• Tara Deighton

The 1940's Bondage Dress ~ A Pattern Drafting Tutorial

When I was learning the craft of how to cut a pattern many moons ago, I kept a folder of miniature pattern drafting exercises as a reference and how to guide. I wish I knew where that folder was now as it would be incredibly useful but as I don't have it, I decided to begin a new one to show how I pattern cut the garments I make.

In my recent Youtube video, Making a 1940's Bondage Dress, I shared the sewing process so I thought here in my journal, I'd share the pattern cutting/drafting process so if you would like to make your own version of this dress, you can follow along.


I've used my own made to measure bodice and skirt block for the actual dress and my quarter scale blocks for this tutorial. I also do most of my amendments by eye rather than by measuring so apologies there are no actual measurements for you to use! Your measurements will be different from mine anyway and developing a good eye is the key to good pattern cutting.


I mainly use the slash and spread method of dart manipulation when I'm drafting patterns on the flat as I show you here.


The Skirt

Draw around your front and back skirt blocks and draw a line horizontally from the apex of the darts to the hem.

Slash up these lines and up 1 side, or leg of the darts. Then close the darts and tape down. This creates the A line shape of the skirt.

Before drawing around both the front and back again and adding seam allowance, I need to create the centre front pointed waistband feature so I will re visit the skirt to complete this after completing the bodice.


The Front Bodice & Waistband

Draw your waistband shape onto the front bodice ~ I'm sure I photographed this but it seems to have run away! Apologies! I measured from my waistband to just under my bust and marked this point on the dart. I then decided on the height at the side and centre front, marked these points on, then joined them all up. Again I did this by eye by holding the block up to my body and looking in the mirror to see what would look good for me. Remember ~ We will all be different and proportion is as important as fit when it comes to drafting your own patterns!

I then cut the waistband panel off and closed the dart on the waistband to create 1 pattern piece.

Next, I closed the shoulder dart. I connected the apex points of the darts, then cut or slashed up the leg of the waist dart and along the connecting line to the apex of the shoulder dart where I stopped. I then cut down the leg of the shoulder dart to the apex and stopped leaving a teeny tiny hinge. I closed the shoulder dart which transferred the volume into the waist which will create that lovely underbust gather.

Draw around this new bodice piece, and mark the notches of both sides of this new dart {which you will gather rather than sew as a big dart!}


The Neckline

Draw on your new neckline and a facing that's 4 cms deep. Trace out the facing. add seam allowance around these pattern pieces.


The Back Bodice

Draw around your back bodice. I'm not creating a waistband on the back and the only amendment I made was to remove the shoulder dart. This only works if the dart is very small {under 1.5 cms!}I simply took the measurement off of the shoulder/armhole edge and re drew the armhole ~ make sure your shoulder seams match by making the same amendment on the front bodice too if necessary.

I needed to ensure the necklines would match so I lined up the front and back bodice on the shoulder line, took off the difference at the armhole edge because of the amendment explained above, and drew in the new neckline shaping. The back neck sits 1cms higher as the strap will be inserted here.


The Sleeve

Draw around your sleeve block making sure both the centre and elbow lines are balanced.

Decide on required length ~ I measured from my shoulder joint down to where I felt the sleeve would look good and used this measurement.

Then divide the sleeve evenly ish into 4 sections. I always number them and make sure all notches are marked!

Then slash up each line and space out the sections. I spread the sleeve more at the sleeve head to create a nice puff and less at the sleeve cuff. I did this by eye rather than measuring but if you spread at the top by 2.5 cm between each section and 1.5 cms at the bottom of each panel you would get a nice sleeve. The more you spread, the bigger the puff!

Draw around your new sleeve and add seam allowance and transfer all notches.


Finishing the Waistband and Front Skirt

Line up the waistband panel and front skirt. Draw in your point on the skirt then cut this off and stick it onto your waist band.

Draw around all your dress pieces and add seam allowances and label each piece with relevant details. I added seam allowance at the front skirt too rather than cut on fold as I wanted to retain that vintage feel of 1940's dresses. They often had lots of panels, or gores to accommodate the narrow bolts of cloth that were used at the time. I also added seam allowance to the front of the bodice.


The Finishing touches

To make the straps for both the front and sleeves, I made 1cms bias binding and pinned this in place on the stand so there isn't a pattern for this as such. I also made some bows out of the bias biding and added a tie at the back~ this is a Bondage dress after all!

I created the sleeve shape at the cuff by sewing a central box pleat and then topstitched on bias binding to make the tie. Et Voila ~ my 1940's bondage dress was done! I have to say I've already worn it loads ~ it's so comfortable but I also feel rather glam and a little bit naughty which is exactly how I want to feel in my clothes!


I hope you enjoy this pattern drafting guide and give it a go yourself! Pattern drafting seems like such a difficult thing to do and I was totally useless when I started out, but I just practised my nipple tassels off and now it's almost second nature! Don't be daunted ~ give it a go!


Love, Tara x


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