Emery Dress Sew-Along: How To Do A Full Bust Adjustment


Hello all! I hope you had a prolific weekend sewing up muslins for the Emery Dress Sew-Along! Today we will begin making pattern alterations to our Emery Dress patterns, based on what we learned while sewing muslins.

This week's blog posts are brought to you by my pal Haley; a fellow sewing teacher. She knows what she's talking about, as she has a BFA in Fashion Design from Woodbury University, and focused on patternmaking. Not only that, being a fuller busted lady herself, she's used to making these kinds of adjustments for herself all the time. She's a pro! So without further ado, I give you to Haley!

Hello seamstresses! My name is Haley Glenn and I am very excited to be assisting with the pattern adjustment portion of the Emery DressSew-Along. In addition to today’s full bust adjustment tutorial, I will also be joining you for the small bust adjustment, wide shoulder adjustment, and lastly the narrow shoulder adjustment tutorial. So, let’s get started!


A full bust adjustment (or FBA) is a patternmaking technique that allows us to open a pattern up in the bust area to accommodate for a fuller cup, without having to enlarge the pattern in other areas.


Most pattern companies draft patterns based on a B cup and the lovely Christine is no exception. This is because a B cup is a very common cup size, and patternmakers must gear their patterns towards the majority. Chances are, if you are a C cup a full bust adjustment wont be entirely necessary, but if you are any more ample than that you will require a FBA.

Us full busted ladies might notice some things when we make a pattern straight out of the envelope for ourselves: a.) if you make the size based on your bust measurements, the garment will be too large in the shoulders waist and potentially the sleeves as well, or b.) if you make a size based on your waist the garment will flatten your chest creating the dreaded “mono-boob” – not a cute look, but not to worry because I can help!


Your Emery Dress pattern
A clear ruler (I use a 2” x 18”)
Pattern paper
Paper shears


Picking a size: If you are making a FBA to your Emery Dress, you will want to choose your size based on two measurements: a.) your waist and b.) your upper bust. Your upper bust is the area right below your armpit and above the fullest part of your bust. These two measurements should dictate the size you will need to cut. For example, my upper bust measures 39” and my waist measures 31 1/2”, so I need to make a size 12.

You will also need to take your bust measurement. The difference between your upper bust and full bust is the amount you will need to open up your bodice. For example, my bust measures at 42”, so my difference is 3”.

Prepare your pattern by cutting out (or tracing) the appropriate size. You will also want to mark the sewing line at the armcye.

Draw a line through the center of the side dart extending through the dart point to the bust point. We will call this line “A”. 

Repeat this at the waist dart, making sure this line is parallel to the grainline. This is line “B”.  Where A and B intersect is the bust point.

Draw a third line from the bust point to the armcye sewing line (at roughly the center point). This is line “C”. 

You should now have three slash lines drawn on your pattern.

Using your paper shears, cut through line “B” starting at the waist, pivot at the bust point and continue cutting through line “C” stopping at the armcye sewing line.

Next, cut through line “A” starting at the side seam, leaving a small paper hinge at the bust point.

Now the pattern is slashed and ready to be opened up the desired amount (our upper bust to bust difference). Since we have two bust points, you can divide your difference by two and draw two parallel lines that distance apart. For example, my upper bust-to-bust difference is 3”, that divided by two breasts is 1 1/2”. Now, on your spare piece of pattern paper, draw two parallel lines that are that distance apart. 

Very carefully lay your slashed pattern on top of the pattern paper. The hinge that you created at the side dart should allow you to maneuver your “B” lines so that they lay on your parallel guidelines.

Carefully tape down your tissue pattern to the pattern paper, leaving the center front below the lengthen/shorten line free.

You will notice that the waistline of your pattern is now two different lengths; a full bust requires extra length to go around the ladies. To do this, cut at the lengthening line at the center front. 

Then with your ruler and pencil, extend the lengthening line on the left side of your pattern piece. 

You can now tape your center waist piece down, aligning with your new lengthening line.

This is what your pattern should look like at this point. You guys we are almost there! Now it’s time to redraw your dart legs and trim the dart excess.

At the waist dart, draw a line perpendicular to your grainline and level with your dart point (use the dart point that is on the left side and lower). The center of this line is your new dart point. 

Use your ruler to redraw the dart legs.

On your side dart, draw a line directly down the center of your dart all the way to the bust point. 

Measure 1 1/2” out from the bust point and mark. This is your new dart point.  

Redraw your dart legs using this dart point.

Fold your darts so that the dart legs are aligned (as if they were sewn and pressed), and trim the excess.

Repeat this process with the waist dart.

Finish by trimming away extra pattern paper and taping as needed. Using a highlighter or sharpie to more clearly mark your new darts can also be quite handy. And that's it!

I hope that you have found this informative! See you tomorrow for the small bust adjustment tutorial!

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Thanks Haley for guiding us all along with your expertise! If you have comments or questions, Haley will be checking in from time to time to answer any questions you might have. Thanks and happy adjusting!

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All adjustment photos by me.
Photo of Haley Glenn by Devon Iott of Miss Make