February 27, 2014

The great jumpsuit (and playsuit) tutorial

Well, you have spoken! When I asked what subject you wanted for a tutorial, there was a very clear majority for jumpsuits (although I plan on making a shelf bust tutorial in summer. I was quite impressed with Ms. Pollyanna still remembering that dress after such a long time).

It seems I have misunderstood the time table for Sew Grateful Week though. 'Sharing Resources Day' was yesterday. I don't think it makes much of a difference though. It's more about the spirit of sharing knowledge and skill.

Anyway, on to jumpsuits and their little sisters, the playsuits. I have noticed there is a bit of confusion about the term 'playsuit'. It is often applied to short legged jumpsuits but also sometimes to 1950's sets of shorts and tops. That's not the kind of playsuit I'm talking about here though.

There are many different kinds of jumpsuits and I will discuss the varieties one by one. There are two things they all have in common though: 1 Torso length is a major issue. That's what I'll discuss below. And 2 You should make the closure at center front. A side zip won't work because you can't get out of the garment by pulling it up over your head. You really need to make a closure which will allow you to get your whole body through the opening at the top. In theory, a back zipper is possible as well but because you will need to open it for bathroom breaks that may not be so practical.
You have to think about the closure when drafting. You don't need extra width for a central (blind or visible) zipper but for a button front, you need to make an extension of two centimeters past center front for the length of the closure (excluding seam allowance).

Like this. In both cases, you should make a facing as well.

I think this may be the kind of jumpsuit most of you will be interested in:

With a waist seam and a fitted bodice. Depending on your choice of bodice and trousers it can look 40's, 50's or just elegant. 
You can use slopers to draft this jumpsuit but you don't have to. If you don't have a sloper and/or don't feel like having to consider and draft all design details like collar, sleeves and pockets, you can pick any bodice from a dress with a waist seam and add high waisted trousers or shorts. 
As with all pattern making, make sure the patterns you use are tried and tested.

You can't just connect the bodice and trousers like you would for a dress. That would cause those notorious length issues. You need to add extra length in the body of the jumpsuit to be able to do things like sit down or reach your arms up.

In this style, the extra length is added to the trousers. My pattern making book tells to add "between 3 and 10 cm" at the waistline of a jumpsuit. Which is too wide a margin to be helpful. I've tried and tested this in my own jumpsuit and I found out that 3 cm often isn't enough. 
For a jumpsuit like this, based on trousers with a normal, fitted crotch, I add 5 cm. Do this by moving tracing the pattern and tracing the tops of front and back again, 5 cm higher but with the center front and back lined up with the original center front and back. Merge the side seams gradually into the original side seams but make sure you don't narrow the pattern pieces at the (new or old) hipline.
Then, you have to make sure the waistlines of top and bodice match. Usually, you will find that the trouser waistline is smaller than the bodice waistline. Stick with the wider one. That tends to mean you lose the front dart in the trousers.
You can make scoop or slant pockets in the trousers.

This is a closely related style. horizontal seam below the waist, (semi) fitted bodice. 
For this one, you can use a pattern for a (semi) fitted top or dress without a waist seam. The same rules apply as for the previous jumpsuit. No length is added to the bodice, which extends to about 8 to 10 cm below the waist. Add 5 cm at the tops of front and back trousers (the top of which should be at the same level below the waist). Make sure the width of bodice and trousers is the same at the seam line.

Then, we get to the style which you see most in RTW.

The loose jumpsuit with elastic or a drawstring at the waistline. The reason you see this one so much is that it's a lot easier to fit. The style is supposed to be baggy, so extra length is the body doesn't attract attention and you can kind of regulate it with the gathering at the waist. 

I don't know why this image keeps uploading all blurry. It isn't like that in Illustrator or Photoshop. I've tried again and again to get it right but nothing works. I'll try again tomorrow.
To make this, you either widen sloper bodice and trousers or you use a loose fitting top and bottom. In both cases, you add the usual amount of length at the top of the trousers but also 3 to 5 cm at the bottom of the bodice.
When sewing, you can either sew elastic to the waist seam allowance after sewing the waist seam or you can create a casing for elastic or a drawstring. Because of the loose fit, you don't have to make such a long closure in a jumpsuit like this. A zip or row of buttons can stay above with waistline so it doesn't interfere with the gathers. 
You can also design this type of jumpsuit to have the gathers at another level than with waist but in that case, I don't recommend using tight-ish elastic. That would creep to the waist. 

When sewing any of these jumpsuits, construct top and bottom separately apart from the from opening on the fitted styles, then sew the waist seam and then finish front and make the closure (on the fitted styles) or insert elastic or drawstring (in the loose fitting jumpsuit).

Now, only one style remains. And this is one I haven't successfully made myself. Not yet. 

A jumpsuit without a waist seam. You may think this is how overalls (and other jumpsuits made for dirty work) are usually shaped. Some are but certainly not all because this is not a style which suits itself to economical cutting. 

To make this style, you have to extend the center front line on the trousers and trace the bodice with its center front on that line. You have to leave at least 5 cm between both waistlines. Do the same at the back. This puts the back bodice at an angle. Measure the side seams on both pieces. They have to be the same length. If they're not, adjust the position of the bodice pieces to make the side seams match. Just make sure that the total amount of length added to the crotch seam (front and back combined) is still 10 cm. 

All measurements described here are for use with normal trousers which are fitted at the crotch. If you use a style with a lowered crotch line, like some belt pleated trousers or culottes you could get away with adding less. Although, to preserve the look of the trouser style, I would still add 5 cm unless I was dealing with trousers with a seriously low crotch, like the hareem pants which were in fashion a couple of years ago. 
The added length at the waist will make the trousers longer. However, if that is possible with the style of trousers you're using I would recommend only taking away the excess length when hemming the legs as the very last step in construction. It's only then that you can see how the legs behave when you wear the jumpsuit.

I hope my explanation will help you make some jumpsuits of your own. As ever, if you do, I'd love to hear about it (or better yet, see it) and if you have any questions, just let me know.


  1. Thanks for the detailed tutorial and explanations. I don't think I will be making myself a jumpsuit anytime soon. Not such a fan of jumpsuits myself, but I'm a pattern drafting nerd, so I still loved reading your post!

  2. I plan to make a jumpsuit to ease into during my hula hoops sessions. This post has been quite useful and I hope this will motivate me into making my first ever jumpsuit . Thanks a ton

  3. I've just stumbled upon this post and I have to say this is the most informative and useful thing I've read since I've started sewing a few years ago. I'm planning to make jumpsuits for the summer and it looks like this page will be my Bible. Thank you so much!:)))

  4. this is a nice and practical jumpsuit, I have one, but I will make a new one, and I plan to modify the pattern to make a pair for my little girl, thank you.

  5. Muy buena la explicación. felicitaciones

  6. Hermoso mono...exelente,,,Gracias x compartir el molde..un abrazo de Argentina

  7. Have you written a book? If so where do I find it?

  8. I know this is an old post, but it's been the most helpful resource as I work through drafting a jumpsuit pattern. I'm attempting a fitted jumpsuit with no waist seam and have a question about the diagram: where do you out the grainline when you cut? Perpendicular with the hem (original pants grain) or parallel to CF of bodice? I was going to use a subtly striped fabric, but now I'm wondering if that won't work, since either the top or bottom will look "off"? Thanks!

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  10. Thanks, steps are very simple to understand and follow

  11. THANKYOU! fantasticly perfect response to the question in my head!

  12. Thank you so much. It was interesting and informative at the same time.

  13. Thanks dear. The best post on jumpsuit tutorials. Love you!.

  14. Is it posible to print out this jumpsuit maybe with pdf file or something like that