How to make a muslin for a dress bodice

I talked about some reasons why to make a muslin, and showed you the fabric and pattern – now I’m going to show you how!

This is my method, there are many variations on muslin-making but here’s what I did. (You wanted to see the process – you got it!)

Depending on the style of the dress, you may only need to muslin the bodice. In this case, I didn’t want to waste yards of muslin on a gathered skirt, knowing it would definitely fit over my hips. So, I planned to muslin the bodice only.

You might want to muslin a whole dress – sometimes the weight of the skirt will affect the way the bodice fits! It will also give you a better idea of the finished dress’s look and feel. But I already like the way the dress looks so I’m going to just focus on the bodice for fit.

First, locate the bodice pieces only. No need to cut muslins for facings or detailed pieces unless they’re required to get the fit accurate. Cut the sleeve if the dress has sleeves. Pin your pattern pieces to the muslin.


Then, mark any darts, pleats or other internal markings. I like to write with pen (because I can!) Write the pattern name and number on the muslin piece (Simplicity 3965), as well as a description of the pattern piece (Bodice Back).

Next, machine baste along the seamlines, tracing out all edges and any darts. (I’m sewing along the pen lines of the darts.)

Why am I doing this? So sewing the muslin can be like sewing with the tissue pattern pieces – everything is marked and labelled, and the seamlines are super clear for accuracy. Any changes I made will be easy to apply to the pattern pieces this way!

Run your stitching off the edges of the fabric, don’t pivot at the corners.

Now, make all of the darts, pleats or tucks in the bodice. This should be easier than normal because you’ve stitched the pleat/tuck/dart lines with machine stitching. Press the darts towards the centre or down, as you would on the real bodice.

Figure out where the closure is going to be. In my case, it’s a centre back zipper. So I will sew the shoulder seams and then the sideseams, leaving the seam with the closure open.

Next, take a zipper (any zipper!) and pin along the closure opening. In my case the zipper will be way longer than the opening, but that’s OK. I’ll sew along the bodice back seamline and leave the rest of the zipper hanging.

Clip curves along garment edges, and fold in your seam allowances.

clip curves along neck edges

This will give you a better idea of where the neckline will sit, and where the outer edges of your dress will be. (I tried on the muslin first, without clipping the edges and could barely get my arms through the tiny armholes!)

and press under clipped seam allowances

Time to try on the bodice! Wear the bra you’d wear with the finished dress. Siince I’m small-chested, I have a vast assortment of padded bras. If I fit with my least-padded bra, it will fit completely differently than my most-pumped-up bra. If you prefer vintage-style bras, then fit your muslin wearing the correct bra.

Next up – fitting the bodice and correcting the pattern!

, ,

24 Responses to How to make a muslin for a dress bodice

  1. Nancy October 11, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    GREAT tutorial. My muslins are no where near as nice or impressive. Alas.

  2. Jenna October 11, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    I am so glad to see this series of posts! I’m just starting to venture into garment making for myself & therefore, muslins will be a necessity, at least at first. :)

  3. Heather October 11, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    I’ve made few muslins before, so this was a helpful tutorial, with the pictures, etc. I never thought about stitching along the seamlines before, but it makes sense. Thanks!

  4. Samina October 11, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this step by step! It’s so helpful for me to see you walk through the hows & whys of this.

  5. ~Sherry~ October 11, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    I draw all over my muslins too! The back neckline on this dress looks lovely – can’t wait to see!

  6. Sewing Princess October 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    It’s useful to make a muslin, the only problem is when your final fabric is dramatically different from cotton muslin. Then you should use a similar weight fabric… or you will have some funny surprises when you sew your final garment.

  7. Crystal October 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    I am looking forward to this series. Very helpful. Thank you.

  8. Beth October 11, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    I make muslins once in a while, more often for other people than for myself. As you do it is often the bodice of the dress.
    One note – I always cut out the muslin with a 1 inch side seam allowance. This is after
    I flat pattern fit the pattern pieces. So really the muslin is more for fine tuning, and for checking the neckline, armhole placement etc.
    I have done a couple of blog posts on muslins, and do the zipper just like you did, very important for fitting to get that zipper in and zipped up to check the fit.

  9. Handmade October 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Lovely step by step instructions!

  10. LDerriso October 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    Love your blog! Thanks for showing the step-by-step process muslin fitting!

  11. Funnygrrl October 11, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Makes sense to make the muslin for only the part that requires fitting—the bodice. This help is invaluable to beginners like me. Thank you!
    Also those vintage pattern drawings terrify me with the impossibly small waists. Hopefully your step by step will help me attempt…

  12. Cathi October 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Don’t forget that even though you know the skirt will fit you don’t know how the weight of it will affect the bodice!
    The skirt can make a HUGE difference to how the bodice fits so you might want to make the skirt up in the fashion fabric and baste it on the bodice.

  13. Leisa October 12, 2010 at 4:50 am #

    OMG thankyou for posting this! I have vintage 50s Lutterloh patterns I was going to start trying to make and realised I need to make Muslins. But being a beginner sewer I had no idea where to start with it – or rather, what the point was – Im looking forward to reading about correcting the pattern!

  14. Wanett October 12, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    This may be the clearest explanation of this I’ve seen!! I always wondered what the seam lines were for! You’re awesome! I can’t wait for the next part.

  15. amber October 13, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Another great tutorial. Fun getting to see your whole process with this dress. :)

  16. Jen January 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Wow, this is such a helpful post. You make all of this seem so simple! (BTW…a now-former lurker) I’m working on a dress bodice muslin right now and really think I just need to get those darts right. Thanks for sharing all of your tips & tricks here…really, this blog is a gem!

  17. Tasia February 2, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    @Jen: Thank you Jen! It is all simple, just time-consuming, but well worth it to have beautifully fitting clothing. Or I think so, anyways! :)

  18. Lisa February 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi Tasia,

    I couldn’t help but notice your BEAUTIFUL marking (in pen) on the muslin pattern pieces. I read that you used a pen and not carbon paper and I would like to know how you did it. Can you explain or perhaps do a tutorial in the future on pattern marking? Thanks so much!

  19. Kisha@supermomdiy.com November 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I’ve always considered making a muslin a little intimating, you make it look very easy. I have a handful of projects that I will use same bodice for, this will be most helpful!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. In which I attempt to make a muslin the right way « Green apples - October 13, 2010

    […] Tasia just put up a good tutorial on this sort of muslin (although I don’t think she uses the muslin for the pattern… I have heard it can stretch out.) ¬†So I’m trying (and I’m even doing the skirt – I pretty much have to on a fitted style.) ¬†My only pre-muslin alteration is for length – I don’t like a straight dress that falls below the knee. ¬†There are a lot of markings for the bow, but I’m hoping that following the directions will work! ¬†I’m not going to lie – sewing all the seamlines by machine is super tedious, but I’m determined to try it this way at least once! […]

  2. Make a Muslin | Right Side Wrong Side - October 31, 2011

    […] decided to start making muslins to practice on before using expensive fabric.¬† Sewaholic posted a muslin guide that I am going to use whenever it seems like I might mess up a sewing project horribly… so […]

  3. Mad Men Dress Challenge #2: Seemingly endless pattern adjustments! | Not one word out of you! - March 31, 2013

    […] looking at sewing blogs, I was forced to admit I’d have to make a muslin for this dress, as instructed on the Sewaholic’s blog. Even though the whole process looked lengthy, I knew I’d need to go through it because […]

  4. Sewing the Cambie dress, part 1: The Muslin | Mrs. T at Home - May 5, 2013

    […] followed these excellent instructions from Tasia at Sewaholic for making a musilin of a dress bodice. (I didn’t think it was […]

  5. Halloween 2014 | JaimeSews - October 27, 2014

    […] I’ve always found the Big pattern company patterns to be wide and short, I started off with a muslin. I cut her bodice size from some unbleached cotton and sewed it up without closures to test for […]

Leave a Reply