A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Can you do a narrow shoulder adjustment in place of a full bust adjustment?

As someone who always has to do a full bust adjustment (FBA), I've long wondered whether it would be possible to replace this adjustment with the simpler narrow shoulder adjustment. If choosing a size based on your full bust results in a too-big shoulder, wouldn't doing a narrow shoulder adjustment on that size fix the problem? I decided to try it out.

Can you replace a full bust adjustment with a narrow shoulder adjustment?

Can you do a narrow shoulder adjustment instead of an FBA?

My standard procedure in adjusting top patterns for my shape is to cut a bodice according to my high bust measurement (usually about two sizes smaller than my full bust measurement indicates), then do an FBA and a full bicep adjustment to accommodate my full bust and arms. But I figured the narrow shoulder adjustment was an easier one to make, and might negate the need for a full bicep adjustment, which I usually need.

I used the Liesl + Co. Metro T-Shirt pattern for this top and decided to hack it into a turtleneck. I'll be sharing a tutorial on that in a few weeks, but in the meantime, here's a post about the fitting.

My high bust is 36" and my full bust is 40." My full bust measurement (and my waist and hips) corresponds to the size large in this pattern, and my high bust with the medium. I have a 13.5" bicep. The size large sleeve finishes at 13.25". I wanted 1" of bicep ease, so I needed a 1.25" full bicep adjustment. So, while using the size large did not negate the need to do a full bicep adjustment, but it was a smaller adjustment that required less fiddling with the sleeve cap. So far, so good.

Can you replace a full bust adjustment with a narrow shoulder adjustment?

I looked at the difference between the medium and the large shoulder widths, and decided to narrow my shoulders 1/4".

I also did a 5/8" high round back adjustment and a 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment. My tops always tend to slip back on my shoulders. For years I did forward shoulder adjustments, but they never really did the trick. I've been playing with the high round back adjustment lately, and while it works better for me than a forward shoulder alone, it still wasn't a perfect fit. Finally it occurred to me that I might need both adjustments. This is the first garment on which I've tried both in tandem and it worked!

I only had a yard of this rayon/lycra knit, so I had to cut the sleeves 4" shorter than the pattern calls for. I really wanted a longer sleeve, so I ended up cutting cuffs out of the fabric remnants.

Can you replace a full bust adjustment with a narrow shoulder adjustment?

Substituting the narrow shoulder adjustment for the FBA resulted in a top that I like and will be happy to wear. But it's definitely not as effective a fix as the FBA and larger full bicep adjustment. It's not just my shoulders that are narrower than my bust measurement indicates; it's my entire upper chest. So while the shoulder seam is in the right place, there is a bit of excess fabric in the armscye. With this drapey knit fabric, it's not a big deal, and I might use this technique again in the future for knit patterns. But when sewing woven patterns, I think I will need to stick with the FBA on the smaller size. 

Can you replace a full bust adjustment with a narrow shoulder adjustment?

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!


  1. it's always interesting to see what different fitting adjustments do - a good experiment, thanks for posting.

  2. Great experiment. I also found your comments about combining the forward shoulder and high round back adjustments helpful.

  3. This has been my experience. I *need* a size 14 for my shoulders AND neckline and upper chest/back. I will say, with Burda knit tops, I will often "cheat" and do a 14 and after the armhole, grade out to a 16 :) Then just do a full bicep adjustment.

    1. I do that cheater FBA too, but I often find that it creates weird drag lines in my armpit. I think that might be more because I usually try to skip the bicep adjustment in a knit top, and I really can't.

  4. That looks like a really good classic turtleneck to have and re-wear.

  5. It's not all about the circumference. If you have a significant bust, you need extra fabric at the front, not added all around so your back gets an even share of the extra. I understand being tired of doing the same adjustment over and over again, but maybe you could consider reusing patterns whose fit is great on you more? Nobody can tell as long as you change the color 😉. Also maybe you should try the pivot and slide method of fba, much easier and quicker?


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