by Daughter Fish

Clearly I’ve got a problem with bodysuits this week. Really, how many does one woman need? But since I’ve been trying to perfect my “maillot” pattern, I had an itch yesterday to try out a new shoulder line. What I came up with is a clear nod—or hip-wiggling-burst-into-song tribute—to Olivia Newton John in Grease:

Really, though, I’m not just here to share yet another maillot/unitard. Some of my fellow seamsters over at BurdaStyle and Sew Weekly asked me to share tips on drafting their own.

I think this is a great project to customize to your particular body. For the shape of the bottom of the bodysuit,  use a swimsuit or pair of undies that you love. This ensures you’ll like the cut of the suit.  I used a funky vintage bathing suit from the 80′s, but you could easily do this with your favorite Hanky Pankys (and yes, make the ‘tard into a thong if you want!).

Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have a serger. I sewed my bodysuits on a regular machine with a stretch stitch.

These instructions are for my V-necked/V-backed Bardot and No Windows body suits:


These are the directions for drafting the front of the bodysuit; you can use the same technique for drafting the back pattern piece (I’ll give dimensions a little later).

The instructions are for my body measurements (29 inches from inner thigh to top of shoulders; 34 bust, 30 waist); if you’re longer or shorter waisted, just add/shave a few inches to my dimensions. Of course, it’s always better to go longer, since you can always pull up slack in the shoulders or crotch. The stretch of the jersey is very forgiving, so I think this pattern would fit a woman who generally wears a  size small or medium.

These instructions include a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

For a solid unitard you will need about 1/2 yard of jersey knit; for the chevroned version, about 1 yard of striped jersey knit.

1. Cut a 3-foot length of butcher paper, kraft paper, or baking parchment (or whatever paper you like to use). Use one of the long, straight edges as your center line (CL). Mark a point toward the bottom of the CL as 0;  this will be the bottom of the crotch. Draw a line 26 inches up from the 0 line; this will be the top of the shoulder line. Draw a line 20 1/2 inches up from the 0; this will be the bottom of the V neckline point. Mark a dot  7 inches to the right of the 26-inch shoulder line; this will be the sleeve point.

2. With a ruler, draw a straight line from the sleeve point to the neckline point. From the sleeve point, draw a line 3 1/4 inches long, perpendicular to the line you just drew. There should be a 45 degree angle in the corner of the two lines you’ve just drawn.

3. Fold your favorite pair of undies/bathing suit bottoms in half, so that the front of the undies face outward. If using full backed undies, tuck the backside inside the front. Place the center fold of the undies on the CL, making sure the crotch meets at the o mark. Sketch the outline of the undies onto the paper.

Draw a mark 12 inches up from the 0 on the CL.

4. Draw a point 6 1/2 inches right of the 12 inch mark; this will be the waist point, the narrowest part of the waist. Use a curved ruler (or eye ball it) to mark a line from the end of the sleeve line to the waist point. Draw another curved line to connect the waist point to the outline of the undies/bathing suit bottoms.


To draft the back of the pattern, use the exact same technique, but make the top of the shoulder line 25 1/2 inches up from the 0 (crotch line), and the the bottom of the V line neckline 17 inches up from the 0 line. Use the backside of your panties/swimsuit bottoms to draw the outline for the bottom section.

If using a solid color of jersey, cut the pattern pieces on the straight grain, on the fold.


If you want to make a chevron version, like my Bardot Maillot, add 1/2 inch seam allowance to the CL.  Cut the pattern pieces individually on the bias; 2 for the front, 2 for the back. To match the stripes, and make that attractive V shape, I suggest cutting one pattern piece, then flipping the pattern piece (cut fabric still attached) and lining up the stripes on the cut fabric with the  uncut fabric, like this:

When you sew the two front or back pieces together on the center line (with a 1/2 inch seam allowance) the stipes will create a V.


I sewed bandeau bras into each of my bodysuits, using the same pattern pieces as for the bodysuit; I simply used the top third of the pattern pieces. I sewed cups into the front of the bandeau, for extra support. I sewed the bandeau to the neckline of the bodysuit, wrong sides facing, which creates a sort of interfacing and a clean edge around the neckline.

I’m still perfecting this bandeau pattern. If anyone wants me to explain this in more detail, drop me a note in the comments. Same goes for any other questions about actually sewing the suit together.