Adventures in bodice-fitting: Empire waist edition

Almost a year ago when I wrote the original Adventures in Bodice Fitting post, I never dreamed it would take me this long to get back around to posting another one. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Anyway, so this time I made up Kwik Sew 3199, which is a blouse I’d tried before back in my earlier days of trying to fit my bust, and it failed. Rather spectacularly, actually. As I recall, I made up two or three mockups, but never could nail down the fit, so I gave up. Now I have a bit more experience under my belt and so I was successful in altering this one and making it up. I made up a version in a cute teeny floral print, but sadly, two strikes were against it.

  1. Not enough fabric. This is what happens sometimes when you try and use up your stash. Although, it would have been OK with contrasting collar/cuffs, if it hadn’t been for…
  2. Belly shirt! Yikes! Unhemmed this thing hit half an inch above my jeans. Part of this is the pattern, and part of it was my fault. See, I shortened the front and back bodice to get it to be remotely close to the empire line it’s drafted for. I have an exceptionally short back length, and as drafted, the size I needed put the back empire line just above my hips. No bueno. I shortened the front less, but had to improvise a bust dart to make the seams match from front to back.

Also on the unintentional muslin, I stole the cuff from Butterick 5284 , View A. It’s a cute wing cuff thing, and I’ll have to restrain myself from using it on every sleeve because it’s that cute.

So anyway, if you’re up to it, here’s my alterations:

  • Shortened the back empire seam somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 inches. Part of it was taken from the armscye, effectively making the armhole smaller by about 2 inches.
  • On the back of the bodice I needed to do a narrow shoulder adjustment (first), so I slashed all the way down to the bottom of the pattern piece and slid the shoulder together about 3/4″. On my unintentional muslin, I hadn’t done this alteration yet and my sleeves looked pretty terrible. I got the explanation for that adjustment from SewBrooke. Thanks, Brooke! 🙂
  • After the narrow shoulder adjustment, I did a broad back adjustment. Apparently, having narrow shoulders and a broad back isn’t the norm, but that’s what I’ve got, so I had to figure out how to work with it. I sort of modified the adjustment suggested in my Better Home and Gardens sewing book, based on what I had seen the Slapdash Sewist do. That adjustment was about 11/16″. One thing I learned from this though is that if you do this, there’s a chance you’ll end up with a very nearly bias angle that will do what bias is best at, stretching. So, I plan to put a small strip of fusible interfacing in the seam allowances on that for next time, because this time I had to cut the excess off, and that’s not so pretty on a plaid. 😦
  • On the front I chose a size that was big enough for my full bust, which I’m unsure of whether I would do that again, because it led to a series of other adjustments.
  • Shortened the front bodice about 2″. All of this was in the armscye area because the armholes would have been peekaboo-ing my love handles if I’d have left them alone. (Ok, maybe not quite that bad…but close!) I need to add some back under the armscye for next time though, since the empire line doesn’t sit *quite* on my chest wall.
  • Added a bust dart to make the front empire line match up with the back empire line when sewn together. No, it doesn’t point exactly where it’s supposed to, but it’s close enough that 99% of people won’t notice. Especially, if I sew them neatly.
  • Narrowed up the front bodice shoulders the same as the back–this actually was a bonus in that it narrowed up the high bust area too, which was desperately needed. I guess I have a fairly narrow chest, which is kind of frustrating coupled with the full bust.
  • I goofed around with the sleeves; scooping, undoing some of the scooping, shifting things around, removing sleeve cap height, adding some back….basically, I retraced (and then proceeded to hack and tape) the sleeve pattern piece 3 times trying to get something that would fit both my flabby muscular arms and the armscye. Turns out, that can be a bit of a trick. Eventually I got there, but I’m not real sure what I did, and I really don’t know if I could ever do it again. It might have been easier to just figure out how to draft my own from scratch, honestly.
  • And finally, I added 3″ of length to all the lower panels. This put it back to the original length, based on what I took out, but I think I would actually add another 2″ next time to go with low rise jeans. My finished shirt has a 3/4″ hem, and with low rise jeans there’s just a smidgen of skin flashing when I raise my arms.

Currently, it’s sitting on my dressform waiting for buttonholes and buttons. Since I can’t do those in house, they haven’t gotten done. (Finished just in time to wear it for Easter thanks to my lovely MIL!) I was also waiting for the second version (stretch poly satin) to be finished. Sadly, poor fabric choice and the puffy sleeves killed it. Mostly the puffy sleeves, but the fabric was also a bit of a pain to sew with, and distorted very easily–not mention it was fraytastic! And with 1/4″ seam allowances, you have no room for fraying! But yes, the puffy sleeve look just isn’t for me. I guess that my arms are too fat for that nonsense, because it just looked ridiculous, and I didn’t have enough fabric to cut new sleeves–I barely had enough to cut out the pieces I needed. So I decided that since it was cheap, crappy fabric anyway, it wasn’t a big loss. I’m not that sad about it. The fabric challenge was good experience for me–how often do you get to work with 4 layers of slippery fabric on a collar? It was a good test of my skills, and quite frankly, I nailed it.

So I know that 1 out of 3 sounds bad, but I don’t feel like it is. I’m choosing to think of it in terms of the things I learned and the quality of workmanship that was used. Am I frustrated? Yeah, a little, but I’ve got the fit nailed down, so as soon as I get the time to try it on a non-dodgy fabric (that I actually have some extra of!), I think I could knock out another or two really quickly.

I suppose ya’ll have probably earned some pictures, so enjoy! (Click to enlarge.)

9 thoughts on “Adventures in bodice-fitting: Empire waist edition

  1. Pingback: Adventures in bodice-fitting Part 1: Shoulder Princess Seams | Splinters & Stitches

  2. I always find alterations so weird – how can we have narrow shoulders but wide backs (or super full, full bust points but tiny upper busts). Everything is a challenge!


  3. Pingback: Know when to walk away… | Splinters & Stitches

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