Cloth Habit Watson: Moving the Vertical Seamline

I made another Watson today:

Cloth Habit Watson Bra

What makes this Watson special is the amount of surgery I did to the pattern this time.

I really like the Watson. It is comfortable, goes together easy, and has a reasonable amount of ease. When I first tried it on I loved it! However, after wearing it a couple of times I found out it had a major fitting issue: if I bent forward or to the side, I could feel myself start to slide out of the cups. The cups also tended to ride up, despite the band feeling like it was the correct size.

I thought on and off for the past few months about what was causing this, and how I could fix it. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was 100% due to the placement and shaping of the vertical seamline. It dawned on me what was causing the problem – and how to solve it – after trying on dozens of RTW bras and discovering that 90% of them had the same fit issues:

  • The apex-to-apex measurement of the cups was often too wide. This problem presented itself as the inner edge digging in while the cups appeared too large. The bra also had the feeling of being both too small and too large. I read somewhere that women with a closely set bust tend to fall out of plunge styles, which is what was happening with the Watson. I noticed that if I shifted one of the cups inward so that the apex of the cup lined up with my apex that suddenly the cup fit perfectly.
  • The depth (aka the measurement of the wireline to fullest part of the cup) was often 1/4″ too low. If I tugged the cup upward vertically a little, so that the apex of the cup was placed at the correct spot, suddenly the cup stayed in place and the shaping improved.
  • The cups would often dig in at the armhole edge. This wasn’t just the straps being placed too wide. It was the entire cup being too wide across the center front, and not wide enough from the bust point to the underarm.

In addition to having a firm, conical, full-on-bottom shaped bust, I suspect that I also have a torso that is more cylindrically shaped than what most bras (and clothing, for that matter) are drafted for. This means I am narrower when viewed straight-on and wider when viewed from the side (aka my body has more depth than my measurements would indicate.) This results in things like darts and princess seams being placed too wide, and armholes and crotches cutting in, despite the overall ease being ok. I also have issues with bra bridges/center front gores being too wide, particularly at the lower edge. (I  often have to alter RTW bras by taking a tuck out of it.) I think I read somewhere that people of European descent have torsos that are cylindrical and have more depth, and people of Asian descent tend to have torsos that are shallower and more oval in shape.

Here’s a visual from my favorite fitting book that illustrates the issue:

IMG_1839

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Source: Fitting & Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach

So with this in mind, I went to work on my pattern.

After trying on my stretch mesh Watson I estimated that I needed to move the seamline 3/4″ inward toward the center front. I started off by highlighting the size I needed to trace. Then I took a 3/4″ tuck out of the inner cup piece:

IMG_1832

I slashed and spread the outer cup 3/4″. I did a lot of haphazard truing of the lines, and in the process added about 3/8″ more depth to the cup at the lower edge. After I made up my first sample I decided to fold out 3/4″ length from the upper section of the cup, and pinch out the seamline above the apex a little, making it concave rather than straight like the original draft. When I was done with my alterations the pieces looked like this:

IMG_1835

Here’s the original Watson inner cup vs my altered inner cup:

IMG_1833

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and the original Watson vs my altered outer cup:

IMG_1834

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Once I was certain my  alterations were correct I traced my new pattern pieces onto some card stock.

The next two photos are my original vs new and improved Watson. Both are made out of stretch mesh. To give you an idea of how wide-set the seamlines were for my figure, the apex-to-apex measurement of my plastic lady is just 1/2″ narrower than my measurement.

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Watson Version 1
Cloth Habit Watson Bra
Watson Version 2

I wore this new and improved version around the house for a few hours to test it out. Right away I noticed how it stayed in place so much better than my original version did. Barely any riding up – despite the complete lack of underwires and boning – and everything stayed securely in place. I also think I have a slightly less flattened and more projected look than before, and the support is also better. It can’t replace underwires and/or foam as far as lift and shaping goes, but it is definitely a big improvement over most RTW bralettes I’ve tried. Here’s how it looks under a tee that I’m pinching out at the center back:

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16 thoughts on “Cloth Habit Watson: Moving the Vertical Seamline

  1. Thank you Anne! The cups are far too wide set for me on the Watson and I wasn’t really sure how to approach a remedy — I’ll be trying out your alteration and let you know how it goes.

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    1. It is a little haphazard when it comes time to true the lines, and I had to sew up a sample before getting it right. But the stretch of the fabric helps a lot, and the fit is much better!

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  2. Thanks! I also wanted to shift the seamline, so that the apex would fall on my apex (mostly for decency reasons) and struggled quite a bit trying to add width directly to the seam line. Your approach looks a lot easier and I will surely give it a try!

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  3. Looks great! Not sure how my milliskin Watson will fit yet as it is underconstruction right now. It’s so nice to be able to find good information on how to fit a pattern when you love it and want it to work out.

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  4. I do admire you for being able to suss out these alterations. I like this style of bra in that the strap is situated in a line above the nipple, because I think such styles suit me better as an older lady (60s). But then I might need a bra pattern with a deeper band. I’ve had a bit of a browse through your site today and some of the bra and panty sets you have made are very impressive. I have made bras – which do the job; they hold me in – but they tend to be functional rather than pretty.

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  5. I had asked this question on the Craftsy bra making platform. Beverly Johnson (or her representative) suggested making the cup of foam (cut allowances, butt together, zigzag), drawing where the seam should be, recutting and adding seam allowances back in. Made sense to me, and possibly even easy enough for me to do!

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    1. That method works for design purposes (like going from a horizontal to vertically seamed style cup). I don’t think it works as well when you need to move actual fullness.

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  6. So glad to find this post, thank you Anne! I’m having the exactly inverse problem. During wear, my watson seamlines seem to find themselves 1/4″ to the inside from my apex, but then curve toward the outside as they get closer to the wireline. Weird. I’m off to the drawing board, to see if I can replicate your changes, but backwards. 🙂

    Still, thank heavens for the watson, because it was becoming clear I was never going to get an underwire fit on my wide, pancake-flat chest.

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  7. Hi,

    Did you have to make any adjustments to the cradle for your measurements, or were the cup adjustments adequate for your fit issues?

    Thanks for this though, I’ve always had trouble finding well fitting RTW, feeling as though the fit is too tight, and roomy at the same time. This combined with your Marlborough post with the lindasonline link was illuminating.

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