Chesticles and I don’t like simple shapes

This is a pic heavy post, an analysis of what does and doesn’t work for the excessive chesticles I sport. We have returned from 3 weeks in Canada and the US visiting the Princess and survived an almighty virus that had me shivering and shaking for 6 days. 2 weeks ago this post would have read “last will and testament of…”

Folkwear 142 Mexican top/dress front

A long intended ‘wait listed’ item – Folkwear 142 Old Mexico top/dress pattern. Simple shape, perfect for embroidery, naïve and rustic patternmaking. What could go wrong? Here’s the toile in a dandy hot pink polka dot cotton, an op shop purchase. The front looks fine, things start going awry at the side view.

142 Old Mexico top side view

The back? uuurgh, nuff said. I cut 1 size smaller than was recommended for my bust measurement. After much fiddling, tucking and so on – this was abandoned as a failure, just not worth my time.

Folkwear 142 Old Mexico Dress/top - back

About 6 years ago I started the Style Arc Lizzie Wrap, another ‘simple shaped garment, excuse the wrinkles, it’s just been unearthed from the pile of shame.

Style Arc Lizzie wrap

The hump at the back is disconcerting and having attempted to tuck, gather and dart, it just won’t go away. This was another project intended for embroidery – she languishes, because I see no place in my life for a Quasimodo inpired wrap!

Style Arc Lizzie wrap

Hmm, looking at this shot, perhaps the dowager’s hump effect isn’t so bad? Should I pursue this one, ‘cos I jut love the teal boiled wool.

Yesterday I made up the Tessuti Claudia dress, a simply shaped summer sundress, we’re still getting temps in the high 20s sometimes 30s celsius. The weather gods apparently don’t know it’s autumn. This dress is beautiful on the gorgeous young Tessuti muses. On me, the fit was well and truly fiddled – 2 FBAs and the removal of a 2cm gape by easing at the front armhole, lowered the darts, raised the neckline so it would cover my bra straps. There was 8cm ease in the back and it hung too low and loose for a bra to be comfortably concealed, so I added some elastic to the upper back –  I don’t love the result. The fabric is a vintage bark cloth replete with brown stains a la 60s – isn’t it great? The front is passable,

Tessuti Claudia front

The side is getting pretty bad with all that underarm fat squished by my bra…

Tessuti Claudia side

And the back is just downright godawful. Just try to pretend this isn’t me. A different bra might help, but then again, it might not! A cardigan is what this sundress needs.

Tessuti Clauidia back

So I can safely say that ‘strappy’ is just not my jam.

Enter an off the rack Gap, tencel, wrap dress, bought in Canada for the Princess’ upcoming european jaunt, she didn’t like the puff sleeves, so I put it on and the verdict was – it’s a keeper. Off the rack mind you, it’s a size 10 US and look at that perfect boob fit, lets call it empire line, plus, it cost about $32 CAD which is also $32 AUD – bonus! It has a dandy hook and thread loop at centre front to assist closure which needs lowering 2cm to my eye, but otherwise perfect!

Gap crossover dress front

Gap crossover dress back not awful!

The verdict? Never, (oooh, them’s fightin’ words!) ever, try to get any kind of upper body fit from ‘simple’ shapes. They’re just not made for me and I’m not built for them! Give me waist seams into which waistline tucks and darts can snuggle, princess seams that don’t look matronly or ‘uniform’, panel lines, drapes, gathers and for dog’s sake – no more huge honkin’ darts. I poured over the Curvy Sewing Collective tutorials and what I don’t need is more waist ease thanks very much. Just give me the increased chesticle space and I’ll be a happy camper. Frustrated? Yes! You?







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  1. Pointed collar *

  2. I’m with you. I hate the FBAs that create huge swathes of unwanted ballooning fabric under the bust. I had a revelation when I converted the side bust dart in a simple shift dress into a French dart. I was forced into this option when trying to work out how to fix an undarted tank top that was way too big after losing 15kg, but that I wanted to alter only through the side seams. I also added vertical darts to the back so it didn’t bag. These two simple adjustments got rid of all that unwanted fabric but gave the illusion of a simple shape. I’ve since made multiple tops and a dress as it is so cool and flattering for summer.

    • Oh the vertical back darts are great. I mentioned in a recent post that even 1cm either side of CB seems to give vertical stability and stops the ballooning back effect – yay! When I did the FBA on the Claudia I vacillated a lot over making it a french dart, because that also gives a touch of waist shaping. Have to admit I chickened out because the biasyness (new word!) can get a bit warped. Maybe I should try a curved french dart? Congrats on the 15kg – it feels so good don’t you agree?

      • The French dart is so worth it for the busty. I just shaped mine on me for best fit. Losing the weight was like dropping 10 years, including reduction in asthma symptoms. Who new that was weight related.

  3. I love this post. I am also drawn to simple shapes and they look awful an me because of my large chesticles. Thank you so much for posting the detailed photographs which make it easier to stay away from patters that do not accommodate my shape.The GAP dress looks lovely on you and shows off your pretty figure perfectly. Thanks for sharing your experience and experiments.

    • Thanks so much, the Gap dress feels really good, no hitching and constant readjustment. Simple is so often deceivingly difficult isn’t it? Next dress will have many more seams I think. Good luck with your journey.

  4. artcoopsville 11/04/2018 — 4:49 pm

    I’m with you on the simple shapes. They just look awful. I don’t have much bust. Something that is fitted to my shape is always worn a lot more than a sack shape.

    • Oh to not have much bust, but then where oh where would my belly hide?!! Do you feel that ‘fitted’ equals ‘sexy’ and does that make you feel better or worse? Comfortable or uncomfortable? I alwasy wanted to dress like a tomboy and that’s the disconnect. Girls with flatter chests don’t necessarily want to be tomboys and girls with plentiful cleavage don’t alwasy want to be perceived as ‘bombshells’ – it’s a very tricky mission this dressing thing! Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. I wore simple shapes when I was pregnant and thereafter anything loose reminds me of my much hated maternity clothing. God forbid anyone would think this mother of teens was pregnant now! I tend to stick to fitted styles because they suit my pear shape far better. If I dare to make anything looser it has to have an illusion of a waist. I have learnt all of this the hard way over the years.

    • Oh yes, I can relate, the preggers muu muu, but when the mercury hits the 30s, I’m happy in anything that doesn’t touch my body – actually I hate summer clothing for that very reason. I’m intrigued – as a pear, when you eat does your tummy bulge immediately? I envy my pear shaped friends, their shape doesn’t seem to shift as fast as mine.

  6. I need to think a bit more about this. I generally avoid strappy things because it is too difficult to hid bra straps and because I havw a lot of spots on my back that I think are unattractive. Combined with forward shoulder I find a full coverage bodice gives me the best look. I bought a sill dress at MaxMara Weekend last week that in retrospect looks a bit like the By Hand London Anna (?) dress that everyone raves about but I never liked for some reason. The for of the bodice and combined cap sleeves is miraculous.

    I wonder for some of the tops of it’s just back work that is missing. What I really want to try this season is those blouses with the really full sleeves and the ones from the Jan Burda with the deeply cut in armscye. I saw a blouse in the window of H &M yesterday where I would never shop but I loved the shape in a super light cotton, band collar and dull sleeves although I think those were Dolman or some such thing. It is yellow with white flowers and blue insects if you can find it online. With a fitted bottom I suspect it would look great. Im awaiting boarding right now so useless at searching and linking.

    • Sorry for all of the typos…airport typing.

    • I too like those cut in sleeves Steph, will keep an eye out for that one. I always assumed I hated strappy things because of the bra strap issue, then talked myself into them – WRONG! In reality I don’t think I have rounded shoulders but that photo makes me look like a weight lifter – so unflattering! I always turn my back to the su rather than my front, it’s been my method for preserving the décolletage given our weather but crikey, the back is looking aged! Happy travels x

      • I came back now that I can actually see the photos on my computer, rather than on my little phone! I think I generally agree with all of your conclusion. I have always gravitated to a more fitted shape on top or if looser on top a sweater or a men’s style shirt where the thing is loose all over (but then a fitted bottom). The yellow blouse I mentioned yesterday is a blouson style.

        Something I really like and have yet to buy is a mod dress or a mild trapeze, which has somewhat of the same issues. I had one dress like this that I really liked on me. I think the trick with those is to have a good fit on the shoulder and the upper bust, and then one can bear a little bit of looseness from the bust downward. The length also has to be right, with shorter being a bit better in those cases I think. Overall though, I think your message is right for those of us with full chests.

        Love the look of the GAP dress on you. I used to love wearing wraps but my main objection is always that I have trouble finding one that doesn’t open at the v in front and having a safety pin jammed in there isn’t a great solution. The gap solution (that you are going to lower by 2 cm) is an interesting one, but I get really fussed about anything that looks like it is pulling on me!

        The silk dress I mentioned that I bought is this one: I have to say that it looks way better on me than on the model, as the bodice fits better and the skirt is smooth over the abdomen and then flares out. It looks a bit better on the Sak’s model:

      • That’s a lovely dress Steph, I can imagine it will be great on you – perhaps you should take a pattern from it? Yes, I totally agree, I too wear fitted at one end or the other. I suppose this one was a bit of a wild card but when the mercury hits the 30s in autumn, I just cannot deal with any more heat! I guess something’s gotta give and that may just be style!

  7. I feel your pain! I love the look of simple shapes, but they just don’t suit my mega-bust. I have a narrow back too, so RTW that fits on the bust hangs off the back. 😭

  8. That GAP dress says it all. It’s perfect for your shapely figure but would look like nothing good on A cup me. I think the Claudia dress is fundamentally for the young of body.

    • And those Tessuti girls are uncannily thin! Thats my jealous streak commenting! I really have to reproduce the Gap look, I think I have the pattern for it, a Style Arc Susie’s sister’s top, which doesn’t appear to be on their site now. Hmmm, strange that a shapeless shift suits only the lithe, but I agree with you there.

  9. I need to save this post for future reference! You gave a perfect example of something I’ve been talking about with friends….simple quick make patterns will rarely work for anyone with curves. Whether someone is size 8 or size 28 … if boobs or tummy or bums are shapely then they need more panels or tucks or gathers. That Gap dress is stunning on you… the difference between the photos is huge. I agree that the hook needs moving a few cm lower. Do you ever trace a pattern off garments? Because the back of that dress is a fantastic fit on you and the front would need just a little bit of tweaking to lower the front waistline just under the bust ( the fit looks great but the slight upwards curve suggests it might need a little extra length for cup size).
    Would you consider adding a panel to the back of the testutti dress in a similar shape to the front? It’d be a pity to cover up with a cardi:)

    • Okay Chris, I’m late in replying because you created a lot of work for me today!!!! Thank you for your very keen observations. I have fixed the ‘sundress’ and wow, it was worth the effort. Why did I not see that all it needed was an added panel – genius. Also excellent observation about the front waist on the Gap dress – a rub off is in my future – dammit!! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, such a win today! 💋

      • Oh wow! I’m so glad it was helpful! My comment was a bit of an essay lol😉. I’m really glad that you made the hundreds work.
        I have done a good few rub offs… it just saves so much fitting if you can trace something that already works. (I have a wrap dress just finished that I copied from one I bought 14 yrs ago, wore til it was faded and after storing it for years, finally got a pattern from it.)

      • It is a time saver ultimately- time well spent i think. X

    • So glad I read this. Great thinking, Chris! Chris always has excellent suggestions.

  10. PsychicSewerKathleen 12/04/2018 — 1:12 am

    I always have to do an fba and fsa on patterns so “simple shapes” as you say are going to mean a LOT of additions and adjustments to make them look half decent on me. The Grainline Scout Tee is the one I always remember when I’m tempted by another simple shape 🙂 I had add bust darts, fish eye darts to the back, a hem facing to curve the hem. In the end I had a whole different pattern. One I like mind you! But still 🙂 I love your Gap dress (I’m in Canada so that was quite a BARGAIN!) and ironically I have a Gap longish white blouse (bought in a second hand shop for $20) that has a french dart that hits me in the EXACTLY right place. I couldn’t believe the fit of this blouse. Honestly I would be challenged to make a blouse from scratch that fit me as well. I laughed seeing how perfect your tencil wrap dress fit you reminding me of that white, Gap blouse that’s just perfect.

    • Kathleen, what is an FSA? I’m perplexed 🤔 I will have to do a rub off of the Gap dress if only I felt confident doing that. So many toiles in my future! Perhaps you can copy the blouse? Oh and the scout was a disaster for me too!

  11. Same here and I lack your chesicles. I learned the hard way, if you have curves you need seams and darts.

  12. Great Gap dress, though you have to fend off lots of ‘did you make it, you’re so clever’ comments!
    The sun dress on the other hand is in a ‘just awful’ category that we rarely get here.

    I love that simple blouse style. It’s a shame they forgot to design the back. I won’t make it as I know it would make me feel utilitarian and frumpy just because it hides the waist – not that I care about that every day! I’m actually having fun re-cutting big mens’ shirts from charity shops and making them into close fitting tops for work with the original button closure. You get all the kudos of an ironed, smart shirt but the fun and (stealth) sexiness of something quite fitted.

  13. Ok Lesley. That final dress is gorgeous on you. Get the tracing wheel and tape measure out and copy it. It could become the base of lots of other things!
    I wonder if some of the simple items are not what you want them to look like because of the fabrics? I find simple shapes better in more drapy viscose type fabric. Drapes instead of sticking out?
    The teal wool had no apparent hunchback in that image, finish it.

  14. I feel your frustration . I have recently had a run of failures . I am back with TNT patterns but I get bored so I will have to just get on with making more toiles to test some new ideas

    • It’s just so haaard to stay on track don’t you find? So many ideas, so many pretty things. For making inspo I know we should look at our wardrobe to see the holes, but who wants to do that?! Best of luck with your toiles Mem. X

  15. Oh I can’t give much advice, never needing to learn to do FBA, myself, sorry.
    Mine solutions would be hacks, such adding or increasing the centre back seam, raising the arm scythe ?

    I do like the Folkwear top though – don’t give up yet.

    • The Claudia is all fixed now thanks to a comment from Chris on this post – wonderful to be able to workshop a problem across the world! Perhaps you’re more the broad shouldered adjustment Ruth? I always assumed you and I were a similar build, but perhaps not? I used to bandage my chest as a young ballet dancer – it didn’t work!

  16. …sigh…you’re preaching to the choir, he he.

    In my mind, I’m still have my thirty year old body and I’m routinely shocked and dismayed when I finish a garment, try it on and see nothing but boobs.

    I am trying to make better pattern choices and better fabric choices but it’s hard. Especially when I see patterns like many of Tessuti’s lovely dresses…ones that don’t seem to work well with supportive bras.

    Your Gap dress looks great on you! Oh, to have a perfect fitting wrap dress. I am under the size range for Cashmerette unfortunately or I’d buy her wrap dress pattern.

    • Ok, so just to set your mind at ease Sue – i took my gorgeous daughter into Lulu Lemon where she had seem a great sports bra. She grabbed a few things and aaargh – she hated how broad they made ger shoulders look – so its also the youth that suffer these things. Lulu had a great bra with an extra strap that covered where that splurge iver the bra band happens. I’ll di a follow up post. The Cashmerette Appleton fits me well, i’m a UK 14 in dresses. I twesked it quite a bit and fir knits it’s the best. Craftsy have a class in using your block to draft a wrap dress – tempted?!

  17. Beads and Barnacles 14/04/2018 — 12:08 am

    That off the rack dress looks great.
    I think the boiled wool wrap could look good if the back had a little less volume in the width at the bottom. Or if it was crossed across at the front and done up it would pull the side seams forward and reduce some of that back poof.
    I think from the photo.

  18. Keep the Lizzie, it looks fine and it is a great fabric. And as for the sundress perhaps a mesh cardi/vest? I never wear strappy things as I don’t have the shoulders for it.

  19. Not a big fan of ‘simple’ styles (ie. those w no shaping or means to add shape) for the same reasons as you. Sadly 3D bodies need some structure.
    The Gap dress looks great – you’ve already been told to copy it so I won’t repeat.
    I’m so glad you salvaged the sun dress. Great fabric but a difficult style for anyone other than those pin thin Tessuti girls to wear. I’m sure you will enjoy it now.
    The boiled wool Style Arc must be finished! The poofing at the back is just the fullness being pushed back by the waterfall front. If it was closed in front it would vanish. The fabric looks gorgeous and MUST NOT BE WASTED!
    Enjoy all your efforts. Even our disasters are useful provided we remember and don’t have repeating faults 😂(I do).

    • Hmmm, not repeating disasters- now that’s where the learning lies, and self control! Currently in Canberra with 3 sundresses and temp has dropped to 12C – how on earth can a girl predict 32c in Sydney to this 3hrs away?!

  20. Oh, good heavens. You’ve put into words what I want to throw a tantrum about every. single. time. I. sew….. for myself. Actually, the silly chesticles thing often keeps me from sewing at all because I know how much work the fitting and tweaking will be, and then I have this horrid picture in my minds’ eye about how B I G and front-and-centre they are. Case in point: I have a few wrap dresses that I never wear because I just KNOW everyone is looking at them….

    As for ‘simple shapes’…. A HAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHA!!! If it says that, I’m steering around it… or making it in jersey, which seems to work…. sometimes… Like a tee. Or cutting it on the bias, which takes it out of the realm of ‘simple’.

    Your Gap dress is beautiful. That said, I’ve noticed that a lot of American companies draft for a bigger cup size. It’s like some of them have got the memo that 99.9% of their target audience doesn’t look like a fit model. And I agree: Get out the tracing paper and trace it off. And that boiled wool is lovely. Perhaps some time spent on iron work would shape it up perfectly?

    • Ah yes, front and centre when we’d prefer them to be discreet. I get the feeling that if they weren’t so sexualised life would be easier. A rub off is such a huge effort, but i must bite the bullet! Thanks for your thoughts Tia Dia x

  21. Great post! I have FINALLY faced that reality that I have D cups. NOT the B cups that I think I do. And yes, the revelation came to me after making a “simple shape” – the Inari Dress. Looked awful. I added darts but it’s still not great – just good enough for the summer holiday I made it for. My issue is that I’m really straight-waisted too – so not really any curves to speak off – just boob and a broad back. Basically I look like a drag queen. Yet to find my style! 😦

    • Nawww Alix, do not despair. I’ts taken me a very long time to come to terms w boobs and honestly i still prefer my shape in a sports bra with less projection. I bet you have great legs! Make the most of your assets! I have a in-law that is a beanpole, narrow shoulders, straight up and down with the skinniest legs. She thinks her life would be complete if only she had boobs… we’re never satisfied! My daughter is your shape, she’s home from OS, so expect to see some shots on the blog!

    • Sounds like me + I’m short 😄

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