size and the bra you prefer to wear.

In my case, even as a teen and in my 20s when I was thinner and had a B cup size, my bust height was still lower than the standard. In those times, I was mainly self drafting my own patterns to my own measurements and the bust height was custom made to my body. Everything fit very well. When I did use patterns (mainly BurdaStyle and Patrones from magazines), I was lowering the bust point by 1/2″ approximately.

Fast forward 20 years, birthing a child, several pounds more and an extra cup size (C cup now), I find myself lowering the bust point anywhere from 1/2-2″, depending on the pattern brand and the style.

I still self draft from my custom bodice block and have made different styles from it with perfect fitting darts and princess seams. yay! See the tank top below made from my block.

With pattern brands that offer individual cup sizes, like Itch to Stitch and Cashmerette, I usually need to adjust less (about 1/2″ and zero, respectively).

Bust Darts

Darts are our friends and are necessary to provide the 3D shape our body has, especially on the front where the bust is providing volume towards the front. As we grow during puberty and our teens, they become necessary in our sewing. Tell me how fun it is to sew for my little nieces! no darts and EVERYTHING fits 🙂 I started sewing at 11 years old and my journey has taken me through all the changes my body has gone through, including, my initial body’s development, to later being pregnant, breastfeeding, gaining weight and now being in my 40s. My bust size, shape and height has surely changed over time and I’ve adapted with these changes throughout a span of 3 decades.

I’d love to share the adjustment I do to darts DAILY, but first… there are different types of bust darts….

The straight dart

Straight darts are commonly seen, are easier to sew and adjust. When sewn, the seam is close to perpendicular to the grain-line. Drawing a rectangle, shown in red, is straightforward. Starting at the top and bottom dart legs and going down at the dart point.

Harmony blouse by Love Notions. This is a well fitting straight bust dart that I needed to lower by 5/8″

Angled darts

For this demonstration, I am using Butterick 6684. I have made this blouse into 2 dresses, both with chiffon fabric and had to lower the dart by 1.5″ and you can see the video HERE

You can’t see the darts but I promise they fit great after adjusting them 🙂

Have a look at the process

Princess Seams

Princess seams are beautiful and offer customization options to the shape of our bust. The dart volume from a bust dart has been transferred to the armscye or to the shoulder. My preferred type is the one that comes from the shoulder as it offers a larger seam and smoother look. A princess seam for a larger bust turns out to have a steep curve that is more difficult to sew accurately.

Next you will see two dresses with princess seams that are designed for knit fabric. I made quick muslins for these because, while measuring, I technically should have adjusted them by 1/2″. to 1″…..BUT, these fabrics have stretch horizontally and vertically. The pattern as is, fits fine without adjusting and that is what is unpredictable about the fit on some knit garments.

Tallin dress (Itch to Stitch)
See video about this HERE
Margot Peplum (Love Notions)
See video about this HERE

Both the center front and side front will usually have a notch at the fullest point and will signify the bust height the pattern was drafted for. This is the area that needs to be adjusted and differently to the dart, the area can be “eyeballed”.

Princess seams from the armscye

I recently downloaded the FREE PDF pattern from Peppermint magazine: Button Up dress.

It’s stated on the pattern that it’s drafted for a B cup and just by looking at the center front and the side front, I can already see I will need to adjust the curve and lower the fullest part. Discounting the shoulder seam allowance and measuring the distance of my bust height, the difference is 1 1/4″. See the process below. I like to work on top of my cutting mat and the lines below the pattern help me measure.

Red horizontal line marks the pattern’s bust height
Green cross marks my bust height. Difference is 1 1/4″. I draw a rectangle as shown.
Cut out the rectangle and lower it by the difference you have with your measurements.
Blend and clean up the lines of both pattern pieces. The notches now are at the fullest height of my bust.

Princess seams from the Shoulder

For this example, I am using the bodice from the Kalispell dress (Itch to Stitch). I have made this dress twice, one for myself and one for my mum. You can see a video of my dress HERE and a video of my mum’s dress HERE. This pattern has individual cup sizes A-DD and I chose the C cup. This particular bodice, as it’s been drafted for a specific cup size, did not need a huge adjustment, but being a fitted bodice, I think it is necessary all the same. The difference in this case is 1/2″. See the process below.

Well fitting princess seams with the Kalispell dress
Measure from the higher shoulder area down and mark your bust height. I marked with a green cross. It is 1/2″ lower than the fullest height of the pattern.
Draw a rectangle as shown
Lower the rectangle by the difference measured.
Fill the gap with paper and clean the curves.

To see more about this topic in more depth and with a full step by step video tutorial for these three types of adjustements, visit the video from my youtube channel.

The fit of the bust on out garments is paramount to the overall look and how it will fall on our body. Taking the time to measure is key. Knowing our bust height is as important as knowing our circumferences and these simple adjustments will make a world of difference.

DISCLAIMER: I have affiliate links in this post to Itch to Stitch and Love Notions If you click on these links, at no cost to you, I receive a small commission that helps finance my sewing, blog and Youtube channel.

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