This tutorial will show you how to draft a strapless, fitted bodice pattern. You can then use it either as a top, or add a skirt and make a dress.
I prepared examples of a fitted bodice, both with and without cups. My initial idea was to fit these on a real person, but 2020 being as it is, the safest alternative ended up being my usual dressform instead.
This type of top needs boning to support the structure, as it has no straps. So I’m also going to show you a few ways to insert the boning, too. Sounds good? Let’s get drafting then.
To make these, you’ll need a basic bodice pattern. We’ll eliminate the ease, so the less ease the basic bodice pattern has to start with, the better.
In this case, all the examples end at the waistline. But if you want to make a longer bodice, it’s not that much different. Just follow the side seam and dart shapes.
Basic Princess Bodice Pattern
The first example is the easiest one. Copy the basic bodice pattern.
Write down your bust and waist circumference measurements.
In addition, take your over bust and under bust measurements, and also the distance between bust point and underbust level. These will help you to draft the pattern as perfect as possible. But don’t worry, you can always correct it after you’ve tried on the toile!
Begin by drafting the ”neckline” (it’s quite far from the neck, so what should I call it..?). The bust span is usually something like 7.5-8cm or 3 – 3 3/8in. from the bust point, which means, don’t go lower than that. Just draft an approximate shape. In this example we’re making a straight line in the front and a v-shape line in the back.
Then, with the help of the measurements cited earlier, adjust the side seams and darts so that you have the correct measurement at each level. Take in at the side seam and enlarge the darts if needed.
The front waist darts should also have a curved shape.
The neckline will often be gaping, so enlarge the bust dart at least towards the c-front. Start with 0.5cm or 1/4in. When you do the fitting, you can increase the amount if it seems like the neckline is still gaping.
Copy the pattern pieces. Re-draw the front pieces around the bust point, adding some extra volume as shown. Add notches. If the bodice seems too tight around the bust during the fitting, you can add more volume.
Close the back dart and re-draw the lines. Finally, check the pattern pieces and adjust the lines so that they flow smoothly between the pieces. Now you can also correct the neckline shape. These are the final pattern pieces:
Princess Bodice with Sweetheart Neckline
What if you want your fitted bodice to have a sweetheart neckline instead? Well, the pattern is quite similar as you can see. I only changed the neckline shape.
There’s also a seam at the center front, which allows us to shape the bust area some more. The previous bodice leaves a hollow area in the middle, but in this version we’ll draw a small dart from c-front to bust point to create a rounded shape.
To give you another example for the back piece, here it’s divided into 2 pieces along the dart lines.
Trace the pieces. Close the extra dart and re-draw the lines as before. Remember to add notches at the bust point level. You can correct the sweetheart neckline shape also after you’ve sewn the toile. It can be tricky to draw the curve just right without seeing it on the person.
Bra-Top Fitted Bodice with Vertical Seams
You might want your fitted bodice to have separate cups. Here’s the first version of the bra-top. Basically it’s very similar to the previous design, it’s just that in addition you draw the bra styleline.
The front piece consists of four pattern pieces. You’ll cut two of each.
The bra styleline should be located under the bust, so you’ll need the bust point – underbust distance measurement here. Draw whichever type of curve you prefer. The cups can have a gap in between, too. In that case you’d continue pattern piece number 3 all the way up and cut it on the fold, and the cups would start maybe 1cm or 3/8in. from the c.front.
Trace the pattern pieces as usual, and close the little dart. Re-draw the bra cup pieces around the bust point, and add notches.
Bra-Top Fitted Bodice with Horizontal Seams
This version of the bra-top pattern has cups with horizontal seams. The pattern is the same as the previous one, but it has an extra step, as you’ll need to absorb the darts into the horizontal style lines.
Divide the bra cup into two sections by drawing a line between the bust point and side seam.
Trace the pieces and close the (vertical) darts. Then re-draw the shapes as usual. You might need to adjust the neckline a bit, too. It’s a good idea to write on the pattern pieces which side is the top and which the bottom, as you might get confused. They look pretty similar!
If you want, you could add padding to the bra-cups. Use the same pattern pieces but don’t add seam allowance. You’ll zig-zag the pieces together and then attach it to a separate layer (=interconstruction) of your bodice.
You might think that a fitted bodice will stay up by itself, because it’s fitted. But that’s not quite true.
While you can add straps to each of these four designs to prevent them from collapsing, another solution is to insert boning.
When deciding on how many seams your bodice will have, take into account that each of the seams will give you the possibility to insert boning. However, you can add more channels also in between the seams.
Boning isn’t made of bone anymore. It’s either metal or plastic.
I only had rigilene boning at home, so I used that in these examples. It’s made of woven nylon rods and can be sewn directly onto the garment if needed. You can find it in different widths. It’s lightweight and flexible but also easily loses shape.
Cover the ends with little pieces of fabric so that the nylon won’t poke out from the bodice. Another way is to melt the nylon rod tips with flame until they become round.
You could also choose metal boning, either flat steel or spiral. It’s the better quality option, but also more expensive.
How to Insert Boning to Fitted Bodice
I’m going to show you three ways to add boning. You could add them directly to the wrong side of the main layer of the bodice, although it’s better to create a separate layer underneath and insert the boning to that.
Starting from the most simple method: sew the boning directly to the garment, centering it over the seam. Note that the stitches will easily become wonky because of the nylon rods if you’re not careful.
You can also avoid seeing the stitches on the right side, if you sew the boning only to the seam allowance. But if you have a really narrow piece of rigilene as I did, that’s quite a difficult task..
Here’s the second alternative. You can create casing by sewing, for example, twill tape on top of the seam. This conveniently hides the seam allowance, too.
The last option is my favorite: Create a casing by using the seam allowance itself! This requires you to cut wide seam allowance to start with. I’d say twice the width of the boning you’ll be using.
So first sew the seam normally, then trim one side of the seam allowance to 0.5cm or 1/4in. This would be the side where the casing will be created.
Take for example the center front piece and the side front piece. If you want the casing to be folded towards the center front piece, trim the seam allowance of the center front piece.
Basically you’re sewing a flat felled seam here. Fold and stitch the larger seam allowance so that the boning will fit into the casing.
Also this type of casing looks polished on the wrong side. I don’t mind seeing the stitches on the right side either.
These are the three methods. Choose the one you prefer. In the end, it’s going to remain hidden anyways.
Well, that’s all I have this time. I hope you found this tutorial useful and will now be able to make yourself some lovely dresses with a fitted bodice.
“But if you want to make a longer bodice, it’s not that much different. Just follow the side seam and dart shapes.”
Any further guidance on making a longer bodice? How far should the boning extend?
Any advice would be very helpful.
Thanks for your tutorial,
Hi Ronan. You’ll need some extra circumference measurements below the waistline to adjust the darts and side seams correctly. But in general, just draft the side seam with waist and hip curves. The darts should become narrower towards the hemline. You can adjust it also during fitting. I’d extend the boning as far as the bodice continues, so that the whole thing has the same kind of structure. The boning material is flexible so it should follow the curves nicely.
Do you have a tutorial on how to add a band on the neckline to a strapless bodice like this
Hi, unfortunately not. At least yet. I have been making these kinds of tops lately though, so maybe I could make a tutorial.
Loving this, I’ve been meaning to make something like this and you make it look so simple! In the sweetheart neckline does boning go all the way or only below the bust?
Thank you for everything ♥
You’re welcome. 🙂 When the bodice doesn’t have separate cup pieces, the boning goes all the way up. Otherwise it ends below the cups.
Thank you for the tutorial. Easy to understand and helpful.
Very pleased. 🙂 You’re welcome.
Thank you for the illustration.
You’re welcome. 🙂
Wow very useful tutorial well explained,keep it up.Am looking forward in making one of my dress using your guide in case of any difficulties l wil inquire
Thanks! 🙂 Enjoy the process and let me know if you encounter problems.
Do I need to add seam allowance? Btw your pattern is the best one I’ve ever found so far. Thanks
Thanks so much. 🙂 Yes, you can either add it to the pattern, or when cutting the fabric.
Hi I’m so pleased with your bra style I didn’t know how to make it and the second thing idid no the distance from the bustpoint to under bust line I did not measure the person because idont no can you istimeant for me please im happy with your lessons thanks to Pinterest to bring as the best teachers to teach as God bless you dear
Hello! 🙂 Thank you so much. I’m so pleased to know that my tutorials are helpful to others. Pinterest is a great resource for finding tutorials. 🙂
Hi this was very interesting
If I want to use boning , would I also have to use a fusible interfacing or just 1?
I want to make a mermaid dress with a sweetheart neckline and a yoke.
You can also skip the interfacing, but it makes the garment sturdier. I’ve added boning, creating the casing from the seam allowances, without interfacing. So the boning will be enough by itself to maintain the bodice up, if that’s what you were wondering. 🙂
Great tutorial- thank you. I am making bridesmaid dresses and the bride (my daughter) wants a strapless fitted crossover bodice – how would I go about adapting the corset pattern to do this? Any suggestions appreciated!
You’re welcome. 🙂 I think you still would need to make the layer underneath as a normal fitted bodice to give it more structure. Then create the crossover layer on top. I’m not sure if you want to have gathers, too. It could be draped directly on top.