Manipulate Darts, Not People

I have a large chest and I don’t have any love or hate about it. I’m zen about it. It just is. I’ve been made fun of and right now, as I type this, I’m okay. It’s not always okay but I’m 35. I can vaguely deal.

I get sad when I hear body slamming, in any direction. You will be happier if you love the body you have. I’m obviously not telling you not to eat healthy or exercise but just because someone is extremely anything does it mean they are unhealthy. Do all the good things for yourself but also make the clothes you want to fit you the way you are now.

I’m getting to bust darts, I swear.

After having two kids, it seemed expected of me to lose weight and be back in my pre-pregnancy clothes. What nobody knew, or remembered, was that I have been this size and (mostly the same) shape for a long time. I was several sizes smaller when I met the Hubbinator but it was never a weight I could easily or happily maintain. I ran everyday, was in a very exhausting puppet theater tour and took dance classes at night. That’s all I did.

Well, now, I very much like my life and going back to a different size doesn’t overwhelm me…though here I am, blogging about it.

What does that say?

I’m curious about what I think. Strange way to put it but sometimes I have to say something outloud or blog it out to see if I still agree with the thoughts locked up in my head.

Bust darts are related. Remember my first Portrait Blouse. Oh, I trust you’ve forgotten it. Well, I didn’t do my pre-thinking work and ended up with bust darts parallel to the floor. There are more flattering placements.

This wouldn’t be a post about darts if I didn’t mention Anne Hathaway’s dress at the 2013 Oscars. Her dress had darts that ended right at what looks like her bust apex and a lot of people missed that it was a dart issue not her bewb showing through her dress. Do you see how much darts can draw focus? I guess the near flesh-like color of Anne’s dress contributed to it, too.

You know I love my 1912 costumes but I need to do something about the wonky collar on my second 1912 blouse. I cringe every time I see this picture though I’m madly in love with the skirt. I don’t think I did a large enough FBA for how blousey 1912 tops were and this fully contributes to my distaste for under bust gathering.

Titanic costume side front

An example of an armscye dart. This dress also flatters because there’s no line marking my waist. I don’t use it as a rule, but I do find that horizontal lines are harder for people to accept on me. Here’s a tute on creating an armscye dart by Sew2Pro. TNG skant I has Combadge close up darts

The dreaded side bust dart on my first Portrait Blouse with a very cool hand picked zipper.


Part of why these side bust darts aren’t flattering is because I think I could’ve ended the dart further back, which is what you should do. The larger your chest, the larger the distance between the apex and the end of your dart. I could’ve also pivoted the dart fullness elsewhere.

portrait blouse new

I love these center bust gathers in my Wonder Woman dress. You can spin your darts to create this look using Gertie’s tutorial here. You can then make a darts or gathers. Another thing that’s working with this dress is that the blue skirt starts just below my waist so I look like I have a bit of a longer torso.


I love my circuit board dress a lot…except for the darts. Luckily it’s not that noticeable in this cotton print. If you look closely, you might be able to see the center darts (unlike the center gather from the dress above) and one of the darts runs horizontal straight to my bust apex. If this were a solid fabric, I’d be getting the same look as with my first Portrait blouse. Other than that, I love the waist, neckline an armhole piping. Love it. This is Butterick 5490 and I think with a little fiddling of the bust gathers/pleats it would look much nicer on me.


Again, gathers at the center instead of coming from the side. There were other fitting issues going on with this dress that I really don’t like but I love the bustline pleats which are topstitched down for about 2″. That face I’m making is me trying to smile after having dental work.

I loved the bust pleats and got practice while doing a mock-up. This bodice is from Butterick 5455. The mock-up shows you some pooling in the middle of the bodice in between my bewbs. I’m so glad I fixed that!

021 - Copy

I don’t have any good pictures of my version of McCalls 6379 even though I love the bodice with the angled midriff. I don’t know if you’re catching on, but I don’t really like below the bust gathers or darts very much and that’s mostly because of how my bewbs are shaped. This pattern managed to suspend my disbelief in these bust darts. The midriff curves at the perfect spot for how I’m shaped which creates a minimizing effect, should I want that. The fabric also helped. It was much drapier and softer than, say, the circuit boards dress fabric.


I did manage to get some decent side darts on my Colette Violet Blouse. I learned from my Portrait Blouse and angled the darts and used a poly chiffon. As drapey as it is, it hangs in a nice soft way. I won’t apologize for the dork face I’m making. Read the post if you wanna see what the goofy is all about.

This next one is one of my first efforts in fitting. I like how the neck turned out so close to my body but the sleeves are too tight and the bust darts are painful to look at. Part of the problem is also where I ended the dart, how little the darts got pressed and the waist hitting me at my natural waist which was just not working. Lesson learned. Luckily, you get a glimpse of my little guy back when he was tiny. I hope that draws more focus.

final dress2 006

I made this dress below with some gathers below the bust, which I think make my bust look fuller at it’s fullest part. This was also before I discovered that I needed to pinch out the neckline so I wouldn’t get gaping. Sorry about the mirror shot. It was before I had a tripod.

Booties and a light sweater anyone?

Booties and a light sweater anyone?

This photo below was from a trip to Banana Republic to try on some of their Mad Men collection. Remember that? These bust gathers would’ve been better in the style of my Wonder Woman dress, gathered to one point, not several points. You can also see the neckline gaping. How awful to have a gaping neckline and tight bust darts!


I hope this has helped you see how different dart placements affect the look of larger bewbs. What’s your take away from all these photos? Will this make you reconsider a patterns choice of bust darts? Do you think about bust darts this much ever? Do you agree with my assessment? Will you play with rotating darts? Is there anything that would keep you from rotating a dart?

40 thoughts on “Manipulate Darts, Not People

  1. sew2pro says:

    Oh my, you’ve got a very enviable wardrobe there. And figure too! I’m sure not many could wear a dress like the Wonder Woman with so much wow (what was the pattern, may I ask? ). And I love the Trekkie dress. Your clothes are beautiful, you’re becoming your own expert couturier and it looks you’ve had fun getting where you are.

    As for breast-beating about our bodies, when I used to go so playgroups, a certain often funny proportion of our chat was devoted to “how we lost our figures”. I don’t take it seriously; it’s like talking about the weather where no matter how much you moan about it, it’ll do its own thing.

    • Leila says:

      Thanks sew2pro. The Wonder Woman pattern is actually pieced together from Gertie’s New Book for better sewing. I used her pencil skirt and added the bodice from the tiki dress.

      I think talking about how our figures have changed can be helpful in coming to terms with the change, which sounds like the conversations you were having. It’s nice to talk about this stuff.

  2. LadyD says:

    I thought I was the only person who realised it was a dart placement issue on anne hathaways dress.
    I’ve found rather than doing FBA’s which I really don’t understand just angling the dart lower makes fitted tops look better. High necks are *not* my friend. Avoid gathers as far as possible. I will often pleat instead of gather. Also as far as possible some kind of sleeve or ‘shoulder’ covering is required.
    Oh and the proper foundations make all the difference. Choose the right foundation for the right top.

    • Leila says:

      I really do wonder if it would’ve even gone noticed in a black dress?

      As much as I love turtle necks I really don’t like them on me. It’s a love/hate. I also do love a sleek tailored look so that works for me. πŸ™‚

  3. Heather Beckley (@KnitNBee) says:

    This is an awesome post! Thanks for all the pics, it’s fun to see how the different darts look on you. (Well fun for me) This post also made me think I should try armhole darts on dresses. I’ve also had the same problem with side seam darts. For me I found that dropping the dart a lot (in my case up to 2″) and angling it up works well. This could be because my breast tissue is heavy and so my bust “hangs low.” Can’t tie it in a bow though. πŸ˜‰

    • Leila says:

      thanks Heather. Looking at darts is such a geeky sewist thing, isn’t it? You might like armhole darts. I love how they looked on my skant. Don’t tie ’em in a bow. hehe

  4. Tanit-Isis says:

    I have “average” breasts (never need an FBA, occasionally need an SBA), but I’ve struggled a bit with darts. I find I can rarely get them right if they don’t hit almost right on the bust apex. I can keep from getting the nipplies if I shape them carefully, but making them shorter rarely seems to work. I think it’s because there’s less tissue to fill out the space… But it’s possible I’m just incompetent. πŸ™‚

    • Leila says:

      I have read that with smaller breasts you can get pretty close to the apex, no problem. No problem, eh, books? SBAs are a whole world I know so little about. And it’s highly unlikely that you’re any amount of incompetent. πŸ™‚

      • Tanit-Isis says:

        I wouldn’t say no problem (see Ann Hathaway’s dress) but that’s been my experience. I got much happier when I stopped trying to sew perfectly-straight darts and embraced the s-curve ones. πŸ™‚

  5. Tia Dia says:

    Very educational post. I have noticed the same thing on my body: underbust gathers are cutesy and look stupid because, I think, I have a short waist and a comparatively large set of girls and underbust gathers give them a very unflattering saggy/heavier-than-they-are appearance. Sorta like their weight is pulling the damn bodice down. I haven’t played around with the angle of darts much, but because I need to do such a deep FBA (1 inch, sometimes more), I find that splitting them up into sets of smaller darts gets a really nice fit. Depending on the garment, of course. And, like you, the pleats/gathers/fullness above the bust, and coming from the centre I find flattering on me. BTW, thanks for posting this! I’ve had a bummer of a week with two wadders and was really starting to blame the ol’ bod’ as the culprit, when it’s really just about keeping perspective and learning fun new tricks at manipulating fabric!

    • Leila says:

      So well put! It’s such a balance, right? I’m so glad this post helped switch your perspective. All this fitting stuff is so tricky and I find it sometimes quite emotional. It’s weird.

  6. Brooke says:

    My favorite type of darts are curved. It seems like most of the straight darts are somehow just too straight on everyone. I think it’s strange how every sewing book/lesson always starts with darts, yet so few people ever really master them or completely understand them. (I used to hate sewing darts as a kid because I could never make them look right back then.) You have taught yourself a lot of good things about darts and have a good objective way of seeing yourself. =)

    Ann’s pointy darts were so unfortunate! The saddest part was it was a last minute dress change to avoid wearing something similar to someone else – so they probably didn’t have time to fix the darts for her.

    I love that you don’t hate your shape! I wish more people could accept their bodies for just being the shape they are in general. My sister and one of my best friends are shaped very much like you – my sister is learning to accept herself (I think her kids helped put life in perspective) but my friend has some major issues with her bust. I try to help but being the total opposite with a small bust makes it hard for her to hear what I’m saying to her. There are good yet frustrating issues with any shape no matter what – and mass produced clothing standards don’t help anyone because no one is truly “standard”.

    • Leila says:

      I wonder why so many patterns have these straight darts? I mentioned in another comment reply that sewing and fitting can be such an emotional bomb for me sometimes. I have to remind myself that there’s only so much I can do to shift what I look like…but how much of that do I really want to do, y’know? It’s nice to wear things that sort of “show off my shape” but sometimes I just want to wear a nerdy t-shirt with shorts. So true that there are a frustrating issues with any shape. It’s so true. I’ll never get to look as good as you do as a flapper, but, I’m happy just seeing you look like a flapper and have fun with it.

      I read that part about Anne’s dress being a last minute change for those reasons. Sometimes you just have to make it work. And how much of the color really made our minds go to nipples?

      • Brooke says:

        I think darts are usually straight because patterns are flat drafted without real curves to fit. Plus, straight darts are faster to draft.

        I’ll dress flapper then and enjoy you in corset styles. =) I don’t think I have enough to reshape if I were to wear a corset. Maybe someday I will try it just to see, but I think I will just be flat in one.

        Yeah, I call Ann’s dress color “naked”. I hate naked clothes – anything that’s too light pink or peach look invisible from a distance. Is that person even wearing (fill in the blank)??

      • Leila says:

        Deal on dressing and enjoying the others’ dress.

        I made a corset to measure for a friend and because she’s really straight up and down it did very little for her. We’re planning on adding hip shaping to give her a Victorian silhouette.

  7. tempestdevyne says:

    This is a fabulous post. Thank you so much for the examples of what can be done with differing dart placements etc….bookmarking this to come back and digest it in detail in the very near future.

  8. Bird and Bicycle says:

    I have a challenge with body image as well. I had a baby 18 months ago, and am not the same shape I was before I was pregnant. As I am adjusting to parenting, my clothing adjusts as well. More freedom of movement, less slacks and more jeans, less pencil skirts and more sweaters. As I run around the house/park/world chasing my little man, comfort becomes the focus of my wardrobe. Not to say I don’t want to look good, just that my garments are changing in shape and style. So fit is essential, particularly in the curvy areas.

    I have a question though. What do you do with the clothes you make and are not particularly fond of? Such as a misshaped bust dart? Do you wear them frequently, rarely, or never? Do you fix them if you can or move onto something better?

    Also, every time I see the photo of your polkadot shirt and guitar, I love it. It’s like an album cover for Yo La Tengo or She&Him or some other such band.

    • Leila says:

      My body has taken it’s sweet little time doing anything other than slug along after kids. I don’t know if feeling like I have any semblance of a shape happened before or after I started sewing for myself…but if I look at my measurements over the last 3 years, nothing’s really changed, so it’s all just my perspective. 3 years ago, I was wearing the wrong size bra which has made a huuuge difference for me.

      I actually try to fix clothes that haven’t come out just right until I can wear them. Or, like with the red dress from this post, I gave it to a friend and it fit her better.

      Hey, I’ll tell the hubbinator about your reference. He’s a huge YLT fan as well as She&Him. I only started listening to YLT because of their latest album, recorded by John McEntire who I love as a percussionist and for his recording work.

  9. soisewedthis says:

    I haven’t had to mess with the bust darts on anything i’ve made, so i guess i’m just “average” in that area. but i have noticed how wrong some of the darts are on my RTW clothing that i purchased before i started sewing. none have the pointy-ness of Anne’s dress but i have noticed darts that point up too high. it drives me nuts now!

  10. Christine Bulley says:

    The more I learn about dress making the more I want to find what best suits my body. So if you have ever caught me staring at your curves, it is actually the dart position, grain lines, dart length and design lines I am studying.
    It is so much easier to sew for someone else I keep avoiding sewing for myself.
    I have been taught to pull the bust dart back a couple of centimeters from the bust point to avoid the cold weather look but with a large dart either from the side or the waist this gives ugly peaks in the wrong spot.
    I shall have to further explore Brooke’s curved dart suggestions. This must be the secret to success because the straight dart definitely doesn’t work for me.
    Thanks Leila for all the food for thought you provide.

  11. causeiwanna or CarlaF-in Atlanta says:

    If you like armhole darts, try a pattern with an armhole princess seam. I like your retrospective of darts on your body. I’m so going to copy your idea.

    For the last few years, I’ve been determined to figure out FBAs on bust & waist darted clothing but that bust dart has been kicking my butt. Princess seams are working for me. Now, I just need to sew more often.

  12. nerdysewist says:

    What is the fabric on that McCalls pattern? So I didn’t really pay attention to the oscars, but it annoyed me that people were saying that they could see Anne Hathaway’s nipples. No. Those are darts, people. Horrible darts. But darts all the same. Ps. I am jealous of your handmade wardrobe!

    • Leila says:

      Can you believe it’s a print? For moi? I got it on sale at JoAnn’s and don’t remember…maybe it was in the silky prints area. I’m guessing it could be a challis?

    • Leila says:

      If memory serves me, that was from JoAnn’s in the silky prints so I’m guessing it was a challis? It’s drapey but not too hard to sew with, not like a chiffon or anything.

      Darts, people, darts!

  13. Joost De Cock (@j__st) says:

    Wow, that’s a ton of really useful information. I’ve been thinking about making clothes for women, but I’m very insecure about the entire thing because I just don’t know what women’s clothes should be like. I don’t have man-bewbs yet (although my love for ice-cream might get me there one day) so I’m really puzzled on how to work around the old chest-bump.
    Articles like these are really helpful, so thanks a million!
    In my opinion, horizontal darts aren’t that pretty. I’m a big fan of the armscye dart and all the pretty front gathering. Underbewb gathering though, not so much…

    • Leila says:

      It’s funny you’d say you’re insecure about womens wear. I have the exact feeling about mens wear. I don’t get the needed ease and all of that. I keep promising my husband that I’ll make him something. I hope this year to make him a shirt.

      It’s amazing. The same dart/gather/pleat on one person will look totally different on another.

  14. Rachel says:

    I so appreciate this post… THANK YOU! I am big busted and sewing my first clothing pattern ever which unfortunately I just dont know where to go with it. It is a cross over kimono style dress in a woven (serendipity diane kimono) that looks blech on me because I am clueless what to do with a big bust that needs adjustment on every pattern out there. It is daunting and almost enough to make me throw in the towel and go shopping for a ready made ill-fitting garment. This at least helps me start to understand. After reading your post I did cut and do a dart type stitch to bring the gaping front in on my struggling muslin… Thank you for giving me hope! All your clothes look great and I can’t wait til I have a few items that are wearable! Pinning this post for sure!

  15. lovenicky says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I am pretty broad on top with a short waist too so I can totally relate to what you were talking about. Basically gathers are better than bust darts for me too.

  16. bustybeginner says:

    I read a post awhile ago (baby brain has erased the source though!) on bust darts that discussed how folding the fabric flap from the centre of the dart up or down when you attached in to the side seam made a big difference. I think the comment was that folding fabric up drew less attention to the dart and was therefore more flattering but that most current patterns are drafted to fold it down.
    I am just learning to sew and have not tried it yet myself.
    Another option was a dart leading into a princess seam, a “dior dart”, that I read about on Pattern Scissors Cloth blog. I would love to see that on a larger bust to see if it works.
    Keep up the good work, it is very helpful for busty beginners sewist

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