The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Front Bust Dart Alteration

This is one of the most important darts you can learn, so save this post – it’s a gem!

Here’s a picture of one of my students, Barbra.

Barbra is lucky enough to have a gorgeous bust line and a beautiful waist, and she has really nicely proportioned hips – as you can tell in these pictures.

But every time Barbra made a top, it had a bad gap in the middle of her neckline. Either that or her shoulder hit over the shoulder line and well, it never hit right.

Till our class.

See how nicely fitting everything is  This is an under shell, and she was holding it in back, but she was so excited to find out how to do this dart and why it works so well.

Here’s why, and hopefully I can make this very easy to understand.

OK – starting with our original pattern piece w/center front and bust point marked.  The natural inclination is to add to center front – after all its across the bust where you need it.  So that means you’ll add across the chest, the bust, the waist and the hip and the shoulder – all along center front.

OK so here we are…we’ve added all along center front.  But when Barbra does that her bust fits, but she has a gap in the center front of her neckline and portrait area.  So what does she do?  Make center front smaller at top?…that makes a point toward the bustline on the center front line and you don’t have a third bust on your center front line, so that doesn’t work (besides you can’t really have a center front seam half way down to the bust line and then have it stop – that doesn’t work.

Or do you add only in the side seam and make that bigger not making the shoulder/portrait/neckline bigger but then the bust has more room, but that really ads room only in the side seam and your bust is not under your arm (hopefully!!!), it really isn’t so that doesn’t fit.

What you have to do is ad space at the bust point but not on the center front seam, not through the shoulder/chest/neckline area, and not at the side seam….so where in the heck do you add it?

With the FBA, as zee Frainch wud saa….comme ça:

First thing you do is draw a line parallel to the straight of the grain or center front (they are both parallel to each other), from the bottom of the pattern to the bust point.  Next you draw a straight line from the bust point to just at the notch for the armhole seam – do not cut through the seam allowance, just to the seam.  Then finally you cut a line from the side (I like to make the first one horizontal to the hem), from the side seam to the bust point, but just to it, not through it.

Now you place this under a piece of tissue and you spread the front side from the front at an equal distance…..NO MORE THAN 1″!  (If 1″ is not enough, then make another bust dart.)  Now when you do this you will have a tiny paper scrunchy at the armhole where you’ve pivoted the pattern, and a tiny scruncy at the bust point where the side dart has pivoted.  Just flatten those out and tape or glue the pieces together and that’s it!

Too simple you say – this won’t solve my problemo….let’s just see what we’ve done:

So essentially what we’ve done is we’ve added more length (remember when you’re bust is a little larger, the front will come up slightly, and you may not notice this because you’ve been trying to deal with other problems that are more important, but believe me, eventually you would have noticed!)  Additionally, you’ve added across the bust, but where’s the extra fabric across the chest/shoulder/neck area?…..huh?…it’s not there!  It’s not there cause you don’t need extra through there.

With the overlay on the right you can see just exactly how and where you’ve added fabric….you’ve added length to the front, you’ve added width at the bust line, you have NOT added any width to the shoulder.  You’ve added length and width where you need it and have not added width where you don’t need it.

Not to be too complicated here, but the other way you fix this problem is you make the front extra big (through the center front, then you redraw the front armscye and reshape the neckline….piece of cake…NOT!

The easiest and best way to do this is with the FBA and I can not tell you how many of my older clients come to me after too many afternoons playing bridge and having yummy dinners and suddenly their granddaughters want to get married and they have to look good!!!  They all come to me and I get out my FBA kit, and go to work and make them look fab.  After they are all glowing with compliments and are just thrilled with how they look – you can be exactly that way too – just as a reminder, here’s a pic of Barbra again in her new top that will look fab on her.




  2. Great explanation of this technique.

  3. Thank you for the explanation. Could you please go into more depth about: “NO MORE THAN 1″! (If 1″ is not enough, then make another bust dart.)” I cannot visualize quite what you’re meaning.

    • Yes, Carma – what I mean here is that in the initial “spread” of the pattern pieces (the front part where you cut parallel to center front), don’t make that spread any more than 1″, and it must be parallel – the center front lines need to be parallel. So that means that if you spread 1″ at the bust point at the top, then you spread 1″ at the hem at the bottom.

      No more than 1″ though, cause in reality that’s adding 2″ to the entire front of the top (1″ on left and 1″ on right make 2″ total). Also if you make this more than 1″ you end up with that Madonna
      – if that’s what you want, but most likely it’s not what you want.

      Many professionals and designs often put 2 or 3 side bust darts and this makes the bust area much softer and rounder, more the shape of the human body rather than a pointed cone, which is what one large dart will look like. Once you do this alteration, you’ll get it. I would practice it a couple of times to see what is the best solution 1, 2, or 3 darts. Even though I’m not unusually large busted, even my fit benefits from this wonderful shape-fitting technique.

  4. Thank you for this clear explanation as to why just adding room at the side and to the bodice length will not work as well as a dart. I’ve done the side addition, especially in knits because I’m adverse to having a dart in knits, but what I’ve found its that when I see myself in photos, my cheater method clearly doesn’t work as well.

    • If you can, add that in the back seam of your knits and don’t forget to press your knits. I know that sounds counter-productive (knits?…really?), but believe me, just like the rest of your sewing it really works beautifully!

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