Saturday, May 15, 2021

Bust Darts on a Mature Figure

I want to talk about bust darts today.  Specifically about sewing darts for a mature bustline. Why? Because I noticed something on my last dress after I took pictures.  Here's what I noticed:

I sewed this dress on autopilot. I was using a TNT pattern and didn't think about the darts, where they would land or how my bustline is moving further south. My dart legs are too long (photo 1) and aren't pointing at my bust apex (photo 2).  I guess I could be discouraged about this but I'm in my 62nd year of life and am realizing that once again my body is changing.

I've lived through the teen years, the childbearing years, the 30s & 40s, and the post menopausal years. So I've learned that a changing body is part of life. I'm not railing against the change, I'm adjusting to it.  And part of adjusting is to realize I need to check my dart placement going forward in all makes - even TNT patterns.

If breast tissue talk bothers you, time to bow out now! *LOL* Cause that's what's next. When I was younger I had high, firm breasts and like most young women I took it for granted that they wouldn't always stay that way! After childbirth, I was one of those women whose breasts increased with each birth.  Yes, I lost some firmness but they were still pretty amazing...helped by the fact that I did not breastfeed. I'm of that generation. I raised three daughters on formula.

I was also pretty religious about good bra support and wore one 95% of the time. Yes, I even slept with one on. So my breast tissue was supported well into my late 40s/early 50s when perio-menopause started and then of course menopause. Menopause that not only affected my hormones but affected my breast tissue too. I lost fullness, I went down a cup size and as I gained and lost weight purchasing bras that supported well became more of a challenge.

Now to bring this back to sewing. As I stated above I neglected to think about dart placement when making those last two dresses. This will be a consideration going forward. I'm also taking the time to purchase new bras - what a journey this is turning out to be...and no bra making is not on my list of sewing things.

Finally I'm remeasuring my bustline, determining my new bust apex points and checking all of this prior to cutting out bodices. I will be doing this with even my TNT patterns going forward.

My D cup breasts have become C cup breasts so I don't need a full bust adjustment. Also my fit is looser now that I'm older, comfort is more important than it was when I was younger. I like side darts and princess seams to make adjustments for fit. Maybe it's because of the way I learned, maybe because I'm lazy, or maybe these alterations work for me. 

Some of the changes I plan to make are:

o  Re-examine my bust point apex and mark it on my patterns going forward even my TNT patterns.

o  Lower the darts on my patterns. I've mentioned lowering darts before and my go to reference is from the Curvy Sewing Collective here.

o  Checking the length of the dart legs to make sure they're not too long or look weird.

o  Fit my paper pattern to insure that my darts are in the right place prior to cutting the fabric.

Anyway, I will be highlighting the changes I make to my patterns where bust darts are concerned going forward.  Just wanted to start the conversation and hear any suggestions, comments, alterations you have or used in the comments.  Thanks! always more later!


  1. Thank you for continuing to blog. It is always a good day when I see you have posted. If you had not made those circles I don't think the darts would have been noticed in the blog pictures. But this is one of many reasons I enjoy hearing from you and I applaud you for continuing to improve your sewing products. Jean

  2. It is constantly changing, isn’t it? I am still adapting to this post-baby body (which is very different from my other post-baby bodies!) Bust point is something I’ve never had to worry much about before, but mine dropped an inch the day the twins were born! 😂

  3. This is so relevant to the majority of aging women. I'm the same age as you Carolyn - turning 62 at the end of May. In my 20s I started out as 36C, after 2 babies I was 38D, into my 40s and 50s I got bigger and bigger and the bust "apex" had probably dropped several inches over the decades. Currently I'm 42F cup. I have a self drafted bodice block with my preferred dart positioning that I graft onto commercial patterns and this works for me to get a nice smooth fit across the upper torso on most garments. It is well worth learning how to position and alter bust darts to fit your personal chest shape. The garments will hang so much more nicely without wrinkles, bunch ups or stretching over the bosom.


  4. I agree with the comment above - a post from Carolyn makes my day!

    Here's my recent experience with the traveling bust apex: Several years ago, I found my *perfect bra*, and I started buying one every year. (They are expensive, but I can handle one/year.) Now I have ten or so of them, and last summer I experimented with converting one of them to a racer-back configuration. I absolutely LOVE what it does to my upper bodice proportions to have my breast tissue brought forward and away from my arms/side profile.

    Long story short, after converting the rest of my bras to racer-back, I had to redraft all of my bodice blocks. Big change in apex location! It has been worth it, though.

    The other strategy is one I read a few years ago on Communing With Fabric (miss her!!!!) - I always baste in my darts, shoulder seams, and side seams to make sure everything is lining up. Even with TNT block patterns, different fabrics (and phases of the moon???) can cause darts and bust apices to not line up. Basting then sewing takes only a few additional minutes and beats ripping out.

    Changing bodies, changing bras...good thing we sew!!!

    1. I can tell you that Shams is still around. She may not be blogging but she is on Instagram. I'm sure if you left her a note, she would appreciate it.

    2. A second here for racer backs. I recently bought three bras that convert to racer back via a sewn-in hook that hooks onto a ring on the other strap. Now the straps feel as though they will stay in place when I am working in a physically demanding job, and they also look great. The conversion option adds to their versatility.

  5. Thank you for continuing to blog. As a returner to sewing after many decades I appreciate any guidance. As I have found RTW tops usually have the bust dart too high, its something I will pay attention to when sewing.

  6. Thanks for a really helpful, informative post :)

  7. I have always found two parallel darts worked really well for me, especially with a mature bust. I tend to get a that little bit of gape in the armhole, even with knits so transferring part of the bust dart into the armhole works well for me too.

  8. Great topic, thank you

  9. Hi. Thank you for this conversation and all the replies. When I was 20 something no one told me I could not have the same perky pups for life. My first chldirth/breastfed made one size difference. Nine years later I delivered twins that completely changed everything from overly extended uterus to one-side-has-Chocolate (the comfort of a heartbeat-breastfeeding). Never found a good bra. Razer-backed ones feel awesome but difficult to get on/off. I am a few years older than you but 29 years later +8 sized floppy lopsided pups sent me to the comfort of wearing 2x mens t's and thermals. I've never been half as beautiful as you but always crafty and sewing. I definitely appreciate your time, yours and your readers tips and your blog. Thank you so much.

  10. Carolyn like you I thought my perky breasts would stay the test of time. Well that concept failed, 2 children and diabetes plus weight gain and loss took their toll. I still have perky but not the same. I am now redoing all my tnt patterns and any new patterns to fit the new me. Thanks for all of your advice/commentary.

  11. Thank you for this post! I was young when my mom passed at 46 and women seldom seem to discuss aging issues amongst themselves. I had no idea what to expect, what was..or wasn’t....normal. I am older than you are and have been navigating these changes as I go, but I am grateful to read posts about the realities and body changes that we all experience along with our good luck at living our best lives into older ages!

  12. I’ve noticed that if the too long bust dart goes from down at the sides to up at the apex, just shortening the dart will bring it to the right point. So much easier than cutting out the dart and placing it lower.

  13. Thank you for so thoughtfully addressing this topic! You have so many well developed TNTs with such staying power that you have to update them for the occasional body change. I am looking for TNTs but flit among many pattern options. When I wear a knit top with darts that was made several years ago, for example, I do notice these issues. Maybe you want to spend a little time trying on prior makes and making a few notes so you can get ahead of the curve.

  14. Perhaps Heidi is using a French dart--it replaces both the waistline dart and the underarm dart by
    taking up the fabric on the diagonal. I always use this trick for the front of my knit bodices/t-shirts/cardigans since the standard flat, unshaped convention hangs wrong on me. A full-bust adjustment is not difficult on the French dart. I do prefer the underarm dart for wovens.--anne

  15. I've always been a resolute almost flat AA and it was only when someone else pointed out on IG that I need a bust dart now on a jacket I was working was WEIRD. And I DO. True, and I appreciate the advice cause I DO. Everything is still in the same proportions as I age and grow wider, but there's just more mass in front of the armscye now. But I am still a AA. Just a 40AA, rather than a 36AA.
    I nursed one, bottle fed the other. Moms know: whatever gets the job done and keeps the kid happy and healthy is the right choice. Your kids are swell, the results are clear.
    What an excellent discussion this is! Bless you!

  16. Great post, Miz Carolyn, honey.

    I will even "fix" rtw darts. Often, you can rip out the dart all the way to the seamline, then re-sew it to a lower bust point -- as much as 2" in some fabrics.

    Have had to do this to some of my me-mades, as well. I hate to throw away a garment if there's any use at all left for it.

  17. Right about when I was mid sixties I had the same bust enlightenment, Carolyn. I quickly learned how to shorten dart and that was often all that was needed but over time the inevitable sands of time fell through the hourglass and the boobs had to move. After comparing apexes from me to the pattern, I move the dart box down. I simply cut a box out around the dart and move it down the needed amount. No length changes, just the dart position. This is a pretty easy alteration with major effect. What is going to change next?

    I was a formula mom as well, and kids are fine. My breasts never perked but they had a lovely roundness that now is gone. Ah, the benefits of our hormones! I welcomed menopause wholeheartedly but I think the only thing I missed were my lovely rounded breasts, sigh........

  18. I'm 10 years older than you, Carolyn, so I've had to adjust to lowering breasts for quite some time now but it is an ongoing issue. Darts can be a bit tricky so I mainly sew with princess seams as they are easier. I also had the annoying problem of bra straps falling off my shoulders until I found a Wacoal bra that sits the straps at a different angle. This is a big win for me! Thanks for blogging about this dart issue. Your blog topics are so relevant. Karen

  19. Carolyn, I'll be 63 in 10 days. I can relate to the breast tissue loosing firmness, having trouble finding bras that support without being uncomfortable. The stores around here (We're up in Albany NY) that specializing in fitting bras (there are 2) haven't done a good job for me, so I will be trying my hand at bra sewing. Someday :)
    Hugs, and keep on sewing

  20. We are the same age and I can relate! So far, I've just been able to reposition the tip of the dart downward and that fixes it if I've already cut the fabric. My torso is so short that the dart legs are usually in the right spot. My Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with ads for "comfortable" bras. No underwire, no hooks but great support- they claim. I ordered one- nope, no support and they give that uni-boob look. Working from home has spoiled me- I've been too comfortable. Our office is not fancy. But I doubt I could go to the office with no bra!

  21. Great post! Being 70, my breast have definitely changed. I once was a member of the IBT Club, around 40 I actually had breast. I am currently trying to find the right bra. I learned several years ago that I needed to redirect the darts on clothes I made. Sandra Betzina's Fast Fit book indicates that you need to reduce the dart point by 1/2 inch for each cup size above a B cup. So I try to follow that when redrafting darts when I make an FBA. Most the time I lower my darts with certain pattern brands. I do take some shortcuts and regret that I did not mark the apex on the pattern. Thanks again for posting about bust darts.

  22. Thank you for the honesty about our changing bodies and sewing to fit them.

  23. Just talking about woman body s. Changing and adjust and no shame!

  24. I also welcome the new phases and stages of life, but I was also not fully prepared for how much my body could/would change with age. I was SO tiny up top, even after kids and then turned 30 and they GREW AND GREW AND GREW!

    It's funny now, post-reduction, I have a really hard time buying bras. The "breast footprint" doesn't change so now I need an underwire + cup size that aren't readily compatible. I bought like 12 bras this weekend to try at home (even without COVID, I don't find trying on bras in-store to be that helpful. I want to try it on, move around, try on different tops and dresses, etc). I have 3 that I like, different brands, and they are a 36C, 38B, 38C. BLERGH. LOL!

    And that method of moving the entire dart box is awesome!


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