An epic small bust adjustment story...Part 1

When I think back to some of my earlier disastrous sewing projects it strikes me as odd that I never made any muslins! I always dove straight in and tried things out on some piece of lovely one-of-a-kind fabric I'd been saving, which inevitably led to many disappointments when my project didn't turn out as I'd imagined and I'd wasted the nice fabric to boot!

Thankfully I (almost) always make muslins now, and never has this been more useful than when tackling my first pattern from the Colette Sewing Handbook.

I decided to start with the Licorice dress. I traced off the pattern in the smallest size and then cut out the dress in calico. I knew it would be too big in the bust area as the smallest size in Colette patterns is 84cm at the bust and my bust measurement is 80cm. And sure enough the muslin confirmed this.

While I think that the Colette Sewing Handbook is amazing, I would say that it could go into more detail when it comes to fitting issues as the explanation on how to remove excess fabric at the bust in the book (on page 89) was really not detailed enough for me. But of course no book is designed to be the only source consulted and it is not a bad thing to have to go and seek out other complementary information elsewhere.


So began my online quest to understand exactly how one tackles a 'small bust adjustment'. And this is what I love about the online sewing community: the wealth of information being shared out there is just incredible. I found loads of helpful tutorials on small bust adjustments but there does seem to be some disagreement about how to go about them so I thought it would be a good idea to collate some of the online discussion about SBAs in once place and explain which method works best for me:

Some comments on the Collette blog point out that the method they describe (for the Hawthorn dress) is flawed, this was the one I tried to follow for the Licorice dress. I made some slash lines and then overlapped them, but I didn't really feel that confident in what I was doing so it was a bit of a fluke really. I then redrafted the bodice back into the front dress piece and made a second muslin, which fit much better despite gaping a bit at the neck front.


Generally speaking I am happy with the fit, although I don't think it will be my new favourite dress (I didn't add the collar or the sleeves to my version so perhaps that is a factor in it not looking quite right).


Shona Stitches highlighted the problem she discovered with the Colette method: "The main problem is that the Small Bust Adjustment shortened the bodice and made the waist much smaller. It also raised the apex of the dart and moved it more toward the center, which may or may not be a problem depending on your bust."

In the comments IrendeDAdler (You Sew Like a Girl) also points out the flaws with the Colette tutorial. She said: "The widely-known 4-slash SBA/FBA should only be done on bodices with 2 darts, and should not be blindly applied to all darted bodices."

Shona then references this tutorial from Paunnet, which in turn led me to this tutorial on Deer and Doe.

Now I'm in the process of trying out the Paunnet and Deer and Doe methods to try out my second SBA adventure on the Truffle dress.


Some essential points for me to remember:

 - My bust is 80 compared with 84 on the pattern, so I need take out 4cm at the bust.
 - I think what is needed is to reduce the surface area around the bust, but not shorten the side seams.

I'm still incredibly confused about all this so any help would be much appreciated! :)


  1. Pretty dress! I think you are on the right track with your SBA but I can't offer much assistance as I have to do FBAs!

    1. I'm still working on SBAs, here is my new post on it! http://belgianseams.blogspot.be/2013/11/SBA-part2.html

  2. Thanks Zoe! I hope so! Still trying to get my head around them, but hopefully will get there in the end!

  3. Loving your thoughts and research (over all 3 posts) - Thanks for including lots of pictures and links ;)