A well-fitted button-down shirt is nearly impossible to find, regardless of size or shape. Even if you are a standard size, most designers cut the armscye lower so as to fit a wider range of people, but a too-low armscye can bind and hamper movement. Since you are not trying to clothe the general public, there is no need to make a shirt to fit anyone other than you. Use this tutorial to come up with a custom basic shirt pattern that can be altered for different looks and materials. Part 1 will cover drafting the front, back, and shoulder yoke. Part 2 will cover the sleeves and cuffs. Part 3 will cover the collar.
Note of caution: This tutorial is not recommended for figures with more than a 3″ difference between chest circumference and underbust circumference.
Part 1: Front and Back
You will need the following tools:
- Tape measure
- Clear graphing ruler
- French curve set, or Design ruler
- regular pencil and eraser
- paper, ideally with a printed graph
And the following measurements:
- Chest circumference
- Waist circumference
- Hip circumference
- Shoulder width
- Shoulder length
- Neck circumference
- Neck-waist length
- Neck-hip length
Laying out the points:
Starting at the top right hand corner, mark and label point A. Make it big, make it pretty.
Using your clear ruler, square out and down from A. You can extend the lines later if they aren’t long enough. The line going down will be your center front and center back lines on the finished pattern.
Starting at point A, measure the following points down and label them:
- B: 1/8 your height
- C: Neck-waist
- D: Neck-hip +1″
- E: Neck-hip minus neck-waist
Square out from each of these points. It should look like this:
Mark halfway between points A and B. Label it F and square out.
Measure 1/2 the shoulder width along this line to get point G. If your shirt will have a yoke, make a second point 1″ further out and label it 1.
Starting at point B measure out 1/4 your chest measurement plus 1″. Label this point H.
From point C, measure out 1/4 your waist circumference plus 1″. Label this point I.
From point D, measure out 1/4 your hip circumference plus 1″. Label this point J.
From point E, measure out 1/2 the distance between D and J +1″. Label this point K.
Once the points are laid out, copy them over. One side will be the front, the other will be the back.
Shaping the neck edge:
Subtract your shoulder length from half your shoulder width. Starting from A, measure out this distance on both front and back, and label it point L. You can also calculate 17% of your neck circumference, rounding to the nearest 1/4” for the sake of sanity. This is point L.
Place French curve on the back neck edge, keeping a right angle at center back. Trace the curve and note the length. (In this example, 3 1/8”.)
Subtract the length of the back neck curve from half your neck measurement, then apply this number to the front neck edge, using the French curve. The curve should form a right angle at center front.
For example, if the full neck measurement is 16”, half of it would be 8”. Subtracting 3 1/8” for the back neck curve means 4 7/8” for the front. Trace the curve.
Shaping the armscye:
Use your French curve to form the armscye from H to G and up, ending halfway between line F and line A. If you plan to add a yoke, measure 1” out from point H on the back to get point 2, and shape from 1 to 2 with French curve. Line F-G will be the bottom edge of the yoke.
On both front and back, rule a line from point I to the top of the armscye, keeping a right angle at point I. This is the shoulder seam.
Rule lines from H to I, and from I to J, then use a French curve to smooth the resulting line as shown. If you plan to have darts in the shirt, the difference between the curved side seam and line H-I-J will be the size of the finished dart.
Add an inch to the back at each line if you’re doing a yoke.
Use the French curve to shape the tails of the shirt, with a right angle at point J and tapering into line E at point K.
Add 2 3/8″ along center front for a placket. Add desired seam allowances to neck edges, shoulder seams, armscye, side seams. If you’re making a yoke, add seam allowances to each side of line F, and add 1″ to the shoulder seam on the yoke and take 1″ off the shoulder seam on the front. Add 3/4″ along bottom curve for hem.