Draping Beyond Basics – Bust Length

Learn to Sew – Draping Beyond Basics – Bust Length. You don’t need to go to fashion design school to drape your practice garments so they fit your body. Where your bust darts land is a personal choice. As long as they are within a 6 inch circle around the center of the bust, it will be fine.

Darts are used to create depth in a top to accommodate our three-dimensional shapes. We use traditional bust darts, french darts, fish-eye darts, and princess seams to create this shape and roominess.

The goal of draping is to get the best fit for our body and a flattering overall effect. When we start with a paper pattern and make a practice garment, we can make adjustments to the practice garment before we cut into our fashion dress fabric.

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Dart Seam Lines And Bust Circle

The dart seam line is the stitched line that transforms a flat piece of fabric into a three-dimensional article of clothing. The bust circle is a 6-inch circle around the center of the bust (a 3 inch radius from the center bust).

Dress Form

The best dress form is your own body. It can be difficult perfecting your draping quality when you are working on yourself by yourself; however, with practice and patience you will get a better fit than you can with dress forms. The best way to drape – find a sewing buddy and drape each other’s garments.

Bust Dart Length

We always begin with the length of the garment. When you try on your practice garment, do you find the bust line is too low, too high, or just right? The trend is to have the dart double as a style line and rest above the bust. I’m not keen on how that looks for a more mature figure, but if you are young and fit, it looks very on trend. We are all in various stages of our life and lifestyle, selecting the fit that you like best is very personal. This is one of the main advantages of sewing our own clothes – we get the fit and desired effect we want!

If it is too low, then you need to shorten your top above the bust line. and, perhaps, add fabric back to the lower edge — that is an adjustment in waistline length. If the bust dart is too low, your tops midsection will be baggy and the bust will be tight. Not attractive in any realm.

If the bust dart is too high, then you need to lengthen the top above the bust line, and, perhaps, shorten the lower edge with a waistline adjustment.If at all possible, you want to make these adjustments without affecting the dart or the arm scythe

YouTube Instructions

If you learn better by watching than reading, you can watch my bust dart draping video. Sometimes it’s good to do both, watch and read. Options are always good.

Correction For A Bust Dart That Is Too Low

When the pattern’s bust dart falls below the bust circle, the correction is to raise the dart. Using your practice garment – See Learn To Drape 101 – pinch enough fabric between the bust dart and the bottom of the arm scythe (underarm seams) to lift the dart to the bust circle. This will remove the extra fabric and raise the dart. It will shorten your top and raise the dart. Note: it will also shorten your waist and everything below the waist which may require an additional adjustment.

Learn to Sew - Draping Beyond Basics - Bust Length
The Red Tape Highlights The Sewn Dart

When you shorten the front of your top, you also need to shorten the back of your top the same amount of excess fabric. Make this adjustment a continuous circle around your practice garment. Then you can take the adjustment to your pattern piece.

When you are happy with your adjustment, transfer the alteration to your pattern tissue. Take the front and back pieces (and other affected pieces like facings) and draw a line above the bust marking. You want all your pieces to be the same length, that will ensure the side seams will go together perfectly.

Draw a second line half the amount you shortened the top material. For example, if you pinched out 1 inch it would equal 2 inches — one on each side of the adjustment. So in this case the second line would be 1 inch from the first line.

Learn to Sew - Draping Beyond Basics - Bust Length
Draw Lines Perpendicular to the Center Front

Finally bring these two lines together and you have now shortened your pattern tissue.Repeat the process with each piece affected.

Learn to Sew - Draping Beyond Basics - Bust Length
Your Pattern Is Now Shortened!

Correction For A Bust Dart That Is Too High

When the bust dart is too high, you need to add length between the arm scythe and the bust dart. This will lower the dart on the garment. Essentially reversing the process above.

Begin by cutting the practice garment appart between the arm scythe and the bust dart. Be sure to cut the top all the way around. Pin and then stitch a strip of fabric around the top wide enough to drop the bust dart to your desired location.

Transfer this inserted width to your front, back, and other affected pattern pieces. Cut the pattern tissue between the arm scythe and bust dart then tape in scrap tissue or paper making the length correspond with your adjusted practice garment. You want all your pieces to be the same length, that will ensure the side seams will go together perfectly. Repeat the process with all pieces affected.

Draping Quality Clothes

When you sew with quality fabrics, patterns that fit your body, and good draping techniques, you will be proud to wear your #MeMade garments. You can let your creativity shine by adding all the details that make you happy — pockets, trim on the outer edges, or whatever design element you want to add. All it takes is your imagination, quality fabrics, and your trusty sewing machine.

I hope Learn to Sew – Draping Beyond Basics – Bust Length will help you make the perfect bust height adjustments so your garments will go from home made to retail ready to wear perfection. Get your favorite dress fabrics ready to cut, make a practice piece out of an inexpensive fabric, practice your fashion draping, and sew a beautiful dress, top, jacket, and more. 

Happy Sewing


11 thoughts on “Draping Beyond Basics – Bust Length

  1. I am very beginner at sewing, so it’s great to have these little clarifications and fixes for when things go wrong! I haven’t tried sewing darts…yet!

  2. Your video and tutorial for the draping really helped me, especially the bust dart explanation! I’ve never been able to make mine look that great, hopefully I can now!

  3. I just got a sawing machine. I have no idea where to start, but getting a buddy to saw together sound so much fun. I love reading all of your sawing tips.

  4. This a good tutorial on draping. For those of us that arent skilled at sewing, this is helpful information.

  5. I have not sewn in many years but this post brought back memories of the darts for the bust line. Back then I was young and slim. If I do get back into sewing I will need this information. Thanks

  6. Such an amazing tutorial on draping! We love how you take the time to explain things. Thank you so much!!

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