Drafting the Basic Pattern Set

The basic dress foundation

Introduction to patternmaking begins with the draft of the basic dress foundation. The dress has all the key dimensions of the form and is represented by the basic pattern set. The basic dress is the very foundation upon which patternmaking, fit, and design are based. The basic dress is made up of five distinct parts: a front and back bodice, a front and back skirt that hang straight from the hip, and slim full-length sleeves.

The dress follows the model’s outermost parts without contouring the hollow areas. The dress has a series of seams that are directed toward the figure’s bulges—the bust, abdomen, buttocks, shoulder blades, and elbows. These seams are the wedge shapes in the draft of the basic pattern set that, when stitched, support the fit of the garment and bridge the hollow areas.


The draft can be developed from measurements taken of the form and recorded on the Model Measurement Chart, or measurements can be taken from the Standard Measurement Chart or from personal fit measurements. For easy reference, record the measurements by the number in parentheses given in the instructions. Numbers correspond with those of the charts. Letters used in the instructions give the direction that each line is to be drawn. For example, B to C means that the line is drawn from point B to point C, in the amount indicated by the instructions. A shaded outline of the pattern illustrates the purpose of each line drawn on the draft.

Creating Basic Patterns

Creating basic patterns begins with a two-dimensional piece of paper or muslin. The dimensions of the form or model takes up the necessary space within the paper or muslin, giving shape to the basic patterns. The remaining paper or cloth is cut away.

Pattern Shapes Described

Patterns confine the dimensions of the figure by a series of straight lines (shoulder, side seams, and skirt— below hip) and curved lines. Wedges that appear at the pattern’s edge are directed to the apex of the bust, shoulder blade, abdomen, and buttock. Wedges are called darts. The basic sleeve will be discussed later.

Why Darts?

Darts retain form or model measurements by confining unneeded fullness at the pattern’s edge. The dart gradually releases fullness and terminates at or near the apex of the bust, shoulder blades, buttocks, and abdomen. The dart also has creative value. It is the dart that converts a two-dimensional pattern into a three-dimensional garment.

Front bodice draft

Record chosen measurements in the spaces provided below. For models with asymmetric shoulders and/or hips, draft on folded paper using measurements for the high side. After the draft, the pattern is cut and the low side is corrected. Note: All pattern sizes can be purchased. The standard draft is based on a missy dress form with about a 10-inch difference between the waist and bust for all sizes. For a personal fit, subtract the waist from bust, if more or less than 10 inches (tolerance 1/4 inch), follow the formula suggestion.

Fitting the bodice

Cut and sew the bodice. Press without steam. Place on form or model to analyze the fit. Always measure corrected areas and adjust the patterns.

Fitting the neckline

If the front or back neckline is too loose, open the shoulder and smooth the fabric to fit. Mark the muslin and adjust the length of the shoulder. If stress appears at the shoulder/neck, open the shoulder. Fit the muslin to the neckline (allow 1/8-inch ease). Mark the neckline and adjust the shoulder length, if necessary.

Fitting the armhole

A well-balanced sleeve depends on the accurate shape of the armhole and the correct placement of the shoulder and side seams of the form. A well-shaped armhole fits smoothly over the shoulder and falls away evenly from the lower part of the armhole plate, and the side seam is aligned with that of the form. There is no appearance of stress lines or gapping. See Figure 5a. If the armhole of the bodice is identified with one of the examples, follow the suggested adjustment and make corrections to the pattern.

Fitting the Skirt

Sew the skirt with a long stitch. Press without steam and place on the form. The skirt may be critiqued separately as illustrated or stitched to the bodice. The following check points are guides in analyzing the fit of a skirt. The waistlines of the bodice and skirt must match and the darts that are closest to the center of the garment should align with the princess line. If not, check measurements and make corrections.

Darts that appear with stress lines require that the darts be shortened. Darts ending with more than slight fullness require that the darts be stitched to a longer length. Adjust side seams if the skirt is too tight or too loose. The hemline of a balanced skirt is parallel with the floor. If not, follow the examples below for suggestions in correcting the skirt and patterns.


If any one of the factors is out of harmony, it will affect the fit and appearance of the sleeve in the following ways: excessive or insufficient cap ease, cap ease unequally distributed between the front and back armhole, and sleeves being too tight or too loose. Incorrect placement of the shoulder or side seams of the form will affect the alignment of the sleeve. It is advisable to correct these problems before attaching the sleeve to the garment to minimize fitting problems later.

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