The Heartbreak of Gaposis

by Erin on July 15, 2008

Advance 8057

Melissa has a question:

I also love the shirtdresses, but being fuller-bosomed, I have basically given up on owning anything that buttons down the front. Any tips to prevent gapping and preserve modesty?

First — did you make sure that the pattern you're making is the right cup size? As La Belladonna has often reminded us, patterns are intended for a B cup. If you're not a B cup (and it sounds like you aren't), you have to do something called a Full Bust Alteration (check out the Pattern Review boards or Stitches and Seams or this link for information about this).

Since I am not far enough away from a B to justify doing an FBA, I usually just make sure that the middle button is centered right between the two bust points.

Anyone else have suggestions?

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Pasha July 15, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I find that putting extra buttons in helps too–just remember to space them evenly.


Anonymous July 15, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Another variation on a theme is to carefully hand sew hooks and eyes into the placket so they don’t show on the front. You could put them in down the entire lenghth of the front and then the buttons would be largely decorative. Sort of like how many wedding dresses have hooks/zippers for the real fastening and lots of buttons and loops decoratively.Amy


MissMaya July 15, 2008 at 1:48 pm

every button down shirt/dress that I own has a carefully sewn snap, hook & eye, or (when I’m lazy) safety pin between a couple of the crucial buttons. Can’t stand the gap!


Val July 15, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Expanding on amy’s idea, hook & eye tape would make it much easier to sew multiples on.


frualeydis July 15, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Snaps is my solution, if I don’t draft the pattern myself, which I mostly do – there are _no_ patterns made for an F-cup.


Rose July 15, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Button placement! I have yet to sew a buttondown shirt or blouse (I sew mostly knits) but all the advice I’ve read is to *not* use button placement guide on the pattern, especially if you have done a full bust alteration (FBA). I’ve read that you should place your first button at the midpoint between your boobs (where your blouse is most likely to gap, the highest stress point, where you are likely to place the safety pin in a ready to wear blouse), then place your second button at the collar, then determine the spacing between the remaining buttons. When in doubt, use pins first to see how it works before sewing all buttonholes. I also recommend the links that Erin mentions. Keep asking for advice and measure twice, cut once..Oh, yeah, I use safety pins in all my ready-to-wear. So if it doesn’t work out, then well your work is at the same level as a lot of retail… :)


Liz July 15, 2008 at 2:12 pm

An FBA is a good idea, but I find it easier to just draft my own by melding one of the slopers I have made with the design elements of the pattern because I need to make fairly drastic alterations to any pattern I buy (I’m an E cup but have the shoulders and waist of a pattern size 6). Button placement makes a difference, but when you’re really busty you’re still going to get a bit of gaping no matter how well-fitted a button-up garment is and I find that a few well-placed invisible snaps solve that problem.


Anonymous July 15, 2008 at 2:16 pm

My solution for GAPOSIS for both ready to wear and handmade is to stitch the offending section closed along the button placket hiding the stitching. For handmade, this results in decorative only buttons and removes the need for buttonholes. Does mean that the blouse or dress has to fit in such a way that that opening is not needed to get into it. I HATE gaping buttons!! This also works on men’s shirts when the belly threatens to burst out.Teresa


Kuri July 15, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I use double-sided tape in most of my ready-to-wear shirts, so I was really glad to come across this entry. I’m going to try the hook and eye in the placket idea next time I’m doing a button-front item.


Dilly July 15, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Definitely an FBA (although I’m still learning how to do these properly myself)Also, lots of RTW put buttonholes vertically, but this doesn’t work for bosoms as they just pop open, so always sew them horizontally.


3KillerBs July 15, 2008 at 2:29 pm

My recommendations, as a DD cup, are:#1 — Very careful fitting. If it doesn’t lay closed despite being unfastened unfastened if you are standing in an easy but upright position you still have some fitting to do. (Check this with the bodice only because the weight of the skirt can drag it weird if the waistband isn’t firm enough).#2 — Ignore the pattern’s suggestion for number and placement of buttons. Put the buttons where you, personally, need them and always put one exactly between the bustpoints.#3 — Use horizontal buttonholes. Vertical ones may be easy to make for RTW, but they are exactly wrong in terms of taking the stress of holding fabric together. The strain should come on the most heavily-reinforced part of the buttonhole — the bar tack at the end. If the strain comes on the much weaker sides of the buttonhole it has to give and gape.#4 — Good, supportive undergarments are critical! Pitch worn out and/or unsupportive bras. You can do everything right in fitting and placing buttons today while you’re wearing your best bra and tomorrow when you put on the old one that lets you sag two inches lower you’ll get gap because you changed the bustpoint. Likewise if you wore the old ones while fitting and then buy a new bra you’ll get gap over your firmed-up, properly lifted bust.Anyone else remember “the pencil test” to see if you need a bra or not? It also works to know when you need a new bra. 😀


Lydia July 15, 2008 at 2:36 pm

My best advice? Look at the new Simplicity patterns that have special pattern pieces for B, C, and D cups. I believe they have a shirt dress in the current lineup.Design 2996 is a shirtdress (although I would NEVER make the version with the drop waist). I made 3877 with a size 12 D cup blended into a size 14 skirt and the thing fits like a dream with no further alterations.


TeeBee July 15, 2008 at 2:58 pm
Ladygrande (Texas Marie) July 15, 2008 at 3:06 pm

This particular pattern calls for a bodice zipper and snaps for the placket. When I was making these patterns in my younger days, I used a side zipper – the buttons and buttonholes were only for decoration. Left a top button (or two) for ease of wear, but never left the front opening “open”.


lorrwill July 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Uh, I fail the pencil test. Mine just don’t sag enough (thank goodness since I am er of a certain age). (I am between and A and a B.)


La BellaDonna July 15, 2008 at 4:03 pm

As other ladies above – Rose, Theresa, Lydia – in fact, virtually every single lady above!have said:Start with a multi-size front; remember that a Shirt with B, C, and D cups will work for the alterations for a ShirtDRESS.Use buttons that work for YOU, and place the first one front and center; space the other ones from there.Horizontal buttonholes, NOT vertical.Do NOT use snaps, however; they tend to give under stress, so I recommend ye olde hook-and-eye – and if you use more than one, stagger them, so it’s hook-eye-hook on one side, and eye-hook-eye on the other, so they’re less apt to all unhook at once. I find individual hooks-and-eyes tend to give the finest tuning, unless it’s a pattern I’ve made to accommodate hook-and-eye tape, though.I’ve been known to stitch that gappy little stinker shut, myself!Always good advice: pitch the bra and get a new one every 6 months. If you can’t afford that with a $50-and-up (or even $30-and-up) bra, alter it. Yes, alter and mend the bra. Take in the band, and dart the cup, so the bra fits as it should. For a molded cup, I would do a slash-and-lap dart.N.B.: It has been my personal experience, that no matter the original style of the bodice, if I start to fit it, with a dart at the waist – then a dart at the armscye – then fit fit fit until it looks right – then Presto! La BellaDonna has a princess-line bodice! AGAIN.


Anonymous July 15, 2008 at 4:05 pm

H cup here. At a certain point in time the yoke becomes your friend as you can work more volume of fabric around the globes than darts could every manage.I have a button front collared shirt dress that has a yoke back and a yoke front waist and a full skirt. It hour glasses me perfectly without gaping.Maybe I can round up a picture.


erin July 15, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Here’s a FBA tutorial:


dudara July 15, 2008 at 5:10 pm

What a brilliant post and fantastic set of comments. I’m a British size 12, but have a DD bust, which makes things so hard to fit. I’m only a few months into dress-making, but you’ve already given me so many ideas. Can’t wait to try them out.


Emily July 15, 2008 at 5:49 pm

After spending an excessive amount of time cursing at standard sewing pattern measurements, I had a bright idea. It turns out that my bright idea had occurred to others, and they’d already done likewise.The Elizabethan Costume page has a very useful tutorial on how to draft an Elizabethan corset to fit your body. You can then use that draft to produce a close fitting bodice draft… which just happens to be a square necked version of a modern sloper bodice. At that point, you can draft a straight or A-line skirt, and you have the beginnings of a wearable dress sloper. Or you can ignore all that, and add a circle skirt of some sort.I don’t expect my first run at this idea to be beautiful, since my sewing skills are vestigal… but it is a lot more comprehensible than trying to alter a pattern that wasn’t built for a body that even vaguely resembles mine.


/anne... July 15, 2008 at 7:28 pm

Another suggestion is to use pairs of buttons – two buttons close together, a bit of a space, then another two buttons, etc. Looks good with horizontal buttonholes, looks interesting, and is more secure – got to be a plus!I’m another fan of the double-sided tape – much cheaper than Hollywood tape, and surprisingly strong. Put it in your bag, because if you need to unstick it, it won’t re-stick as securely. It also looks heaps better than the little bump and strained spot you can get with safety pins or hooks.Oh, and wear a little coloured snug tank under it – if there is a bit of a gap, it looks intentional :-)


Diane July 15, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Just make sure the bodice is the right size for you, and do horizontal buttonholes NOT vertical buttonholes.It’s awkward to have to tell a colleague (as I did today) that her blouse had unbuttoned by itself :)


La Rveuse July 15, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I heard about a shirt designed for fuller busts that had a hidden button on the back of the placket with the button holes, and the hole was between the two buttons on the part with the buttons, so it buttoned in toward the chest. Made sense to me, and wouldn’t be tough to add to a pattern.


Rayna July 15, 2008 at 10:48 pm

If you’re short on time and can’t pull out the sewing machine, you can also use some heat’n’bond type of hem adhesive. Just cut the strip, place it between the gap. A couple runs of the iron over it and you’re out the door! You can stitch it shut later, or, just leave it–it still sticks even after going through the wash.


Magpie July 16, 2008 at 12:52 am

Oooh, spooky! I started work on that exact pattern yesterday! Now if only I could get my hands on the adorable hat Mrs. View 1 has…


Anonymous July 16, 2008 at 7:51 am

There’s a great and easy “fit fix” on La Fred’s Europa blouse pattern. First time I ever altered a pattern to fit my D cup and it worked beautifully. Just have to remember to alter the armhole a bit now…


Anonymous July 16, 2008 at 9:28 am

i love this blog and the other people who love this blog. and it’s weird, i don’t make my own dresses — hell, i barely even wear dresses. i just come here because i love you people. thanks erin!


Kimn July 16, 2008 at 11:03 am

I just stitch the gap closed . . . though if you watch Marie-Christine Barrault in the movie Cousin, Cousine you will see how that gap can look relaxed and chic at the same time . . .


Anonymous July 16, 2008 at 11:56 am

And remember, if all else fails;VELCRO.Tru


wundermary July 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Being barely an A, I’m no help here. But, I do have to say that the lady in the grey looks a little perturbed that the lady in the middle swiped the posies from her hat.


Thoughts on Life and Millinery. July 16, 2008 at 1:19 pm

I think Marie in Texas has the best solution.My suggestion would be to either wear a slip or a really racy bra!


Anonymous July 16, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Oh, I had the exact same problem. The solution: Simplicity 4171. It’s a shirtdress with pattern pieces pre-adjusted for a large bust. I’m an E-cup and the D pattern piece worked just fine. I also have its jacket cousin #4081. Both are discontinued, but available from the Simplicity website. Heather

Reply July 16, 2008 at 2:22 pm

My former dressmaker always put snaps at the fullest part of my bustline to reinforce the bodice. Hence, I can even ballroom dance with no problem. She was also very careful with button placement. I am a big fan of the shirtdress, especially McCall 1940s models.


Eirlys July 16, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Can’t help you at all on this one – all clothes look pretty much the same on me as they do on the hanger. [Sob!]. Nice problem to have, girls!


Anonymous July 17, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Not only am I an H cup, I’m a 30H. Like La BellaDonna, I nip the bodice in to fit here and there– and suddenly I have a princess line bodice. Dresses like the one posted today are my favorite style but Button Issue plagues me too. Sigh.


fontfreak July 18, 2008 at 5:04 am

And here was me thinking that I was the only female to safety pin my ready-to-wear blouses… Few of my friends seem to (or need to) and those that probably should, don’t, so I thought I was all alone in the world. I’m so glad I’m not alone! 😉


Modiste1000 July 24, 2008 at 10:44 am

I like the invisible button idea – that buttons the “wrong” way at the bust.But I SWEAR by the doubled button concept! Especially important for lady ministers – wow, nothin’ like a gapping bust in the pulpit to give you just that tacky edge you don’t want!


Johannah July 27, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I LOVE OLD DRESSES!! Especially watching movies with actresses in the loveliest of clothes. 33


Katie July 28, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Positioning one button right at the bust point also works for us taller ladies. I’m not busty, but since I don’t fit the “average” size I always have to do that when I make a bodice to avoid gaposis. I won’t even buy blouses with gaposis anymore because I hate tugging at my shirt all day, even with a safety pin tucked inside. I’ve had to pass up quite a few cute blouses but it’s just not worth the hassle. :)


ChristyM December 8, 2008 at 7:00 pm

For those who are short on time (or sewing skills), I recently found a designer who has a patented design for eliminating the gap in button-front I wear a 34F, and I wear a size 6 in her blouses…armholes fit, sleeves fit, and ABSOLUTELY NO GAP!!!!


Amy March 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm

You all probably know this already, but another technique to preventing gaposis is to stiffen the button-placket and buttonhole-placket. You can use fusible interfacing or a piece of stiffer fabric, but the key is to make the fabric stay straight up-and-down between buttons.


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