When I first started sewing I always bought a pattern. Always. But after about the fifth pattern I realized that all patterns were made up of the same basic components and that by simply manipulating a few things the possibilities were endless.
The bodice is the foundation of any dress. Skirts, ruffles, and sleeves all depend on the bodice and the shape and fit of the dress are determined by how well the bodice fits.
If you are going to draft your own pattern I recommend starting with a pattern you already have that you know fits well. I used a pattern piece from a dress pattern I liked, although at this point I don’t remember which one. I keep the armholes the same and alter the neckline, the width of the shoulder, and the length of the body based on the style I’m sewing.
You can trace a piece of clothing you already own and go from there but my finished product never looks or fits quite as well.
This is a picture of my original bodice that I recently used to start drafting a pattern.
It had a fairly scooped front neckline and a standard back. This was a pattern I used to make a dress with a zipper. How you intend your dress to fasten will make a difference in the pattern you draft.
One of the most important things when drafting a bodice pattern is to make sure the waist measurement is correct. Maggie’s waist is 19″ so the finished bodice needs to be 20″ to allow for ease. For a bodice that will fasten with a zipper the waist measurement of the bodice is 21″ which is the waist plus seam allowance. If your bodice will close with buttons add about an inch to the BACK of the bodice pattern to allow for overlap, unless you want to add a placket. For knits you do not need as much ease or seam allowance so keep that in mind when drafting the pattern.
When drafting the pattern decide on the neckline and how long you want the bodice to be. Maggie is small and short waisted so we usually use a shorter bodice. For drop waists or longer torsos add length to the bottom of the bodice.
This is the front of the bodice pattern I was drafting. The blue line is my original pattern and the pink line is the alteration. I was shortening the armhole slightly and rounding out the neckline.
This is the back of the same pattern. I brought up the neckline a bit but didn’t alter anything else. Because this was a pattern for a knit top there was no added width for buttons.
It is important that the measurement of the shoulder and the underarm are the same for both the front and back.
Also keep in mind that your armholes and necklines will be bigger when sewn because of seam allowances. If I’m having trouble visualizing I’ll draw the pattern the way I want it to look finished and then add the seam allowances.
Once your pattern is drafted cut out 2 of the front on the fold and 4 of the back not on the fold. You can use the same fabric for the main bodice and the lining or you can use a complimentary fabric for the lining.
Back and Front
Match up the shoulder seams of the main fabric and sew both shoulders. Then repeat for the lining. Iron the seams open and pin your lining to the bodice right sides together.
Sew around the green lines.
Sew around the armholes and then up the back seam and around the neck. Clip the seam allowances (I prefer to use my pinking shears around the whole thing) and iron to set your seams.
Turn right side out by pulling the front and one side of the back through the shoulder seam and then pulling the second side of the back right side out. Give it a good iron.
Nice and Flat
The sides seams can be a bit tricky. Match up the right sides of the fabric at the side seam and pin at the seam.
Lining to lining and main fabric to main fabric
Sew all the way across, trim, and press flat. Repeat this on the other side.
Your bodice is done and ready for sleeves, ruffles and a skirt!
We’d love to see pictures of your bodices! Comment and let us know how you are making the basic bodice your own.