Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Tall FBA and The Forties Frock

Another rainy day. Where are you summer, I ask. The Daughter went on a children's church club trip with her Grandma O, so I had a little time on my hands which I chose to use on patterns and not the urgently needed house cleaning, no surprises there. So, an FBA. That is Full Bust Adjustment to those not familiar with the sewing lingo. I have come to realise that many home sewers at least here are not familiar with the fact that commercial patterns are made with the perfect bee cups of the world in mind. Or let me make it clearer, if you are a C-cup or above, the pattern will not fit you properly as such. Or indeed if you're smalled than a bee cup. And therefore you end up with garments that do not fit, and quite often also get discouraged from sewing altogether. I've seen that happen too many times, and have tried to mention that it is not the sewing, it's the pattern that is at fault. You need to adjust the pattern. There are plenty of good tutorials online about doing the basic FBA or SBA.  I myself have been using this one many times with good results. Another good one for an SBA can be found here.

But that's not all.  The average British woman is nowadays 160 cm tall, or so say the studies. Or around 5 feet 3 inches. I'm quite a bit taller than that. Even in flats. So this means that regular patterns also have such proportions that waists end up being somewhere between my boobs and my actual waist. The pattern hipline lands on my waist etc. You get the picture. And obviously, hems, sleeves and pant legs are way too short as well. And no it's not a question of just cutting them longer. At least it's not if you want clothes that actually fit. And that's the average height for today, apparently in the 40's it was 5 feet 2 inches or around 158 cm. So since I'm dealing with a forties pattern here, I end up with a height difference of 19 cm or 7.5 inches! So for the tall Ladies out there, look here and here. Note though, at least modern day Burda patterns are based on a 168 cm or 5 feet 6 inches tall model. So check from the pattern to see how much you need to adjust since different companies use different sizing even if they were issued at the same era.

Using plus size patterns in order to avoid doing an FBA? All well and good but check the proportions again. I have used plenty of plus size patterns myself and have noticed that while you might find that the bust fits well in front, the back can be too wide. Or the bust and back fit fine, but you're swimming in fabric at the waist. Well, that particular problem I myself no longer have though...It really depends on the shape of your torso and the shape of your breasts rather than your actual size. Also, a regular size 44 and a plus size 44 are not equal. The plus size pattern is going to be bigger everywhere and with generally more ease. So that also means that if you're using a plus size and want close fitting clothing you need to figure this in as well. Sounds like I've had my fair share of fitting problems, doesn't it. And I certainly have, and belive me, it's not getting better...

So, before I go to the actual pattern pieces, here's the image and my fabric, a soft, thin cotton.

And to give you an idea, here are some images of the mess I'm making with the pattern sizing adjustments this time. First the front with both an FBA and the tall issue...

It's been cut twice horizontally to lengthen the piece, and only then did I do the FBA. Next came the waist piece that obviously needed just the tall issue adjustment.

You can see (can you?) the adjustment there above the dot mark. It's about an inch or 2.5 cm. On the top piece there were two adjustments each of the same width. Then it was time to tackle the back.

I had to reposition the dart completely and still don't think it's in the proper place, but I guess I'll just have to decide on the placement with the toile. Also, I did some measuring work on the pattern versus my actual measurements and as indeed I am not willing to wear any kind of suck-you-in-garment I also did some strategic width adjustment with the waist. Cute, huh. So now it's to the cutting board, or in my case, cutting floor. Let's see how it goes, am feeling all rusty with this sewing business.

Lately, in order to get myself better acquainted with the detailing and construction of the 1940's fashion I have also been reading this book by Jonathan Walford.


And while I do appreciate being true to the pattern, I'm afraid I'm going to have to do some alterations to the pattern stylewise as well. First, before actually receiving the pattern and the instructions I wasn't aware that the zipper is placed in the front middle. Now, that doesn't work for me for various reasons, the main one being that there is such an amount of curvetude on my front that a zipper simply will not do. So I am contemplating whether to move the zipper to the side or the back, most likely the side though. I'll have to see about the rest later.

To recap today here are some vintage lace pieces found at the flea-market yesterday, some hand-tooled, some factory made. I'm planning on turning them into flowers for head-pieces, pins or just to brighten up any darker outfit, or indeed a dark, rainy day just like today.


  1. I love your blog! Just so you know, of the larger pattern companies, Burda is the only one that drafts their plus patterns for a D cup. Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick and Vogue all use C cup.

  2. Thanky you, that was a lovely thing to say.
    And I didn't know that about the cup-issue..:)But that explains a lot though.