Individual Contouring Amounts

This continues on from Standard Contouring.

Working out your individual contouring amounts does take some time and effort, but it is worth spending the time up front to get it right.

Some instructions suggest using a ruler against the body at the relevant points, as the example shown in Figure 1, and measuring the depth of the gaps, but I could not get accurate contouring with this method.  As I had to make a toile to test and cut down the neckline and cut away the armholes, I think that one may as well go directly to the toile to work out the contouring.

In order to be accurate, I think it’s necessary to make at least two toiles; one for the neckline and one for the armhole.  Once you have determined those amounts, you can then use those same two toiles again to cut out the other (e.g. with the one you used for the neckline, you then also cut away the armholes and visa versa).   If you want to make extremely low necklines or strapless garments, you will probably need to make further toiles.

I use the Sleeveless Block to make the toile to work out the contouring.  The sleeveless block has some of the block ease removed, and the armhole it raised up.  In the following example, a Sleeveless Block is used.

These examples give you an idea of what you need to do, you will need to apply these ideas to contouring for which I have not supplied examples.  The information I am giving is a general guide, in some cases you will need to apply some logical thinking to solve some issues.

Note that the Empire Line contouring is not covered here; see the Empire Line page under the Elements Menu.


On your Sleeveless blocks, draw the following guides:

Bodice Front:

  • Your Bust Circle, shown by the purple dashed line.  See the contouring page – Contouring Overview – if  you are unsure of this measurement.
  • A straight line from the Bust Point to the shoulder tip. This is the cutaway arm line, and is shown in orange.
  • A straight line from the Bust Point to the mid-neck. This is the low neckline line, and is shown in green.
  • A straight line from the Bust Point to the Center Front. This is for very low necklines that go below the Bust Point, and is shown in red.
  • The contouring line for the shoulder.  This is for the dip that is usual for the shoulder, and is shown in blue. Use the standard measurement to begin with – see the Standard Contouring page for details.

Bodice Back:

  • Extend the height of the waist dart up to the Across Back line.  This placement of this line is 1/4 of the CB measurement, measuring down from the CB neck point.  The line is drawn at right angles to the CB line.
  • The contouring line for the shoulder.  This is the same measurement you used for the Bodice Front shoulder line.

Important Note: Shoulder line

The shoulder line may confuse some people, and suggest that a curve line is required.  That is not the case. (Note that there is nothing wrong with a curve, but this is not what the guideline is about).

See below find four examples of how the shoulder line is used.  Examples given are the Bodice Front, but they apply in the same manner to the Bodice Back.  The colored shapes are the garment; look closely at the shoulder lines – in all these cases the shoulder line is straight.

In these cases, the shapes that are shown have not had the contouring done for the cutaway arm or necklines; these shapes are just to clarify how the shoulder line guide is used.

Toile 1:  Low Necklines

Mark the neckline design lines

On your Bodice Front block, draw four necklines, going progressively lower.  Line up your Bodice Back at the shoulder line and continue the curve to draw the Bodice Back neckline.  Don’t cut dow the back neckline very far.

Note: Having a very low cut back as well as a low cut front will create further problems (e.g. the garment falling off the shoulder), so to begin with it’s better to cut the back down just a small amount (as per the image above) to concentrate on the front. Once you determined the contouring for the front, you can then take on the task of working out how far you can cut the back down before the garment starts falling off the shoulder. Low back necklines will not be covered here, you can apply the steps below to a low cut Bodice Back at a later stage if making garments with a low cut back is something you want.

Transfer markings to your toile, make and fit

  • draw the bust mound, the three gape dart guides and the necklines onto your toile.
  • create the toile at the first neckline (the Bodice Back is made with the contouring adjustments)
  • try the toile on on and use pins to fit the garment: creating a dart at the green line (with the green line at the center), on both sides of the boy
  • remove the toile and transfer the information, the pinned amount, to the Block
  • remove pins
  • cut at the second line
  • pin, measure, transfer information to block
  • One you have pinned No.3,  leave that dart pinned in place when fitting dart No.4.  (You may have to sew it in place to get an accurate fit).
  • Note that this is a good time to mark the block with your preferred neckline depths.

Markings on Bodice Block

Of the first three necklines, No.3. should have the largest dart.  You should be able to draw the dart information like this:

Toile 1: Cutaway Armholes

Repeat the process with a toile for determining the cutaway arm gape darts.

Note that you will need to remove the shoulder dart in the Bodice Back.  However the shoulder line should still dip in the middle.

This continues in Strapless.

5 Responses

  1. Hi there, under cut away armholes for bodice back, do we need to manipulate the shoulder dart into the back waist dart to remove it?

  2. Hi!

    I am trying to do a crop top using the cut I drew on the pic attached to this comment.

    However after making the 5 adjustments (including the one at the curve of the armhole which is not showing on the image) it creates a bigger dart, then when a sew tge dart the bust point is very pointy, so i am not sure if it is correct or if am i doing something wrong

  3. Hello Catarina
    I am not clear at all what you have done here.

    I think you are saying that the shape you have drawn is after you have taken into account all the gape darts, but I can’t see that is the case according to the image you have drawn. I can’t see that you have actually closed any of the gape darts.

    However, let me say this: If you pivot all your darts into one dart, you may end up with a very big dart. The bigger your bust cup, the bigger the final dart will be. If you do use just one very big dart, you may end up with distortion. Putting in a princess-line helps remove the pointiness, however that does mean having a design line in the garment.

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