Drafting Bookshelf

Continuing the perusal of my drafting books, in no particular order, I hit on this oldie but goodie, bought second hand a few years back.

Dress Design, Draping and Flat Pattern Making  Marion S Hillhouse and Evelyn A. Mansfield, pub. 1948 Houghton Mifflin Company.m

You could learn drafting from this book. It would take you a different way round to Aldrich,  posted about last week. Aldrich goes straight for the jugular with flat drafting of blocks from standard measurements. It’s a textbook for design students, who would probably gravitate to jobs in ready to wear.

Hillhouse and Mansfield is also a textbook, but I’d guess it was aimed more at those who would become modistes and dressmakers for individual clients. It starts with fitting a basic princess line bodice pattern, with the idea of using this to cover a padded a dress form. The block, next stage,  is draped on the form. Getting your own block this way relies on having a tame fitter. Drafting flat from individual measurements doesn’t solve all the fitting problems, but reduces the fitting work. Flat draft from your own measurements and you can probably fit yourself .

Couture houses still go the dress form route,  keeping individual forms for their clients. If you can find a fitter friend, or your significant other’s eyes light up at the mention of duct tape and having your doppelganger hanging in the wardrobe, this might seem right for you. Sometimes seeing the fitting or design problem in 3D is easier than translating it to and fro a flat pattern.

Compared to modern books, a considerable amount of space is devoted to draping on a stand. The information is good, but draping styles which can be flat drafted easily seems a bit pointless, except if you view it as a series of preliminary exercises.


This illustration is part way through four and a half pages on draping a six gore skirt. It would probably take you longer to read the section than draft the same skirt from your own skirt block.

There isn’t a table of standard measurements.  Standard measurements were but a twinkle in a manufacturer’s eye when this book was published. Anthropometric surveys were undertaken in the USA between 1948 and 1959 ,  England 1956, West Germany 1973 and 1983, and France 1968. To the extent that sizes are standardised, ha ha, we owe it to those surveys, taken to help clothing manufacturing industries.

Gerry Cooklin’s book, Pattern Grading for Women’s Clothes lists the 60 measurements from these surveys , which were used by manufacturers to develop patterns. This is one of his diagrams.g

I think that diagram nails the divergence between the two systems of getting a block drafted, one going for flat math, the other for sculpture.

There is a draft in H/M for the bodice to be fitted, in sizes 12 to 20. I haven’t worked this draft, the main interest for me in this book is the adaptations.

The sleeve draft in Hillhouse and Mansfield works off body measurements, top arm (sometimes called biceps), and length measurements.

Aldrich derives the sleeve draft from the bodice block – armscye measurements and length. The advantage of that method is that the sleeve will fit into the armscye, without the elaborate workarounds that get discussed at length in sewing forums, when sewists find three inches of sleeve cap ease in their purchased patterns. The disadvantage is that on an individual draft a small armscye with a large bicep can result in too narrow a sleeve. There are workarounds which don’t leave you struggling with double gathering rows over the sleeve head. Its worth being aware of the issue if you’re blessed with sloping shoulders and wide top arm.

one workaroundj

And one from Aldrichk

There are no trouser blocks, outerwear blocks, lingerie blocks – it is dress designing. The adaptations are, for pattern nuts like me, a brilliant resource. I mentioned in the last review that some people find it off putting if a book doesn’t have up to the minute fashions as examples. This book is packed with forties fashions of course, but however you view that decade’s styles, the ideas can be lifted into a new context and re-run. Its easy to imgine this shoulder detail in a new context for example.


Its a hefty book, hence the shading on my scans, and  packed with valuable information.

What else? As you’d expect from a book focused more on drafting for the individual than for production, there’s a pretty comprehensive section on fitting, and how it relates to a pattern.


Theres also a section on design sources. aI’d miss this book if I lost it, but I believe you can get a download now. The Perfect Nose has a less bodgy scanner too.


About jay

I design and draft patterns
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10 Responses to Drafting Bookshelf

  1. mrsmole says:

    What eye candy for a seamstress! I love these drawings and it sure makes you appreciate what went into older fashions before we hit the skids in the 60’s and everything went shift dress, plain fronts and back and certainly less glamor! Thanks for sharing the photos and your thoughts!


  2. Pella says:

    They are a brilliant resource!


  3. Offspring says:

    [Sigh] Oh you lucky thing! This is one of the books on my wish list… as if I REALLY need any more… or any more encouragement, come to that! 😀 xxx


  4. Pella says:

    Well, they’re not mutually exclusive you know ….


    • Offspring says:

      Hee hee, don’t I know it! 12 machines (including a treadle) plus an overlocker and a 13th in non-working condition is enough for any small, 2-bedroomed cottage… I feel safer putting further strain on the bookshelves than I do on the attic floor timbers…! H 😀 xxx


  5. Pella says:

    Hum, yes that’s a lot, but then you’re the curator, right?


  6. saadoudi assia says:

    merci pour votre aides pour apprendre a coudre


  7. Kay says:

    The rippling flare looks beautiful but not with my physique! I love these old pattern book illustrations


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