Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) tips

The sun is out and I am so tempted to push another Sewaholic Cambie to the top of my to-sew list. It is a really great pattern but gave me a few fitting headaches so, at the request of someone at the big blog meet-up (I can’t match names to all the faces), here is how I did a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) on the bodice.

This method is based on Fit For Real People Y adjustment (for adding more than 1.5″) but needed some thought due to the lack of side-darts and shoulder-seams. Before you start you need to know how much to add to your pattern. I hold up the pattern on my body with the side-seam aligned, and measure the gap at the front. Or you could compare your high bust and full bust measurements (remembering to halve this number to get the amount to add to each side). For easy maths I’m going to say I need to add 2″ to the pattern at the bust (there is 4″ difference between my full and high bust) which is why I am using this Y method.


  1. Trace your pattern onto tissue paper or tracing paper (or greaseproof paper if you are desperate). Transfer all the markings clearly.
  2. Imagine where the shoulder straps will be. With a ruler draw 3 lines from the point of the bust dart:  one to the centre of the “shoulder”, one to the underarm (just past the point where the straps meet the bodice), and one to divide the dart in half.
  3. Mark the stitching lines on the pattern. This is very important, so you don’t distort the final shape.seam line
  4. Cut along the line through the dart to the shoulder, stopping at the stitch-line you just drew. Spread the pattern half the amount needed at the bust point (in my example, I need to add 2″ in total, so here I am spreading the pattern by 1″). Lightly tape this in place.
  5. Cut along the line from the dart point to the stitching line of the underarm. Spread this part by the same amount (another 1″ here).
  6. Carefully secure the pattern onto another sheet of tissue paper (I use coloured tissue saved from presents). Make sure the pattern is smooth and flat before you tape it down.
  7. Draw a line at the bottom of the bodice at right angles with the fold line. Cut this line.
  8. Lengthen the centre of the bodice until the bottom is level with the side piece. Tape this in place, making sure that the fold/grain line is straight.
  9. Hold the pattern on your body to measure your bust point/apex and mark this on the pattern.
  10. Draw a circle around the bust apex to mark where the dart will end. If you are full chested this should be further away than most patterns suggest; I always have to do trial-and-error but on me it looks best being approx 1″. Redraw the dart legs, making sure the centre of the dart is on the grainline.FBA

So now you have a dart that is big enough to fit your body. However on this pattern there isn’t a side dart to share the fullness. My first dress needed a lot of careful pressing to avoid looking like an 80s Madonna pointy bra.dartsI divided the fullness into a few darts so that they would all be smaller and less pointy. The picture below shows how I did it, however after wearing my Cambie I think I’d  lower the central dart a bit more.dart fullnessIt has taken me a lot of tweaking to get this dress to fit how I wanted so I hope this helps you with your fitting; if anything isn’t clear or you have any questions please ask and I’ll try my best to answer them.


12 thoughts on “Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) tips

  1. ace – this is great timing for me as i am planning a simplicity 2444 which has 2 waist darts and no side dart, so i was wondering how to do it. was thinking i could rotate one of the darts to the side seam and fba it, then rotate it back to waist. would that work? i only need a 1/2″ fba normally.

  2. Hello! This is a really great tutorial, thanks – could you tell me please, how do you decide how far apart the new dart legs should be? This may be obvious, but I’m new to this! Cheers Beth

    • Hello! I usually hold the pattern side seam at my side and measure the gap to my front. Or you can compare pattern measurements with your measurements to see the total to add. When you slash the pattern to add this at the bust the dart legs will automatically widen. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks Alibobs, I’m not sure if I explained what I meant properly. I mean about step 10 where new legs are drawn on: “Redraw the dart legs, making sure the centre of the dart is on the grainline.” I understand the legs will widen when the pattern is slashed, but these new legs are narrower. Also how do I ensure the centre IS on the grainline? Thanks for your advice!

        • Sorry I didn’t see your question earlier. To get the dart on the grain I draw a line parallel to the centre-front under the bust point, then draw the new dart legs; if the fold of the dart is on grain it is much easier to sew.

          I see what you mean about the narrower legs in step 10, oops – you need to make sure the dart is symmetrical and if you move the bust point to fit you it might need adjusting. You can either do what I did for a slightly looser waist (and take more in when fitting if you want) or measure the new distance between the dart legs and make your new dart this size. I usually tweak darts when I’m trying on mid-sewing to make sure the fabric looks good, and it is easier, in my opinion, to make a dart bigger than unpick one that is too small.

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  6. Love your idea. Any chance you might post a picture of a top or dress you made like this? Would be especially nice if modeled – to see fit.

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