Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress

Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Making the Lyra shirt dress and want a helping hand on how to get a great fit? Well then, this post is right up your street! 

Lyra is our first sewing pattern available in two size bands – either in sizes UK 6-24 or UK 16-34. This post is going to cover the most common fitting adjustments you may want to make to your Lyra shirt dress for both size bands 🙂

Lyra has an oversized blouse bodice with bust darts, quite a bit of ease at the waist, and a flowy, gathered skirt. This means it not only looks ultra-cool (if we do say so ourselves) but is also relatively simple to fit – yay! 

In this post we’re going to cover: 

  • Making a toile 
  • Choosing your size
  • Lengthening or shortening pattern pieces 
  • How to combine pattern sizes 
  • How to do bust adjustments for a bust darted bodice 
  • How to do wide and narrow shoulder adjustments
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Making a toile

A toile – or a “muslin”- is a initial mock up of your garment in fabric you don’t mind using for testing purposes. Making a toile is a great opportunity to test the fit of a sewing pattern, or practice a technique (like a collar) on sacrificial fabric before you cut into the fabric you have intended for your project. If you can’t summon the patience to make a separate toile, you may want to make a “wearable toile”, which is a full version of the garment in fabric that you don’t mind ditching if it doesn’t fit straight out of the packet. 
Tilly has written a brilliant blog post explaining what a toile is, and why and how you might make one, which I thoroughly recommend you check out.
However, making a toile definitely isn’t a requirement for Lyra! The bodice is slightly oversized, with some ease (aka excess fabric) at the bust, and more at the waist and hips, so there’s a lot more leeway on a pattern like this compared to a more fitted dress. If you’re a bit reluctant to dive straight into cutting out some beautiful expensive fabric, perhaps you could make a quick toile of the bodice, button stand and one sleeve to test the fit. Otherwise, go for it! 
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Choosing your size
Using a flexible tape measure, find the circumference of your: 
 – bust – take the measurement at the fullest point i.e. around your nipples 
– waist – where you bend at the side 
– hips – the fullest part – it helps to turn to the side and look in a mirror to see where this is
Check the tape measure is sitting level with the floor – it can help to turn to the side and look in a mirror to check.
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Circle your measurements on the ‘Body Measurements’ chart for your size band in the pattern instructions. If your measurement falls between a size (for example, if your bust is 41in rather than 40in or 42in), it’s usually better to choose the larger size as you can take it in more easily than you can let it out.
If you’re sizes UK 16-24, you have the choice of purchasing either size band. Our two size bands (UK 6-24 and UK 16-34) are drafted with different body proportions in mind. If you want to find out more, check out our blog post on choosing the right size band for you
As Lyra is a loose-fitting dress, with a lot of ease at the waist and hips, the most important measurement here is your bust, as the waist and hip have lots of ease. If there’s only one or two sizes difference between your bust and waist, choose your bust size and refer to the key on the pattern sheets that shows the solid or dashed line for your size – that’s the one to follow when you cut out your pattern. 
If your bust and waist measurements fall across more than three different sizes, you might want to combine your sizes at the side seams. If this applies to you, check out the how-to combine pattern sizes section below. However, if you want to lengthen or shorten any of your pattern pieces, it’s best to do this first – the next section has all you need to know about this adjustment 🙂
A quick note on bust sizing. If you have a particularly large or small bust, choosing a size based solely on your bust measurement can mean that you’ll end up with a top or dress that is either too large or too small. If you know your bust is on the larger or smaller side, check out our blog post on how to do bust adjustments on a bust darted bodice.

Lengthening or shortening the bodice, skirt or sleeve

Our patterns are drafted for a height of 5″5 (165cm), so if you’re a little (or a lot) taller or shorter than this, have a particularly long or short torso or arms, or you want to change the length of the dress to suit your own personal style, it’s easy peasy to adjust the pattern pieces. 
We have a blog post dedicated to explaining how to lengthen or shorten pattern pieces. It talks you through the process, step by step, so go check it out. 
If you’re lengthening or shortening the bodice pattern pieces, remember to adjust both the front and back bodices!
We have included the following sets of lengthen or shorten lines on the Lyra pattern pieces:
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

1) Bodice

If you often find that tops and dresses are a bit too long or short for you in the bodice, you can lengthen or shorten the front and back bodice pattern pieces using the lengthen or shorten lines. We’ve included the nape (nobbly bit at the bottom of your neck) to hem measurements for both the knee-length and midi-length dress versions in the finished garment measurements section of the booklet so you can compare them against your own measurements. 

The lengthen or shorten lines on both size bands for the Lyra dress are located below the bust dart and above the waist.  You can adjust your pattern here if you feel like you need a bit more length, or conversely a bit less length,  in the torso. If you’d like to alter the length of the dress (i.e. where it sits on the legs), check out the ‘How to adjust the dress length’ section below. The picture above shows the bodice for the UK 16-34 size band. The dart sits lower than on the UK 6-24 front bodice, and is more angled, however, the process is exactly the same. 
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

2) Sleeves 
The long sleeve version of the Lyra dress is designed to sit at the wrist, cinched in with elastic. It’s a little longer than a regular sleeve, to create a flowy, romantic style. We’ve included the arm length (from tip of the shoulder to the wrist) in the body measurements chart in the instructions booklet. You can compare this length to your own shoulder to wrist measurement to see whether you think the sleeve will need adjusting. 
The short sleeve doesn’t have any lengthen or shorten lines, but it’s still very simple to change the length. If you want to shorten the sleeve on the UK 6-24 pattern, draw a line parallel to the sleeve hem, with the distance between the line you’ve drawn and the sleeve hem equal to the amount you want to reduce the pattern piece by and cut away the excess. If you want to lengthen the sleeve, stick the bottom of the sleeve to a piece of paper, and draw a line parallel to the sleeve hem, with the distance between the line you’ve drawn and the sleeve hem equal to the amount you want to lengthen it by. Continue the underarm seam on both sides until it reaches the new sleeve hem.
If you want to shorten the sleeve on the UK 16-34 pattern, as the underarm seams are slightly angled you may want to add your own lengthen and shorten lines to alter the length. Draw a straight line parallel to the sleeve hem just below the underarm seam notches. Follow the steps in our blog post about lengthening and shortening pattern pieces.
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

3) How to adjust the dress length 
The knee-length dress is designed to sit 15mm (5/8in) above the top of the knee, and the midi-length dress is designed to sit mid-calf. 

As the side seams at the bottom of the dress are straight, if you want to lengthen or shorten the dress to better suit your height or personal style, you can simply remove or add length to/from the bottom – it’s as easy as that! We’ve included the nape the hem measurement for each size in the finished measurements chart in the instructions booklet so you can compare it to your own measurements. 

If you want to shorten the dress, work out how much you’d like to remove and draw a horizontal line parallel to the hem, then fold it under or tuck it away. If you’d like to add length, stick the bottom of the bodice pattern pieces to a piece of paper and draw a new hemline. Easy peasy 🙂 
The skirt and midi tier panel on the midi dress version are the same length. If you want to keep this detail when altering the dress length, you can halve the amount you want to lengthen or shorten the dress length and alter both the midi tier panel and skirt pattern pieces by this amount. 

How to combine pattern sizes 

If your bust, waist and/or hip measurements fall in different sizes on the body measurements chart, you can combine sizes in these areas to get a bespoke fit for your exact body measurements. 
Lyra is a looser-fitting garment with a lot of “positive ease”, especially at the waist and hips (aka the dress is bigger than your body). Practically, this means you don’t have to worry too much about combining sizes, as the flowy, romantic nature of the dress means a few inches difference in those areas won’t make much difference to the overall fit. 
So, if your waist measurement is 2 or 3 sizes different to your bust, then you probably won’t need to make any alterations here. The same applies to the hip measurement – the skirt is loose and flowy so a few sizes difference between your body measurements won’t affect the fit of the garment. However, if your bust and waist span across more than 3 sizes you might want to consider grading between sizes. Check out our blog post about how to combine sizes to find out more. 
I briefly covered bust sizing in the ‘choosing your size’ section above. However, read on to find out more…
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

How to do bust adjustments for a bust darted bodice 

If your bodices don’t tend to pull or aren’t baggy across the bust area, then your most likely fine to pick a size for your bust based on your full bust measurement. Happy days!
If your bodices don’t tend to fit quite right, then you might benefit from a small bust adjustment (SBA) or full bust adjustment (FBA). If you’re new to this kind of adjustment, don’t be put off by the technical-sounding name! Once you learn how to do a SBA or a FBA it will transform your life (no exaggeration). 
Check out our blog post on how to do bust adjustments on a darted bodice. It’s packed full of step-by-step diagrams to show you how to do each adjustment. 

How to do wide and narrow shoulder adjustments 
As the Lyra shirt dress is designed to be oversized, the shoulder seam is intended to sit just past the shoulder. Again, as it’s an oversized dress, if the shoulder seam doesn’t sit in this exact position it won’t be obvious or affect the overall look of the dress. Very good times indeed. 
However, if you’re like me and know you have narrow shoulders, or conversely if you know you have slightly wider shoulders than average, you can adjust the front and back bodices to reflect this. Check out our blog post on how to do wide and narrow shoulder adjustments for more details. 
Fitting the Lyra Shirt Dress - Tilly and the Buttons

If you’ve got this far in the blog post then well done, and thank you for reading! If you have to take away one thing with you today, apart from how much you love the Lyra dress (hehe), please remember that sewing is meant to be fun and there is no need to get bogged down with lots of technical fitting info. As I’ve said previously, the Lyra dress is designed to be oversized, romantic and flowy so there’s a lot of wiggle room (literally) when it comes to fitting. 
Don’t forget to tag us @TillyButtons with the hashtag #SewingLyra so we can see your progress shots and finished makes! 

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Author: Nikki Hoar
Photography: Jane Looker
Models: Marcela Solarte and Sarah Baillie

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