July 12, 2017

How to Make a Bodice Block Pattern from Your Favorite Commercial Pattern (Pattern Drafting)

Well everyone, first I would like to apologize, because I had no idea how few useful commercial patterns there were out right now! I just searched through Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls, and Vogue patterns and I barely found a handful of patterns I think would work well as a base for making your own base block patterns/slopers. It seems like every dress from the big pattern companies has princess seams instead of darts, an empire waist seam, or is intended to be made from knits! Where have all the good basic dress bodice patterns gone?! It is so strange to me! Still, I did find a few patterns I think would be good places to start when you don't want to draft a sloper from scratch.

What we are looking for to work with is a basic two dart style bodice. Apparently these are rarer than I had at first imagined in most commercial pattern lines these days, but some of you may already have an older pattern in your stash that fits the bill.

The Goal:

Below I have drawn a dress bodice over the "goal" basic bodice block from above in gold so that you can see what a regular 2 dart dress pattern might look like laid over the basic bodice block. Also I say 2 darts because each side of the front has two darts, (you may have noticed the basic sloper we drafted originally had only one huge waist dart) even though total that makes for 4 darts on the front. A dress pattern with a style already will have a different neckline perhaps, or may be sleeveless and have straps instead of a full shoulder area. Our goal today is to turn a commercial pattern you may already have lying around (hopefully one you have used before and know you like the general fit of) into a basic bodice block.

Like I have said before, it's easier and less daunting to start with something and then fix it to fit you and your needs and to start with nothing but a list of measurments. Staring at blank paper and a bunch of numbers that are supposed to add up to a sloper can easily be just too much of a hassle for some, and I understand that point of view, so I wanted to note today that you can just modify an existing pattern to get a basic bodice block if that sounds more your speed.

For example, lets say I had no sloper but I did have Vogue V1137 laying around. Well as we can see below, it has the 2 dart style front bodice and 1 dart in the back so it is a good pattern to draft a basic bodice block from.

Start by cutting out the tissue paper pattern and tracing it (or just tracing it without cutting it out if you'd like) onto a larger sheet of paper. Now remember, this traced pattern already has seam allowance included as commercial patterns always include the 5/8" seam allowance, so don't add more seam allowance on later as it's already there!

Because this dress pattern has straps that sit right at the edge of the shoulder, I don't need to extend the shoulder line out past the shoulder tip, but I do need to extend it inwards towards the neckline. So line your ruler up to the short little strap shoulder line and extend that line towards the neck as above.

After that make sure you have the center front extended upwards too until it meets the line from the shoulder as seen above.

Now we need to draw in a new high neckline, so measure out 2.5" from the point where the lines meet along the shoulder line and mark that spot. Do the same 3" down from the point along the center front. Now sketch in a curve connecting these two dashes to form a new ultra high neckline. This neckline may be too tight, or perhaps it could be too open and not high enough, but that's something you will discover when you make the mock up and move onto fixing such issues. We want out basic bodice block to have the highest possible comfortable neckline so that you can use this high neck pattern for adding collars onto if and when you'd like. Most of the time we'll be drawing in a lower neckline for whatever style of dress you'll be making but we want this high neckline as a starting point each time.

Now how does this commercial pattern with its raised neckline compare to my self-drafted base bodice pattern that I actually use? Well as you can see above V1137 is smaller than my pattern, but to be fair that's only really because I just had a size 14 in the vogue pattern and I probably would need a size 16 if I actually were to use that pattern, so imagine if the vogue pattern was one size bigger and they would actually line up rather well! I haven't used a commercial pattern in so long that all of the ones still hidden away in my sewing room wouldn't even fit me anymore since I bought them at age 16!

If you look closely you can see that the side dart on my pattern is much larger than the little dart on the V1137 pattern (V1137 in red there, my dart in black) and that the armholes are different shapes. These differences are mostly due to my needing a FBA (full bust adjustment) on most commercial patterns as they are just not designed with a DD in mind. So were I to make V1137, I would have to do an FBA on the pattern and make a few mock ups to get it right. Which is why I don't use commercial patterns at all anymore when I can just use my own patterns that I know already fit!

What about the back? Same procedure. After you do this initial round of fixing making the commercial pattern look more like a sloper then make a muslin like we did last time and get to fixing the fit and proceed in fixing and fitting until you have a 2 dart bodice block just as you would if you had drafted a sloper first.

If you don't have a 2 dart bodice in your stash of patterns, or have one but you don't like the fit enough to use it to start fitting your basic bodice block, here are four patterns I found in the commercial market that I think are good starting points for making yourself a set of basic block patterns with which to use moving forward.

McCall's M7279 is a sloper pattern essentially, and seems to be marketed as a fitting system type of pattern. It looks like a great place to start for making base block patterns for both the bodice and basic pencil skirt. Like with all commercial patterns, base which size you make (make a muslin to test and fix fit issues of course) off of the listed finished garment measurements, as commercial patterns build in heaps of unneeded ease.

Another sloper pattern is Vogue V1004. Again this pattern looks like a great place to start in the goal of having working bodice and skirt block patterns. The great thing about these last two patterns is you will get a sleeve to work with too, and seeing as people usually don't enjoy set in sleeves much, it might be nice to have a starting pattern to modify for that too.

Burda Style also has a sloper pattern, so that's another good option. Their second dart is from the shoulder down, which is how many slopers are designed. You can move this dart to the side using the slash and spread method of course which I will be dedicating a whole post to soon.

This last pattern (B5748) from Butterick is the kind of thing I imagine some of you have laying around in your stash already. The bodice of this dress is a good starting point for making a bodice block pattern because it has the 2 darts on each half of the front, and the single dart in the back. This dress also has the same advantage as V1137 from above in that though the shoulders are strap like, these straps are set at the shoulder point itself so you shouldn't have to fiddle much there and would only really have to add in to the neckline side to make the shoulder seams and high neckline we want for the bodice block.

Like I have mentioned, fitting this basic bodice block is going to be the most fiddly part of this whole endevor, after you have a base bodice block pattern you know fits, pattern drafting is mostly a breeze! Take a look over the last post in this series for fitting help here, or my other post all about bodice fit issues here. Of course, I also did a whole post on how to draft your own sloper from scratch which you can find here.

Feel free to ask any further questions below!


  1. I have to admit that your posts so far on slopers have me terrified!! But this does seem to make more sense than the drafting one from scratch. One to bookmark for when I'm feeling up to it...

    1. I know they do seem terrifying! I keep trying to work out how to make them less so, but have yet to crack it! The sloper is the worst part, but then most drafting is so easy after that that I wish I could just hand out custom fitted slopers to everyone so they could skip the worst bit.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...