The Low Back Maillot

This Forms The Basis Of Many More Complex Styles

This design is not unlike the Basic Tanksuit in appearance, but it holds a valuable lesson in tension. When a stretch garment completely wraps the bust, waist and hips it can be pulled in tightly to reveal the wearer's shape in intimate detail. If you remember, when we created the one piece block we did not reduce the hip measurement because the hipline was cut on both sides by the leg holes. In other words, because it could not be held under tension we could not shrink the measurement. If we did, the garment would shrink (albeit predictably) in the areas where it wasn't anchored down.

Now let's consider the tanksuit on a model. If we were to suddenly cut the pattern down the centre back and in a straight line all the way to the waist, that line would gape open until a new balance in tension occurred. How much it opens is what is of interest. On the tanksuit there are initially two tension lines to think about ... the bust line and a line running vertically down from the shoulder. The shoulder line is really not under a great deal of tension, until we cut the centre back down through the bust line. Once this happens the vertical shoulder tension line is made longer by the bust trying to pull toward centre front. When one tension is balanced by the other, the garment stops moving toward centre front. So how much does it pull toward centre front? It doesn't shrink up the whole 12% it was reduced. It only shrinks back up to about one third to one half of the 12% negative ease. If you were to have applied vertical negative ease to the original block then it would have shrunk back even less!! Fascinating this concept of tension lines, isn't it?

What this means for our low back tank suit is we need to relieve the horizontal negative ease from 12% back to 4-6% for all areas that are cut at centre back. If we had cut below the waist line then we'd need to relieve the negative ease there also. This will be demonstrated in the pattern below so it'll make more sense as we do it.

Photos found on the Internet (I do not own copyright);
used for the purpose of illustration/education only.

Step One

The photos above illustrate the pattern we're going to make. This pattern is based on the Women’s One Piece Block we created previously (using 12% horizontal negative ease and 0% vertical ease). Before you start each step, take a good look at the illustration to help you follow the drafting process. At the end of each step your draft should match the illustration.

As we're not cutting the back line below the waist line we only need to relieve the tension above the waist. Rather than redraw the entire block you remove one third of the 12% reduction by stretching the top of the block by 92/88 or to 104.5% of the original size. You could do this on a photocopier or by measuring if you're doing your patterns on paper. If you're using CAD then it's simply a matter of scaling up 104% horizontally. Then simply ease it back into the original waistline as shown.

Step Two

Draft a guideline from the bust point to form a right angle with the shoulder. Draft in guidelines either side of the first which represent the width of the shoulder strap of your design. You can go as narrow or wide as you like, just remember that as you go narrower you need to shorten the strap to maintain an even tension. In principle, the width of the strap should be determined by function. A larger bust might benefit from a wider strap for support of the bust and comfort at the shoulder (think bra). Active lap swimmers benefit from slightly wider straps because they tend to stay in place better and hence rub less. Wider straps balance a larger bust aesthetically, while narrower straps can sometimes make a bust look larger in smaller women. Now draft in a second strap guide vertically on the back panel ... the outside of the strap should just touch the armhole.

Step Three

We need to take a little length out of the back shoulder strap as we have done previously. This is because as the strap gets thinner it loses its rebound strength. About 3 to 4cm should be enough. Draft in a very gradual back line from the shoulder strap to the centre back waist. Draft in the back armhole being sure to match the front armhole at the side seam. Draft in a guide from the bust point to square with the front neck line (blue). Draft in a second guide line from the bust point to the, side seam about 4cm below the bust line (blue).

Step Three

Remove all the guides from the back panel. Cut the guide to the front neckline and rotate the front strap to vertical. This should close out a dart of about 1-1.5cm. Don't go all the way to the vertical if it's more than 2cm.

Step Four

Cut the guide to the front side seam and rotate the bust dart closed to create a new bust dart angled more steeply downward (we also did this for the tanksuit pattern). Pull back the dart about 1-1.5cm from the bust point. 

Step Five

Remove unnecessary guidelines. If necessary retrace the front and back panels. Add seam allowance to the pattern based on how you intend to assemble it. I've shown this pattern with 10mm allowance for overlocked seams (8mm to blade plus 2mm off cut) and 10mm allowance for folding over 9mm elastic. If you were to use a binder attachment to apply the elastic and casing fabric to the edge, then you wouldn’t need any seam allowance on those particular seams. Finally, be sure to clearly label your pattern pieces with a title, panel name, garment size, cutting instructions, author’s name, date and revision number.

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