Alteration of dress to accomodate bust

Started by Henry Hall, July 07, 2019, 09:06:05 PM

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Henry Hall

Hello. An eternal problem methinks.

I'm altering a dress with the annoying problem of fitting pretty much everywhere except the bust. Front armscye is also tight as a result. I've considered several approaches, but I'm pretty much swamped at this moment and wondering what the best approach might be.

The dress is vintage in a lightweight crepe-like material. I'm a little worried about any opened seams showing visible stitch holes. For some reason these older dresses always seem to have been sewn with tiny stitch lengths.

If this was a dress from scratch (which I'm also in the process of doing) I could just alter the draft to accommodate the issue, but I'm working on something already made. I'm hoping I don't have tinker with the either the long front darts or the bust darts, but that might not be possible.
There are 1.5cm seam allowances on the bodice side-seams and 2cm on the shoulder seams. The bust dart is 2cm to nothing for 14cm and a long front dart almost meeting the termination of the bust dart.

The difference I have to accommodate is 5 1/2 to 6cm around the bust. It's all at the front, no prominent shoulder blades or anything.

Any ideas?
'Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquillity that no religion can bestow.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.


in my opinion there is not enough fabric for this alteration. If you need 5,5 cm at bust level  and you have only 1 cm in the s.a. (2 cm)  you are lost.  Even if you let out the back too it is not enough. For a larger dart you can open the shoulder seam (as if you rotate a bit of the dart in the armhole  (2 cm is tiny)) -  but for more width there is only an inset of a different fabric a solution. This depends on the style where you can plan the set in. And the front length - it must be tight too?


Hello Henry,

If the dress is plain fabric and it has a real (4cms) hem AND is sleeveless, you may consider the following... Replace the hem with a sew on facing in an alternative fabric. Cut two pie shaped wedges out of the hem fabric, and widen the front part with these, than rework all the darts. I did something like this once, turned out decently. Mind you; I ironed "sticky" pattern paper to the back of the parts that I carefully peeled off later, because crepe fabrics are more nervous than yelly pudding...

Anyway, cheers and good luck with that!

Henry Hall

I worked out a solution using insets, as you both suggested in the replies. Luckily this dress had long sleeves and the lady wanted it made sleeveless. She told me this by telephone about three hours after I posted the topic. I was jubilant because those long sleeves provide ample fabric.

The cloth pattern is a busy early 70s pattern, but I even managed to match the pattern pieces!  :) I'm not quite finished yet, but with a few tiny adjustments in other places it should hopefully work out.

I need to remind myself not to accept jobs like this. My word, the DB waistcoat with lapels I set aside will feel like child's play when I get back to it.

Too true about the crepe fabric Hendrick. It's like it has 360° bias!
'Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquillity that no religion can bestow.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.