How-To Resources

Do I Need to do a Full or Small Bust Adjustment?

Do you really need to do a Full or Small Bust Adjustment? Or do you simply need to grade out/in at the bust? Click through to find out.

If, like me, you keep making lovely tops and dresses, but can’t quite get the fit right, you might want to consider making some bodice adjustments. In this post, I’m going to talk about Full and Small Bust Adjustments, but really, there are lots of bodice alterations to consider such as:

  • Full Bust Adjustment
  • Small Bust Adjustment
  • Move Bust Apex & Darts
  • Swayback Adjustment
  • Lengthening/Shortening Patterns
  • Gaping Neckline Adjustment
  • Broad Back Adjustment
  • Narrow Shoulder Adjustment
  • Square or Sloping Shoulder Adjustment

I’m not going to go through all of these (something for another day!) or tell you how to do them; I’m not an expert seamstress, tailor or pattern cutter. (I’m just a novice sewist trying to provide help where I’ve previously searched for it) I’m simply going to give you the details about Full/Small Bust adjustments for you to see if you really need to make them.

Signs you might need to make a FBA:
You might want to consider making a full bust adjustment if you find that your clothes are tight at the bust, but fit well in the waist and hips. Other tell-tale signs include your full bust being more than 2″ (5cm) bigger than your high bust (check our this post on how to measure yourself), your full bust falling into a larger pattern size than your other measurements, and your waistlines might often ride up at the front.

Although, you might first want to try choosing your pattern size based on your bust measurement and grading in at the waist. This might be a quick, simple fix if your bust measurements are around a 2-3″ difference. Make a toile (muslin) using this method and go from there. You might find that this doesn’t work for you, and you’ll need to do a FBA.

Signs you might need to make a SBA:
The complete opposite to the Full Bust Adjustment, you might need to do a Small Bust Adjustment if your clothes fit a little baggy at the bust, but fit well elsewhere. Consider a SBA if your full bust is less than 2″ smaller than your high bust, if your full bust measurement falls into a smaller pattern size than your waist/hips, and if waistlines tend to droop at the front.

If this sounds like you, but your bust measurements suggest that you don’t need a SBA, try choosing your pattern size on your bust measurement, and grade out at the waist/hips as necessary. You might find that this solves your problems without having to mess around with a SBA.


Move Apex Point and Darts
Another thing you might need to consider for bust adjustments is moving the apex point (the nipple) and darts to fit you better. You may not need to do a FBA/SBA.

Whether your darts come from the side seam, armhole or waistline, they need to point to the bust apex. If it points above, below or to the side, your darts might be a little lumpy.

Unfortunately, you can’t spot this from measurements alone. You’ll need to have made a toile (muslin) of the pattern you’re using to spot it. Look for:

  • Darts pointing away from the apex
  • Lumpy darts
  • Darts extending past the apex
  • Bodice too tight or too loose at the apex


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s