Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brownilocks And The Three Broad Back Alterations

One day, Brownilocks was frolicking merrily through the forest... 
Well, she was attempting to frolic but the narrow back bodice of Vogue 9668 rendered her arms useless. No waving them about gaily in the air or bending over to pick up fragrant wildflowers. 
Anyway, Brownilocks was walking through the woods and happened upon three colorful scrap broadcloth muslins dangling from the trees. Brownilocks eyed the first muslin and thought, "Hmmm... this may just be what I need."

Fit For Real People broad back adjustment
Spread 1" through underarm and shoulder and added 1" shoulder dart
Lowered back neckline 3"
She tried on the first muslin, but alas, it was still too small.  Brownilocks found that she had a tiny bit more room for frolicking, but still not enough under the arms.  There was also quite a bit of extra fabric at the top of the shoulders.  Brownilocks also realized that some dummy didn't cut the back waistband on the bias which explained the extra wrinkling there.

Then she spied the second muslin dangling brightly in the trees.  Brownilocks whispered, "This has to be it.  Has to be." 
 Shoulder and underarm piece is pivoted 1" instead of spread, no shoulder dart needed
Some width left at side seam while back dart was made a tiny bit bigger
Back neckline lowered 5/8"
Dummy made sure to cut back waistband on bias

She tried on muslin number two and was very excited at first.  Brownilocks could reach for the stars with no trouble.  But when weird little folds began to appear at the center back seam, she realized that this muslin may just be too big.

Brownilocks ripped down muslin number three and muttered, "This better be it, dammit."

Underarm seam extended 5/8" tapering down to nothing
5/8" also added to sleeve edges
Back neckline lowered 1" and just barely widened by redrawing the curve out a little (technical explanation, I know)

"Well, this one may be just right!" Brownilocks exclaimed.  Her arms moved forward excitedly and up with no issue.   While there is a tiny bit of wrinkling at the back, it didn't appear to be too much.  "This may just be the answer," thought Brownilocks.

"But then, why does the back neckline still not sit flat?" thought Brownilocks. "And what sort of alteration do I need to fix that? And how come the bodice still slides up a bit when I put my arms up the in air....?"

In the distance, Brownilocks heard the evil-pattern-sizing-witch cackling from behind a tree.  Out of nowhere, beautiful fairy seamstress Carolyn floated to the ground and sang "Don't go down the rocky path of over-fitting!  Perhaps you should make a size bigger...."

What?  So there's no fairy seamstress or wicked pattern-sizing-witch in Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Well, this is my story and I can write it however I want. 

Unfortunately, I still have no real conclusion to this story.  I'm afraid that this multiple muslin-ing deal is just not my cup of tea.   But, that's not to say that I think making a muslin is a bad idea.  I've seen others do a wonderful job of tweaking a pattern to fit perfectly by making a muslin first.   This process is really out of the ordinary for me.  I don't want to say I'm lazy, but- well, I'm lazy.  And I'm not a very linear person.   Out of all three muslins, I do prefer the feel of number three, but it's still not perfect.  And I'm tired of making muslins.  I feel like there are too many factors involved to really know if it is a good solution.  I changed how I did the back neckline each time.   I also changed the width that I spread the underarm piece.  I wasn't very good at controlling variables.

I haven't decided what to with the original dress yet.  I think it's just going in the closet to marinate for a while.   I'm contemplating making a whole new dress with the third broad back alteration just to see if it truly is a possible solution.  I also have the sneaking suspicion that Carolyn is  right about needing a larger size.  Maybe I'll cut a size bigger instead.  Regardless, I'm not unhappy that I did go through the process of making multiple muslins because I do think I added a few more tricks to my sewing bag.   The idea of making a dart wider and sewing up center back seams and pinning from the side when trying on a muslin are genius. But again, I don't think all these alterations are really what I want to spend my time on.  Self drafted bodice sloper, here I come!

THANK YOU all so much for your wonderful suggestions!  I can't tell you how grateful I am for all the  kind words and wise advice that I received on my last post, or any post for that matter.  I really, truly appreciate it all.  I've learned so much since I started this blog.  Can you believe it's been a year already?


  1. I think all sleeved dresses move up when you raise your arms, don't they?

    I say go with muslin No 3 and pinch out a dart in the neckline (you will then need to adjust the facing for the modified neck edge).

    To muslin or not is always a tricky many reasons not many benefits of doing so.

  2. That's too bad your pretty dress has to go into the closet, but I know what you mean about getting tired of trying to get something to fit just right and never getting it. Cute story though!

  3. Great story! I have to agree with you on the muslin. I am also a little lazy or perhaps impatient... though I should really try to work more with the muslins. Thanks for sharing your dilemma!

  4. This is a fabulous story, you must make the most marvellous teacher!! I bet your kids just love you... and I'm so glad I am a good fairy, and not the evil witch, although I do a pretty good witch-cackle, if I say so myself!! Thankyou for "featuring" me!
    And, please let us know how it works out for you; I loathe muslins with a passion too, and try to make the path of least resistance work first... one muslin is more than plenty. Cut the size bigger and machine baste the seams; try it on to check and pin to fit, then just unpick and sew over your basting again until it works. Transfer your adjustment findings to the paper pattern after.

  5. I have the same problem as you at the neckline. I pinch out a dart at the neckline on either side of the CB. This doesn't actually mean I visually leave a dart there. I put them on my muslin and leave it sewn up. I then use the muslin as a pattern leaving both darts intact, effectively removing the extra fabric that would be gaping in my 'fashion fabric'.

  6. katherine h- You're right about the dress sliding up. I've wondered if making all these muslins has made me too picky.

    molly and mahaila- I'm glad you like my story!

    Carolyn- The whole time I was making these muslins, I was thinking about your last comment. Of course you'd be the good fairy!

    Bernice- That is an excellent suggestion. If I make up muslin number three, I'm going to do this.

  7. oh god. three muslins? that's a TERRIFYING tale. at this point it would have set fire to the whole shebang.

  8. Great story! I always seem to make 3 muslins, then give up, i think i over-fit!

  9. I did three muslins for a winter coat for my ten-year-old last year, if that helps.

    Then she never wore the coat. Not once.


    Bitterness aside, I think you have made some awesome progress! With a fitted, woven dress like this you're not going to be able to wave your arms over your head without shifting it, but you should be able to put your hands on your hips without it moving too much (or at least, that' my usual criterion).

    The great gurus of fitting suggest you should make only one alteration per fitting, so that you know the precise cause of any fit changes. I am terrible at following this advice, too.

    Not to add to the annoyance, but you might also try squaring off the shoulders a bit. This is another thing that can cause that bunching/extra fabric behind the neck, and in several of the front shots it looks like the neck of the dress is standing up above your actual shoulders at the neck side. Upside is you can make this change on the existing muslin! ;) (Runs away before the "not-over-fitting fairy" comes to get me!)

  10. Maybe number three scaled back a bit? Doing your own bodice sloper definitely sounds like the way to go. I understand your frustration.
    I once made FIVE muslins of a pair of pants before I got them right.

  11. Tanitisis- I was thinking about straightening the shoulder seam-- taking a larger seam allowance closer to the neck. Is that a square shoulder adjustment? If so, I think that's the ticket.

    Valerie- Five! Yeesh.

  12. Yeah, that's exactly what I meant! After a year of denial, I've finally come around to the idea that I need this, too... /sigh. At least it's a fairly easy fix, though.

  13. I know this post is old, but oh well. Your shoulders are more square than the pattern allows for. Re-angle the shoulder seams on the front and back bodice pieces so the shoulder line is more square. That will let the whole garment sit where it should across your neck. It might even fix the broad back issue because the garment will sit lower on the body, so don't make any adjustments there until the shoulder is fixed. You'll have to raise the sleeve cap a corresponding amount.

  14. Thank you for posting all these pictures. Solution 3 helped me – my bodice was tight at the back below the armscyes when I moved my arms forward. Now on to fix all the other things ... Cheers, Sarah