Do you ever find that your bust darts are a bit too, well, pointed and obvious? Darts that stick out and draw attention in an inappropriate way?
Of course body shapes change and so do the silhouettes that underpin them. The position and ideal dimension of the bust has moved around over the years and size, position, outline and proximity to other body parts plays out in many aspects of fashion. And many of my older readers will know from personal experience how bra styles change to help achieve the desired bodice shape.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s women could buy pointed bras that emphasised the “bullet” shape of the bust. By the 1970s bras were closer to the natural shape, achieved by using much lighter fabrics that allowed a “visible nipple” (this post is not going to get through your firewall, I fear). If you remember wearing the 1970s bra (or even no-bra) you may also recall men staring at the impact of colder weather on your nipples. Last century bras got most of their shape from the stitching together of sections – you can see the seam lines on both these bras. Today’s brassieres are often constructed with a thin layer of padding inside a seamless cup to create a very natural curve but also obliterate the part that has the most erotic potential – shown in the T shirt bra below.
This is a roundabout way of suggesting that modern dressmakers want the bust area to be flattered and enhanced without drawing too much attention to their “tips”. We strive to create the rounded shape of a natural breast rather than sport pokey points on our hand made garments.
Recently I have experienced this problem. Twice in two weeks! My empire line dress had pointy tips. So did Esme’s dress. In fact if you ever have a man in the room when you are trying on something you have made you can be sure this is the first fault he will notice. If he is a gentleman he may not comment, but you can be sure he will have clocked your error.
Now I have researched and tested, I have some useful advice.
Why do we end up with pointy darts?
- The take up of material compared to the length of the dart is excessive (ie short fat darts tend to create points)
- The point of the dart is too close to the bust point/apex/nipple
- The seamstress finishes the dart by back stitching which creates too much stress at the tip
- The fabric is heavy or difficult to press
How can we prevent pointy bust darts?
- Short, fat, darts are created if you have a relatively large cup size and create a relatively short dart. This is what happened on my Empire line dress. The style line cuts across the underbust line, and the dart comes off this line. In my pattern all the bust shaping was in this area. In retrospect I should have created a second dart to the side (underarm), or divided the underbust dart into two or three darts so that the angle improved. As it was I was left with a dart that was almost an isosceles triangle – the base was the same length as the sides. It is virtually impossible to create a nice dart under these circumstances. This is why I gathered the fullness.
- Too big on the bust is when there is just a bit too much fabric in front of the bust point and there is not enough mound for it to be shaped by. The solution here is to reduce the fullness and size of the dart.
- Dart position is crucial. Commercial patterns will assume the bust point is about 1.5″ down from the underarm (tuck a chop stick on pencil under you arm and measure when wearing a bra). If the fullest part of your bust is somewhere else change the dart position. Then make sure that the dart finishes at least one inch from the apex. The idea of a dart is to get the fullness of the cloth to the area where it is needed.
- How to sew a curved dart: when we make patterns there is a great emphasis on squaring everything up and down and across. This is basically to provide symmetry and balance and to ensure that the garment is made on the correct grain. However the human body is curved and many of the lines we create need to be curved rather than straight. The bust and buttock “protuberances” as my old teacher used to describe them are especially curved and need to be taken into account. For this reason, while a bust dart will normally be drawn with a straight ruler, to avoid a very pokey look hollow out the stitching line a little as you come to the point and make sure you run the stitching a little parallel to the edge as you finish it off. This was the technique I used on Esme’s dress.
- Construction technique is important too. A technique I learned from Bunny is to decrease the stitch length as you get to the point, giving a nice smooth finish. Don’t back stitch or tie off the ends tightly.
- Fabric issues A short, fat, dart in a heavy fabric will need to be cut open, trimmed and treated more like a seam. Some fabrics that don’t press well may create a poke at the end that cannot be rectified with pressing.
- Press on a curved surface eg. pressing ham, balled up towel etc.
I hope this is helpful; any other suggestions out there?