My go-to summer shirt is the Union St Tee from Hey June Handmade. That’s all I wear. However, I want to expand my options if I can. I love the look of the Zoey Tank from True Bias, and I was curious about the neckline finish. It looks super neat and clean.
I have less experience fitting my upper body, and it shows. I struggled to alter this pattern because I don’t have a systematic method like I do for pants. I’ll try to break down my approach and thought process. My upper body is definitely harder to fit than my lower body.
Analyzing Style and Fit
The Zoey tank is perfect to pair with high-waisted summer shorts, which is why I wanted to make the tank. The front features a V front neckline, a low scoop back neckline, and 5/8 inch straps that are an extension of the armhole bands. View A is a fitted crop tank, View B is a fitted tank ending at the hips, and View C is a tank dress.
Materials and Notions
I made my tank top using Meet Milk Derby Ribbed Jersey in Emerald. The material is a medium-weight ribbed stretch jersey made with 95% TENCEL and 5% elastane. The material is 230 g/m2 (~7.4 oz). The elastane takes comfort to the next level, offering an extraordinary buttery soft touch with high elasticity and an even higher level of comfort with a lovely relaxed, and fluid drape.
Sizing and Version
The Zoey Tank comes in two different size ranges. The first is Sizes 0-18 and was drafted with a C cup (3″ difference between high bust and full bust).
The second size range is 14-32 and was drafted with a D cup (4″ difference between high bust and full bust).
However, it’s frustrating because the size chart doesn’t provide the full and high bust measurements, only the chest measurements. Here’s what the charts should look like if the high bust was included.
For Sizes 0-18, subtract 3 inches from the chest (AKA full bust) and that should give you the recommended high bust measurement.
For Sizes 14-32, subtract 4 inches from the chest, giving you the recommended high bust measurement.
My high bust measures 42 inches, and my bust is 39 inches. Do you see the problem? Your high bust is assumed to be smaller than your full bust, which is not true for me. If I picked my size based on my full bust, I would choose size 12. However, I must select my size based on my high bust measurement, not my full bust. So, based on my high bust measurement, I should start with size 18. That’s 3 sizes bigger than my full bust measurement!
I started with Version A, the cropped fitted tank, in size 18 within the 0-18 size range, and then everything went off the rails…
Notice in all the examples above where the straps sit on the body. The straps should fit just medial to the acromion, the bony process at the top of the shoulder. This little tidbit will become relevant with my first muslin.
0-18 Size Range
The issue immediately became apparent when I tried on my first muslin. The shoulder straps are way too narrow for my body. When pattern designers draft a pattern, they use overly simplified assumptions about the relationship between the shoulder and chest, like men have wider shoulders than women, and larger chests result in wider shoulder width. When I picked my size, I assumed I picked the correct shoulder width for my body by using my high bust measurement. I thought the high bust measurement was a sufficient proxy for the shoulder region since the pattern doesn’t include any information about shoulder width. But, let’s be honest, shoulder width gets ignored with tops since everything is focused on full chest circumference. Instead, I had to expand my theory about fitting my upper body.
I try to break things down into smaller components when working with complex concepts. For a shirt pattern with no sleeves, I decided that the main components are the shoulder region (red), the chest (yellow), the waist (green), and the hip (blue). Instead of using the high bust measurement, I needed to find another way to measure. For the shoulder region, the easiest way to determine how much room you need is to take an across-chest measurement, which I’ll explain more below. I would still use my high bust measurement for the chest region, natural waist for the waist, and the widest part of the hips for the hip region.
I’ve used the across-chest measurement before. The across-chest measurement occurs when you measure with a rigid ruler at the armpit. I used my iPhone’s Measurement App to verify my ruler measurements. For the front, I measure 14 inches across.
For the back, I measure 15-1/2 inches across. This across-chest measurement corresponds to the bottom of the shoulder region in the figure above (red). It will typically be the measurement associated with the armhole notches. Hopefully, the pattern designer will include notches.
Here’s the size 18 pattern I started with, and I’ve placed my front and back half measurements at the center front and back. Next, I drew the line horizontally across to the notch along the armhole. This would be the bottom of the shoulder region in my region figure above. For the front, my across-chest measurement ends about 1/4 inch past the armhole notch, telling me that the front pattern is the correct size for my shoulder area. This pattern has some negative ease, so slightly smaller is good. For the back, my across-chest measurement extends well beyond the notch. This means the back pattern piece is too small for me. However, there isn’t a larger size in the 0-18 size range, so I need to use the 14-32 size range instead.
14-32 Size Range
Starting over on the new size range, I confirmed that the front size 18 still works. So what size did I have to go up to for my back piece? I went up 5 sizes to size 28!
Once I got the shoulder region fitted, I could focus on the transition zone between the shoulder and chest regions. Basically, I needed to remove the gaping at the armhole notch. On my muslin, I picked out the dart in the front and back, shown as red triangles in the photos above.
I drew the darts on my pattern pieces. I needed to remove a 1-1/2 inch dart at the armhole notch for the front and back.
There are several ways to remove this dart. I decided to transfer my dart to the hem. I’ve seen Seamwork create a larger bust dart instead. I didn’t want to add a bust dart and didn’t think I needed one anyway, so I transferred the dart to the hem. Cut the dart in half to the dart point, but DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE DART POINT. From the hem, cut up to the dart point, and again do not cut through the point.
Next, overlap the arms of the dart you drew. When you close the dart at the armhole, the dart is opened at the hem. Nifty!
Then, clean up the armhole and hem as best as you can.
I’ve only done this method twice now, and both times, I’ve needed to remove a wedge from the side seam. I just eyeballed this step and tried to keep the side seam hanging straight.
The last step was to adjust the bust to fit my full bust circumference. My shoulders needed the larger size, not my bust. Remember that my full bust is 39 inches. However, I can’t just assume that my back measures 19-1/2 inches and my front measures 19-1/2 inches. Using my tape measure at my full-bust level, I determined that my front half is 9 inches or 18 inches in total. Therefore, my back is 21 inches.
When I mark my front and back measurements on my pattern, it becomes apparent that I can remove a significant amount from the side seam, and I can remove the same amount from the front and back pieces. However, the question is how much to remove?
It is hard to know where the bust measurement is being taken because it isn’t marked on the pattern pieces, but from the final garment table, it looks like that pattern should have 5 inches of negative ease at the bust. Now I’m questioning all of my decisions. Should I have removed the excess fabric at the gaping armhole? Would the gaping armhole go away if I had simply adjusted the side seam to give me 5 inches of negative ease?
In the end, I removed 1-1/4 inches from the front and back side seams. If I had tried to achieve 5 inches of negative ease, I wouldn’t have been able to fit my arms through the teeny tiny arm holes.
The cropped tank was a bit too cropped for me. Without the hem, it was already above my belly button, so I added 2 inches. With it hemmed, it is at the level of my belly button.
Original vs Final
The original is in grey, and my final version is outlined in red. The image shows the shoulder width and across-chest width are correct for these sizes. However, my measurements were all over the place for this pattern:
- Front shoulder region, size 18 (based on my across-chest measurement)
- Back shoulder region, size 28 (based on my across-chest measurement)
- Front chest region, size 12 (based on my full bust measurement)
- Back chest region, size 18 (based on my high bust measurement)
- Waist region, size 16 (based on my waist measurement)
You can see that the size 12 bust width is the bust width I drafted for my front piece, and the size 18 bust width is the same as my back piece. Remember that based on my full bust measurement, I should have made a size 12, and for my high bust measurement, I should have made a size 18. It’s very interesting how everything turned out.
I gave up trying to get the waist region more fitted. I think I need to use darts to tighten it, and I wasn’t about to put darts at the hem.
I loved the challenge of this pattern, even though I think I lost the overall look. My tank top has much more ease in the waist, but I’m OK with that. It’s a great fit after all that work. My only complaint is that I wish the pattern would give more detail about final garment measurements, and the size chart definitely needs to include separate information for high bust and full bust.
Can you believe I’m thinking about making the Ogden cami next?
I loved this post! I too have a high bust several inches bigger than my bust and have seen exactly one article ever talking about this fit issue. So I was fascinated to see your process. As an intermediate sewist, I lack the skills to evaluate your solutions. My instinct is that for us high bust folks, there has to be a more simple rule of thumb for your alterations? No idea what it is but I applaud your systematic work through the issues! Thanks for the post and you look great! The muslin pics really highlight how much you improved the fit.
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Thank you so much for your kind words and feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and found it relatable as someone with a high bust. You’re absolutely right that fit issues specific to a high bust can be challenging to address, and, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information about this topic. Hopefully, my experience and journey can inspire you to confidently tackle similar challenges. Thank you again for your support and encouragement. I truly appreciate it! Happy sewing!
Brilliant! Just what I needed. I hate when the back of a sleeveless top doesn’t cover my bra straps but it never occurred to me to start with a larger size back and take it in at the sides
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I’m glad you found the suggestion helpful!