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.


13 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

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