Head to Head: Union St Tee with FBA
One of my favorite topics to read about on blogs is comparison sewing—different fabrics same pattern, same pattern different fits, different patterns same garment type. This kind of information becomes such a great resource and can really help clarify fabric or pattern options which is so valuable when most fabric and pattern purchasing happens online without the opportunity to see or feel materials in person.
A full bust adjustment (FBA) is a fit option I’ve been wanting to see in comparison because my measurements put me right at the gateway for needing one. If you’re unfamiliar with FBAs, this fit adjustment is often utilized when the wearer’s high bust and full bust have a difference of three inches or more. Since most patterns are drafted for a B or sometimes C cup, many women use a FBA to create more room for the full bust without drastically affecting the fit of the rest of the garment. While a FBA isn’t always the solution, its often used to reduce the wrinkles that sometimes form in the underarm of a top, and in this case, a basic tee. While I’m not going to talk about how to make that adjustment, there are multiple excellent resources you can find on Google for drafting your own FBA for bodices with or without darts.
The Union St Tee is a popular basic tee pattern but what drew me to this particular pattern is that the newer edition released fall 2017 also includes a pattern piece specifically for an FBA. I loved that I didn’t have to draft a new FBA piece myself! I decided to make two Union St Tees to compare the fit of the regular design and the FBA addition.
The details of my “experiment”:
- I chose this beautiful black and white rib knit from IndieSew for my two tees. It has a quality feel and is thick enough to not require a cami underneath but still has nice drape from the rayon content. And I always love stripes! **As of this writing its currently out of stock, but Allie has an awesome feature on the site that allows you to request out of stock fabrics! Just click “request more of this fabric”, fill out the form, and Allie will do her best to get it again. I’ve already seen it restocked again since I initially bought these last couple yards in January!**
- The Union St Tee has charts for body measurements and finished garment measurements. The added information helps to create the exact fit you want, whether it be slouchy or fitted. To compare the difference the FBA has on the whole garment, I made both tees in the same size. My measurements put me in an XL high bust and XXXL hip. Given the high stretch percentage of the rib knit, I chose to make a size L for both versions. Both are hemmed with the same allowance. **Also, if you want to see how the Union St Tee looks on other makers, IndieSew has an awesome section in each pattern listing called “Creations” where individuals can upload their own photos, creating a catalog of real makes on real people. How cool is that?**
- I sewed these shirts before I began to show, and I’m aware that the recent changes to my silhouette do affect how my tees look.
First, my tee cut in a regular size L:
I do have some wrinkles/folds at my underarm, but the shirt on the whole feels ok. The length isn’t too short or too long for me and I like where the neckline hits.
And my tee in a size L with the included FBA:
I was surprised to see that there were still some folds in my underarm in pretty much all of my photos. I also noticed this version had more length in the front and was a little roomier throughout the front of the body.
If you’re not thinking it, Imma gonna say it: there’s not a huge difference, is there?
That was a surprise to me. I’ve seen so many women praise the FBA as the solution to all of their underarm wrinkles, however I didn’t see much of an improvement and if anything, the FBA version felt bigger than I would’ve wanted. So lets talk about some lessons learned after this experiment.
First, sometimes things just don’t go the way you planned! I expected to have an awesome blog post that would be helpful to those questioning whether a FBA is right for them. I was honestly a little disheartened that my tees didn’t turn out the way I had expected. Because here’s the kicker: sometimes a FBA isn’t the answer! After doing a little research, it looks like my bigger problem might be that the armscye is too long, which would explain why I didn’t see much of an improvement in that area (and at some angles I think its actually worse in my second version). Sometimes something as seemingly simple as a tee needs a little more tweaking beyond the obvious.
Second, fabric choice hugely affects fit. I thought that sizing down once size to compensate for the rib knit would be sufficient, but based on how I feel in the shirts, I think I would’ve been happier in a M or a M graded out to a L hip. Though I wanted a relaxed fit, both tees feel really wide across the shoulders that feels more oversized than relaxed or slouchy. It’s also entirely possible that the serious stretch of the rib knit negates the effects of the FBA, so that’s also something to consider too.
And unrelated to fit, my final thought is that sometimes its worth it to wait to finish a project until you have the necessary supplies. Though I did try to compensate for the stretch of the rib knit, I still have some waviness in the hem. I wish I had just waited to hem until my order of Soft Stretch fusible hem tape had arrived so I could’ve added a little stability and kick the waves.
So where do I go from here? Once I’m done with this pregnancy I’ll attempt another rib knit Union St Tee in a M or a M with FBA, and look in to adjusting the armscye length if necessary. In the meantime, I’m probably going to take in the first tee for a slimmer fit, and I plan to take apart the second tee, utilize the extra length and ruche the front, and reassemble for a maternity specific tee. That rib knit is too lovely to not be able to wear these shirts!
Though perhaps not helpful in the way I originally intended, I hope this evaluation of my FBA experience is helpful in at least raising some questions to consider before diving in to your own tee. And remember, knowing what to do differently is as valuable as knowing what to do right!
This post is my honest opinion using fabric I received free of charge from Indiesew.