31 Aug 2021 • • by Amy

Common Fitting Adjustments for the Pauline Dress

Pauline Dress fit adjustments

Hey all! Celine here with some advice on getting the best fit possible for our latest pattern! Pauline is a quite fitted design with a square neckline, a high/low waistline hitting at the natural waist in the front to lower back and a semi-fitted skirt with a back dart. We knew when we were discussing design that this would look too low in the back for some people or that the neckline depending on your body shape or shoulders would have a tendency to gape. All pretty designs deserve a little more hard work, so we tried to troubleshoot a bunch of ways you can fix those little spots quickly, stress free!

What we always recommend is making a muslin!! For Pauline, you can just do a front and back bodice and a peplum type of skirt to test the fit of the belly, bump and hip as well.

If you are used to sewing Closet Core patterns and you don”t usually require a lot of adjustments, there are a few common ones you can do quickly when making a muslin (or the main layer of the garment with no facings and lining) :

  • Not enough room at the belly area : undo pleats a little to gain a little room and size up the front skirt
  • A bit loose at the shoulder (when doing the sleeveless version that should be quite often the case): pinch the excess at shoulder seam
  • Back shoulder panel is too wide: retrace the perfect shape on your muslin and use it as your new pattern piece. (You can also use a smaller size, it will make it shorten in length and width)
  • You see your bra peeking out too much: make a horizontal pleat in the back shoulder panel to see if that eliminates the problem.


Grading between sizes for Pauline works as usual. With front pleats and a bunch of seams in the back, it is actually better to adjust a bit everywhere rather than only grade in the side seam which will likely distort the seam too much after 2 sizes. As shown in the example below (in blue), you can reduce the width of the front waist pleats. That way when sizing up or down more than one size, you even out what you are adding (or removing) a bit everywhere. Always keep in mind to make sure to make the same adjustments to the skirt pattern pieces so that the back dart aligns with the side back seam and side seams align as well.

The waist pleats and seams at the back bodice make it fairly easy to adjust to your liking. You can grade roughly based on your measurements and then adjust when doing your muslin.

For example you can grade, sew a bodice muslin and make sure you have enough room at the belly, then let out the pleats if you don’t and size up the front skirt as well.

Common Fitting Adjustments for the Pauline Dress // Closet Core Patterns

When in our testing phase, we noticed some of our testers were grading up from bust to waist and then keeping the same size from waist to hip, even if their hips were smaller. It is totally up to you if you want some extra room in the skirt, even more so if you want to add the pockets. If you choose to have more room at the hip that what it is drafted for, you can just straighten the skirt side seam to below the hip level to avoid having a little bump where your hips should be!


One adjustment that might be a regular one for this dress is making the waist seam be where you want it to be! As it is pretty low in the back and the back bodice is fitted, some of you will feel they need a swayback adjustment, whereas most of the time, shortening the back bodice (in the back panel or the center back and side back pieces) will make it work better. The more you remove the ease in the back and make it too fitted the more drag lines will appear. Keep in mind it is quite normal to have a little excess at the back waist to be comfortable and to sit.

Common Fitting Adjustments for the Pauline Dress // Closet Core Patterns

If that is still not enough to your liking, see below for a swayback adjustment.

Common Fitting Adjustments for the Pauline Dress // Closet Core Patterns


Reminder: our 0-20 range is drafted for a B cup, and our 14-30 range is drafted for a D cup. Cup sizes in this case have nothing to do with bra sizes – instead they reflect the difference in inches between full and high bust. A 2″ difference is a B cup; a 4″ difference is a D cup (and a 1″ difference would be an A cup, 3″ a C cup, etc.)  If your cup size is bigger or smaller than the cup size for the range you’re using, you will have to do a SBA or FBA for best results. With small and large busts, we recommend choosing a size based on your high bust rather than your full bust and then doing the adjustments below; this ensures the pattern fits well with through the upper bust and shoulders.

To find out how much width you need to add, take your full and high bust measurements. Subtract the high bust from the full bust. A two-inch difference is what we draft for (a B cup). Anything over two inches is what you need to add to the pattern. Since we are only altering one half of the front pattern, you can cut that number in half since the total amount will be added across left and right sides equally.

As a guide, here is how much you should add to the bodice:

  • 3 inch difference = 1/2″ width
  • 4 inch difference = 1″ width
  • 5 inch difference =1 1/2″ width
  • 6 inch difference = 2″ width
  • 7 inch difference = 2 1/2″ width

To start, trace lines on the front bodice to cut and rotate pieces: one in the armhole, one in side seam and one at lengthen shortened line. Don’t cut through armhole seam allowance and bust point to be able to rotate pieces easily. Rotate down the side pieces making sure the vertical opening is the desired amount. You will have a new side bust dart that you can keep to add shaping to the bust. 

Common Fitting Adjustments for the Pauline Dress // Closet Core Patterns

If you don’t want the side bust dart to keep the design of the dress, you can rotate the amount of that dart into the neckline dart. Trace a line in the prolongation of the strap (where your new dart will be). Cut along that line and into the seam allowance. Rotate that piece so that it is closing the gap you previously made. Retrace a new bigger and longer bust dart and try it on yourself to see if the dart is at the right location and to adjust the size of the dart.

Common Fitting Adjustments for the Pauline Dress // Closet Core Patterns

This method is the same for a small bust adjustment, but instead of slashing and opening the pattern, you will overlap pieces and make a smaller dart. To do a small bust adjustment for that pattern I would first recommend trying to size down at bust or to grade the dart between sizes at the neckline and reduce the width of the dart. See below for neckline adjustments.


A wide square neckline is the most challenging thing to fit right! As it will look different on everybody depending on the shape and size of your breast, if you have wide or narrow shoulders, long or short torso… Anyhow, here are a few things you can adjust to make it look perfect on your body.

If you feel you’re having too much cleavage, you can raise the neckline a little bit. That will increase the size of the dart opening, so you might have to adjust that as well. On the other hand having a bigger dart can close the neckline a bit more and add some coverage too.

If your bra straps are peeking out a bit on the side of the neckline (or you have a narrow upper body) but the bust fit looks good, it might be a bit too wide for you, you can grade the bust dart to move the strap closer to center front. You can also grade down the strap and neckline area only, making sure to keep the length of the strap (in blue on the illustration). 

The ultimate easiest way to reduce gaping in that neckline is to take a wedge off at center front! To keep the waist measurement accurate, you just have to measure how much you are removing from the center front, divide that by 4 and remove that amount to the waist pleats.

When adjusting the neckline, always remember to adjust the facing too. As it is tricky to adjust that neckline after it is sewn and if you don’t feel like making a whole muslin (yes I do that too!!) at least try on your bodice before adding the facing to make sure it’s all good, that way you can adjust the facing and cut it afterwards! An even lazier way of checking the neckline before you cut is to lay the pattern piece on your chest (lining up center front) and see where the dart and strap hit. If you like the spot you can go ahead and cut your fabric and start toiling it up! 

Ready to start your Paulines? If you have any questions, ask us in the comments!


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Pauline Dress

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