FBAs, Weird Bodice Pieces, and Conquering the "Lotus"

About a year ago, when I first started seriously altering commercial patterns to fit my body, I tried Amy Butler’s Lotus Cami.  No muslin, no alterations, just cut into some Liberty cotton I received a gift, using my waist, hips, and high bust to determine the size.

What a nightmare experience- a main factor in convincing me to systematically alter patterns and muslin.  I piped, then tried it on.  It wouldn’t meet in my CB.  I ripped out the piping, tried to alter the pattern front, re-cut and re-sewed the front, let out the back darts, made the back placket smaller then sewed it shut and put in a side zip; in short,  I did everything I could to salvage the top.  I don’t wear it.

I like the pattern, it seems like it should suit a curvaceous figure very well- you know, princess seams and all.  Then why does it only seem to work on very slim, or “H-shaped” builds?

At least I had the wherewithal to trace the pattern before I altered it, so I had an untouched master pattern to work from. 

LizaJane made a cute version of this top a little while ago; she had many of the same issues I found.  Her post made me itch to revisit the pattern I formerly considered lighting on fire.

When I pulled out the old altered pattern, I had to laugh.  It looks like my heart wasn’t really in it:

No wonder it didn’t fit.

This time I attacked the pattern head-on.  I used my high bust, waist and hip measurements as before which yield a Small.  My full bust measurement is 3″ greater than the Small measurement, so I knew I should try a 1.5″ FBA.  Already the pattern is light years ahead of 1-year-ago-me.

I discovered the length of the waist is 17″.  My waist length is 15″.  I shortened the back first, because the front has a troublesome (but pretty) Upper Bodice piece.  Then I made the front side seam match the back side seam.

My bare hip measure matches the size Small (odd…) but I want to have the option to wear this over Kate Hepburn pants so I decided to grade out from a Small to a Medium at the hip, hoping that would create enough ease to go over the pants smoothly.

I want to have the back button placket (because it’s cute) instead of a zip, so I transferred the Cami button placket onto my Tunic pattern which is shockingly simple.  I’ll lap the placket from just below my waist and stitch it together.

Now, when I was actually making my FBA, I generally followed the technique outlined by SewMamaSew, who incidentally uses this same pattern to teach FBA.  I changed one thing: altering the Upper Bodice as well.

I think it is important to remember that a FBA accomplishes three things:

  1. Creates more width
  2. Creates more length
  3. Changes the shape of the armscythe

It’s easy to forget that last one, but I find that re-shaping to be absolutely vital to good fit in the bust area.  I lapped the Upper Bodice and Side Front pieces at the seam line, using tape, and then proceeded to do my 1.5″ FBA.  The resulting pieces:

I made the lining already and I’m thrilled to say it fits exactly the way I pictured.  There’s a little funny business at the Upper Bodice/Side Front seam area, but it was negligible enough for me to do a tiny bit of tweaking to fix it.  It could have been the wine I had while I was basting.  At any rate, not enough for me to worry about the pattern.

I hope I don’t offend any sensibilities with this picture, my own are slightly offended but it’s the lining after all.

Note- the notches won’t match up after that alteration.  I matched up the side seams and sewed it together.  Basically the “straps” end up a little longer, but not much.

So where’s my finished tunic?  Still in fabric form.  She’ll be shocking pink linen with pale yellow piping and covered buttons, probably also a self-fabric belt of yellow.  I do adore yellow; I’m still actively working to inject some color into my tastefully boring, monochromatic wardrobe.

Recently I read a quote from an equestrian sculptor, when asked how he brought so much life to his subject.  He replied “I just chip away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.”

I’m off to trim away everything that doesn’t look like a Tunic.

(Not currently working on the Model T, because the fabric needed a second dunk in black dye.  May need a third.  Pattern in great shape. Accesories have stalled due to vagaries of international shipping, and Lila’s wardrobe is filling out but hardly stays clean long enough for me to photograph the pieces…)


  1. Your lining looks a better fit than the photo of the model on the pattern envelope. The fit model has some scrunchiness in the midriff. Are you going to wear yours with jeans like the model? Very cool.

  2. The fit looks great! I agree that it is a strange pattern. I like that you are making the tunic but transferring the button placket. That was my favorite part. I'm not sure I have the nerve to revisit the pattern after all the drama involved. But your idea of the tunic over your Katherine Hepburn pants sounds very cool. So, maybe….

  3. Thanks, I do plan to wear it over jeans (weather permitting) but I'm more interested in wearing it over full and 3/4 length Hepburns. That with a short light jacket or nothing or an open button down shirt should be great. The sleeve doesn't do much for me.I noticed the bad fit on the envelope models after I failed the first time. Kind of funny.

  4. It's amazing what a good fba can do us isn't it? I read posts from so many beginners and not so beginners afraid to make an fbA and then they wonder why it doesn't fit. Or they try different sizes combinations instead of just learning how to make an fba. Not hard really once you do it and then you get great fit like your tunic. Good fit really goes a long way toward sewing satisfaction as well.

  5. Could not agree more. The first time I teach someone an FBA, they're so skeptical and somewhat unhappy with all the pattern fiddling, but they go along with it because I taught them to sew to begin with. The look on people's faces when they wear something that fits (through the bust especially) the first time is priceless.

  6. I irrationally fear making a FBA, which is so silly because I know the difference it makes, but I get so overwhelmed when I pull out my drafting books that I do some hand waving and flee. :D Yours, well, your FBA looks kind of scary to be honest, but the final fit looks like it's so worth it. I like how you can use the lining as a sort of muslin to check the fit before cutting into the outer fabric! Good idea. :)

  7. It does make a lot of difference, and it's really easy to tell yourself new techniques are scary. Sometimes I do that, then when I finally tackle the new thing, I discover it isn't that bad. You can definitely do it, once you learn how and you get the hang of it, it goes quite quickly with very little thought.

  8. "I'm off to trim away everything that doesn't look like a Tunic." What a great idea!And no matter how many times I see it, I'm still in awe of how you alter patterns. It's so different from how I work and think!

  9. I think by arm piece you mean the upper bodice, I overlapped it with my bodice piece and did a regular FBA, like it says up there.. :)

  10. Pingback: Finished Object: Vanquished Lotus (or "Sex Candy") « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

Is it kind, useful or interesting? Great!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s