Off the Rack ~ A Review of Vogue Pattern V8998, Part I

It’s been way too long since my last sewing post. This week I have a pretty big one—a review of the Vogue V8998 pattern, which features a custom fit option of cup sizes A, B, C, and D.

vogue v8998The design I opted for is letter B (upper right teal illustration), which is what the model is wearing.

Now, as we all know, cup letters mean nothing without knowing the band size, but the Vogue method of selecting cup size is actually not too far off from the way bras work. Each cup size corresponds to the difference between your bust at the fullest point and your “high bust” (“Measure across the back, high up under the arm, and across top of bust”). The only difference is it tells you to measure your upper instead of underbust, which I think is dumb since people who are fuller on top will have a smaller difference than someone less full on top, even if they wear the same bra size.

In any case, each letter corresponds to an inch difference, so A is one inch, B is two, C is three, and D is four. This is one of the most basic starting points to figure out your proper bra size—each inch difference between your underbust and bust = one cup size.

Of course, women are capable of having a bigger difference than four inches, but you can compensate somewhat by choosing bigger cup pattern pieces for the bodice and tapering them closer to the waistband—though I would recommend trying this with cheap muslin before you cut out your actual fabric of choice. Then you can use the perfected muslin pieces as your pattern pieces instead of Vogue’s paper pattern.

I, of course, was too impatient for all that, so I just went straight for the D cups. As for dress size, do not even consider your normal dress size. You must follow the instructions. My measurements correspond to halfway between 14 and 16 even though I generally wear an 8 in off-the-rack clothing. I went with the 14 because I usually go with the smaller size when I’m in between, but the safer bet would be to size up since you can just sew it with more seam allowance to shrink it down a smidge.

Unfortunately, I now wish I had taken the time for a muslin, because I’m going to be taking the dress almost completely apart in order to make the necessary changes. So in this post, I’m only sharing with you how the dress looks now and what I want to edit.

First up, some shots when I was putting the bodice together:

As you can see, it’s exceedingly boxy on me. It was starting out way too wide for my frame.

As you can see, it’s exceedingly boxy on me. It was starting out way too wide for my frame.

From the side, you can see that the fabric doesn’t curve under my bust at all—a major pet peeve of mine. I don’t want ski slop boobs!

From the side, you can see that the fabric doesn’t curve under my bust at all—a major pet peeve of mine. I don’t want ski slope boobs!

Here it is from the back.

Here it is from the back.

And here’s how much it can overlay on itself—that’s nearly three inches per side. Of course it would be pulled together more with a zipper, but not enough to compensate for this.

And here’s how much it can overlay on itself—that’s nearly three inches per side. Of course it would be pulled together more with a zipper, but not enough to compensate for this.

So I wasn’t crazy about it at that point, and I actually did take it apart and sew all the seams closer in to basically shrink the whole thing. But it’s still not great in the end. Here’s the finished dress, fully lined and with the zipper installed:

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I used lightweight cotton for the dress and the lining. It doesn’t look too bad from far away, but the fit issues are obvious in person. Overall, the bodice, which in addition to the lining has interfacing, is too stiff. Next time I make this, I’ll skip the interfacing. The skirt feels way too heavy and I would prefer it a little shorter, so next time I won’t line the skirt portion at all and will cut off a couple inches from the bottom.

The bottom of the waistband feels tight while the top of it is loose. I also think the princess seams are too far out to the sides. In fact, the straps feel too far out to the sides too.

The bottom of the waistband feels tight while the top of it is loose. I also think the princess seams are too far out to the sides. In fact, the straps feel too far out to the sides too.

Again, here you can see the ski slope shape on the underside of my bust. Not a fan.

Again, here you can see the ski slope shape on the underside of my bust. Not a fan.

And here you can see the looseness above the waistband—even though the waistband fits!

And here you can see the looseness above the waistband—even though the waistband fits!

The back, where I think the too-wide straps are more clear.

The back, where I think the too-wide straps are more clear.

Pinching along the princess seams to show how much excess empty space there is under my breasts along my ribcage.

Pinching along the princess seams to show how much excess empty space there is under my breasts along my ribcage.

Since I adore this fabric and I don’t have any more left, I’m determined to salvage this dress. So I’m going to be taking it all apart except for the individual skirt panels.

For the bodice, I’m going to first remove the lining because all this work has to be done to both the outer fabric and the lining so they match up. If the interfacing is coming up at all, I may try to peel it off too. I’ll sew the princess seams and the back seams to have more seam allowance, which will bring in the width overall. This will narrow the shoulders a bit and move the princess seams to a more appropriate spot. I may also try to sew the underbust princess seam curve into a sharper angle so that it actually curves under my bust.

I will leave the interfacing on the waistband because I want that part to remain stiff, so it doesn’t bunch up when worn.

For the skirt, I’m going to remove the lining and sew a zig-zag stich on the raw edges to keep them from fraying too much. If I had a serger, I would use that. Honestly, this skirt was a massive pain in the ass. It requires something like twelve individual panels. They’re easy to sew together, but they use up so much fabric and take forever to cut out. Next time, I’m using skirt D/E/F, which is a more basic, gathered design. It requires eight pieces, but they can be cut out in half the time by folding the fabric in half and cutting two of the same piece at a time. You can’t do that with skirt design A/B/C because they aren’t symmetrical pieces.

This pattern is a “Vogue Easy Option,” but I’m not sure I’d agree with that, especially in the large cup size. It’s a fairly basic-looking dress, but the bodice features some seriously curvy pieces that are hard to match up, and the time commitment of the skirt takes it out of “easy” into “intermediate” territory, in my opinion.

It’s also clear to me that even the big cup option is still not really well-designed. I don’t need every garment to adhere to my every curve, but it’s just not flattering to have this much empty space under the bust. It’s like the pattern designers think women are shaped like a scalene triangle from the side when we’re really more like an angled teardrop.

Not my boob in profile.

Not my boob in profile.

My boob in profile.

My boob in profile.

I already have fabric on hand for my next attempt at this dress (it’s avocado print!), but I’m going to do a muslin first next time, so I can play around and make the straps and bodice narrower and more fitted.


Fit Picky Full Bust Alterations: Buy it or Leave it – Coats Edition

Today is the coats edition of Buy it or Leave it!

I figure a lot of us don’t want to buy an expensive coat only to have to take it in to an alterations shop and spend more money to have it adjusted. So, I went to Target so you can see the end of the line coats they have left on the shelves.

First off, I tried on a light pink adorable little coat in a size Small. The sleeve fit perfectly, and since I can sew, I’m tempted to buy the coat on super sale so I can copy the sleeve. The rest of the coat just doesn’t fit. The bust is tight and the waist is too high for my bigger chest. Other than that, cute coat! But I left it behind. I really do love the tapered in waist and the flared skirt of the coat. Excellent design if I didn’t have priorities for fit.

The problem with this pink coat is that the waist fits but the bust just doesn’t. The buttons don’t fit under the bust (they are too high) and I can already see where I’d do alterations. Mostly, I’d do a full bust alteration so that the waist line would hit me at my waist line, but it’s a decent fit otherwise. Of course, I left it behind. But do you notice how the sleeves fit? That’s glorious! They’re pretty perfect. Even on my forward shoulders and forward neck.

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The next coat was also a size Small, but it didn’t have the waist line definition like the cute pink one ha, and it squished my boobs a bit too much! So, I left it. But it was so close. It was close because I used to have a coat like this one that fit worse. This one fit closer than my old coat, but it would’ve taken a lot of work to get the bust to fit right.

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Next is a close fit. If you can see how the sleeve pulls in the photo on the left, you can see why I left it behind. It fits, but not just quite. Sleeves matter to me! I might not alter sleeves, but a good sleeve matters to me. You can see below that this sleeve is pulling. There is dragging, and while it isn’t a totally bad fit,  it isn’t the best fit, either. Just for reference, this is a Size Medium.

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This jacket seemed fun to try on so I went for it. It was marked a Large,which just goes to show that you should try everything on–EVERYTHING!

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And for reference, this is the coat I wear in the dead of winter when it’s just too cold and you need multi layers. I bought this coat years ago, and at this point, it’s a size too big, but it fits lots of layers so that’s good!

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What kind of coats do you gravitate towards? Are there coats you don’t even bother trying on? Why not?

Fit Picky Full Bust Alterations: Buy it or Leave it?

There are times when you really should just pass on a garment, leave it at the store and keep looking for a better fit. I know I’m picky, but shouldn’t we all be a little picky sometimes? There are times when no amount of alterations will be able to correct the fit without creating more issues on a garment. Today I’m going to show you some garments I’ve left behind at shops because either I couldn’t see a fix or the alteration was going to be more trouble than it was worth, or other reasons in between. I’ll also be giving you some more things to look out for so you save your money on the garments that you can alter. This is not the be all and end all of what to do, but hopefully it’ll be a good beginning.

First of all, if you want a garment altered, you’ll need extra fabric to pinch out and use to make it fit you how you like. This first dress had a chiffon top and a stretch skirt. Very cute. I picked out one size bigger than would fit me and saw that the underarms were too low. Pinching them out showed that I could take this dress in at the side seams and mostly likely achieve a better fit, while closing up the armholes. I did leave it behind because the bodice was lined and I didn’t feel like taking in a lining, too. But it’s completely doable!

The only thing about me in this dress, and another reason why I wouldn’t alter it too much (or bother at all), is the front zippers. I love metal zippers on a dress like this, but as you start to take excess skirt material away, you might run into the zippers. Before you buy a dress or top with zippers, pinch out how much you need to pinch out and look to see how the zippers do with the alteration.

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This next dress has the high/low hem which I know is a thing, but I’m not into it for myself. The dress was a comfortable knit dress but I left it behind. Why? The second picture shows you something that, as a busty woman, you’re very familiar with- the waist tie is right under the bust and it’s not meant to be that high. My bust is pulling the front up which is why I get the tie so high. It’s a high/low already, so it won’t be that noticeable, but if I know I can make the same look starting from scratch and lengthen the front torso, then I, for the most part, will.

The striped dress on the far right shows what the front length was supposed to look like on the high/low dress. I was going to try to prove my point with the stripy dress on the right, but it actually fit! So, now I show you for a frame of reference where the waist is supposed to be on the high/low dress. Really, though, having the waist seam in the front look more empire isn’t the end of the world, but I still left it.

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An obvious reason to leave a garment behind is if it’s too tight. Or even if it fits too well. Case in point is this really cute sweater dress I tried on. It had these really cool belty/buckles at the hip, but the neckline was a bit lower than I’m used to. It’s not awful, but there’s no way I’d be able to alter it. If I wanted to take in the sides to close up the neck, it wouldn’t fit anymore. As hard as it was to do, I left this one behind. If I had found a size or two bigger, I would have checked that the sleeves fit right and then pinched out what I wanted to take out to see if it closed up the neckline and what it did to the placement of the belt buckles–though you could very carefully pick out the stitches of the buckles, do your alterations and sew the buckles back on. Still more work than I would want to do with this dress.

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I took a look at some evening dresses since it’s the season, and I found a really cute red bodice with black overlay dress you can see below. Can you see how beautifully the armholes fit! But I left it behind because the seam join of the bodice and the skirt, although meant to be askew, crossed me at the bust and I don’t like that look. Other than that, it’s a cute dress!

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Here’s another case of cute dress, but the bodice was too short. Now, with this dress below, I might reconsider and go back and get it because it isn’t as noticeable as the red one above. I put my hand at my underbust. You can see it’s about 1.5″ or so lower than the seam. You could lengthen the skirt, but adding to the length of the bodice would probably mean needing to make an entirely new bodice.

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I know it’s cold around parts of the world, but I had to try on a skater dress. Again, a full bust will pull up the front of the dress and, again, while sometimes it doesn’t bother me, sometimes, like this time, it did. It also bothered me that the skirt made me look like I was standing with my pelvis tilted forward- I swear I’m standing up straight. I wasn’t sad to leave this one behind. I would have to lengthen the bodice by means of cutting it off of the skirt, shortening the back of the bodice and then adding a midriff to even out the whole thing.

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I hope this has helped even a little bit, though you’ve probably done exactly what I’ve done here–stood in front of the mirror and wondered, “How could this be fixed?”

In general, dresses with a bodice and a skirt attached at the waist can be a good thing (you can add a midriff) or a bad thing (the bust length could be so short that there’s no good fix for it). Dresses with no waist seam could fit better just because you don’t notice that waist seam hitting you at the underbust. I wouldn’t buy anything in my size if I wanted to alter it. One size bigger than your normal size should do the trick, depending on the garment and how much shaping you’d like to add. If you want more shaping, you’ll need to have more fabric to shape.

What other signs tell you not to buy a garment? What amazing garment have you walked away from because it didn’t fit and you couldn’t alter it? Have you ever taken a picture and had the dress made to your measurements? Or do you overlook fit for a really great dress or top?

Fit Picky Full Bust Alterations: Wearing Ease

I talk a lot about fitting garments but in sewing there is a thing called over-fitting. This is where you obsess over every single wrinkle and drag line to the point where you take out all wearing ease.

What is wearing ease? It’s the amount of fabric circumference that allows you to move during wear.

To understand this from within your own closet, take your bust, waist or hip measurement and then compare that number to a garment you own. If the garment is a knit, you might have what’s called “negative ease” to account for the natural stretching, but if it’s a non-stretchy fabric you need ease.

There’s a fine line between a garment with a close fit and one that is just too tight. I’m not judging someone for wearing tight clothes but if a garment is too tight, you compromise the garment itself. The stitching can pop and you can end up tearing it. Even, say, a dress made out of a stretch woven can be too tight. Again, it’s a fine line, and I’m sure you’re aware of this line when shopping for yourself.

Below are two dresses in my early sewing that I over fitted. The one on the right has absolutely no ease in the hip area. It was unwearable. I couldn’t sit down or do much more than stand, lean or maybe go for a leisure walk. The dress on the right was over fitted in the bodice. In an attempt to fit the shoulders, I took out all ease and I couldn’t lift my arm beyond where my arm is in this picture.


After a couple more tries in the sewing department, I started noticing that adding in ease could often help, and not only with some of the drag lines that I was trying to get rid of. Interestingly, a little bit more ease (not a ton) also looked better on me. I didn’t look so awkward.

I also found that if I got a close fit along my back, it gave a nice silhouette–not over fitted, but tapered in. Like with last month’s post I did on fitting a shapeless button down shirt, taking in the back helped skim curves in the back and in the front and provide gentle shaping while not affecting the ease.


Below is a recent make. I had very little time to put it together as I wanted to wear it at an event. In light of my time constraint, I didn’t have much time to fit–or rather, over fit! I did my usual full bust adjustment but then left any ease intact. You can see the ease along the bodice, especially along the back. In turn, it’s a very comfortable dress to wear.

shirtwaist shirtwaist back

I know we all want well fitting garments. If you’re buying RTW, try it on and see if the fit is improved by taking in the back. If the shoulder seams are falling off your shoulders, take a little tuck and see if that improves the fit. If things start to look strained, pick another top or dress to take in to alter. You want to have enough fabric to take it in and still have wearing ease.

I hope this has been helpful. What’s your thought on ease? Do you choose only stretch garments? Do you find you can get good fit in a particular type of garment?