Off the Rack ~ A Pinch Under the Bust for a Better Shape

 

I recently discovered the online retailer Unique Vintage. They carry loads of pinup brands like Bettie Page, Sourpuss, and so forth, and also have their own in-house brand whose prices are, I think, a little on the high side. However, they have frequent sales and recently had a selection on sale for a mere $25.

I own a ’50s-style, full-skirted green and white striped dress that I got at H&M years ago and totally love. But it doesn’t fit quite right any more. It’s a little too tight in the bust and too short in the torso. So I’ve been looking for a replacement for some time, and UV’s green “Seeing Stripes” dress was a perfect replacement, especially at $25.

Green_Seeing_Stripes

At 37”-29”-41”, I am exactly between the brand’s Medium (36” bust and 28” waist) and Large (38” bust and 30” waist) on the size chart for this garment. I ordered a large to be on the safe side—and it’s a good thing I did because the bust just closed without squishing me. Unfortunately, though, the waist and underbust were really unflattering and basically erased my shape. At such a low price, though, it was totally worth the experiment of taking apart part of the bodice and tailoring it to my body. Here is how I did it:

First up, the original dress and the difference when I pulled it taut:

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Some closeups of the construction:

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The bodice has two layers of fabric. The inner layer has boning along two seams on the front and two seams on the back. Thankfully, the outer (visible) layer is just plain fabric, making it easy to alter. I wouldn’t really want to tackle altering boning.

The back seam.

The back seam.

The front seams. You can really see how square the bodice is when laid flat. It doesn’t taper in at the waist at all.

The front seams. You can really see how square the bodice is when laid flat. It doesn’t taper in at the waist at all.

Overall, I determined that I needed to take in the seams under the bust in a dart shape to make the bodice curve under my boobs and fit tightly around the rest of my torso and waist.

The first thing I did was shorten the straps. Even though I have a long torso, apparently I have squat shoulders because straps are always too long on me and I’m forever shortening them.

All I did was fold over the strap on the inside of the dress and sew it to itself along the top of the dress. I need to tack that extra loop down, though, because it likes to sneak out.

All I did was fold over the strap on the inside of the dress and sew it to itself along the top of the dress. I need to tack that extra loop down, though, because it likes to sneak out.

Next I pulled the bust up under my boob to assess where I would need to start sewing the top of the dart.

Next I pulled the bust up under my boobs to assess where I would need to start sewing the top of the dart.

I pinned the spot where my finger was. As you can see, the pins are quite a bit lower than where the breasts actually stop.

I pinned the spot where my finger was. As you can see, the pins are quite a bit lower than where the breasts actually stop when the fabric hangs straight down.

On the inside of the dress, I marked the pin spot with chalk.

On the inside of the dress, I marked the pin spot with chalk.

Next, I unsewed the bodice from the skirt. Since this skirt is very gathered, you can take out as many inches from the bodice as you want and still be able to easily reattach the skirt with it looking the same in the end (more on this later).

Next, I unsewed the bodice from the skirt. Since this skirt is very gathered, you can take out as many inches from the bodice as you want and still be able to easily reattach the skirt with it looking the same in the end (more on this later).

I sandwiched the bodice fabric along the seam and pinned it from the chalk mark down to the skirt. I then sewed along the pin line, starting at the chalk mark.

I sandwiched the bodice fabric along the seam and pinned it from the chalk mark down to the skirt. I then sewed along the pin line, starting at the chalk mark.

When you first start sewing, I’d recommend starting about a centimeter above your dart and sew along the existing seam, then carefully move to the pin line at a smooth angle. This way, you’re guaranteed that the new seam will match up with the old one.

Additionally, I didn’t actually measure how much fabric to take in, I just pinched it and estimated. As such, I didn’t take out quite enough fabric the first time. But it’s very easy to make the bodice even tighter by simply sewing it again, further in, and perpendicular to the first line I sewed. No need to remove the first sewn line.

Okay, next:

Here’s the new bodice still unattached from the skirt in the two spots. I also placed pins in the spot where I want to sew all the layers of the bodice together, to keep them smooth and in place when the dress is being worn.

Here’s the new bodice still unattached from the skirt in the two spots. I also placed pins in the spot where I want to sew all the layers of the bodice together, to keep them smooth and in place when the dress is being worn.

It’s fitting better already!

It’s fitting better already!

The next step is to reattach the bodice to the skirt. I decided to first remove more of the skirt from the bodice. I used a seam-ripper to remove everything in between the two bodice seams. Then I had to re-gather the fabric evenly and sew it back on.

Gathering fabric is really easy. You start by taking a flat piece of fabric and bringing a needle and single thread back and forth through it at wide distance. This is called a basting stitch.

Gathering fabric is really easy. You start by taking a flat piece of fabric and bringing a needle and single thread back and forth through it at wide distance. This is called a basting stitch.

Once you’ve sewn all the way across the entire piece of fabric, you pull the thread from each end and it will create the gathers. You can slide the fabric back and forth across the thread to get it evenly spaced or to make it the same length as the flat piece of fabric to which it’ll be attached.

Once you’ve sewn all the way across the entire piece of fabric, you pull the thread from each end and it will create the gathers. You can slide the fabric back and forth across the thread to get it evenly spaced or to make it the same length as the flat piece of fabric to which it’ll be attached.

Once I got my gathers evenly spaced, I pinned it to the bodice using a lot of pins. I wanted to be sure the gathers would stay in place and not un-even themselves while being sewn to the bodice.

Once I got my gathers evenly spaced, I pinned it to the bodice using a lot of pins. I wanted to be sure the gathers would stay in place and not un-even themselves while being sewn to the bodice.

A view of the pins from the gathered side.

A view of the pins from the gathered side.

This is a step that would best be done with a serger—the machine that sews three rows at once. Look at the inner seam of the bottom of a tee shirt. That’s what a serger does. The serger’s stitches look nice, keep fabric from rolling, and allow for stretch.

Since I don’t have a serger, I’ll sometimes sew a straight stitch, then sew a zig-zag stitch along it, and then another straight stitch along the other side of the zig-zag. It doesn’t allow for stretch, but otherwise it gives almost the same effect. Since I wanted the gathered seam to match the rest of the pre-existing gathers as much as possible, and I wanted extra strength to hold the gathers together, this is what I did here.

The three stitches from the flat bodice side.

The three stitches from the flat bodice side.

The three stitches from the gathered side. It looks a little messy since my sewing machine is ancient and has a hard time with many layers of fabric, but with such a poofy skirt it’s invisible from the front.

The three stitches from the gathered side. It looks a little messy since my sewing machine is ancient and has a hard time with many layers of fabric, but with such a poofy skirt it’s invisible from the front.

After finishing with the skirt, I tacked the bust in place in the two spots I had pinned before. I also removed the bow because I thought it looked stupid and was ruining the nice effect of the gathered bust. I might attach it to the back of the skirt, though. Here’s the final product:

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It may not look like that much of a difference from the way the dress started, but it feels completely different and looks much more flattering, in my opinion. Clothes that are tailored to my body really feel great!

By the way, that H&M dress that I replaced will be at the Busty Swap Darlene is hosting August 2, in case anyone wants it!

Reader Full Bust Find: Teresa Crowninshield Coats and Jackets

 

During last year’s winter coat search, reader Jame pointed me in the direction of Teresa Crowninshield, but it wasn’t until this past June that I was finally able to try one of her coats in person at the American Crafts Festival at Lincoln Center. So I’m interrupting my regular programming of swimsuits to tell you about this amazing company for two reasons: (1) they have thirteen days left to raise $25,000 on Kickstarter, and (2) once they’re out of a size, it can take several months to replenish–so even though we’re all still running around in strappy tops, if you want a new coat that fits like it was made for you this winter, now is the time to consider Tess Crowninshield Coburn’s designs.

As soon as I found the stall, I made a beeline for the Azurean evening coat in size 16. I felt comfortable explaining my size issues to Tess’s assistant Laura because she wears a 32G. Only after she helped me put the coat on did I discover she had put me in a size 10–and it fit! I’m wearing it buttoned-up for a super cold day in these pictures, and . . . there is no gaping or boob smashing. 

34G azurean size 10 coat three quarters

You can wrap the attached belt around and tie it in front.

34G azurean size 10 coat back

Or you can skip any belt in front and tie it out of the way in back instead.

However, I no longer shop just for myself–in my mind, I’m also shopping for Mia because she’s made me so aware of life as a 32J. So I asked Tess, “What if I wore a 34J?” Tess’s coats and jackets come with lots of seams that she can play with, so after we calculated that a 34J would add four inches to my bust, she said she would put me in a size 14 and nip it in at the waist. How much more would it cost to nip a coat in at the waist and shorten the sleeves (which you can see I’d need)? Alterations currently cost $30 . . . total. Including shipping. If you try a coat on with her in person, alterations generally take 2-3 weeks. If you order a coat from her online, she can work with you via Skype and pictures. (By the way, there’s only 1/8″ difference between each size for the shoulders, so going from a size 10 to a size 14 would only add 1/4″ to each shoulder.)

Two more styles that are especially popular with her fuller-busted customers are the Blue Patch Pocket Jacket and the Driving Jacket. When another full-busted shopper named Nautasha walked into the booth, I asked if she would try the Driving Jacket for Hourglassy readers to see how it fits. Nautasha told me that she can wear anything from a 32E to a 32H, depending on the bra brand. Tess put her in a size 2 jacket (which makes me think that Nautasha is well below a 32″ underbust).

Nautasha 32E to H

Nautasha size 2 front

nautasha front closeup

nautasha back

If you get the chance to shop for a Teresa Crowninshield jacket in person, take it! In the meantime, here are two more of her jackets that would look fit and look great on a woman with a large chest.

scarlet spring trench teresa crownshield

Scarlet Spring Trench

Teresa Crowninshield The Tails

The Tails

Get Ready for Our Big Bust Clothing Swap!

 

Don’t forget to register for our Third Annual Big Bust Clothing Swap if you’re in town on Saturday, August 2. We’re busy working behind the scenes to give twenty lucky busty ladies their best swap experience yet!

DD Cup and Up Swim Brands: A. Ché and Janine Robin

 

Both brands say they only go to an F cup, but it’s worth second-guessing the sizing of any swimwear brand that claims to fit above a D.  For example, can you guess the bra sizes that the following models say they wear?

A. Ché  Model Bra Sizes

The A. Ché model on the left says that she wears a 32B. The A. Ché model on the right says that she wears a 34C. The company rep thought the model on the right should wear a 34D.

janine robin model bra size

The Janine Robin model says that she wears a 34C/32D.

Here’s some background information about each company.

 A. Ché

I only discovered A. Ché in Sarasota last year, but the company is in its fifth year, and it is a subsidiary of the bra manufacturing company Parisa, which has been in the business for 30+ years. Amanda Ché, the designer, is actually the daughter of Parisa’s owner, Amir Ché. The company is based in north L.A. All designing is done in California, and all manufacturing is done in China.

A. Ché uses sister sizing for the cups plus tie backs for the bands to reduce the amount of SKU’s required for all the possible band/cup combinations. Because the largest set of underwires will fit cup sizes D, DD, E and F, Amir Ché said that it is unlikely to accommodate a G or H cup.  Their size guide is confusing and seems to utilize +4″ for the band, so I tend to believe him that their suits won’t fit a British H. However, given the model’s reported bra sizes, I wouldn’t be surprised if FF and G cups could slip into their swimsuit tops.

a che back tie

Here’s a closeup of the tie back for one of the underwired bikini tops. The straps are wide at the shoulders and also removable. There is side boning.

A. Ché  shirred one piece

A. Ché  shirred one piece back

Janine Robin

I fell in love with this company the very first time I attended Curve, but I have yet to find their swimsuits in a store in the United States.  Janine Robin considers itself  “bra-fit oriented”, and their patterns go through a fit certification process. They’re a French company,  so you know the fit for a G+ is going to be sketchy, which is super sad because the attention to detail in these suits is super great. Just in case you find one of their suits, here’s why you should try it on in case it will fit:

    • hardware is a zinc alloy that won’t rust, absorb heat or break
    • all bikinis have adjustable straps
    • hand-sewn gathers along the underwire
    • foam cups that are water-resistant so that you’re not “wearing a sponge”
    • microfiber fabric = UV protection and quickly air dries
    • bottoms have a band at the waist that won’t give a muffin top or fold over (unless that’s the style)
    • bottoms “cup rather than cut the derriere”–they noticed that most women don’t need help with extra bulges in the front bikini leg area, so that is flat; instead, most women need help in the back, so the bikini leg is ruched there

janine robin blue bikini back

janine robin blue bikini front

janine robin taupe drape one piece

jainine robin blue one piece