the fitting room: masha’s gelato blouse

Fitting. Does that word inspire fear? Irritation? Excitement? When you’re just starting out sewing for yourself, especially if you have a larger bust than most pattern companies draft for, fitting can seem really daunting.

For me, as for most of us, it’s not as simple as cutting a pattern as-is and starting to sew. There are a number of adjustments I need to make to fit a pattern to my body. While I can sometimes sew a skirt as drafted, that is almost never true of top and dress patterns. Read on to learn how I customize a garment to my shape by making pattern adjustments.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

Today I’m going to talk about my experience fitting a blouse I made recently using the Gelato Blouse + Dress pattern.

Five years of sewing clothes for myself has taught me that, if I do not adjust a top or dress pattern before sewing, I will run into at least one of these problems:

  1. The shoulders will be too wide and the neckline will slip from side to side.
  2. The top will be too tight across the bust.
  3. The sleeves will be too tight.
  4. The neckline will slip backwards, choking me in the front and gaping in the back.

While you can certainly make a muslin to determine what changes you need to make, I usually skip this step for a relatively easy-fitting garment like the Gelato.  Past failures (and successes) have taught me where I need to adjust without muslining.

For this blouse, I did three pattern adjustments: high round back, full bust, and full bicep. Does that sound like a daunting list? How long do you think it took to perform all three of these adjustments to my pattern? Keep that number in mind and read on. I’ll tell you at the end.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

Basic fitting guidance calls for adjusting the back of a pattern before adjusting the front. For this reason, I did the high round back adjustment first. (If you need help with this one, check out our tutorial here.) I adjusted the back by 1” in two places: 5/8” at the high back and 3/8” at the lower back.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

Next, I did a full bust adjustment. Luckily, Liesl includes instructions for this adjustment in many of her patterns, including the Gelato. My high bust is 36” and my full bust is about 40.5”.  I wanted 1″ of bust ease in my finished garment. Based on my high bust measurement, I cut the size 8 bodice which finishes at 39” in the bust. To get the room I needed, I did a 2 1/2” FBA (1 1/4” on each side). I also rotated the dart down about 2” so that it would point upwards, which is my preference for bust darts. Below is a photo of my front pattern piece post-FBA.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

That complete, I needed to do a full bicep adjustment for my 13 1/2” upper arm. (We have a tutorial for that, too. You can find it here.) I measured the pattern piece for the size 8 sleeve, and it is about 14 3/4” wide including seam allowances.  Here’s where I made a mistake. You need to subtract the seam allowances when thinking about ease, and I forgot to do that. The finished bicep measurement on the size 8 was 13 3/4″. I wanted the finished sleeve to be 15 1/2”, necessitating a full bicep adjustment of 1 3/4”. But I had in my head that 14 3/4″ was the finished bicep measurement of the sleeve, so I actually only adjusted my sleeve 3/4″. The finished bicep measurement on my garment was thus only 14 1/4″, which was only 3/4″ of ease, and not nearly enough room for me. I’ve found that I’m most comfortable with 1 1/2″-2″ of ease in a woven sleeve. The pattern piece I’m showing in the next photo is my incorrectly adjusted one; the adjustment is the same, but I needed to make it larger.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

This mistake felt a bit like a disaster. I had trimmed the excess seam allowance so I couldn’t let the sleeve out. And I didn’t have enough fabric to cut new sleeves. I didn’t want to trash the shirt, so I decided to try to salvage the sleeves with a strip of fabric. I wanted to add 1 1/8” of ease for a total of 1 7/8” of ease. So I cut two strips 1 5/8” inches wide and inserted them into the sleeve seam with 1/4″ seams. This gave me a total of 1 7/8″ of ease, which was much better. I cut the strips on the bias to avoid having to match the plaid, and as it turns out, no one can see the fabric strip under the arm. I contorted myself in various ways to take a photo but none of them actually showed the strip of fabric.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

I also lengthened the sleeve. I like the sleeve ruffle on the original pattern, but this being a flannel shirt, I wanted it to keep me warm and be easy to wear under a cardigan. I lengthened the sleeve to my wrist and turned the hem for a casing into which I inserted 1/4” elastic.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

I ended up with a warm but festive top that I like to wear with jeans and booties. I also really like the way it looks with my favorite slouchy ready-to-wear cardigan.

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

Does this sound like it took forever? It really didn’t. I only spent about an hour total on all those flat pattern adjustments, which is considerably less time than I had anticipated. How long did you think it would take?

Learn how to get a perfect fit by customizing a pattern to your body.

Pattern adjustments can feel daunting, but the more you do them, the easier it gets. One extra hour of work isn’t really that big a deal if you end up with a garment that fits the way you would like it in the end. And isn’t that why we sew for ourselves in the first place?

What pattern adjustments do you routinely make? Would you be interested in sharing them with our readers? We’re looking for blog posts on fitting Liesl + Co. patterns. If you’d like to write one, drop me a line at contributors@oliverands.com.



 

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14 Comments

  1. Susan

    I’m confused re why you indicate that you must lengthen the back of your top to match the longer length of your front after you do a FBA. A FBA does lengthen the centre front of a top, but that is so it here is enough fabric to go over the bust. Even though the front is longer than the back, it should look even when worn, because of the space taken up by the bust. There should be no change at the side seams, where the front meets the back and no need to lengthen the back. Did I miss something?

    1. No, you didn’t miss anything. I misspoke but I corrected it. Thanks for pointing that out!

  2. Aimee

    Thanks for posting on the Gelato Blouse. Your flannel version turned out very good. Your sleeve detail is a nice alternative to the ruffle sleeves. I’ve made two of these so far and have plans for a third. I think the pattern works best with a drapy/flowy fabric like rayon. My only issue is with the FBA instructions in the pattern. It has you slit all the way to the shoulder instead of slashing to the armscye like you show in your post. I think your method works better.

  3. Sarah

    Great to read about fitting! I always need to do a forward shoulder adjustment. I think the longer we sew the better we know our bodies and you’re right – spending those few minutes to do some flat pattern tweaks, especially on a basic design that can be remade time and time again is so worth the investment.

  4. I exert a lot of energy (HA!) telling people to *just make the adjustments*! I really doesn’t take long. I also am used to making a laundry list of changes but it’s all so rote now and I end up with more-wearable garments. WIN.

    Already commented on your blog but, love the top! That plaid is so awesome.

  5. Linda Crusco-Stebbins

    I have both the Gelato & the Fitzroy & have made a muslin from the Fitzroy in a size 12 C cup. My high bust is 35″, my full bust is 39″, waist 36″ (I have no waist), hips 41. You said “Based on my high bust measurement, I cut the size 8″—how did you know that? Did you go to the body measurement chart or the Finished measurement chart & use your hi bust measurement Instead of the full bust? I don’t mind making alterations since there’s so many good resources now. I know I’ll have to make a FBA & a wide back adjustment + a narrow shoulder adjustment. I’m just thinking maybe they wouldn’t have to be such big adjustments if I started with the correct size. On the size 12 Fitzroy muslin I would have to make a 1 inch narrow shoulder adjustment & all the resources say the most you can make is 3/4”. Which size would you recommend I start with for both the Gelato & the Fitzroy? please advise.
    thanks, linda

    1. Hi Linda. So, generally I recommend choosing your size by comparing your high bust measurement to the size chart’s bust measurement (and that’s what I did here). In your case, a 35″ high bust would correspond with a size 6 on both the Gelato and the Fitzroy. You’ll want to decide how much ease you’d like and figure your FBA from there. The Fitzroy has cup sizes, so you can go with the D cup but since it finishes at 40.5″ you may still want to do an FBA, depending on how fitted you’d like the shirt. You can tell how much ease the pattern builds in by comparing a size’s size chart measurement to its finished bust measurement, and choose your FBA amount from there. You could also choose to go up to the size 8 to reduce the amount of FBA that you have to do. it’s all kind of a matter of personal preference and trial and error. Hope that helps.

      1. Linda

        First Wow! thanks so much for replying, and replying so quickly. So am I to understand that 1) if I use a smaller size like a 6 or 8 I probably won’t have to make a narrow shoulder adjustment or maybe just a small one?, 2)even when I use a pattern with cup sizes I might still need a FBA ? 3) are there ‘wide back’ adjustment instructions on the site? Please advise.
        thanks again,
        linda

      2. That’s correct. If you have narrow shoulders, cutting a size according to your high bust and then doing an FBA will ensure that the shoulders fit correctly. You can look at the photos in this post to see how the shoulder fits on me. The sleeve seam is exactly in the right spot. If I had cut the size 14 as my full bust measurements dictated (three sizes larger!) you can imagine how wide the shoulders would have been on me. And it’s not just the shoulder – the whole upper chest would have been baggy.

        Yes, sometimes you might still have to make an FBA if there are cup sizes. It just depends on the finished measurements and the amount of ease you need. The Fitzroy is drafted for 3″ of ease (you can subtract the bust measurement on the size chart from the finished A/B cup measurement to determine the amount of ease that was drafted in).

        If you were to cut the size 6D, that would give you 1.5″ of bust ease because it finished at 40.5″ in the bust. This may or may not be enough ease depending on your preference. In contrast, the size 12D would give you 5″ of ease in the bust. So it would be too big in both the bust and the shoulders. If you went up to the size 8D, you’d have 2.5″ of ease in the chest, which should be fine. The shoulders might fit fine, or they might be a tiny bit too wide. It’s all kind of a matter of preference and trial and error. We don’t have instructions for a broad back adjustment on the site (yet!). Hope that helps.

  6. Susan

    In my experience, going that small just doesn’t work out — it would necessitate so many other adjustments that it negates the value of liesl s lovely cup sizes! My measurements are high bust 36 full bust 40, waist 33 and hip 40. In the classic blouse, for example, I made a size 10 with a D cup and it fits beautifully in the shoulders and has lovely proportions overall. Keep it simple, trust the draft of the designer, and go with the size that best fits the overall proportion of your own figure.

    1. The Gelato Blouse does not have cup sizes, so for someone who needs an FBA, it’s likely going to be too large in the shoulders and chest if they choose the size by their full bust measurement. Liesl discusses this in her post about how to choose your size. Sizing is very much a combination of personal preference and an understanding of your body shape. For me personally, if I go larger than an 8, tops are too big in my shoulders and upper chest, and this was true even when I was a size 14 in my full bust measurement.

  7. Linda Crusco-Stebbins

    Thank you again, Masha. I’ll let you know how it turns our.
    linda

  8. Linda Crusco-Stebbins

    Hi Masha- well after 4 big sets of baby gifts + 1 blanket throw I’m finally ready to get back to sewing for myself. I’ve decided to use the Gelato top as a basic woven top to get all the fitting bugs out & then I can hack it. As you suggested I’m using the size 6 because it eliminates the need for a narrow shoulder adjustment although I will have to make a FBA which I need to learn anyway. My question is about the sleeve girth. The size 6 width from armscye to armscye is 14 3/8″. My bicep is 12″. Inhouse Patterns ease guide says you need 5cm of ease. Although the pattern would give me that much ease it doesn’t leave me any seam allowances. Therefore, I would have to add 1″ for seam allowances? Or does that mean I should do a Bicep Adjustment or can I just add to the sleeve underarm seam? please advise.
    thanks,
    linda

    1. The full bicep adjustment is a better choice, as it adds room without increasing the length of the armscye. Hope that helps!

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