There is also a printable document version of this class.  You can find it here:  Drafting a Bodice/Doublet Pattern

Note that it is very large for downloading.

Drafting your own patterns sounds somewhat intimidating, but it can actually be an easy way of creating something that is hard to find. Commercial patterns often concentrate on the look, rather than the correct construction of period clothing. So the results from a pattern from Simplicity, Butterick or McCall’s may not give you quite what you’re looking for. So, why not try making your own?

A girl’s bodice or boy’s doublet seems complicated, but the pieces are really rather straightforward. For simplicity, I eliminate some of the seams that would be included in an adult pattern, and concentrate on explaining how to produce the primary pieces you need for a bodice or doublet.

Now you have your basic pieces. I HIGHLY recommend at this point cutting a set of these pieces out of some scrap fabric. Sew them together at the side seams and the shoulder seams and test the fit on your child. Adjust the pattern accordingly.

There are also a few other pieces you will need to complete your doublet or bodice.

The Pattern:
Start with a t-shirt that fits your child loosely. It should not be snug against the body, since t-shirts are made with stretchy material and the bodice or doublet will not. But it should not hang off your child’s body either, since this would make a garment that is too large. If you pinch the extra material on either side of their body, about an inch of pinched fabric (making two inches of fabric on each side, since it’s doubled) would be about right.

Fold the t-shirt in half, and lay it down on your tracing material. This could be interfacing or pattern maker from the fabric store. It could be tissue paper or butcher paper. It could be muslin (inexpensive cotton fabric) or a leftover scrap.
Now take a marker and trace along the sides and top shoulder line of the t-shirt. I prefer to use a dashed line, so that I remember this is a sewing line, not a cutting line. DraftBodice2
Fold back the sleeve so you can trace along the armhole seam. DraftBodice3
Trace both the front and back necklines, folding back the t-shirt as necessary. DraftBodice4
Mark where your child’s waist is, which should be considerably shorter than the t-shirt itself, and remove the t-shirt. Draw straight across from the mark to make the back waist line. Draw a curve dipping down in front to make the front waist line. You now have the basic shape from which you can build a bodice or doublet pattern. DraftBodice6

So, what do you do with it? That depends on what you are making. First, you can add any extra width or length that you want to allow for growth at this point. You may want to adjust the armhole to make it slightly larger. Then, draw front and back pieces with seam allowances as needed based on what you plan to make.
If you are making a boy’s doublet, which closes in front, you need the back to be all one piece. Make the drawn line the center back, placed on a fold. Add seam allowances to the upper neckline, shoulder, armhole, side and straight lower back seams. For the front, add seam allowances to the lower neckline, shoulder, armhole, side, curved lower front and front edge. If you want the front edges to overlap for buttons, add an extension of about one inch. Doublet1
If you are making a girl’s bodice, you first need to decide whether you want it to close in the front or back. If it is front closing, your pattern will be very similar to the doublet pattern, except that you will create a lower, squared neckline with narrower straps. You can make the back neckline either squared (a little higher than the front neckline) or rounded (lower than the neckline from the t-shirt). I’ve drawn the illustration with a square neckline.

You generally would not use an overlapped front with buttons on a girl’s bodice, so you don’t need the extension. Bodices are generally closed with lacing or hooks and eyes, so the two edges should meet evenly.
The other option is a back-closing bodice. Here, the front needs to be one single piece, so place the dotted line on the fold. Add seam allowances as before, and modify the neckline. BackCloseBodice1
A doublet has a collar, which is simply a rectangular piece that is long enough to apply all the way around the neckline. Measure the neckline at the seam line to get your neck measurement. Divide this in half, then add a seam allowance to one end (the other will be on a foldline). A good height for a child’s collar is about one and a half to two inches tall, though you can experiment yourself. Collar1
The next piece is the wing, which is applied to the arm hole. This should reach approximately halfway around the full arm hole, so that it begins in front of the shoulder and ends behind the shoulder. Draft a curved shape that is approximately symmetrical, though you can experiment with the shape of this piece as well. A flatter edge, when attached to the doublet armhole, will make the wing stand out more. A more curved edge will cause the wing to sit at more of an angle compared to the shoulder. The wing should be less than two inches wide at the widest point. Wing1
You may also want to add tabs to the lower edge of your doublet or bodice. If a skirt is attached directly to the lower edge of the bodice, then the tabs are not really necessary, though you may still wish to use them for their appearance. For separate bodices and doublets, the tabs hide the waist of the skirt or pants so that the shirt is not visible when the wearer moves. I generally like seven tabs on front-opening bodices and doublets, so there is one on each side of the front, two curving around each side and one in the center back. For a back-opening bodice, you will need an even number of tabs, since you cannot have one tab spanning the center back. Six tabs works well for this bodice. Measure along the full lower seam line of the doublet or bodice, once the side seams have been seam, minus the seam allowances at the center front or center back. Divide this by six or seven, as appropriate, and you’ll have the finished width for each tab. Draw a slightly wedge-shaped rectangle, where the upper edge is your finished width plus seam allowances. The size of tabs shown in portraits varies widely, from very narrow to quite wide. A good starting point is about two and a half inches tall. Tab1


This document will include only cursory instructions on how to sew your doublet or bodice together. I am assuming that you have some basic sewing skills, and can understand how these pieces fit together. Generally, you want to cut these pieces out of your fashion fabric (outer layer), a heavy fabric like duck cloth (hidden interlining layer) and a light lining.

  1. Take the front and back pieces of the bodice or doublet, which should be cut in your three types of fabric. Sew the front to the back at the shoulder and side seams for each layer.
  2. Place the interlining layer inside the fashion layer and baste them together.
  3. Decorate your outer layer as desired with trim applied to the surface. Decorate the surface of the collar, wings and tabs with applied trim, if desired.
  4. (Doublet) Sew the lining to the collar along the upper and side edges. Trim and turn right side out.
  5. (Doublet) Apply the collar to the upper edge of the doublet, centering on the center back.
  6. Sew the lining to the wings along the outer edge. Trim and turn right side out.
  7. Apply each wing to one armhole, centering on the top shoulder seam.
  8. Sew the lining to each tab along the side and lower edges. Trim, turn.
  9. Apply the tabs along the lower edge of the doublet or bodice, starting about 3/4 inch from the center front. Space them evenly. It’s OK if they have to overlap slightly or have a slight space between them.
  10. Sew the lining to the bodice/doublet along all outer edges. Turn right side out through the armhole opening.
  11. Snip the armhole edges at intervals to ease the curve. Fold in the seam allowance on the fashion fabric and lining around the armhole and hand sew.
  12. Apply buttons and buttonholes to doublet. You can also use elastic loops. Apply hooks and eyes or lacing holes to bodice. You’re done!


 Doublet with Pattern


Doublet Front 


Doublet Back



Back-closing Bodice with Pattern



Bodice Front



Bodice Back



 WornDoublet  WornBodice