How to Draft a Female Basic Bodice Block: Learn with Detailed Pictorial Illustrations

Are you a new fashion designer, who does not know “how to draft a female basic bodice block?”

Or have you been sewing for a while, but you’re still finding it difficult to draft a bodice block?

Worry no more!! I’m willing to teach you that!

For free!!!

Hold on! Does the word “bodice” sound strange to you?

No, you do not have to reach out for your dictionary. I will tell you what a bodice is.

A bodice is an article of clothing for women, covering the body from the neck to the waist. 

It is also known as the upper portion of a two-piece dress.

Now you know what a bodice is, but why do you need it? 

A fundamental bodice block is the starting point or foundation for most patterns involving the top half of the body. 

So, you will need it to make most articles of clothing like blouses of different designs, dresses, jackets, etc.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • Measurements needed to draft a basic bodice pattern
  • Simple, easy to follow the step-by-step guide 
  • Common mistakes made in drafting a bodice and how to avoid them

The best part about this article is that you don’t need any foreknowledge. 

Even if you are a beginner with no experience, all you need to do is to closely follow the steps and voila! Your bodice is ready

How to Draft a Female Basic Bodice Block: Basic Bodice Pattern Measurements

In drafting a bodice, you will need the following measurements: 

(Please, note that all measurements used in this tutorial are in inches.)How To Take Accurate Body Measurements

I like to classify these measurements into two: 

Horizontal Measurements:

  They are taken across the body, parallel to the ground.

  1. Bust measurement (round the bust) 
  2. Shoulder measurements (from one shoulder bone to the other)
  3. Bust span (nipple to nipple)
  4. Waist measurement (around the waist)
  5. Upper Hip measurement (around the upper part of the hip)

Vertical Measurements:

These are measurements taken lengthwise.

  1. Bust point (shoulder to the nipple)
  2. Half-length (shoulder to waist)
  3. Blouse Length (shoulder to upper hip)

You don’t have to classify them like this; it’s just something I like to do to prevent confusion. 

Have someone take the measurements for you to ensure accuracy. 

Now let’s start drafting. 

Wait a minute, you’ll need your pattern paper or brown paper. 

(Or, you could draft directly on your fabric), a pair of scissors, a piece of chalk (if you’re using fabric), or a pencil (if you prefer to use paper), a tape rule and then a calculator. 

We would be doing many calculations but don’t let that scare you; it’s just basic arithmetic.

I recommend using paper instead of fabric because it’s cheaper and can easily be replaced if you make a mistake.

Ensure you have different scissors for cutting fabric and paper. This is one way to ensure your scissors last longer.  

Now let’s get started!

How to Draft Female Bodice Block 

This part of the article is an easy to follow step-by-step guide on how to draft a female basic bodice block.

Everyone knows that there are two sides to every article of clothing. The front and the back.

Let’s start with the front.

  • Divide your hip measurement by 4. Write down your result, and add 2, then multiply it by 2. 

My hip measurement, for example, is 36. Divided by four is 9, plus 2 is 11, multiplied by 2 is 22.

 I told you we would be doing a lot of calculations. 

This measurement is what you will use to cut out the width of the fabric or paper. 

The length will be the blouse length plus 2.

  • Now fold the cutout fabric or paper across the width into two such that there’s one open end and one folded/closed end.

This folded end is the center front. 

  • For this next step, you’ll need to divide your shoulder measurement by 2. Write down your result.

 Mine is 14. Divided by 2 is 7 inches

Using a tape rule, measure half of your shoulder measurement from the folded end, mark and label the point ‘A.’

  • The next step will require you to create a neckline. At this point, it doesn’t have to be fancy. In this tutorial, we will use the standard neckline measurement for a small figure, which is 3 by 3.

From the folded side, measure 3inches both vertically and horizontally. 

Mark the points ‘C’ and ‘B.’ Use a French curve to connect point ‘C’ and ‘B’ to create the neckline.  

  • From the point, ‘A,’ measure one inch downward and label the point ‘D.’ 

Using your ruler, connect points ‘B’ and ‘D’ with a straight line. This is to create the shoulder slope. 

Nobody has straight shoulders, so creating a shoulder slope gives the garment fitting.

  • The next step is to create the armhole. There are many ways to calculate the length of the armhole. In this tutorial, we’ll use the easiest method to add an inch to half of the shoulder measurement.

For example, my shoulder measurement is 14. Divided by two, is 7. Plus, one is 8. 

So, using this method, my armhole length is 8inches.  

  • From point ‘D’, measure the length of your armhole downwards. Mark and label this point ‘E.’ Draw a straight line to join points ‘D’ and ‘E’ and another horizontal line across point ‘E.’ This is the chest line. 
  • To create the armhole curve, find the midpoint of the line DE. From this point, measure half inch inwards. Mark and label the point ‘F.’  
  • Divide the bust measurement by 4. Then measure from the folded end of the paper or fabric, on the chest line, the quarter of the bust measurement, and mark the point ‘G.’

Using a French curve or an armhole curve, if you have one, make a smooth curve connecting points ‘D’,  ‘F’ and ‘G.’ 

 Now the pattern is starting to take shape. 

  • From the top of the fabric or paper, measure the bust point, half-length (or waist point), and blouse length. Mark the points; you don’t have to label them, just mark them. Using your ruler, draw straight, horizontal lines across each of those points.
  • Measure a quarter (divided by 4) of your bust measurement on the bust point line, a quarter of your waist measurement on the half-length line and a quarter of your hip measurement on the blouse length line. Mark these points ‘H’, ‘I’ and ‘J’ respectively.
  • Now to the dart. I found this aspect a bit challenging while I was a beginner, so you might want to pay a little more attention to this part. 

Remember your bust span (nipple-to-nipple) measurement? 

Divide it by two. 

Using your tape rule, measure your result horizontally on the bust point line, from the folded end.

Mark the point, but do not label. 

Draw a straight vertical line across the point from the chest line to the blouse length line. This will be the dart line. 

  • From the point where the dart line and bust point line intersect, measure one inch downward on the dart line and label the point ‘K’.
  • From the blouse length line, measure two inches upward on the dart line and label the point ‘L’.
  • On the waist/half-length line, measure one inch on both sides of the dart line and mark and label the points ‘M’ and ‘N’.
  • Join these points ‘M’ and ‘N’ to points ‘K’ and ‘L’ using a ruler. 
  • To even out the measurement, measure the line ‘MN’. Add the result to the half-length/waistline from the point ‘H.’ Mark and label the point ‘O’. This is to replace the part of the waist measurement occupied by the dart. 
Basic bodice, front
  • Join points ‘G’, ‘O’, and ‘I’ with a smooth curve. 
  • Add half of an inch all around as a sewing allowance.
Final illustration of the front panel

Great job! 

Now the front part of your bodice is ready. 

Let’s talk about the back now. 

There are a few differences between the back and the front part of a basic bodice in both male and female figures. 

However, this tutorial is focused on drafting a female bodice block. 

Let’s run over some steps to draft the back panel of a female bodice block.

  • The first thing you need to do is cut out a piece of fabric or paper using the same measurements you used to cut out the front piece.

There is one point you should never ignore. 

  • Will the garment have a zipper or not?

If the garment will have a zipper, then you need to add two inches to the breath of the paper/fabric. 

Then you draw a straight line on this two-inch mark. This will be the zipper allowance. And you start all your measurements from that line. 

  • From the line you drew, measure the half of your shoulder measurement and mark it as point ‘A’.
  • The next step is to create a neckline. The back neckline is usually higher than that of the front. In this tutorial, we’ll use the standard 3 by 1 measurement. 

Measure 3 inches horizontally on the shoulder line and 1 inch vertically. Name these points B and C respectively. 

  • Using a French curve, connect points B and C together with a smooth curve.
  • Next, is the shoulder slope. Measure half an inch downwards from point A. label it D. Draw a straight-line to join points B and D. 
  • Measure your armhole depth from point D downward. Label the point ‘E’.

Draw a straight line to join points D and E and another straight horizontal line across point E. this is the chest line. 

  • Measure a quarter of your bust measurement on the chest line and label it point F. 
  • To create the armhole curve, use a French curve to connect points F and D. 
  • Next, draw you’re your bust line, waist line and blouse length line. 
  • Measure the quarter of your bust measurement on your bust line, a quarter of your waist measurement on your waist line and a quarter of your hip measurement on your blouse length line. 

Mark these points G, H and I respectively. 

  • Next, take the front part of your bodice and place it directly on top of the back piece. Make sure it is properly aligned. 

Then, trace out the dart. 

  • Next measure out the space taken up by the dart on the waist line and replace it. Mark the point J. 
  • Connect points F, J and I using your French curve. 
  • Add half an inch sewing allowance all around. 
Final illustration of a a basic bodice, back panel

Finally, your back piece is ready.  

Common Mistakes Made in Drafting a Basic Bodice 

1. Ignoring the shoulder slope

The first few dresses I made when I first started dressmaking made me look like I was wearing a life jacket. 

The shoulders had pointed ends, and the whole dress lacked fitting only because I ignored the shoulder slope. 

Nobody has straight shoulders. 

So never forget the shoulder slope. Now close your eyes and repeat that in your head.       

2. Inaccurate Measurements

The garment comes out too big, too small, or it just looks odd generally. 

Sometimes you might not even be able to pick out exactly what went wrong. 

It could be due to a faulty tape measure or simply because you didn’t take the measurements correctly. 

Make sure your tape rule is standard and complete. Follow all the steps on how to take accurate measurements.    

3. Neglecting part of measurements taken up by Dart

The measurement taken up by the dart must always be replaced. 

If you forget to do this, the garment will be smaller than required.   

So never forget to measure the space taken up by the dart and replace it.  

4. Using the wrong type of dart

Several types of darts are used for different styles of garments.

Darts give a garment fitting, but it can make the whole attire look awkward when misused. 

Make sure you use the right kind of dart for the style of pattern you’re making. 

In the case of a basic bodice, waist darts are always appropriate. 

Sometimes, armhole darts and shoulder darts are used, but these do not apply to all styles. 


The basic bodice block is the foundation for every garment you make. Once you can draft this effortlessly, it’s almost impossible to mess up any garment.

Pay close attention to the steps. If you make a mistake, try to retrace your steps and in no time, you’ll be drafting a bodice like a pro.

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