Full Bust Alterations (or Adjustments) ~ FBA

on May 14 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 112 Comments

We’ve learned that most commercial patterns are made for women with a B-cup (no more than 2.5″ difference between bust and high bust measurements). Today Beki from Artsy-Crafty Babe (and our Sew,Mama,Sew! board) provides resources and a great “how to” for Full Bust Alterations:

Generally, when you sew clothing for yourself, it is wise to choose the size that best matches your own measurements with those in the chart on the back of pattern. When you have a large bust, this isn’t always the best course. When you make a top based on your full bust size, you can easily end up with a tent! Just because you have big boobs doesn’t mean that you’re big everywhere else. You want to choose the pattern that best suits your frame. So, how do you do that?

Most commercial patterns are drafted for a B cup. Depending on the type of top you’re making, if your cup runneth over, you’ll need to do an alteration. This type of alteration is known as a Full Bust Alteration (or Adjustment), FBA for short. You may need to add a little or you may need to add a lot, but the good news is that it can be done.

The first step in determining what size to start with is to measure your upper bust. This is the area above your bust, around your body under your armpits. Use this measurement instead of your full bust measurement to determine your size. By using your upper bust measurement, you will be choosing a size that fits your frame, not your fluff. The top should fit nicely around your neckline and shoulders, avoiding the droopy shoulder seam, which is common when you make a size too large. Next, you need to know your full bust measurement. The difference between your upper bust and your full bust measurement is the amount that you need to add to your pattern.

There are many wonderful resources available for showing you the various methods of making a FBA. The alteration will vary depending on the style of top that you are making. I’ve included some links at the bottom along with some books that have been helpful to me.

To demonstrate a FBA on a princess seam, I’ll be making the Lotus Cami by Amy Butler. I’m using the method illustrated in Fit for Real People by Palmer Pletsch. Using my upper bust measurement, I’ve determined that I should make a size large, but I’ll need to add about 3″ to accommodate the girls. Because most pattern fronts are only half of the front, I’ll be adding around 1.5″ to my pattern. I’ve decided to add 1″ to my pattern piece because most patterns are drafted with added ease, which is the difference between your actual body measurement and the measurement of the finished garment, a little “breathing room” so to speak.

I always start out by tracing my pattern pieces. By doing this, I am not altering my original pattern.

On the side front piece, draw a line up from the bottom of the pattern along the stitching line to the full bust point, the angle the line towards the armhole at about 1/3″ of the armhole. Next, draw a line from about where a bust dart would be to the point of the angle.

Cut along the first line up to but not through the armhole. It is important to leave a hinge. Then, cut alone the side line up to but not though where the two lines meet. Next, spread the lines to the desired fullness (1″ in my case), making sure that the two sides of the first cut stay parallel.

Make a horizontal cut somewhere near the bottom of the patten in order to lengthen the right side of the pattern to meet with the left side.

Fill in the vertical gaps you just made, leaving the gap at the side open. Next. draw a line from the point of the side gap to the full bust point.

Cut along the line you just drew, then close up the side gap. This rotates the dart from the side to the full bust point. Fill in this gap.

On the front panel piece, make two horizontal lines, one at the full bust point, the other near the bottom of the pattern.

Cut along those lines, then spread open. The distance spread at the top cut should correspond to the distance spread at the rotated full bust dart (the part you just filled in on the side panel piece) and the distance spread at the bottom should be the same as the amount you spread near the bottom of the side panel.

Fill in the gaps. Your front pieces are now ready to be used.

Here is my completed Lotus Cami. Judging from the photo, I probably should have added a little bust more to the bust area. It is important to note that just because you make adjustments doesn’t mean that it will work out the first time! This is why I make my first version out of inexpensive fabric. I would have been really disappointed if I had made this top out of my good fabric.

By making this version I learned a lot about how this pattern goes together. I now know that it is crucial to line up the upper bodice properly. I had a little trouble with this on the right side and it shows. I also had a trouble with the facings. (Never mind that I bound my right armhole on the wrong side – we all make mistakes!!) This was my “muslin,” so it’s okay to make mistakes. I do like this top and plan to make it again.

  • Books in my own collection:
    Fast Fit, Sandra Betzina
    Real Fit for Real People, Palmer Pletsch
    Fitting Finesse, Nancy Zieman
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112 Responses to Full Bust Alterations (or Adjustments) ~ FBA

  1. MomGrandma says:

    I’m late to the dance with my posting, but congratulations on being so innovative. Every shirt, dress and coat of mine is shorter in the front and unflattering. I’m going to use your approach as a jumping-off point and tweak it to my shape. Thank you.

  2. Sam says:

    OK, so I am a beginning sew-er with a question. An experienced seamstress took my measurements and showed me how to choose patterns based on my measurements and not my dress (RTW) size. So if I am using a pattern that should fit the girls (my biggest part) then do I need to do a FBA?

  3. Beryl Small says:

    The technique does not just add inches to the bust, it adds inches to the the waist and hips, and my pattern currentyly fits perfectly in the waist and hips, so once I use this technique, the bust fits and the waist and hips are now too big. Am I missing something?

  4. Jansie says:

    This is so helpful. My ‘girls’ thank you! ;)

  5. laura says:

    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!!

  6. Laurel says:

    I was in the midst of making my daughter’s wedding dress and was having no end of problems with the strapless princess cut bodice. This tutorial made all the difference! I went from ready-to-give-up frustration to success! I finished the dress last night and its just about 2 weeks until the wedding. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  7. Jean says:

    Wow! Thank you! I’ve been able to adjust several patterns with confidence, and it has made a huge difference in the end result.

  8. Amy says:

    I needed this more than you can beileve at a triple D!

  9. Jocelyn says:

    Thank you! This is the best explanation I’ve found on how to do this type of adjustment. I’m finally able to use the princess seam patterns I’ve been dreaming about getting to “some day.”

  10. Josephine says:

    I have been making my own clothes since high school, and it’s always been a nightmare to adjust bust lines. At 95 lbs and a 36 DDD, it was bad enough. Time has flown, now I’m all grown up and no longer 95 lbs, but even now at a size 14 or 16, I’m still freakishly top heavy at FF or G. So I make skirts, slacks and big floppy shirts, and I buy stretchy tops for underneath. Thanks for such an easily understandable way to alter a pattern. Even after all these years, it’s great to learn something new!

  11. Dawn says:

    Good Question Rachel…I have that same problem also.

  12. Dawn says:

    Thank you so much for this!! I am somewhat new to sewing clothing but I want to sew my own top. It is so hard to find a top that fits right for a 36H!!! I will have to try it out. I hope I can do it! It would be great to have a top that its right for once.

  13. Rachel says:

    I just watched the Palmer and Pletsch sewing for the full bust DVD and found your tutorial. My concern is that I’m a 32F with a narrow waist and narrow hips–in other words if I do a FBA and increase at all beneath the bust, the garment below the bust is enormous on my body. I know my situation is not typical, but do you or anyone else have any suggestions for how to, after making a FBA, then nip in the waist?

  14. Eka says:

    Hmm…. it’s interesting seeng this because I learnt how to make patterns so it’s much easer to adapt the style around the client rather than rely on a pattern piece only to end up adjusting.

  15. Sherri says:

    I, too, would like to know how to alter a pattern for a less-than-full bust. Or what I can do to alter already-existing clothes, as I’m not much of a sewer and would feel braver not doing something from scratch. (I found a gorgeous nighty the other day, loved it until I tried it on and it was all poochy in the bust. Not that that came as a surprise.)

  16. Jules says:

    I’ve just made this cami top, & used this tutorial, which I found very easy to understand…thanks for making it so Beki. Now I feel confident to make some more & have tops that fit!

  17. Joan says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH !!!!! I have read and read so many books and blogs on the FBA. For what reason, I just could not grasp it. FINALLY, I do now. Thank you so much. This will really help me out.

    Joan

  18. Chantal says:

    Thank you for explaining clearly what is FBA. I am new to sewing, and one of the main reasons why I started sewing is because I’m a size DD, but not overweight in the other areas of my body, so I always have problem fitting in clothes that I buy. It’s either to big on my body (to fit my boobs completely) or to small, my boobs look like they will pop out… I thought that sewing my own clothes would solve my problems, but I quickly realized that patterns are also made for “standard” sizes… I’ve been reading a lot about sewing on the internet, and I see this FBA thing everywhere, but never really get what it really means! Well after reading your blog, I finally get what it is exactly. Two days ago, I read a review about a DVD for full bust adjustment, and I ordered it right away… so with your explanation I will already have a good understanding of this FBA thing, which will help me understand my DVD faster and better, so hopefully I’ll be able to make clothes that finally fit!! My first projects were with knits, and after a few tries on cheap fabrics, I started to try to alter the patterns by myself, but the results haven’t been good, I have sewn about 10 tops, and none of them I would wear in public, I will keep them to wear around the house….anyway THANK YOU very much for taking the time to help others.

  19. Michele says:

    Thank you thank you! I’m familiar with the slash-n-spread method, but it’s kind of confusing on princess seams or when the darts are rotated around. Thanks for the help!

  20. Judi Stansky says:

    I have been sewing for 53 years (will be 60 in January!) and I must say that your tutorials have taught me solutions to problems that I have never been able to solve to my satifaction. I’ve filed each entry for future use, and wanted you to know how thankful I am to you fo taking the time to teach us what you’ve learned. Happy New Year! Judi

  21. Iwana says:

    I have a question about the 3rd picture. I’m a D-cup, so guess I need to add 1″. Are you saying to add an inch to BOTH of those cuts you made in the pattern, or 1/2″ to each for a total of 1″?

  22. Raven says:

    Thank You Thank You Thank You! I am a size E or F. I loved the lotus cami but knew it was never meant for “my Girls”. Now I may attempt it after all.

    Now I need a big rear end tutorial! LOL

  23. mindi says:

    oh, my goodness. this nearly made me cry with joy. i tried my hand at starting to make some of my own clothes last summer, and was totally devastated every time- nothing fit properly, and isn’t that supposed to be the point?! that things would fit better?! sigh…you’ve given me new hope. thank you, thank you.

  24. Thanks for this! I sometimes avoid patterns because they might not fit me right on top. Not anymore! :)

  25. Rosesred says:

    Very useful post, just what I needed. Very clear explanation, will definitely try this for my new wrapdress.

  26. Sarah says:

    Thanks so much! This is enormously helpful.

  27. Jane says:

    Thank you so much for this! I was only a “b” in HS, uh some 19 years ago!

  28. Kerryn says:

    This is awesome thank you. I have this exact problem and have been frustrated with sewing tops for me. This will help enormously!

  29. katy says:

    patterns do seem to discriminate against us busty gals. so thanks for tutorial. totally helpful!

  30. Del says:

    Great tutorial, Beki – thanks so much. I can’t wait to try this out!

  31. Amanda says:

    This is so incredibly awesome and informative. Now, hopefully, I be able to fit the “girls” into lots of cute things.

  32. Nada says:

    super useful!

  33. s. says:

    this is awesomely helpful. I was wondering if you have any advice about altering already made clothes for big boobs – I have to buy them big to fit, and it would be cool if I could then fix them so they fit the rest of me better.

  34. Sage says:

    Very good tutorial, and thanks for the resource tips. Now I need to get “Real Fit for Real People,” by Palmer Pletsch to help me with adjusting the arm pattern width.

  35. This will come in handy, thanks so much!!

  36. Jenny says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!! Can’t wait to try this out!

  37. Lisa Clarke says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this! I’m pretty intimidated by patterns in the first place, but knowing that a pattern is unlikely to fit my, uh, curves properly without alteration has made it even more scary of a prospect. I feel better equipped now to handle the challenge!

  38. Libby says:

    Great info. Thanks.

  39. Tara Douglas says:

    Can’t wait to try this out!

  40. I love this blog because I have had so much trouble with patterns not fitting correctly, since I’m not exactly an A or B cup.

  41. EmmyLizzy says:

    Great tutorial – unfortunately, i have the opposite problem in the bust department.

  42. LisaW says:

    Thank you for this! It will come in very handy!

  43. emily says:

    I’m not sure about this because so much is added to the waist as well. My fitting problems, bustwise, are not just with the shoulders but with all the fabric underneath the bust.

  44. micki says:

    I’m still scared to try this, but I’m going to have to because I actually bought a dress pattern for myself!

  45. Great information – will definitely be hanging onto this post.
    Camille

  46. Happy Zombie says:

    Oh Beki… this is the best tutorial EVER! I’m bustin’ out with joy over this… it’s the answer to all my problems. Well, my two biggest problems. And I love the Lotus Cami top. Serious, serious love!

  47. Tamera says:

    This is great! too often is the bust too small…this will change that!

  48. Shawn Britton says:

    Thank you from a big-busted lady! So helpful!

  49. What a helpful tutorial – Thanks so MUCH!

  50. Kerry McConnell says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how useful this has already been for me. I’d half figured out some of this on my own, but to have such a nicely put together tutorial is wonderful!

  51. Amber says:

    Thanks so much for this!! I haven’t tried to make clothes for myself because of this very thing!

  52. bec says:

    thank you, thank you, and thank you!

    now to see if i can do it.

  53. Bree says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a busty girl who loves to sew, this is going to be immensely helpful, hopefully I’ll be doing my first garment next week using this technique!

  54. Cinco says:

    Thank you so much, this is going to be SO helpful!!!

  55. Alissa says:

    This is great! It’s a constant issue for me – even when buying clothes – so to know how to adjust for my “full bust” (my husband is happier about it than me…) is wonderful!! Thank you, thank you!!

  56. colleen says:

    I always wondered how to do this. Thank you for the great article. Going to be trying this soon.

  57. Kim B. says:

    So helpful!

  58. Suzville says:

    This is going to change my sewing life. I had only seen the term “FBA” mentioned on a blog once, and wondered what it was, and then saw this post. I am a DD! I have already made a casual summer dress with some lovely vintage fabric I recently purchased at a yard sale, and I added width to the bust. The style of the dress didn’t necessitate a FBA, but if it hadn’t been for this post, I’d have made a size 18 again. Yay! Thank you!

  59. Mel says:

    This busty girl is bookmarking this post!

  60. denitza says:

    Very, very helpful info! Thank you very much and great tutorial!

  61. Whitney says:

    Thanks! That really helps me. I have a fuller bust :)

  62. Sue says:

    This was really helpful, something I need to learn. thanks so much for the tutorial.

  63. Amy says:

    Thanks! Very helpful tutorial.

  64. Mrs. Pear says:

    Thank you so much for this – as a gal who is not, and never will be mistaken for, a size 0, or 5, this is very helpful!

  65. Anne says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! You make it seem completely do-able, I’ll have to give it a shot

  66. Georgia says:

    Awesome. I would have never figured this out on my own! This would be especially helpful for nursing attire:)

  67. Sarah says:

    Such clear instructions, Beki! I’m so impressed you’re able to modify your patterns like that. I need to figure out the opposite… Small bust alterations! It will be on my to do list a while, I’m sure.

  68. Joanna says:

    My very full bust thanks you for this tutorial!

  69. Ginger says:

    This is totally great! I’ve been sort of just buying a larger pattern and then taking in the waist, but yeah, the shoulders are always too big. No more! Hurray!

  70. Chassie says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, it can be frustrating when you make a garment and it fits great everywhere but in the bust.

  71. Karen says:

    This was a great post! I look forward to feeling confident enough to try this technique some day.

  72. Sara says:

    thank you for all of the tutorials. I hope that you will do one on small bust adjustments as well. some of us don’t fill out the standard B-cup. :-)

  73. Jeanne says:

    This looks easy enough to try. Thank you for the demo.

  74. Regan says:

    Thanks Beki for the tip. Enjoyed the post muchly.

  75. PrutsPrinses says:

    Thanks Beki, it’s on my birthday wishlist now ;)
    Meanwhile (to Gretchen, Mandy, Margaret and others) i found this:
    http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/sewingclasses/board.pl?t=8369
    and
    http://hungryzombiecouture.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-cup-does-not-runneth-over.html

  76. Sheila says:

    You explained this so clearly and perfectly!

    I’m going to get out a pattern and try it now – I’ve been nervous to use a woven for a top for myself, but I think I can manage it with your FBA instructions!

    Thanks!

  77. Rebecca says:

    This is wonderful!!! I can’t wait to try it out, maybe I will make that same Amy Butler top, it is so cute.

    If only I had time to sew this weekend….thank you so much for the tutorial! As a 32DD I have always had fitting issues.

  78. margaret m. says:

    Good tutorial. I have an AA cup and thin all over, any suggestions that will keep me from looking like I am wearing my big sisters clothes??

  79. Betsy Pratt says:

    Absolutely awesome information! I can hardly wait to try this out!! I’ve always been too intimidated to sew a top since some miserably disappointing maternity wear 17 years ago! ;)

    Lotus Cami pattern here I come!!
    Betsy

  80. Kelli says:

    I feel encouraged to sew for myself now! It is so frustrating to go to the trouble to make something for yourself and then have it not fit right! And now I know how to fix it. Thank you, Beki! You’ve made my day!

  81. beki says:

    PrutsPrinses – of the three books I mentioned, the Fit for Real People is the most extensive, in my opinion. I’ve used that one most of all.

  82. beki says:

    Regan, if it does make the top too wide, you can take up the excess in the princess seam or side seam below the bust.

  83. PrutsPrinses says:

    Thanks for the tip Beki,
    might have to check on Amazon sometimes though, since the books aren’t so well known overseas!
    Looks like Gretchen and Mandy are interested too, so if I find some info, I will pass it on!

  84. Regan says:

    Thanks for that tutorial. I have recently go back into making my own clothes. I made the lotus dress recently for a wedding and had to take it in quite a bit under the bust line as it looked a bit like a sack over my DD cup lactating breasts. I’ll try again but with a FBA- although I wonder about widening the side front panel – will that make it a bit sack-like again? I’ll do a muslin to check. Thanks!

  85. Thank you so much! I have been wondering how to do this, and which measurement would be best for choosing a pattern.

  86. Sara says:

    I love, love, love this month’s posts! Thank you to all the contributors for taking the time to share your knowledge.

    I would love to have someone post about altering ready made garments. Any tips would be welcome. Thanks!

  87. indigirl says:

    This is exactly what I need right now! I want to make that Built By Wendy top that everyone was doing last summer (Simplicity 3835), but the top point of the front piece isn’t the actual shoulder point. Any suggestions? Can you add a dart to a pattern that doesn’t have a dart?

  88. Mandy says:

    Such great info these weeks, I can’t wait to get started on something for myself. I really need info on how to make patterns smaller, especially in the top area A cup ( or less) Opposite problem than most after 3 kids!

  89. Gretchen says:

    Great tute! but how do you alter for an A-cup?

  90. Stacey says:

    I’m preparing to make my first top and I’m a D cup. This tutorial came just in time!

  91. megan says:

    this posting is great & easy to understand. it’s a whole new world now!

  92. Tammy says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Great post!

  93. Mia says:

    Thanks for the information! My “girls” have been larger than a b cup since junior high!

  94. beki says:

    PrutsPrinses –
    Yes, the opposite can be done. I’ve never personally done one, but I know for certain that those books I mentioned have directions on how to do it. You may want to out check your local library.

  95. upstatelisa says:

    thanks Beki. i didn’t know until this week about the B cup thing for commercial patterns!!!!

  96. Mindy says:

    Have I told you how much I love you? *grins* I am a DD and have never made a top for myself because I did not know how in the world to adjust the bust on the pattern. Thank you so very very much!!

  97. Jennifer says:

    My girls and I thank you!!

  98. Elaine says:

    I think it looks great! Thanks so much for this. It’s given me a little push to try altering tops. I haven’t made clothes for myself in years, just shopped for them. I made a skirt recently for myself and it turned out pretty well. I’ll have to expand my horizons :).

  99. Missy says:

    I am so grateful for this! So are “the girls”.

  100. Lil' d says:

    Thank you so much for this – I’m so glad I procrastinated, as I have all these patterns to try for me, and now I feel more prepared going in…

  101. jessi says:

    excellent info Beki – thanks! This is one I’ll definitely be using if I ever get up the courage to make myself a top.

  102. Alejandra says:

    I bought alot of patterns, If you girls don’t tell me it’s possible to make alterations, I would’ve made a huge mistake and cry, I didn’t know I could cut the patterns, so Thank you.

  103. Brandy says:

    Thanks so much ^-^ I’ve wanted to make some tops for myself from some patterns I found but I was stuck on how to keep from making a tent! *chuckles*

  104. Great article, Beki! I think I should have been making a full bust adjustment all along, I don’t have huge boobs, but I do wear a 34 D, so definitely bigger than a B. I will try this on my next pattern, I may make the Lotus Cami, since I can follow your directions and pictures LOL

  105. Mary says:

    Beki, this is fantastic and so helpful!

  106. Annette says:

    What a great tutorial. THANK YOU. I’ve been sewing for years and been pretty lucky with adjustments, but love that cami pattern you used (and have been hesitant to purchase it). Now i’ll go buy and will definitely use your instructions to make the needed adjustments. Happy Sewing!

  107. Amy says:

    This is awesome!

  108. debra says:

    This is great information. I might just be brave enough to try and make a top for myself now.

  109. alpa says:

    First time here – you have an amazing blog! Thank you so much for all the detail about FBA. I keep reading about it on all the blogs and pattern review, but never fully understood it. As a completely new sewer, sometimes it’s all Greek to me :) I really appreciate the time you took to picturise this. Thanks!

  110. Michele C says:

    Well written and very interesting.

  111. PrutsPrinses says:

    What about the opposite thing?
    If patterns are made for B-cups, will there be fitting problems for A-cups?
    Or is there something like the reverse of the FBA?

  112. Leah says:

    Great job! A good resource for those of us with a larger than B cup.

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