Pattern Hack Fairy



Full Bust Adjustment: Contoured French Dart

Adjusting for a larger bust cup size is very easy when the pattern has a side bust dart, or in this case a contoured French dart.  I favor this dart because it more mimics our actual bust shape and reduces the possibility of a “pointy” garment nipple.

Basically we just need a deeper dart intake to create a fuller “mound” pocket for the bust.  My approach to a Full Bust Adjustment differs from style to style.  My goal is to disturb the rest of the pattern as little as possible with the exception of increasing the “bust mound”.  In this case, I wanted to keep my neckline and armholes true to their original shape, and I do not want to increase the waist or hip circumference.  The assumption is that everything fit fine except needing more room in the bust mound.

Step 1

Draw a straight line from the middle of the shoulder to the apex point marked on the pattern.

Step Two

Draw straight dart legs from the apex mark to the ends of the French dart legs.  Trace the contoured dart shape onto a scrap of paper and save this for later.  We will now “slash” a cut through the shoulder line and pivot at the apex to “close” the French dart.


Step Four

We will now draw a slash line from the apex to the center front neckline’s sew line.  In this example, I wanted a full 1″ extra added to my dart, so I pivoted the end of each slash leg by 1/2″.  You can increase as much as you feel you need to.

Step Five

Next, draw the shoulder dart legs directly to the apex mark.  Next, we will “close” the shoulder dart and open up the side bust dart.

Step Six

Next we will take the tracing we made of the contoured French dart to use as a template to draw the dart legs back in.

Last step is we true up the shoulder line if it shifted a little.

We’re done!  See the “before” and after?





Categories:   Fit Adjustments, Iconic Wrap Dress project at


  • Posted: 11/30/2016 17:14


    Thank you so much for this info! It's the fix for a shirt I've been struggling with for months. I really appreciate your clear instructions and drawings. Question: Besides needing the FBA, my shirt also needs a narrow shoulder adjustment (which I know how to do). But which adjustment should I do first -- bust or shoulder -- or does it matter in this case?
    • Posted: 01/07/2017 04:58

      Catina Ferraine

      Hi! I feel like I want to say do the narrow shoulder adjustment first. The reason is that by doing the dart business second, once you've trued that dart up you're done! If you do the dart first and then the shoulder, it would nag me to want to double check that the bust dart still trues up correctly. It probably still would, but it would bug me that there's that off chance!
  • Posted: 01/17/2017 18:58


    Hi, thanks for the great tutorial! :) Just wondering if a gaping armhole is typical result of needing an FBA? and/or would that also fix it? Thanks!! Laura
    • Posted: 03/04/2017 22:38

      Catina Ferraine

      Yes... great observation! One way I test this in a sewn mock up is I literally cut a 3" X (carefully) right over the apex. If the bust "busts out" of the X and the armhole no longer gaps then there is your proof! For a bodice with sleeve, sometimes the armhole will just simply gape until you put the sleeve in and the problem will correct itself. Happy sewing!