DRAFTING A BASIC BODICE PATTERN

by Baroness Briana Etain MacKorkhill
[updated 4/13/11]
 

Drafting a pattern involves many steps. The most important step is taking the measurements. Always be sure that before taking any measurements, place a tape or string around the waist in an even line. To find the natural waist, have the subject bend sideways. The waistline is at the fold. Be sure to remove wallets, belts, bulky sweaters, etc. The descriptions below will help you take the right measurements.
 

1. LENGTH OF FRONT: should be taken from the bottom of the hollow of neck to the waist.

2. CENTER OF SHOULDER TO WAIST (FRONT): taken from the center point of the side measure of the shoulder diagonally over the chest/bust to the center of the waist.

3. CHEST OR BUST FRONT: taken across chest, usually 2" below hollow of neck to creases in arms. This measure gives a point for the front curve of the armhole.

4. SHOULDER WIDTH FRONT & BACK: taken from shoulder bone to shoulder bone front or back.

5. UNDERARM TO UNDERARM: taken across fullest part of bust. Especially necessary for full-chested figures.

6. SHOULDER WIDTH: a side measure taken from base of neck to bone of shoulder.

7. WAIST MEASURE: taken around the waist, a comfortable snug measure.

8. UNDERARM TO WAIST: taken from the lower edge of the armhole, or hollow of the arm, to the waist. This measure averages about one-half the length of back.

9. LENGTH OF BACK: should be taken from bone in back of neck to the waist.

10. CENTER OF SHOULDER TO WAIST (BACK): taken from the center point of the side measure of the shoulder to the center back at waist.

11. TOTAL BUST MEASURE: should be taken (standing behind the figure) around the fullest part of the bust, the more common measure, about one-half way between bone in back of neck, and the waist, keeping the tape straight across the back.

12. CENTER OF SHOULDER TO TIP OF BUST: taken from the center point of the side measure of the shoulder to the fullest part of the bust.
 

MEASUREMENT CHART

  NAME________________________HEIGHT___________ DATE_____________

  Length of front__________________________________________(Collar bone to waist)

  Center of shoulder to waist: Center front______________________(Diagonally over bust)

  Chest or bust: Front_____________________+ 1" ease =_____________________

(2" below hollow of neck to crease in arms)

  Shoulder width (front)______________________(back)_________________________

  Underarm to Underarm (Across fullest part at bust) _______________________________

  Shoulder: Base of neck to tip of shoulder ______________________ (side measurement)

  Waist _____________________+ 1 "ease _________________________________

  Underarm to waist ____________________________________________________

  Center of shoulder to tip of bust_______________________________(at the fullest part)

  Length of back___________________________________________(Neck bone to waist)

  Center of shoulder to waist: Center back ______________________ (Diagonally to waist)

  Total bust______________________+ 2" ease = ____________________________
 

 

Once you have the measurements of your subject, you may now begin to draft a pattern that will be customized to that individual's figure.

You will need:

  1. a pencil and good eraser
  2. a French curve for armholes and necklines (available in fabric stores)
  3. a yardstick (a measuring tape may be substituted but remember to keep it straight)
  4. two sheets of paper 24" long and at least 18" wide


Front

1. Begin by marking a line widthwise about 2" from the edge of the paper. This is horizontal guideline 1 (hgl1).

2. Measure down vertically from hgl1 about 6" on the right side and mark that point A.

3. Measure down from point A the distance of the length of front measurement. Mark that B. A to B will become the center front line of your pattern.

4. From point B measure back up that center front line the distance of the center shoulder to waist measure. Mark that C. (C will usually be about 3" above A.)

5. Mark a line across the width of the paper from point C. (hgl2)

6. Find the point on hgl2 1/2 the distance of chest or bust: front measure. Mark that point D.

7. Find the point on hgl2  1/2 the distance of the shoulder width: front measure. Mark that point E.

8. Find the point on hgl2 1/2 the distance of the underarm to underarm (across the fullest part of the bust) measure. Mark that point F.

9. From hgl2, draw a vertical  line down from points D, E and F. These will be parallel to each other. They should be at least 12" long for D (vgl1)  and E (vgl2), and 20" for F (vgl3).

10. Measure down vertically about 1" from point E on vgl2 and mark that point G.

11. From point G measure back toward guide line C the base of neck to tip of shoulder measure. This should be at an angle. Mark that point H. This will be your shoulder seam. From point H drop a rounded line to point A. This will be your neckline base.

12. From point B find the point 1/4 the waist measure across the width of the paper. Mark that point I and connect B to I. (hgl3)

13. From point B measure up the distance of the underarm to waist minus 1 ". Mark that point J.

14. From point J, run a line across to vgl3.  Mark that point K. Measure 2" below K on the vgl3 line and mark that L. Connect a line from point K to point L to point I. This will be your side seam.

15. From point K draw a line to intersect with vgl1. This point is M.

16. From point K go up the vgl1 the same distance as from point K-M. Mark that point N. This marks the inside of the armseye. Using your French curve, rest it at K, N & G and trace your armhole.

17. You will need to add 5/8." to shoulder, armhole, side, and waist seams for seam allowances. (I tend to add more for the first sloper so that I have plenty of room to adjust if needed)

 

Back

1. Take the other sheet of paper and begin by marking a line widthwise about 3" from the edge of the paper.

2. Measure down about 4" and mark that point A.

3. Measure down from point A the distance of the length of back measurement. Mark that B. A to B will become the center back line of your pattern.

4. From point B measure back up that center back line the distance of the center of shoulder to waist: back rneasure. Mark that C. (C will usually be about 1" above A.)

5. Mark a line across the width of the paper from point C (hgl1).

6. Find the point on hgl1 1/2 the distance of chest or bust: back measure. Mark that point D.

7. Find the point on hgl1 1/2 the distance of the shoulder width: back measure. Mark that point E.

8. Find the difference between the distance of the underarm to underarm measure and the total bust measure. Measure 1/2 that difference along hgl1 and mark that point F.

9. From guide line C, draw a vertical line down from points D, E and F. These will be parallel to each other. They should be at least 12" long for D (vgl1) and E (vgl2), and 20" for F (vgl3).

10. Measure about 1" down from point E and mark that point G.

11. From point G measure back toward C the base of neck to tip of shoulder. This will be at an angle. Mark that point H. This will be your shoulder seam. From point H drop a rounded line to point A. This will be your neckline base. The back neckline may be deepened past this baseline if you want a lower neckline.

12. From point B find the point 1/4 the waist measure across the width. Mark that point I and connect B to I. (hgl2)

13. From point B measure up the distance of the underarm to waist measure minus 1". Mark that point J.

14. From point J draw a line across to vgl3. Mark that point K. Mark 2" directly below K as L. Connect a line from point K to L to point 1. This will be your side seam.

15. From point K connect a line to vgl1. Mark that point M.

16. From point M go up vgl1 the same distance as from point K-M. Mark that point N. This marks the inside of the armseye. Using your French curve, rest it at K, N, and G and trace your armhole.

17. You will need to add 1/2 inch to shoulder, armhole, side, and waist seams for seam allowances. (I tend to add more for the first sloper so that I have plenty of room to adjust if needed)

Cut these pattern pieces out of muslin or old sheet material, pin both pieces together at the shoulder and try it on the subject. Adjust your pattern accordingly. Once the sloper pattern is fit snugly mark where your pins are and use this as your pattern for your good material. This will ensure a precise fit. It may be then copied back to paper and kept for future reference.

You now have a basic bodice pattern. It may be altered to your specific needs. In the SCA it can be used as the foundation pattern for almost any fitted garment.

For example, some of the ways I’ve used it for:

  1. 1490's Italian bodice by leaving the sides open, lacing them and using a deep round or square neck.
  2. The base for my kirtle and sideless surcote.
  3. A doublet, jerkin or vest by sewing up the sides, splitting the front and changing the neckline.
  4. The base pattern for a Tudor bodice. (Involves more extensive tailoring).

 

1.   References

Handouts from my "Costume Designing for the Theatre" classes.

Basic Pattern Drafting for the Theatrical Costume Designer, William Harlan Shaw, Drama Book Specialists/Publisher.

Pattern Drafting classes offered over the 16 years I’ve attended.


1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011  Briana Etain MacKorkhill (Sheryl Knight)

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