Full Bust Adjustment: Gathered Bodice

Back when I made the Mermaid Dress I tried googling for instructions on completing an FBA on a gathered bodice. Whilst I found awesome instructions over at Sew Mama, Sew on a princess line adjustment (used many times now – check it out) I came up empty handed and proceeded to completely improvise. It all came together in the end but it must have been blind luck because now I’ve seen a correct FBA on a gathered bodice, I have no idea how I ended up with something presentable.

So here, in the hope it helps some other desperate googler, are the step-by-step instructions on a gathered bodice full bust adjustment as adapted from Palmer/Pletsch.

  1. Select your starting size by measuring your high bust (under your arms) and using this as your bust measurement. Trace off your bodice pieces so you don’t screw up the original (ahem, looking in the mirror). Mark your stitching lines and apply small strips of tape to the wrong side of the tissue along the arm hole on the front + back bodice. Clip to the curve to the stitching line; the tape acts like stay stitching preventing the paper from tearing.
  2. Pin together the front and back bodice and try the pieces on. Measure between the center front marked on the pattern and your actual center front at the full bust point. This is going to be your FBA measurement. For pictures of these first steps check out this post.
  3. On your bodice front piece, draw a vertical line from the bottom of the tissue to the bust apex parrallel to the center front. Continue the line to the stitching line about  1/3 of the way up the armhole (often there is a notch at this point). This is Line 1.
  4. Draw a line from the side seam to the apex, approximately where a bust dart would usually fall. This is Line 2.
  5. Draw a horizontal line, 90 degrees to the center front, from line one to the center edge. This is Line 3.
  6. Using a couple of pins, secure the center front to a piece of cardboard.

  7. Using scissors, cut up Line 1 to the stitching line a spread the tissue by your FBA measurement (2 inches in my case). Pin at apex.

  8. Cut through Line 2to the apex but not through it, leaving a hinge. Swing the lower piece down so that the cut edges of Line 1 are an even, and parallel distance (your FBA measurement) apart. Secure with pins.

  9. Cut all the way through Line 3 and lower so it matches the new lower edge of the tissue being sure to keep the center front matched.

  10. Take note of the length you have added to your bodice, in this case 1 1/4 inches. This will come in handy later.

  11. Fill in all your gaps with tissue except Line 2. If you wanted to, you could fill this in and make it a horizontal dart but in this case we are all about the gathers so we need to rotate that space into the gathers at the bottom.

  12. But first let’s talk length. For most people, a simple FBA as noted so far should add sufficient length to the bodice, however, for my particular bust shape I need an additional 1 1/2 inches on top of the FBA. My biggest pet peeve with this style of RTW clothing is when the empire line sits on my bust rather than under it so I cut the pattern piece horizontally along the upper edge of Line 3 and spread it by this distance, filling the gap with tissue.
  13. If you add the additional length to the front, don’t forget to do the same to the back.
  14. Whether you added the additional length in Step 12 or not the FBA continues by cutting  up the far edge of Line 1 to the point of Line 2 but not through it, leaving a hinge.
  15. This allows you to swing the tissue up, closing the gap on Line 2 and opening space along the line just cut. Tape Line 2 together.

  16. Fill in your gap. This creates extra gathers under the bust allowing your girls the space they need and deserve. For me this FBA added 2″ of width, 3″ of length and 4″ of extra gathers and  ecause it is gathered it can be eased into whichever size you have cut for the midriff or skirt.

And that is all there is to it. If you look closely at the pictures, you will see what my next project is so until then…



  • Brumby November 22, 2010

    Butterick something, my eyesight is not so great…

    I also hate it when an empire rides half way up my chest, not flattering on the bust in profile either! Mind you have not made anything empire for goodness knows how long now….

  • rachel November 23, 2010

    I can only see the Butterick bit too, no numbers…. now the suspense is killing me!

  • Law November 24, 2010

    Thank you so much! I’m a beginner sewer and the FBA is an absolute essential for me as my cup size is so far beyond a B cup it’s not funny. I made New look 6557, view B and worked out a similar FBA method to you. But I ended up with way too much gathering as i made my FBA bigger than i needed to, as i too need more length than width. Wish i’d seen this beforehand. Just so you know your blog is inspirational for the curvier gal. Loving your FBA tutorials. If you ever make a dress similar to the Bura Style Danielle please do an FBA tutorial on that! It only has a vertical dart, so i’m not sure whether to add a horizontal one or do two verticals like you did on Colette Macaron.

  • Jan February 13, 2011

    Thank you very much. After following your FBA instructions, I now have a well fitted empire line dress to take with me on my trip to New Zealand. I have made a dress using the same pattern before but it didn’t fit underneath the bust properly and I was always trying to pull it into place.

  • Ashley March 22, 2011

    YES!! Thank you so much for this. I has pretty much worked this out from what I know from Fit for real people, but its so nice to see a tutorial and know I’m on the right track! 😀 Thanks again.
    Ashley x

    • lazystitcher March 23, 2011

      Oh I’m so glad it was helpful! 🙂

  • noreen October 04, 2011

    thank you! thank you! THANK YOU!

  • Valerie September 18, 2012

    Hello, THANK YOU so much for these instructions. I am making New Look 6699; http://www.simplicity.com/p-2410-misses-dresses.aspx With the bodice E for my sister. She is tiny, with DD cups. Would this method of adjusting the FBA work with that bodice? Thank you so so much for your help!

  • Kristin June 02, 2013

    Thank you so much! I was working on my muslin for Sew Serendipity’s Marilyn dress and when I put it on, it was very scary. And I didn’t even know where to start to do an FBA with a gathered top. Your instructions walked me through it and when I stitched together muslin #2, it fit perfectly. Now I can can make the real thing without worry. A million thank you’s!

  • jen September 16, 2013

    Hi, some advice pretty please! Do you think this method would work for this empire cut dress: http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20071228024536/vintagepatterns/images/c/c5/3774B-1970s_Bridal.jpg
    I am slightly concerned because although my pattern it is also gathered under the breasts, the pattern piece then curves up to a centre point (which becomes the point of the v in the v-neck) and i am worried about the pivoting changing the location of this centre point?
    I found the shirt you were making with this alteration, its wonderful!
    Thank you, thank you! For some crazy reason, i have decided, as a relative beginner that making my own wedding dress was the smart thing to do..hmmm!

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