Here is the second part of my fitting tutorial, all about fitting the bodice pattern. If you’re interested in learning about fitting skirt and pants patterns, check out the previous article. In it I also explain some basics on fitting patterns in general.

So now we can go straight to the point. In the pictures you can see the basic bodice block, but the same instructions work also to fit other type of bodice patterns. Like last time, I’ve prepared some pictures to demonstrate the issue and how you could resolve it.

Fitting the Bodice Waist

The bodice waist might not always fit you right. It can be too tight or too large, or the waist level could end up too high or too low. These are simple issues to correct.

Waist Circumference

I recommend not correcting the bodice waistline all in one point, but rather dividing the amount between different points: the front and back darts, and the side seam. In the case of taking in, you have also the c-back. Just notice that you can no longer cut the bodice back piece on the fold after that.

Waist Level

If the bodice waist level is too high or low, you can slice the front and back pieces as shown here, and then either add extra length or overlap the pieces to shorten. Adjust the lines and darts after you’re done.

Fitting the Bodice Hips

What if it’s the hip circumference that is too small or large? In this case, you usually just have the side seams to correct.

If you end up adding a large amount of extra width at the hip level, you might consider adding some at the waist level as well to make the side seam more harmonious. Eventually, you can then increase the waist darts.

Correcting the Bust Point

Fitting bodice pattern also means checking that the bust point is placed correctly: If the bodice has the bust point all wrong, the darts will not be right either. They could be pointing too high up or too low, for example.

To check the placement, you’ll need your bust level measurement and the distance between bust points. If one or both of these measurements isn’t correct, you can adjust the pattern as follows. In this example, the bust point is lower and further away from c-front.

After you’ve drawn the new bust dart, correct the waist dart as well. It should start 2cm below the bust point. Close the bust dart to adjust the shoulder line and dart allowance shape.

If you are correcting another type of pattern that doesn’t have bust point marked, you can find an approximate location with the knowledge that usually the dart points are located 2-3cm from the actual bust point.

Bodice with Gaping Armhole

Here’s a common problem with a sleeveless bodice. The armhole can gape both front and back. When there are sleeves involved, this is only a good thing, as it gives the needed wearing ease to the garment. But without sleeves, it doesn’t look that nice!

The front piece is easier to fix, as you can rotate the extra volume into an existing dart. If this dart doesn’t end at the bust point, lengthen it at first so that it does, and once you’ve rotated the volume, shorten the dart again. You’ll need to correct the armhole shape afterwards.

The back piece doesn’t have suitable darts, so you need to limit yourself to smaller corrections. Depending on where the armhole gape is, you can either remove some volume from the shoulder tip or at the side seam under the arm (or both). You’ll also manage to ease some of the gaping in if you finish the armhole edge with a bias tape.

Rounded Back Fix

Some people have a rounded upper back that needs fitting. The bodice is basically missing some length and you also need a bigger shoulder dart to follow the back shape. Here’s how you get both. Maintain the c-back line straight.

fitting bodice

Fitting Bodice Shoulders

If you don’t have “standard” shoulders, you might need to modify the shoulder line. You could have wider or narrower shoulders, or they could be more sloped or straight/square.

Shoulder line Length

If the inclination of the shoulder line is otherwise correct, but you find it too long or short, you’ll notice it especially with sleeves: there’s empty space at the sleeve head and the seam falls off your shoulder. Or the sleeve head feels tight as your shoulders need more space sideways.

Here’s how you would modify the pattern. It’s better to first rotate the bust and shoulder darts somewhere else so that they don’t get in the way.

fitting bodice

Sloped vs. Square Shoulders

The sloped shoulders cause sagging and square shoulders pulling of fabric. The fix is to move the shoulder tip along with the whole armscye line downwards or upwards. The armscye line length should remain the same.

Fitting Bodice Chest and Back

Here are two issues on the opposite sides of the bodice, front or back. Generally the back needs more width than the chest area of the bodice, especially with sleeves, because you need to be able to move your arms.

To add or reduce the width in these areas means that you end up adding or removing some also from the side seam to maintain the armscye length as it was. Of course if there are no sleeves, and you are happy with the underarm length as it is, you could also leave the side seams be.

Adjusting the Bust

Bodice bust size is probably one of the most common adjustments, but maybe more with ready-made patterns than self drafted. Let’s see how to adjust the bodice for small and large bust.

Small Bust

This is the easier one. Basically you need to eliminate some width and dart volume by separating a little section of the bodice and overlapping the dart volume as shown. Adjust the side seam and the new dart.

Large Bust

This would be the classic FBA, Full Bust Adjustment. Often needed because the cup size is larger than the standard B. As a result of this modification, the bodice front becomes wider and longer, and the darts become larger.

Begin by rotating the bust dart from the shoulder to the side seam.

I hope the drawings demonstrate the steps well enough. I’d just add that in the end you need to mark the bust point using your bust level and bust point distance measurements. Then draw guidelines that start at the bust point, and finally the new darts centered around the guidelines.

Fitting the Sleeve

Here are a couple of sleeve pattern adjustments.

Sleeve Length

Changing the sleeve length is simple. You could even just add or remove length at the hemline, but to maintain the original hemline width you can slice the sleeve somewhere in the middle, such as along the elbow line, and add or remove the required length. Adjust the sides.

Find the new elbow level when you’re done if you need this information. You measure it from the top of the sleeve cap.

Upper Arm Width Adjustment

The sleeve could be too tight or too loose around the upper arm. To fix that, you can either add or remove width on both sides of the bicep line. When you modify the sleeve, you’ll need to modify the bodice as well, or the measurements won’t match when sewing.

You could also widen the sleeve cap slightly, but that will alter the sleeve cap measurement so it requires more fiddling with the sleeve cap height and/or the bodice armscye length.

fitting bodice
fitting bodice

So there you have it! I hope these together with the skirt and pant pattern adjustments will help you create better fitting garments. I will make a PDF with all the fitting issues covered later this month and place it in the Resource Library for you to download.


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  1. Thank you for this! Such a life saver. What software do you use to make your illustrations?

    • You’re welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator but at the moment I’m learning the Affinity Designer in the hopes of starting to use that instead.

  2. Can u plz make an article on different sleeves and armhole most of man clothes I wud much appreciate that thank you

    • I have quite a few sleeve tutorials here on my blog, and you can learn how to draft the basic sleeves from the basic bodice tutorials. If you mean menswear however, I don’t specialize in that, sadly.

  3. Thank you for this! Just what I was needing. Thank you truly for all the work that you do. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Amazing, finally a site where I can see drawings on the fitting issues and get a simple explanation on how to fix it! Thank you so, so much!

    • You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad I managed to put together a useful tutorial. I figured it was easier to make the drawings than actually attempting to re-create the fitting issues with live bodice examples.

    • I don’t use any specific patternmaking software. These are more like graphics, so it’s either Illustrator or Affinity Designer. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. Hello and thank you so much for this. Itโ€™s so helpful. I have another issue & Iโ€™m kindly asking for your assistance to resolve it. I make simple clothes for myself. However, although I curve the zipper allowance for the back of my dresses, the zipper bulges out around the natural waist area. Is this because my back area is shorter than my front or what could be the reason, please?

    • You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hmm.. in general when a zipper bulges it could be because it’s slightly longer than the dress opening and you’re stretching the fabric without noticing while sewing. Alternatively a fabric can bunch up at the back waist when the dress doesn’t have enough room to glide down freely, meaning it’s too tight around the hips/bottom.

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