June 2, 2017

Pattern Drafting: Measurements and Supplies (Creating Your Dream Vintage Inspired Wardrobe)

First off, thank you all so much for your wonderful support on my last post <3 I am even more motivated and excited to share all of this information with you now! I really hope many of you give patterning and sewing a try, because you all deserve to have the wardrobes of your dreams too!

Before we can truly dive into the basics of pattern drafting we are going to need some basic supplies and some measurements to work with!

I have done a whole post on pattern drafting materials before, so read that here if you wish, but know that at the most bare bones level you will be needing five things:

1) Paper (butchers paper, large craft paper on a roll, old solid color wrapping paper from five years ago, alphanumeric paper, PAPER!)

2) Ruler (a yardstick will be unwieldy but will sorta do, a metal ruler is nice for precision, but a transparent plastic ruler of some kind is best)

3) Tape (I use regular scotch tape, but any clear/frosted/transparent tape will do)

4) Paper Scissors (keep your paper and your fabric scissors separate!)

5) A Flexible Measuring Tape

Hey, what is a sloper anyway? 


1. a person or thing that slopes.
2. Tailoring. a basic pattern developed on paper by drafting or in cloth by draping, but with seam allowances omitted, used as a tool to create other patterns."


Well...yeah, essentially that's it. It's the most standard pattern that is then used as a base from which to draft all other patterns. Made up in muslin it would be a literal shell of fabric closely contoured to your body with a high neck, like the skin of a dress form in just your size. That may have been an odd way to put it...I apologize if that was a weird mental image ;)

I'll be really honest with you all, I haven't made a sloper pattern myself in quite a while now. I made a few in college, and then one for myself a few years ago. Most of the time I use a basic bodice pattern as my starting point, but one can only have such a basic bodice pattern if they first have a sloper to have drafted the bodice pattern from! Or is that really the case? I think you can make a "sloper"-ish pattern from your favoirte bodice pattern (if you've got one) but I'll talk about that in a different post.

How to draft the perfect fitting sloper is a question often answered on the internet, there seem to be many many methods, from the most complex with lots of measurements, to simplified versions using only a few select measurements. The method I'll be using, and showing you as I go, will be from the book Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong. I don't wish to infringe upon copyright in any way, so hopefully transparently sharing how I draft my own sloper with this method won't constitute theft, but I do want to give you all a basis for how to make a sloper of your own. There are also commercial patterns for slopers available, but the whole idea is to be free of commercial patterns right?

Warning: Mild discussion of self esteem/weight-ish chatter in just the paragraph below.

Now a note on measurements, because I know a measuring tape is mundane to most but also terrifying for some. It can be hard when you know what "size" you used to be, or want to be, and the numbers just don't match reality. My waist used to be 28", I've been sewing long enough to know exactly how my measurements have changed over the years. Let me tell you something that may seem a bit odd, I am so much happier now with my 30" waist than I ever was when it was 28". It can be really hard to love the body you're in sometimes, and I really do know because I have soooo been there, but whatever your measurements are, you are both beautiful and also very worthy of a custom retro dream wardrobe of fabulous frocks. I didn't make things for myself for years, feeling vintage and fashion were for thin girls, well guess what? That's not true, in fact that's total BS (excuse my abbreviated language). Everybody, no matter what size labels dictate, or stupid magazines and culture promotes, deserves to wear what they want. I will be sharing all of my measurements as we get into actually drafting the basic bodice sloper next week, and want to make sure you are honest about your measurements too, just only with yourself. Don't use your old measurements from a few years back, don't round numbers down, don't round them up, we need the real deal so that the patterns we create will fit you perfectly in the end! Okay? Alright, that's enough of that talk.

Now unfortunately we are going to need quite a lot of measurements for drafting the sloper, and even the scale of the list may put you off. If this much math and such seems a bit too much, I will be sharing another way of making a standard basic bodice base pattern using an existing favorite dress pattern that fits well, but really the traditional methods became a standard for a reason, and this may be just the opportunity to give old school pattern drafting a try!

Measurements you will need:
1) Bust - Around whole body at fullest point/across apex (apex is the fancy drafting lingo for the centers of the fullest part of the bust)

2) Waist - Around the whole body at the natural waist line. It can help to bend from the waist to find it if this exact point is harder to find on your body type.

3) Abdomen - Around the body three inches down from the waist

4) Hip - Around the whole body at the widest part of the hip and/or bum

Sometimes it can help to tie a cord or ribbon around the waist to measure to and from for the other measurements, not tightly of course, just as a visual marker of the waist line.

Also for these measurements which are of half of the front or back of the body, it can be easier to measure across the whole shoulder (for example) and half that measurement as sometimes determining your center front on a person is not so easy.

5) Across shoulder - Tip of the shoulder to the center front of the neck.

6) Across chest - From 1 inch above the mid-arm hole (imagine the armhole of a shirt) to the center front. Above the bust across the more flat part of your chest essentially.

7) Bust arc - From 2 inches below your armpit at the side, over the apex of the bust, to center front.

8) Waist arc - Side to center front of waist. You can just divide your full waist measurement by 4 to get the waist arc, but odds are your waist is probably different across the front and back. Imagine lines where a side seam would be on a dress, find where this seam would lie on your body and measure from there.

9) Center length front - Center of neck to center of waist, right down the middle of your front.

10) Shoulder length - From your neck to the tip of your shoulder.

11) Side length - From about 1" under your armpit to your waist along the side, where the imaginary side seam would be.

12) Full length - Parallel with center front, from where the shoulder line meets the neck to waist.

13) Bust depth - From the shoulder tip to the apex/bust point.

14) Shoulder slope - From the shoulder tip to the center front of waist.

15) New strap measurement - From the corner of the neck/shoulder (where the neck and shoulder meet along the shoulder "seam") to the side waist around the bust not over it. It's a weird one I'll level with you.
16) Back neck - From the center back of the neck to the side at the base of the neck.

17) Across shoulder - Shoulder tip to center back.

18) Across back - From 1 inch above the imaginary arm-hole to the center back.

19) Back arc - From armpit to center back.

20) Waist arc - Side waist to center back waist.

21) Center length back - From center of neck to center back of waist.

22) Full length back - Parallel with center length back from where the shoulder line meets the neck to waist.

23) Shoulder slope back - Shoulder tip to center back waist.

Whew! See, lots of measurements! Of course I should tell you you need to have someone else measuring you-- for if you are trying to do it yourself, you are bound to be contorting and moving so the measurements will be off. It helps to have a crafty or sewing inclined friend to do this, or a partner or someone you don't mind getting all up in your personal space. Can you fudge it and do it yourself? Yes, I can't officially recommend that, but yeah, I've done it before, and in the end you may need to do more fitting or adjusting to the pattern. Also good to note, if you plan on wearing the garments you will be making with retro style lingerie (bullet bras for example) in the end, you may want to wear that while you measure. Put on a thin t-shirt or cami/tank so that there isn't much bulk to throw off your measurements too (the book says wear a leotard which is adorable).

This already may seem like a lot of work, but I promise making your own patterns has a lot of work upfront and then is super easy once you have your base patterns finished. It is soooo worth it to be able to draft a new style from your own fitted base pattern and know (i mean, probably still make a mock-up...) that it is going to fit you!

So collect your measurements, gather some supplies, and next week we'll jump into some geometry and draft a sloper pattern!


  1. Congrats on starting this series! I have two comments from my own experience - one, don't use shiny tape, because you can't write over it and you'll have a break in the lines. Two - when doing measurements on myself that deal with half of the body, I drew on my self in a light marker. That way I knew where my side seam was and where my concentric circles started and ended. I always had problems with self measurements. :P

    1. I'm lucky that I am pretty similar to the measurements in the size chart of the book, so I lazily just use those!

  2. Super, I'm excited to get started! That's quite a measurement shopping list, I think I'll have to save that for a rainy evening this week when there's nothing on telly and get my husband to help! (I might have to promise to measure him too with the lure of one day making him a custom jacket...) xx

    1. Tailoring still mystifies me, I'd love to take some classes someday!

  3. Ok. I will make friends with my tape measure and get all these measurements sorted out. I have nearly everything else except paper but that is easily fixed. Exciting!


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