Bust Dart

Whether this is the side bust dart or the waist bust dart, it’s truly one of the magical fitting tools of the sewist’s arsenal.

When it’s the simple waist/bust dart, it can taper in and fit in. You can taper this in to really accentuate your bust, or simply to give the illusion of a waist. Here’s what’s going on here. The closer you fit under an apex point of the body, the more you accentuate that apex point.

So that means that if you want to accentuate your bust (say you have a 32A bust size), then fitting right under that bust will make you look positively busty.

This charming deb had a great figure, but basically no bust. I added a little, but the main feature of this dress is that it fits very closely to her body from her bust point to her bust bra line. This made her feel and look positively voluptuous. And this is a great place to use this technique – fitting closely.

It’s clearly evident here that this busty actress on the right (the original photo) wants to accentuate her bust, while the version on the left is a modification and less busty version of this dress. What’s happening is that from the apex point (in this case the bust point) to the waist is made a straight line and not so fitting directly under the bust makes her bust look less accentuated. Believe me, I did not make her bust smaller, only the line under her bust.

This is the sort of illusion in fitting that can become so powerful. Another very powerful effect is hitting the bust point at a nice level on the bodice.

Now this grand lady is 94 years old, so I forgive her….but you can definitely see one version of her looks 84 and the other looks every bit of 94. It’s one of the things that when it’s right, it’s hard to tell why, but when it’s wrong, it’s so obvious and it’s that her bust point is way low on the left, and it’s supported well on the right. This is a very easy habit to get into. Your bra feels comfy and nothing feels wrong, but boy howdy, when it’s wrong it’s obvious.

And I thought at the time, this was not a good look at all but needed to make a trip to the store to get a new bra before I could fix this. But let’s take this apart. The bust dart fits well, the dart point points directly to the bust point, and the darts are pressed nicely so there’s not pucker at the end of the dart, so everything looks pretty good, but there’s one glaring problem, and yet all the fitting points are right on target.

This can be confusing for so many sewists because they fitted and gotten everything so it looks right, but the dress looks dowdy and frumpy and makes me look like I’m about 70 years old (OK, I’m 70 but I don’t feel 70 and I’m certainly not aiming to look like I’m 70), so what’s the matter?

It’s the bra, and without good foundation garments, we can do all the excellent fitting in the world, but it will all go for naught if we do not have well-fitted garments. And this doesn’t mean that we have to find a bra that brings our bust up to just under our chin. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about is a bra that supports you in a comfortable and well-fitted way. The larger your bust is, the more professional help you will need, and one of the greatest resources I have found is shops that cater to mastectomy patients. They have all sorts of other conditions that they have to consider and most often this means that they can fit difficult-to-fit clients much better than a regular department store.

As a side note here, if you live in Oklahoma City, we are fortunate enough to have a buyer or some department head who actually knows what he/she is doing and therefore have an excellent bra department at Dillard’s in Penn Square. If you visit them, talk with Marie Troutman. She is a more mature person and has a mature person’s perspective on a more normal figure and as a result, can really help fit you very well. She’s also tireless about getting it right. No payment here just passing on some valuable info. We also have an excellent mastectomy shop in North Park – so we’re lucky that we have two really great places to visit. But do a little research and check out with local sewists’ clubs and organizations; with your friends and even with local medical centers and who they recommend for their mastectomy patients. I don’t recommend medical-supported facilities as their pricing structure is geared toward insurance, which means it’s sky-high.

So here I am in the new bra. But there’s one problem. The new bra felt so good, even from the minute I put it on (as a matter of fact I walked out of the store with the bra on and my old bra hit the trash the instant I got home)! And to be honest, I didn’t see much difference and was at first very disappointed, except that the dang thing felt so good I knew it was right. And then…

I had to make a “dress” presentation the other night at the American Sewing Guild and whoa! What a difference, but there’s another problem. I actually did a switcheroo change in the middle of the presentation (yes, I was behind closed doors so no visual pollution occurred)! But I immediately noticed – YIKES – the bust point is all wrong. Dang, that bra really did work! This needs immediate attention.

And here’s the really cool news on this – this is not only not an easy alteration, but it’s also very time-efficient (that means a quickie)! The really important part (aside from marking the correct bust point and having the dart point pointing at the bust point is pressing. Once you get this done, it will look really awkward and you will need to do a good hard press – in this case a press cloth works perfectly.

So here I am with the bust dart pointing in the right place. And look at the huge difference. Suddenly not only do I look younger, but everything looks right. How this really looks is that nothing’s wrong, or even better put, “Oh Claire, you’re lucky cause you wear a perfect size 10, 12 or 14 or whatever!” Uh, no. I don’t wear a perfect size anything! And I don’t look like a tired old schoolmarm or the persnickety church lady on the front row who makes sure everyone stands for the hymns or the 90-year-old venerable leader of a nation. I look like I’m 50-ish (OK maybe 60) which is right where I want to be!

So this little bust dart is serious business. It’s not hard but it’s very serious and it’s also very magical. When it’s fouled up, there are some clear indicators and a good list to go through starts with well-fitting foundation garments, then making sure that the dart points the right direction and lastly good pressing. Nothing makes you look older than a poorly fitted undergarment AND a dart point that does not point to your true bust point.

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Claire Kennedy


  1. Christine on December 4, 2020 at 2:12 am

    As a small-busted person in a large-busted world who sometimes wants to lookike she has something, ANYTHING in the bust area, this is really intriguing to me.
    Claire, assuming that a bodice has a bust dart that you’ve gotten to point correctly at your apex, how do you go about fitting it under the bust? Does this require princess seams?

    • Claire Kennedy on December 8, 2020 at 3:09 pm

      Christine – there are lots of solutions here. You can use a princess seam which is one of the best ways to shape to your body. I’m more interested in shaping rather than skin-tight fitting. Fit is a word that’s so misunderstood (I feel a blog coming on – and I CAN BLOG NOW!!!!!) word, so I hesitate to use it. Shaping means that we are going to do a flattering shape to your body possibly using some illusion, which means we will allude to certain things and not outright form around them so that there is no mystery whatsoever.

      I personally recommend that you fit the upper part of your bust fairly well. Right below the bust, you can fit a little looser but enough that you know it’s the “below bust” region. Depending upon the shape of your midriff (above your waist), waist, tummy, and hips, I would elude to a more shapely line. That means that you may have to drop straight down (if you have thick waist, small hips), or flare a little (thick waist, large hips), but you have to be particularly careful to keep the balance between the shoulders and hips. You don’t want the hips to be a lot larger without doing something to draw attention to the shoulders for balance. That can be color blocking, or small shoulder pads or something like that. There are lots of options here, but that’s how I would do that.

      One of the easiest and best fitting mechanisms out there is the princess seam, either from the armscye or from the shoulder. They both work.

      • Christine on December 9, 2020 at 11:19 am

        Thanks for the tips, Claire, definitely some things to think about the next time I’m fitting something. I’m definitely much more into shaping than making things skin tight. Balancing the shape would be key for me too: I have a small bust, a fairly proportionate waist (with a small tummy as I’ve gotten older, that I’m working on shrinking!), and huge giant hips.
        I wish I could come to you for a proper fitting/lesson- I feel like I’m a weird shape that I struggle to fit properly. So pleased that you can blog again now: I’ve missed your posts!

        • Claire Kennedy on December 10, 2020 at 9:40 am

          Christine – do you subscribe to my weekly free email? The link to subscribe is on the toolbar above. I do monthly free “Zoom with Claire” on live video. I love this cause students can stand up in front of the camera and in real-time we can talk about what’s right and what’s wrong. I can see your figure and talk to you about what you want and what you don’t want and am having a blast doing this. It’s really fun. We just finished the December meeting, but we will have one in January for sure.

  2. John Yingling on December 9, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    As someone who did (past tense, before the shut down) lots of fittings on mature women for their ballroom dance costumes, I know the importance of foundation garments. In preparation for the fitting, I tell them to bring their correct undergarments, and when the fitting begins, I ask them if they actually have their correct undergarments on. Too many times, they show up with bras that look matronly, and not that younger, energetic, and shapely figure that a ballroom dancer should emulate.

    • Claire Kennedy on December 10, 2020 at 9:37 am

      Exactly, and I’ve even sent my clients back home to put on a new bra or the bra they are going to wear with their elegant gown. Additionally, I’ve even stopped the fitting if I can see for sure that the support garment they are wearing wont’/doesn’t work. I did a cute little “morph” on QEII and you can tell which version looks younger and which version doesn’t. This is with the caveat that QEII is 94 y/o! Which version looks younger?

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