Just as everyone has a different shape, size, height, body, everyone who wears a bra also has just as many differences in that bra. Some bras are frilly while others are more practical. Some bras are multi-strapped while others simply slide over the head. Even yet some bra bands are wide while others are narrow. And if those aren't enough differences, you've still got to contend with the fact that not all bras sit in the same exact place!
So when I was creating the Amelie dress, I already knew that the bra-friendly back was going to need some adjustments depending on which bra in your wardrobe you chose to wear with your dress. I knew that it was impossible for my one little draft to be perfect right out the package for every single person when, not only are each of us different, but so are our bras!
That's why I wanted to put together a tutorial on adjusting the bra-friendly back to work for YOU, because our clothing should work for us in the best possible way!
- Paper Scissors
- First draft of Amelie Dress
- Tracing Paper
- Flexible measuring tape
- Amelie Pattern Pieces (Front Bodice, Bra Friendly Back, Front Waistband, Back Waistband)
- Fabric Scissors
- Highlighter or colored pencil
- Marker or Pen
- Clear Ruler
Let's Get Started!
The absolute first thing we are going to want to do is choose which bra to redraft our back bodice for! Like I said, every bra is so different that you may need multiple versions of this back bodice to accommodate different bra types- unless you have a favorite bra of course (I know I do!) So go ahead and throw on your first Amelie Draft and your favorite bra(s) and let's choose one to work with!
This bra is already partially hidden by the bra back, but it has a wider band so you can see it peeking out from below where the open back starts.
This bra is quite a bit thinner than the first one, and it sits a lot lower than where the bra friendly back is covering things up!
No matter which bra you choose to work with, the steps needed to change the back are ultimately the same, so choose whichever bra you feel best in to work from! For me, that is the black & white polka dot bra.
Before taking off your bra and dress, go ahead and measure the distance between the bottom edge of your dress back bodice and the bottom edge of your bra. Write that measurement down someplace safe.
Alright, now you can take your dress and bra off and change into some comfy PJ's while we work on the rest of this project!
Next, we are going to measure the full width of your bra band. Mine happens to be 3" / 7.6 cm. Write that measurement down as well.
We are going to set our bras aside for now and focus on the pattern. We will need those bras later though, so don't toss them in the laundry just yet!
Grab your tracing paper and your back bodice pattern piece. Lay your tracing paper on top of your pattern piece and trace around your pattern- You'll want to trace all the edges EXCEPT for the center back area.
*Note- A few of these images may be a bit out of focus and I am so sorry about that! My camera focus was changed for another project and I failed to change it back or realize it was incorrect until halfway through this project- whoops!
You'll want to write all the pertinent information you might need onto this new layer of paper as well. I also suggest writing down which adjustment version you are working with as there may be multiple versions we go through! Or, you could even write down which bra you are re-drafting this for in case you do multiple versions for multiple bras!
Mark the back point and grab your clear ruler. We are going to measure down the same distance that the bottom edge of our bra was sitting on our bodies from the bottom edge of the finished garment we tried on. I added an extra 1/2" / 1.3 cm because I wanted to make 100% certain that my bra wouldn't show no matter how much I wiggled around in my dress throughout the day.
Now, from this point, measure up the same width that your back bra band is. I just realized that I should have taken into account the extra 1/2" / 1.3 cm I added to the bottom in the last step, but I forgot and everything still worked out ok! That is just a small reminder that even if we don;t get every step perfect, we can still make it all work in the end!
Draw a little rectangular box to represent your bra band. Feel free to extend it a bit out to both the left and right of your current pattern piece (that should still be under your tracing paper!)
Then find the center of your rectangle and draw a line parallel to the long edges of it.
The next part is a bit of a guessing game. We need to draw a line from the bottom of our bodice through the point we marked that indicates the bottom edge of our bra through to the center line we marked. I chose an angle that added the least witch to both the bottom edge of the bodice as well as the least distance from the original center back, since that seemed to fit me fine on my first Amelie draft!
Once I had that line down, I trued up my pattern and connected the shoulder point to the new back bodice point and I extended the bottom edge out a bit.
As soon as I drew these lines, I knew that this wouldn't be the final alteration I made to the back bodice. But I also wasn't sure what I was looking at that yelled "This isn't right!" so I proceeded with cutting out my muslin, because sometimes that's all you can do. You just truck along and trust that the issue will reveal itself as you go through each step of the process, and that's sort of fun in itself I think!
Next we will cut out all of our Amelie bodice and Waistband pieces from our muslin fabric! No need to cut the lining bits or the second portion of the waistbands. We are looking to go through sewing up this sample SUPER quick, so we don't need to get hung up on some of the smaller details!
This is also a great time to pull out some larger scraps of fabric that you aren't sure what you wanted to do with, or even a thrifted bed sheet. I LOVE love love using thrifted sheets as muslin for new patterns as the sheets are usually inexpensive and a lot of material (yay king size mattresses!). Plus, if it is a cute enough sheet, you might make your toile into a wearable garment!
Once all of your pieces are cut, go ahead and stay stitch the armholes and necklines of your pieces. For the necklines, especially the back neckline, staystitch right at your seam allowance. That way you have a clear marker for where the final garment edges should finish when trying on your piece.
I used a bright colored thread so that I could clearly see where the finished edge of my garment would be and I also used this as an opportunity to run through some bobbin thread that I don't think I'll be using in the future, but also didn't ever feel like unwinding.
Baste your entire bodice together, darts and all! we want to be able to try this garment on and get a realistic idea of how our alterations to our pattern are looking, but don't worry if it's not your best work. This whole piece might get taken apart multiple times!
Before you add your waistband pieces, go ahead and iron your back neckline seam allowance towards the wrong side of your muslin. Then proceed with sewing on your waistband. This will help the "finished" back neckline stay in place when you go to try your bodice on.
Now, we try on our bodices! I'm going to show you all the rest of the steps with my mannequin because it is easier to take pics of the details when I'm not the one physically in the garment, but you can do these steps with the bodice pieces on with the help of a sewing buddy or just loads of patience and a mirror!
If at this point you are like "Yes, this is exactly what I wanted, I am so happy! My bra is covered and I am ready to dive in to sew this new version up," then YAY! You can skip ahead to cutting out your final fabric and sewing up the Amelie with your revised back bodice piece.
However, if you are like me and aren't yet happy with your toile, let's continue refining it together!
Let me say, there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with the above back bodice- it's just not what I wanted. If I were to go ahead and make a final version with the above pattern piece, I'd be adding two buttons to the back to keep it in place (one at each back bodice point) and I'd be losing a lot of the open back bit that I wanted for myself.
Onward we charge!
First, find your center back point and mark it from top to bottom.
Then mark the top and bottom edge of your bra. If you look closely, you can see the outline of my bra in this image.
Find the center point between these two marks and draw a faux button on the center back seam. This will be where your final button should land- don't worry, we will mark all of these changes on our pattern pieces soon!
Next, we are going to fold our back neckline pieces back until they look amazing , or at least resemble what it is we were looking for out of our back bodice piece while still covering our bra. Be careful not to fold your pieces back past the little lines you marked indicating where your bra band stands.
*Note- You may have to seam rip a few stitches where the back bodice and the waistband meet so that you can fold your neckline back properly at that intersection.
Grab your marker or pen or tailors chalk- whatever you like using to mark fabric- and mark right along your newly folded edges.
Unpin and unfold your back bodice piece to reveal your new finished edge. So we weren't too far off from where we needed to be!
Take off your bodice piece and let's head back to the drawing board. Notice that we are only making these changes to one side of the garment- we will be transferring all of these adjustments in a later step so that both sides match perfectly!
Go ahead and seam rip both your back bodice pieces at the shoulder seams. This will help the back bodice lay flat as we mark our adjustments!
Straighten out your lines if you find that you need to (you can see that my bottom line is a bit curved so I fixed that up first!). We now need to mark our seam allowances back into our pattern since our current marks are only showing us where the finished garment edge will lay.
Cut along your new seam allowance line and throw those scraps into your scrap bin.
It is officially time to transfer your marking on to the other side of your garment. With wrong sides together, pin your two back bodice pieces along the side seams, armhole, and shoulder seams. These should line up flush against one another since we haven't altered any of these items.
Trim away the extra back bodice bits that are peeking from the underside of your already corrected back bodice piece. Once both sides are identical, mark your newly trimmed piece with the proper seam allowance.
Re-attach your shoulder seams and waistband with a basting stitch. Then Iron your back seam allowances towards the wrong side of your toile.
Things are moving along much more quickly now, right? It's time for our final test- we are going to try our bodice back on to see if it is looking how we imagined it to be in our heads.
YES! This is exactly how I personally wanted my back bodice to look- it has a more defined opening near the bottom back, there isn't any puckering along the top opening, and I'll only need one button! It checks everything off my list!
If you are happy with how your back bodice is looking, we can now go ahead and transfer all of our changes to that adjusted back bodice pattern piece we made in the very beginning.
If you are not happy with how your bodice piece is looking, keep working with your garment making changes until it fits you perfectly! If you have trouble, you can always email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)- I love helping to solve problems!
Seam rip one side of your back bodice completely off of your toile. Iron it so that the piece is lying as flat as it possible can.
Lay your adjusted pattern piece on a flat surface; then place your ironed toile piece directly on top of the paper piece making sure your side seam, armhole, and shoulder seams are lined up flush with one another.
Grab your ruler and marker or pen and trace a clean line around your toile piece, effectively transferring your adjustments to your pattern piece. Don't forget to mark where your button is placed!
Remove your fabric piece and cut along your newly drawn lines.
Time to do a little dance, even if it's only in your head- you now have a perfectly fitted pattern piece that also covers your bra entirely! I think that's cause for celebration! You can now dive in to making your final Amelie- or you can take a moment to celebrate this victory. Whatever you decide, just know that you rock and have gotten one step closer to a more perfectly fitted garment!