Drafting the Dress Block

How to Draft the Dress Block Front

As noted in the introductory (preliminary) page, the Extended Line Dress (ELD) block is made using the Bodice Blocks and the Skirt Blocks*.  You will need a long piece of cardboard at least the full length of your Bodice and Skirt Blocks.

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 1

  1. Using your Bodice Front block on top of your Skirt Front block as a guide, draw a straight vertical line the approximate length of the two blocks – shown by the red line on the image.  It doesn’t matter if this line is too short or too long, it can be amended later.  This is the Center Front line – we will mark it as such after we have finished the block.
  2. Mark the approximate location of the waist is on this line. (To ensure the waist isn’t too high or low resulting in running out of cardboard).

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 2

  1. Draw a horizontal line at the waist level previously marked; make sure this line is at right angles to the Center-Front line.

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 3

  1. Place the Bodice Front on the waist line, with the Center Front of the Bodice Block lining up with the CF line drawn for the Dress Block.  The side seam at the waist level and part of the waist dart will end up a little below the waist – don’t worry about that.  Just make sure that the Center Front line is lined up.
  2. Draw around the block from the neck point around to the end of the side seam line, which will extend below the waist level.
  3. Transfer the markings for the side seam dart and the armhole notch.
  4. Pierce a hole in the bust point to transfer it to the Dress Block.
  5. We do not need the waist dart markings transferred – they have been scribbled out on the image to show they aren’t needed. (Don’t scribble the waist dart on your Bodice Block!).
  6. Remove the Bodice Block.

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 4

The side seam dart will need to be redrawn, because some of the side seam length is currently below the waist.  When you remove the Bodice Block from the cardboard, you should have all the marks shown on the image EXCEPT the dart legs which I have shown in light grey.
  1. Mark the point where the top dart leg meets the side seam line, label it A.
  2. Mark the point where the bottom dart leg meets the side seam line, label it B.
  3. Mark the point where the side seam line ends below the waistline, label it C.
  4. Measure the portion of the side length from B to C.
  5. Place the Skirt Block as shown – matching up the waist line, and making sure the Center Front of the Skirt Block is matched up parallel to the Center Front line you have drawn for the Dress Block.  The skirt at the side will extend up above the waistline.
  6. You do not need to transfer the waist dart markings, they have been scribbled out on the image to show this.  (Don’t scribble out the waist darts on your Skirt Block!).
  7. Trace around the skirt block from the Center Front hem to the side seam, then extend it a further 0.75-inch, mark the point where the line ends.
  8. Mark the hip notch before removing the Skirt Block.

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 5

  1. Draw a line up from point D, up to touch the waist line.  Where it touches the waistline, label it point E.
  2. Draw the hip-line across the block, at right angles to the D~E line

Dress Block Front  – Instructions Figure 6

  1. Measure inwards from point E on the waistline for 0.75-inch.  Make a mark. This is the side seam point at the waist, and in the image it is indicated by a black dot.
  2. Using the measurement B~C that you took earlier, back in Figure 4, (side seam from dart leg to waist), measure up from the waist side seam point just made, up through point B and mark the end point F.
  3. From A to F is now the width of the side seam dart.  It is a little smaller than it was on the Bodice Block.
  4. Draw a line from the Bust Point to point A.  Measure this line and draw another line the same length from the Bust Point towards (or through) point F. These two lines are guides for redrawing the dart –  which we will do in the next Figure.

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 7

  1. Measure the side seam dart width A~F and mark the half way point. Draw a line from the Bust Point through this half-way mark just made.  This line is the mid-dart line.
  2. Measure 1-inch from the Bust Point along the mid-dart line.  This is the Dart Point.
  3. Draw the dart legs from the Dart Point to A and from the Dart Point to F.
  4. Draw the curve of the skirt side seam line from the hip notch to the waist, using a French Curve.
Note: To finish off the side seam dart outline, see Completing Darts: Bodice Side Seam.

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 8

Waist Dart 1 (closest to the CF line).  Note that this dart will remove the 0.75 inches we added to the width of the block. This type of dart makes the dart easier to sew, and is especially helpful when there is a large difference between the waist and hip measurements.
  1. Draw a line straight down from the Bust Point, down through the waist, and to a point 5.7-inches below the waistline.
  2. With this line as the center of the first dart, make a dart on the waistline that is 1.5-inches wide.
  3. Mark another dart with at the point where the line finishes at 5.7-inches below the waist.  Make this dart 0.75-inches wide.  Make sure this line is parallel to the waistline, and at right angles to the CF line.
  4. Draw lines from the BP to the dart width edges on the waistline.
  5. Draw lines from the dart width edges on the waistline to the dart width edges on the point 5.7-inches below the waist.
  6. Draw lines down from the edges of this dart down to the hemline; make sure these lines are parallel to the CF line.
Waist Dart 2 (closest to the side seam).
  1. At the bust point level, draw a horizontal line the width of the block.  We will measure down from this line to determine the starting point of the second dart.
  2. Where the first dart ends (closest to the side seam), measure 2-inches and mark the edge of the second dart.
  3. From this point mark a dart .63-inch wide, and mark the center.
  4. From the center of the dart, draw a line up that ends 2.75-inches before the Bust Point line, and extend the line down below the waist for 4.31-inches.
  5. Draw the dart legs from the two points to the dart edges.

Dress Block Front – Instructions Figure 9

You can now cut the block shape from the cardboard, remembering to:
  1. Notch the dart legs on the side seam dart.
  2. Pierce holes in the cardboard at the Bust Point, the Dart Points, and the dart widths for the waist darts.
  3. Mark the Center Front line.
  4. Mark the grainline.
  5. Label the block.


  • After you have made both Front & Back, you will need to check the side seam lengths.  The neckline and armhole have not changed.
  • This Dress Block is for garments with sleeves.  Note that when making sleeveless garments, garments with cutaway armholes or low necklines, you will need to make adjustments. See the section on Contouring; if you have already marked the Bodice Block with contour markings, you can just transfer them to this block.

2 Responses

  1. Hi,
    Bodice and skirt blocks fit perfectly. Thank you! I’m a bit confused by the open-ended dart in the ELD front block. Is it sewn as a tuck or sewn all the way to the bottom of the dress?

  2. Hi there,

    The open ended dart is sewn all the way – it does introduce a design line down the front of the skirt.

    If you don’t want it in there…. In Figure 6 where 0.75 inch is added to the side seam, skip that. Just draw the vertical line straight down from the waist side seam point. Then you just make the dart a standard fish-eyed dart that finishes 5.7 inches down.

    The ELD block we used in my TAFE classes included this dart, and as rarely have a skirt with just the one panel down the front, it suits me. Maybe I should rewrite this article and remove it; you can always add this design line in creating a Princess Line, etc.


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