Adventures in bodice-fitting Part 1: Shoulder Princess Seams

Since summers here can be a hot, sticky, rage-inducing hell, I’ve decided that I need more blouses. For whatever reason, a woven cotton shirt is cooler (relative term, obviously) than a t-shirt, so I wanted to make up some blouses that I could keep cool in this summer while still being semi-professional in case I should need to meet up with any of my husband’s customers. In light of that, I decided that I should try my hand at fine-tuning bodice fit, and being a fairly busty gal, I thought I could share my experience with others and help them out.

You’ve already seen the finished Burda JJ that I tweaked to fit me, but I decided that I would go ahead and show the alterations I made in case they help someone else. Plus, lots of people seem to really like the step-by-steps to go with the end result. This will be a multi-part series to save your brain from boredom overload and as I post them I will link them back and forth so you can find the one you want easily. There will also be some copy/pasting of similar steps to save me some time, so if you’re reading through and feel some deja vu, that’s why.

  • Part 1: Shoulder Princess Seams
  • Part 2: Armscye Princess Seams (with bonus conversion from darted blouse)
  • Part 3: Darted Blouse??
  • Empire Waist Edition
  1. Choose a size (I recommend tracing). I discovered that if I cut a size that was between my full bust size and my high bust size I could skip the FBA (and obviously grade in/out for waist/hips if you’d like). BUT!!!!!! You’ll want the full 5/8th seam allowances for this (at least to start with). And the reason for that is that you will be using that 5/8ths to play around with the bust fit instead of an FBA. (Note: There is a 9″ difference between my underbust and full bust measurements, if you are bigger than this, it may not work, but it’s still worth a try!) One thing to keep in mind is that if you are grading, be sure to copy the armscye portion directly from the pattern so that you don’t mess up the fit of your sleeve–you are more than welcome to grade out once you are below that as needed. Of course, if you are confident and have a lot of sleeve ease or are planning to use a larger size sleeve, you might be able to fudge this a bit.
  2. Cut out the traced pieces and the muslin.
  3. Baste the main seams together using the 5/8th seam allowance. It’s going to be tricky, but you can do it! Just go slowly and DON’T use pins–they prevent the fabric from easing. Don’t use your IDT or walking foot either for the same reason.
  4. Check your fit in the mirror and see where you want to take in/let out. For me, I wanted to take in across the front shoulders, let out over the bust, take in immediately under the bust, and leave alone through the waist/hips.
  5. Mark each area that needs changed with some chalk and make some notes (mental or on paper) about how much you want to take in/let out, remembering that you still plan to eat/chase small children/breathe/etc. whilst wearing this thing.
  6. Leaving in your old basting, re-baste your seam curving gently in/out between your marks. (This way you don’t have to worry about puckers, pinning, slippage, and all that other jazz.)
  7. Pick out your original basting stitches and check your new fit–you should be good at this point–remember, too much isn’t always better, sometimes it’s just too much. We’re not going for sausage casings here. But if you want to take in an area a bit more or perhaps didn’t quite let out enough, re-baste just those areas and check the fit again.
  8. Once you’re happy, then take your colored chalk (in a different color if at all possible) and trace down your stitches (the ones you plan to keep, obv.) so that you can pick out the stitches and see exactly where your new seamline will be.
  9. Transfer those changes to your pattern pieces, adding and subtracting seams allowances as needed or desired–nothing says you have to keep using 5/8th’s seam allowances, but if you change them, be sure to change them everywhere or otherwise make note of it or you’ll have a not-so-fun surprise in the end. Not that I would know that from experience or anything…. 😉 I just laid the tissue pieces that I had traced off over the muslin pieces and gently traced the stitching line with a pencil, added more paper where necessary, and cut off the excess paper where necessary. Your pieces will probably look deformed and you’ll question whether you are some sort of mutant, but ignore that and focus on the fact that you looked HAWT in that blouse muslin a minute ago.
  10. If you’re concerned, check the fit of the sleeves, maybe attach a collar to your muslin to try it out in case you haven’t made one before (or just in a long time), and then you’re ready for the real thing! Now sew up several blouses, because you can never have too many, and no one will have to know you used the same pattern over and over because most blouse variation is in the fabric and the sleeves. 🙂

Now I realize that looks like a lot of steps just to skip an FBA, but I found that it actually took less time than hacking into the pattern pieces using the the slash/spread method, and then still having to cut/sew a muslin. Plus, I’m just not a lover of darts, sorry, not sorry. And one of the things I really like about the Burda block (which is what this tutorial is based on) is that it has high, small armscyes which helps me avoid the weird gaping that I sometimes get there.

And if you are a more visual learner, the gallery below should help clarify some of the wordyness from above. And feel free to ask questions in the comments if I need to clarify something or made a glaring mistake (I am a tired momma, after all!) Good luck and happy sewing! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Adventures in bodice-fitting Part 1: Shoulder Princess Seams

  1. a) Darts are the devil.
    a2) No, really.
    b) T-shirts that fit properly (on me) are in no way cool. Actually, I find just about all knits to be murderously hot. Agree.
    c) It looks so good! I especially love the way the princess seams work with your stripes.
    d) Excited for the armscye princess seam hack.


    • I forgot to respond, EEP! Some blogger I am!
      a) Yes, yes they are. And when they’re used with princess seams or on knits they scream “homemade” (with an edge towards tacky), IMO.
      b) I think if I were more willing to sew tissue knits I might think they were less hot, but I’ve never really been so inclined (they don’t seem to last–maybe I’m a vigorous washer?)
      c) Thank you! I was worried that the stripes looked odd with the shaping, but my next muslin (still not finished–thank you house selling/buying, NOT!) is striped too (and so is the fabric for the final version) so hopefully it’ll be OK.
      d) It’s actually pretty similar, and it did work! Yay! I just haven’t finished it yet, so haven’t made the final version and done the post yet. See house buying/selling annoyance above.


  2. Pingback: Adventures in bodice-fitting: Empire waist edition | Splinters & Stitches

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