Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloper

Okay, I have two things to admit to you all. One, I still have a bunch of garments I haven’t blogged yet – most of them from before I moved (2m ago), and I think the number is now 5 or 6. It’s hard to get around to take photos with the shorter days, and I think I probably need a tripod for the days where Mr Guy doesn’t want to take them. The second is that I have been doing more drafting and it is so much fun, I don’t even want to go back to patterns. I know something awesome will draw me back but for now the only plans I have for using patterns is togs and a coat.

I’m not sure if it’s obvious in the picture, but I am so chuffed by this dress. The entire bodice and collar was drafted from my new bodice sloper. After the success of the skirt sloper, I decided to tackle the bodice sloper again. Again, this was done by following along with Suzy Furrer’s “Bodice Sloper” Craftsy class (affiliate link, yo). 

This time it took me three goes to get it right. Halfway through when trying to do the armhole I got stuck with the same problem as last time – the height between the shoulder and underarm looked too short, and I couldn’t draw the armhole in such a way to get enough length. So frustrating! But I read through all the other members comments where others had had the same problem, and I ended up remeasuring my front waist-to-neck a few centimeters longer. I started again using this measurement and it worked a lot better.

My sloper v2 from the front

Apologies – this is my moulage, which has no ease. The finished sloper has ease added to it and I used that to draft. The moulage is just to make sure the fit is perfect.

Thinking I’d cracked it, I happily started on a boatneck pattern. Then came disappointment when I tried it on and the neckline/shoulders didn’t fit at all – I realised that the shoulder on the sloper was too long (you can see pulling at the underarm in the picture above, and the shoulder was about 2cm too long). It was lucky I started with the boatneck version which made this VERY obvious and meant I couldn’t just ignore the problem!

So off came the extra length from the shoulders, and the armscye was redrawn. I also straightened out the curve from the waist to low hip and now I am very, very happy with the fit.

On Saturday I followed along with several of the drafting exercises – turning the darts into princess seams, moving darts around, and trying out two types of collar (using the collars and closures class) – the camp collar I’ve used for this dress, and a shawl collar on a v-neck. As I said, it’s so fun following along with the exercises, making up a muslin and having it fit perfectly! Gah.

So the bodice is completely self-drafted. The skirt is not, as I couldn’t be bothered with the whole slashing-and-spreading thing so I just used the pleated skirt from a Simplicity pattern. Ultimately it would have been easier for me to draft it myself – I find it really difficult to line up pleats with darts when it isn’t marked already for me. And in the end I’m not 100% pleased with the shape of the skirt, but oh well.

You can see it’s sleeveless, because I haven’t started the craftsy sleeve class yet (I’ll try and get measurements done this week). If you see any pulling around the armscyes it’s because I was clever and added seam allowance, but then didn’t take any out when I decided to finish the armholes with plain bias binding. Which I decided to leave visible

Me: “Should I leave the bias binding visible like this, or tuck it under?”
Mr. Guy: “Well what does the pattern say?”

Me: “it doesn’t! I made the pattern!”

Mr. Guy: “Well… what does the pattern say?”

Me: “Leave it like it is because it kind of looks like leather and leather is cool”. So there you go – visible bias binding finishing off the armholes and hem.

More drafting details:

  • Rotated the shoulder dart into the waist dart, and the armhole dart into the bust dart
  • I used the “high figure point” (nipple) as my guide for both darts and backed them off by ~1″ each
  • Front center extension = size of buttons (15mm) plus seam allowance (10mm)
  • Drafted a facing to match the front, and a back neck facing
  • The back has a waist dart, and I didn’t sew the back shoulder dart (instead coming in 20mm from the shoulder)
  • Drafted the collar – now this collar is interested! It’s on the bias, and is all cut on one piece so the bottom/straight edge is a fold rather than a seam. The underside is interfaced. I really liked this way of doing it (having it on the fold), so much easier!

Construction details

  • I finished the facing edges with folded over Hug-Snug. I haven’t yet formed the attachment to this that others have but I think I just need to play with it a bit more, and probably get a bunch more colours
  • Seams are all overlocked. I messed up with the side seam and not overlocking it early enough and then couldn’t overlock it after I’d inserted the zip (duh) so I ended up covering that side with bias binding.
  • Invisible zip in the right side seam, because I have the front skirt cut on the fold. I used this tutorial to insert the zipper along with pockets and it worked really well (other than me forgetting to finish the edges first)
  • As mentioned above, the armholes and hem are finished with plain folded over bias binding from my stash (a few years ago I bought a box of vintage bias bindings that I’m getting through)

 I’m not sure I entirely remember buying this fabric, although I have a dim recollection of getting it at spotlight, maybe earlier this year? I seem to have bought 5m of it, which is unlike me (usually I buy 2-2.5m only) but as it’s quite narrow it was a good thing – and I still had leftovers which I’m halfway through sewing into a top. It’s a plain tabby weave cotton, slightly stiff, but perfect for this style.

These photos are in our backyard – did I mention that we bought our first home? We have a massive back yard with enough room for Mr. Guy to have his lawn, and for me to have a big veggie garden and multiple fruit trees (I’ve planted 8 so far and have three that need to go in soon). The big tree behind me is a magnolia tree – I’m so looking forward to this flowering! And the flowers underneath were a total surprise for late winter – the daffodils smell amazing! Here’s hoping for more similar surprises come spring and summer.

 Jessie in particular loves the lawn: 

And our cat Travis enjoys sitting on the top of the spa that came with the place, and will enjoy the sun we’ll get in summer


Pattern: Self drafted

Fabric: Polka dot cotton from Spotlight, probably ~$40

Notions: Buttons, thread, interfacing from stash

Total: $40 

Have you tried drafting before, or are you interested? I have been meaning to try for a while (obviously seeing as I bought the bodice sloper class over a year ago) and had tried on a few alright-fitting pre-bought patterns but it is SO EASY to do with this sloper! At the moment all I’m bound by is my imagination – next I’m going to do a shawl collar dress and try drafting a button-down shirt, before turning my gaze to a knit t-shirt (I’ve emailed Craftsy asking for Suzy Furrer to do a knitwear class, as well as an outerwear class and menswear).

Edit: I’m also more than happy to hear any feedback that you may have on the dress, if there’s anywhere you think I could improve the fit. This is better than I’ve ever gotten before and I can’t see much wrong but there may be something I’m overlooking. And this goes for any post, I’m very happy for constructive criticism.

94 thoughts on “Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloper

  1. What a lovely garment and the fit is perfect! Must be immensely satisfying to create it all from scratch! I’m so impressed. Great work!

  2. WOW! What an endorsement… I mean the dress; first thing I’ve seen you display that really looks like it fits you, however you move around. You look so relaxed and just “smooth” in every image:) All the altered patterns I’ve seen you show here look good in some poses, but sort of strained in others, which I’m sure you noticed but probably thought, “Well, must be normal…right?!” Now you—and WE—know:) Pretty smashing, and inspiring; congrats! I hope you’re planning to go back to those favored patterns and adapt them to match your sloper.

    • Haha that’s EXACTLY right – I thought I had the fit as well as I could expect and any wrinkles/pulling was just because of my body (ie, being a bit fat). But this has proved me wrong – as you say it’s all smooth even over my lumps and bumps, no matter which way I move. If you can see anywhere that could do with tweaking in the fit I’m happy to hear it.

      At this rate I’ll probably just try and draft the other patterns from scratch – I’ve laid my sloper on top of a few of them and they’re SO different it’s no wonder I could never get them quite right. I thought it might be an interesting post to show the different patterns (particularly those I thought fit well) and how different they are to the sloper
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

  3. Wow Sophie, that looks amazing! I’d love to have a go at making a bodice sloper. I’ve been looking at books, but I think a class would be easier! Does the Craftsy class show you how to use the sloper to alter the fit of other patterns? Or is it all drafting your own?

    • The “bodice sloper” class is just making the actual sloper, fitting it and finalising it (plus how to turn it into a knit sloper). Then she has a bunch of other classes to teach you ways of altering it – there’s one on seam lines/darts, one on necklines, one on collars/closures, and one on sleeves. Then you can extrapolate further once you’ve learned the rules.

      The class, to me, was WAY easier than trying to figure it all out from a book! And I really like Suzy Furrer’s style
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

  4. Yay awesome! I’m so into drafting for myself now, because I am pedantic about fit. This looks absolutely lovely! :) not sure why you dont like the shape of the skirt, but maybe you would like it better shorter? I find on the knee or slightly above so much more balanced. But yaaay drafting! High five! I want a shawl collar too but I have no time right nowso will live through you :)
    Jo recently posted…Agatha 2.0 for OAL 2015My Profile

    • I’ll try and post the shawl collar blouse (and later, dress) for you soon 😀 just need more buttons! This is my favourite length of skirt as I find I have rather ugly knees and prefer to keep them covered – at-the-knee or above-the-knee looks odd and unbalanced on me, I think. And I tend to feel uncomfortable particularly at work. I think it looks longer than it is in the photos because Guy is taller than me so the camera is angling down!

      I’m not sure why I don’t like it – I think the pleats aren’t quite as deep as I would like.
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

  5. this is so exciting!! I’ve had that class for a year and have only watched a little. This makes me want to hurry up and finish so I can start using my sloper. Great job!
    Annie recently posted…Kimono TeeMy Profile

  6. Excellent work on your dress, the bodice does look like it fits pefectly. I too am a Suzy Furrer devotee but with my cups running over I needed help with the sloper. Now I’m set to go! I was told by my drafting teacher that side seam darts shouldn’t be drafted perfectly horizontal, she thinks they look more elegant angled. I have to agree, they look a little clunky pointing straight to the girls! Would you consider angling them down about 2-3cm perhaps? Next version of course, they disappear into the spots anyway in this version.
    BTW the other really excellent knits class is Patternmaking for Knits by Judy Jackson. Well worth the money I thought.

    • Thanks for the knit class recommendation, I’ll definitely check it out!

      And yes, I wonder if having the bust dart angling up would give me a bit of, err, lift – I’m very low busted along with them being relatively small so I need all the help I can get! (I love how Suzy Furrer addresses this sort of thing too, how different darts accentuate different features. I think I need to take better notes though because I’m sure I heard her say something about the angled darts but now I can’t remember which class it was in!)
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

  7. I find this shirtdress perfect, fits you perfectly and you look perfect wearing it :). You have done such a great job drafting it and thanks for showing a picture of the sloper, I have bought all the series of Suzan’s classes and watched most of them just didn’t have the time to start drafting yet, you have inspired me to finally start doing some drafting. I have already drafted my skirts based on Deborah Moebes class and know the feeling of wearing a garment made by me from the very scratch. Looking forward to see your next version.

    • Oh Aida you definitely should try it – particularly the second time around I enjoyed going through the drafting steps (maybe it’s worth going along with the dressform measurements like she suggests first?) and then the resulting sloper is so useful! I’ve lain the sloper on a few patterns I thought had good fit and they’re COMPLETELY different!
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

      • Ah, don’t think will do it with the dress form measurments, I have a limited free time and will take me forever to make two slopers, another factor that has made me postpone the sloper drafting is the fact that I don’t have a stable weight, thinking that in a year it will not fit me anymore but I guess I just have to go for it instead of just doing nothing.

  8. Yeah that’s how I felt too – well, I have a bit more sewing time but I just couldn’t be bothered doing the dress form one. She does say at one stage that the sloper should work with a weight fluctuation of about 5kg/10lbs so that made me feel better as I tend to get bloated at times. And your shoulders/neck won’t change so it should be pretty easy to change if you DO change more than that!
    Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

  9. Wow, that’s gorgeous! I had a drafting period some years back, but after gaining a bit of weight I haven’t taken the time to draft new slopers. Been thinking of having a new go at it, and this is definitely another push in that direction. It really is satisfying with perfectly fittings patterns.

  10. I love your dress. You did an amazing job!!. I, too, bought the bodice class from Craftsy. You have inspired me to get busy with it. I would love to achieve the great results that you did.

    • Gppd luck with it Anne! It has the potential to be pretty frustrating at times (I got frustrated once or twice) but if you push through it’s amazing to have. Now I just need more calico to make more muslins!

  11. well, wow. I can’t even alter a pattern properly unless I have step by step instructions. And the dress itself is just gorgeous! I was just thinking a few days ago that I should try and make the Granville into a dress like this! (but then again, I will probably never wear it while I wear my sleeveless Granville’s shirts all the time, so I dropped the idea for now).
    Enjoy your new home and back yard – your cat and dog sure look happy with it!

    • The classes give you step by step instructions! As well as lots of “rules” to help give a great outcomes even if you try something new. I too thought about turning the Granville into a dress but then realised the ease in the waist is a lot more than I’d like in a dress – I was originally going to mash a few patterns together but once I had the sloper, this was MUCH easier

    • I’ve tried drafting with regular patterns before (is that what you’re doing, changing existing ones?) and this was much easier – partly because of the initial fit, and partly because of the fact that the basic sloper is SO basic and has no seam allowances so I could do what I want. Plus the rules Suzy gives are excellent.

      I bought a dress form a few years ago and ended up selling it because I almost never used it – I thin I’d make one if I wanted to get into draping, but otherwise there’s no way it’s going to be similar enough to my body that I can use it reliably to fit garments, AND there’s the risk that it’ll look find on the dressform but look terrible once I start moving around

  12. Wow! The dress fits you so well, you did an amazing job. Everything looks so smooth and well fitted. Kuddos. Now you have piqued my interest with that crafsty class…

    • Definitely check it out! I wish the Crafsy previews were better (I might email them to suggest it) and gave you an idea of what the teacher’s style was rather than just the generic voice-over. If you’re thinking you MIGHT like it, maybe try one of the seam/neckline/closures classes to learn some stuff (would be useful even when using commercial patterns) and get the sloper one later if you want to do it from scratch?

  13. This is such an interesting post, because I’m up to my eyes in pattern drafting too. I’ve been drafting a shirt dress, and used the Craftsy collars and closures class for the placket. Your dress is brilliant, and I love the camp collar. I haven’t tried it yet, so I’m going to save this post so I know what it should look like! I agree that Craftsy should do an outerwear drafting class, and I’m glad my zip/pockets ramblings made sense!!

  14. That shirtdress is brilliant! You’ve got me convinced the collars and closures class will not be a waste of time. I’m learning so much and gaining confidence from seeing you just do it! Thanks for helping to inspire other newish sewists.

  15. Sophie-Lee, the fit on this is INCREDIBLE. I also always thought your garments fit pretty well, but seeing this, I’m just blown away with how perfect it is. I have NEVER seriously considered making a sloper or drafting my own patterns, but now you’ve really got me considering it! Can’t wait to see what else you come up with!
    Nicole recently posted…life lately 7/24/15My Profile

    • Haha yeah it’s funny isn’t it? I thought they were good but looking back there was always funny pulling somewhere and on button-down things I could never get the button in the right place (I’ve compared the sloper to my Granville pattern and now I know why – I’ll show some pictures some time).
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

      • Back in the late 90s I got one of my favorite fitting experts to write about using a sloper to alter commercial patterns, in two Threads magazine articles that I thought came out well, NOT a common topic. If you have access (pdf Archive? Library?), here they are:
        Your Sloper as a Fitting Tool Karen Howland 79 OCT/NOV 1998 48
        Your Sloper as a Fitting Tool, Part II Karen Howland 83 JUN/JUL 1999 61

  16. That looks so great! I’ve watched the class and tried crafting my sloper using the measurements but had a few problems but my plan is to sort it out this month. Did you had any ease into the bodice from the sloper as your sloper photo looks like a closer fit than your shirt waist dress. I’ve always wanted to have a basic goto sloper to then adjust as I need rather than constantly adjusting purchased patterns but I’m too lazy to get my butt in gear, now I’ve seen how well it works I’ve got no excuse!

    • Good luck! I got really frustrated a couple of times (especially having the exact same problem this time as I did last time, which turned out to be a wrong measurement – I had to re-measure it four times before I realised I was doing it wrong). Oops I’ve wored it wrong – the one in calico I’m wearing is a moulage which has no ease and is much tighter – when you convert it into the sloper which I’ve used for drafting, you add the ease (and Suzy takes you through this).

      I’ll try and do a post soon to show some of the other patterns I’ve drafted to give people even more motivation 😀 the sloper is definitely the hardest part, the rest is easy peasy!

  17. Oh my, that dress fits you incredibly well! I’ve had Suzy Furrer’s skirt and bodice sloper classes in my cart forever and just haven’t taken the plunge. I definitely think it’s time! I have to make so many alterations to patterns and am never completely satisfied.
    I’m so impressed with how great you look and how AWESOME the fit is!

    • Hopefully this gives you the motivation to try it out! Biggest step is getting someone to take the measurements, then you can just do it one step at a time. I’ve been learning recently that I need more alterations to patterns than I thought so I’m happy I won’t actually have to do many of them after all 😀
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

    • It goes to the “high hip” which is the widest part of your hip/bum so should cover all your fitting issues! And one of the best parts is, if you’re having trouble fitting it, you can post questions and pictures and Suzy will help work it out. Gah I’m such a fan girl! And the petite proportions shouldn’t matter either because you’re not trying to re-draft/futz with a “normal” pattern
      Sophie-Lee recently posted…Self-drafted shirtwaist dress from sloperMy Profile

  18. Oh my goodness – that dress looks so amazing that I’ve stopped lurking and come leaping out to comment!

    It made me think of Cashmerette’s piece in the Guardian today, about how amazing we can look (and feel) when our clothes actually fit us.

    • Thanks Penelope! And I agree, I certainly haven’t lost any weight or any tub about my middle but the dress is so much more flattering than clothing that bulges and creases in undesirable places!

  19. I did a skirt and pants drafting course at CPIT quite a few years ago now and found it really interesting. Learning more is on my to do list when I have more time.

    Your dress looks lovely and it certainly was worth all of the effort.

  20. This is your best fit yet. Well done and here’s to many more. I’m also very interested in drafting patterns. I’ve been to live classes but have also bought Suzi Furrer’s classes. I haven’t done anything directly with them yet. I think my height and figure are similar to yours so I’ll watch with interest.
    Anne recently posted…Butterick 5951 finishedMy Profile

  21. Wow! I love what you’ve made – the thought of well fitting and flattering clothes is exciting!
    I’m going to have to ‘dust off’ my Craftsy skirt sloper class… While I do find Videos helpful I seem to learn better from books – I’ve just discovered that Suzy has a book ‘Building Patterns Textbook’ – the older version is on Amazon for USD180 ish but she reprinted it in 2012 and it is available on her Apparel Arts website for USD55. It looks like it covers everything that’s in the craftsy classes and more. Thanks to the joys/ dangers of online shopping a copy should soon arrive at a postbox near me.

    • I think I’ve learned that I learn best from being shown and then trying myself – I find reading instructions quite hard so books aren’t so good – although I DO like books as a reference. So I would LOVE to hear what you think of Suzy’s book!

  22. The fit is so good! I always think of fit as being in three steps – first is straight from the pattern which pretty much never fits anyone right, then there’s sewing with alterations (my level) which is much closer. Then comes drafting something just for you and getting the perfect fit. You have convinced me I need to look into that craftsy course in the quest for level 3!

    • Yep I’ve been sewing with alterations for a while now (once I realised 3-4 years ago that I could LENGTHEN the skirt patterns!) and hadn’t really considered moving to the next step, but now I don’t want to go back!

    • I’d say “it’s not much work at all!” but I haven’t really had the energy to try again since I made the dress (and a top shortly afterwards) so I can’t say much 😀

  23. How amazing to have such a beautiful dress that’s exactly your size!! I think for the first run – this shirtdress is amazing. I love shirtdresses, but I can’t ever get them to fit properly without a lot of adjustments… Luckily I’m taking a pattern drafting/sloper class from JEN AT GRAINLINE during Camp Workroom Social in October, and I literally cannot wait. And now you’ve got me seeing how perfect fit shirtdresses are in my future! 😀

  24. Whoa, your fit looks PERFECT! Seriously awesome work! I’ve done a bit of patternmaking and took a semester of it the local fashion school, but I just don’t enjoy it. I should probably bite the bullet and draft a sloper instead of just avoiding fitted patterns, but man, it’s so tedious!
    Sonja recently posted…Southport Dress!My Profile

    • Yeah, I keep thinking of things I should draft now that I have the sloper, and I just can’t get the energy. But I don’t want to sew from patterns becaues I know they won’t fit well!

  25. Your dress looks perfect! I have had Suzy’s bodice and skirt classes for ever, and have watched both numerous times. I finally did get around to making the skirt sloper, and was really amazed at how well such a simple little straight muslin skirt fit! Honestly, I don’t know why I bother with the amount of time and effort I spend trying to alter patterns to fit me, when what I should do is just put the time into really going through these classes and getting them right. You have definitely inspired me! I can’t get over how great your dress looks. Well done!!

    • I hope you do get around to drafting some patterns! I was amazed at my skirt sloper too, how much more simple it looked than the pencil skirt pattern I’d been using. And comparing my top sloper to “well-fitting” patterns I’ve used before, I NEVER would have gotten a good fit because I wasn’t fitting the right areas

  26. Pingback: Self-drafted faux-wrap dress | Two Random Words

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