Pattern Adjustments on the Indigo Dress

This blog post contains gifted fabric. I was under no obligation to write this blog post and all views are, as usual, my own! 🙂

Recently, a project came along that reminded me all in one how challenging, mysterious but magical sewing is.

When we’re growing up there’s an assumption that RTW clothes are standard and if you don’t fit into them, well that’s your problem. Sewing taught me that is nonsense – every single body is different and will need most likely a unique set of adjustments for a perfect fit.

However, knowing that isn’t enough to dispel the idea that something should fit out the packet. The Indigo dress was a great example of this for me – seeing people of all shapes and sizes on the hashtag seemingly rock this dress with zero modifications made me confident I’d just need the one toile of this popular beginner dress before launching in with my final fabric. How wrong I was!

I ended up needing a whopping 3 toiles and 5 adjustments on this pattern and honestly, think I’ll still end up tweaking it. I can completely understand why people would be put off by this – with enough stress in the world sometimes you just want a satisfying sew and not bother with toiles. However, with such a ‘basic’ bodice I wanted to take the opportunity to learn some new techniques and take on the challenge.

The adjustments below are what worked for me, and I should say that the majority of them were completely new to me. I asked the Instagram community, read really useful resources and took my time. You may need something different for your bodice – or nothing at all – but hopefully these will give you ideas for future makes and show that it is all a matter of practice!

When looking for resources, start with the instagram hashtag of your pattern to see if other sewists have made adjustments. The pattern designer may also have tips; for example Tilly’s blog has a whole section on FBA’s for the Indigo which ironically was the one I didn’t need….

The final fit on my Indigo

You can see in the images pink lines where I have added/removed from the pattern. I did them in this chronological order hence why you see the pattern piece change as I go. I tried each adjustment one (or max) two at a time as this helps you identify what is helping or hindering your make.

If you have any questions about the adjustments feel free to comment below or send me a message on instagram; I’ll be happy to help explain my thought process. You can also find a highlight there of my Indigo fitting journey.

Forward Shoulder Adjustment

How I knew I needed it: the shoulder seam was sitting too far back on my shoulders, making me want to pull the front down constantly.

Top tips: you will be able to guesstimate from looking at your toile how far forward your shoulder needs to come – mine was about 1.5cm. When adjusting the sleeve cap, remember to move your sleeve cap towards the front not the back. I made this mistake and although it didn’t look awful, did feel off. Don’t forget to adjust your facings in the same way as your bodice pieces!

Useful resources: Wiksten blog post, The Daily Sew

Raising armhole

How I knew I needed it: When lifting my arms the sleeves felt too tight -my bodice also rode up when lifting my arms so I needed more room here.

Top tips: use a French curve if you have one to create a smooth curve along the armhole. If it’s not clear from the image below – you are marking 1cm upwards from the side, not out away from it. You should also adjust the sleeve when raising the armhole (as you are narrowing it by, in this case, 2cm). I didn’t as I don’t mind excess in my sleeve gathering, but if you do so it’s quite straightforward; just mark a point 1cm in from your sleeve and grade the line to meet the seamline.

Useful resources: Megan Nielsen blog

Lengthening the bodice

How I knew I needed it: this is quite a common adjustment on the Indigo and I saw a lot of sewists had also done this. I prefer a longer bodice so went for it.

Top tips: you can use any paper for this; I like to use pattern paper or even baking paper.

Useful resources: Tilly and the Buttons blog

Broad back adjustment

How I knew I needed it: although the front bodice felt fine, there was tightness across my back especially when moving my arms forward

Top tips: you can draw your vertical line from your neckline or shoulder seam. I chose the shoulder as I was happy with the width of my back neckline. However, next time I may try the back neckline as currently I still have a problem of my back facing popping out which is driving me mad!

Note: as I only did a 0.5cm adjustment I was able to ease this alongside my front bodice without further adjustment.

Useful resources: BHL Broad Back Adjustment guide

Adjusting the sleeve cap

How I knew I needed it: This is hard to explain! I knew the shoulder seam was in the right place, yet the sleeve head wasn’t sitting right, it was a bit baggy I suppose. I instinctively chopped a bit off the sleeve and it worked!

Top tips: use a French curve to achieve a smooth line

Useful resources: Petit Plus patterns explains this adjustment (and why you’d want it!) better than I can 🙂

Final recommendations for the Indigo

  1. I found that the fabric used wildly affects the fit of this pattern. Using a heavier cotton like the final make results in a closer fit with less ‘swish’ whereas a viscose will feel much looser.
  2. Try one adjustment at a time and take your time to identify what your bodice needs. Ask a friend to assess the fit for you and see what they point out, as well.
  3. Adjust by small amounts at first (max 1.5cm) so that you don’t overshoot with your changes
  4. Enjoy the process! You might need a couple of toiles for your sewing pattern, and that’s part of the fun. The feeling of satisfaction when you finally get closer to the garment you imagined is like no other.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this blog post useful – if you did, feel free to share or let me know on Instagram.

Fabric gifted by The Rag Shop for this make

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