Gertie’s Coat Dress FBA

Doing a full bust adjustment (FBA for short) is as important as fitting the back of whatever you’re making. Learn from my mistake here. If you change up the back of your bodice, your FBA will change, too. Seems like a simple realization and if you already learned that lesson, awesome! I wasn’t that quick.

Here’s the FBA I did on Gertie’s Coat Dress from her book, Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing. This is what the coat looks like on Gertie:

A couple of things to consider when making something that is designed for a small bust, and more specifically, this coat dress:

1. Because of my longer bust line, I’ll probably need to omit one of the buttons above the waist.

2. I’m going to open the collar a bit more, creating a more deep v-neck, which will also…

3. Make for less of a cross over, which I’m glad for because I don’t really want to have the buttons go straight down from my apex.

Last thing before showing you how I did my FBA with this pattern, I want to tell you that I sized down for my back. I cut a size 10 for the front and a size 6 for the back, adjusting to about an 8/10 for what I’m gonna call “driving comfort” (when you drive, you reach forward to drive you need a little extra room in the back). Someone correct me with what it’s really called. Now, FBA pictutorial.

First, I traced the pattern from the large sheet that came in Gertie’s book. I know that I have a gaping just above the bust so I went ahead and did a little tuck before I cut out a muslin. I like to alter the muslin so I can try it on as I go and make adjustments. Later, the muslin becomes my pattern.

I marked where the bust apex is implied on the pattern by drawing a line up from the waist dart and over from the side dart. Then, I put the muslin up to check where my bust apex is which will set things up for finding out how much room I need to create with the FBA.

Next you’ll draw a line from the middle of your waist dart up to bust apex from the original pattern and then continue the line off toward the armhole. You’re going for 1/3 of the armhole of the front. I tend to use the notch I make for matching the sleeve. Check out my other FBA tutorial if you want more pics of these lines you need to draw.

Cut the line from the waist dart to the apex and then from the apex to the sleeve notch but don’t cut through the whole way. You’ll use that bit of fabric uncut to pivot your pattern. Also, cut the line you will have created from the side bust dart to the apex but don’t cut through because you’ll need that bit of fabric to pivot your pattern.

At this point, you might have noticed that I’m using the lines on my cutting board to line up the pattern. I’m going to use the ruler on the board to get my 2″ FBA.

Keeping your pieces still, gently pull down the piece of your pattern that you’ve created by the cut you made from the side dart to the apex, as you see me doing in this photo above.

The last cut you make is just below any design elements, as you can see from the above picture. I’ve also seen this line cut from the apex, through any design elements (in this case, the collar) which will make those elements go over your bust and not stop too soon on your body. This is your sewing. Your choices. You get to alter things how you like. This is what I chose to do but have fun with the decisions you make. Back to the alteration: You’ll slide that piece down so that it lines up with the rest of the pattern.

I then cut and cover the spaces I’ve created and pin them in place. Using fabric to do the FBA, I’ve found that the pattern doesn’t slip as much as it does with thin pattern paper, but that’s just been my experience and my preference.

Lastly, I baste the pieces to the pattern so I can finalize my first muslin. If the fullness of your newly altered darts is too much, like mine, you can always pivot your dart fullness to other darts, or create a new dart. My side dart is really big which can cause problems for me when I try to sew a smooth dart. I can always pivot some of that dart into the waist dart or create a new dart at the shoulder, which could be placed so it’s covered by the collar. Sneaky, eh? Check out Gertie’s tutorial on pivoting darts. Here’s also a tutorial from The Cutting Class.

I’ll try on the muslin and once I’m ready for further alterations, I can cut the next muslin using my new pattern.

Let me know if I can be of help with your full bust adjustment. Do you want another tutorial on FBA’s? Something you can’t find anywhere? Just ask. I’m also on Twitter so you can find me there, too.

7 thoughts on “Gertie’s Coat Dress FBA”

  1. I thnk the ‘driving room’ is called wearing ease. But won’t bet and serious money….

    I love the idea of pivoting some of the dart to the shoulder. I often get some ‘extra’ volume above the bust due to small back and shoulders. A little extra in a shoulder dart could correct some of that.

    • Right! Wearing ease. I wonder if there’s something under the wearing ease umbrella for that need to reach forward…besides, y’know, living. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for blogging about your work full bust adjustments. I’ve been at my wit’s end (for AGES) feeling I’ll never get a pattern figured out to fit my bust. I’ve tried a few commercial patterns, a few free patterns – and also tried drafting from measurements – and tracing from existing clothing (that existing clothing doesn’t actually fit great either) — I’ve tried doing full bust adjustments – but I still just never quite get anything that is wearable. I’m about a DD/E or F cup. Small back and shoulders. Is there a free pattern or drafting instructions that you recommend for some simple top (can be sleeveless, could be a camisole) for woven fabric? I’d really like to try again but I’ve been so discouraged by my failures. (I just can’t put more money into commercial patterns – especially when they need so many drastic revisions anyway.)

    • I completely understand your frustration. I was there not too long ago. If you’d like we can email back and forth while you’re doing adjustments and maybe I can help you better while you’re working on a project. I’d love to see what you’ve made, which will help me understand what advice might be helpful. The tricky thing with wovens is that I either use a drapey fabric or I tailor it either really close to my body or have it skim my body. Other than emailing with you, I can’t say I know of a great large bewb friendly top in a woven that can be had for free. I’m really curious whether I can help you with a pattern you already have. Let me know what you think.

  3. Thanks for writing. I really appreciate the offer to help figure this out. I read some of your other posts where you mentioned using a pattern sized smaller for your back versus for your front. That might solve quite a few problems for me. Will definitely be in touch – although there might be a 2 week delay before I can write – I’ll be travelling very shortly. Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge! 🙂

    • The smaller back/larger front may help. Especially if you have to do more than a 2″ FBA, which becomes fiddly for reasons I don’t yet understand. Also, if you havent already, cut smaller shoulders, making sure the front & back shoulders match. Have a good trip and if you can, draw your thoughts out or take notes while you’re gone. 🙂

  4. Hi. I was wondering how many yards of fabric this coat dress requires. Thanks!

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