Drafting the bodice pattern

My interest in flat-pattern drafting and cutting started to develop when I realized that I would never find a jacket that perfectly fits me. Dear readers, if you are not filthy rich to make your jackets by a tailor nor a supermodel with perfect measurements, this rule also applies to you. The method I present here allows you to draw a perfectly fitted pattern. 

You can see two main advantages to this: the first is that you can transform this basic shell into an infinite number of patterns for blouses, shirts, jackets and coats; you are the stylist now. The second is that you do not have to adjust a commercial pattern anymore because it is already cut for your body.

The disadvantage is that, at first glance it can seem a bit technical, but do not worry because this feeling will disappear once you have read the steps below. All you need is a clear ruler, a protractor, a curved ruler and to know how to draw a perpendicular and parallel, to measure an angle and do some simple maths. So, normally, if you are older than 12, you can make it.

1. First take out your measurements as shown in Figure 1.


It is better if someone else takes your back measurements. At this point, you should already have noticed that the front neck-to-waist is longer than the back neck-to-waist (because you have breasts my ladies) and the arm-to-arm chest width is narrower than the arm-to-arm back width (shoulder blades and various bumps).

2. Then draw two rectangles corresponding to half-back and half-front patterns as shown in Figure 2


This pattern is designed to closely fit your body so it does not include the “ease” or the additional loosening that allows you to move in your clothes. The ease will be added to all your garment patterns using the basic pattern.

Back Width = bust measurement / 4 – 1 cm

Front Width = bust measurement / 4 + 1 cm

Then draw the vertical lines corresponding to the back and front neck-to-waist length and close them with the shoulder line.


3. Then draw the neckline as shown in Figure 3


neckline width = round neckline measurement / 6

back neck depth = round neckline measurement / 16

front neck depth = neckline width + 2 cm

Mark 1.5 cm for the back and 2.5 cm for the front on the bisecting line (line that intersects the angle into two) between the neckline width and neckline depth. Draw the neckline with the curved ruler and try to have a flatness of 3cm in the middle front and middle back of the neckline. The “flatness” (or the fact that the curve nearly merge with the straight line) gives a perfect rounded neckline.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself ‘but why divide by 16 “or” why mark precisely 1.5 cm on the bisecting line”. This proves your brain is normal and that you do not swallow all you can read. These figures are rather average measures working well for most of the patterns. So, trust the tailoring experience and your blogger and continue.

4. Draw the shoulders as shown in Figure 4


Now you can use your protractor and measure an 18 ° angle for the back and 26 ° for the front with the shoulder line. Then, mark shoulder length you measured in step 1 on the new shoulder lines.

You can also draw the underarm line (which is not the same as the bust line) above the waistline

Underarm height = back neck-to-waist length / 2 + 1cm

5. Then draw the arm-to-arm line, above the underarm line, as shown in Figure 5


Arm-to-arm height = (back neck-to-waist – underarm height – back neck depth) / 3 + 1 cm

6. Plot the armhole curve as shown in Figure 6


Mark 3cm for the back and 2.3 cm for the front on the bisecting line between the underarm line and arm-to-arm height. You can now close the armhole with the curved ruler and enjoy your beautiful drawing. (Figure 7).


The pattern corresponds to your measurements now (if you did not made too many mistakes).


However it is not finished yet because it does not include any darts but this is another story that I will share with you soon.

This method  is relatively simple and well explained in the book “The Pattern Making, Volume 1” by Teresa Gilewska. Personally, I have applied it to most of my tops.

From now on, you can show off in your neighborhood with your “patternmaker” talents . That way they will stop teasing you with cushion covers and kitchen aprons.


31 thoughts on “Drafting the bodice pattern”

  1. Could it be you mixed the expressions for Neckline width and neckline depth? The width IMHO should be the one calculated as round neckline measurement / 6, resulting in the larger value of the two; for a round neck measurement of 33 cm resulting in 5.5 cm.

    • i agree with FV ERBASS, i think there is a mistake for neckline width and neckline depth calculation

      • You are right, the two were mixed, I correct it right now, thank you

    • Yes, you are right, the expressions were mixed. Thank you for pointing it

  2. Hello, maybe this page is better for my question. When I asked you, in the stretch bodice page’s comment section, about the front neck-to-waist longer than the back one, I was speaking about this tutorial about drafting a basic bodice shell.
    Thank you for your help!

  3. Your website is the Holy Grail. I never could figure out how to alter commercial patterns fit me – or make me look good.
    Many thanks!

  4. hello, ive just discovered your site yay! I have been sewing now off and on for years, I have 2 editions of the golden hands sewing pattern making hardback books, but so far your presentation of how to make the bodice pattern seems a lot more simple to understand than the 70’s one. I will look forward to coming back soon.

  5. hello! great info, I was specifically looking for help on if/why/how the front of the bodice should be longer than the back. am I correct in interpreting that they become the same length because the shoulder seam slants down more in the front versus the back? thank you

    • actually the front is longer than the back but the difference is absorbed by the bust

  6. Infact this writeup is what I have been looking for in really long time now. Thnk u so so much

  7. My shoulders are dropped. How would I correct this? When I do this it messes up the arm hole. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks

    • than I suggest you to cut the form into a piece of coton, try it on you and adjust it, that is the beauty of made to measure, made to fit

      • Hi there! What adjustments can I make to get a better fit. My front armhole ended up being too large. I guess the huge difference between my front neck to waist length(20″) and the back(16″) is to blame. Thanks.

  8. Hi,
    Very good site and instructions given. I am back in a sewing mood but needs some touching up and I have found you. Looking at the bordice pattern, I noticed that the front is long that the back. Would this pose a problem when both shoulder at stitched together?

    • Hello Beverly and thanks for reading my blog. There is normal that front is longer than back bodice as it needs to absorb fullness given by the breast.

  9. Hello! I am from India. I just discovered your site/ blog and was immediately interested. I have been wanting to make my own clothes for years but never had the courage because it seemed too complicated. Most video tutorials are too fast for new learners…Anyway, I’m thrilled to see your blog. Thank you!

  10. Nice blog!!! This is what I’ve been looking for since forever. But I have a problem with the underline arm.. you said to check your post on how to take measurements but it isn’t there , please how do I get it ? And In the figures above do I measure my waist line too cos I didn’t see anything like that in the instructions, if yes, is it going to be divided by two or four? Thanks !! Please I’ll be expecting your reply

    • Hello Dee, thank you for your message. for the underline arm, it is very simple, you just need to put the measureing tape under your arms, right under axillas…and you need to measure your waist line if you are going to make an adjusted bodice

  11. hi there. I’m sending this all the way from Cape Town, South Africa! – I was so grateful to find this post, I’m totally new to sewing so this has been a godsend!.
    I tried to follow the instructions this past weekend but I got stuck at no. 5, both my arm-to-arm numbers/lines are much, much longer than my half bodice even if I divide the number by 2, I still can’t get it to line up correctly so I can plot my arm hole. did I miss something how do I get the correct arm-to-arm measure?…

    • Hello Prudence, welcome to the blog, it might be a problem in taking the arm-to arm measurement indeed. Put the measurement tape under the axilla and note the width from one arm to another

  12. You really made my with all these information. Thanx. Pls are u saying we can take underarm height measurement from side waist to underarm?.

  13. thank you,all the way from Nigerian .I will like to learn more from you.

  14. I might have misinterpreted the neckline issue but what I thought you meant was to take the total neckline measurement and divide it by six for the width of the neckline then use the round neckline measurement divided by sixteen for the drop of the rear neckline from the top line, thus its depth. Then we are to use the neckline result of the full neck having been divided by six plus the two centimeters as the drop/depth of the front neckline. Thusly, I think your instructions as initially stated were correct.

  15. Hello can you explain how to work out neck measurements imean neck depth and width ,as i am a novice this field and i really am mixed up. Please i.m awaiting for ur reply. Thanks

    • h, have you read the post about taking body measurements?

  16. Hello my dear. I am new to sewing you are making my life simple by your explanation. Love you too much

  17. Can you please give us the aswer on why its divided by 16 or 6? When it normally should be 4 or 2 cuz if the pattern is half it means it has 2 parts and when its the whole for example the neck line it has 4 parts. I created this pattern according to the measurements and the instructions even if it is my body measurements it doesnt fit me. Answer me please
    Thanks drew

    • hello drew, I am afraid I cannot always say why the formula is what it is, I trusted the professional pattern maker, I tried and it worked for me. if it does not work for you, you should ensure the measurements and the calculations are correct. secondly, the bodies are not the same and sometimes the posture or a body specificity requires pattern adaptation, that is why a practice slope is always a good habit

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