The Sewing Place

Advice on fitting/drafting children's leotards for protruding tummies & more


I've recently had fun (not so much really) making a leotard for a short 10-year-old who is quite a big girl, so much so that her girth measurement is far longer than her height would suggest. I started with Kwik Sew (KS3508) as it's a fairly generous fit and I ended up using the size 14 while increasing the width a bit, reducing the length a bit and trying to relate the neck and arm/leg openings to smaller sizes. All that while holding up a finger into the wind! We got there in the end and the garment looks a good fit overall but the shape of the resulting pattern piece isn't elegant and I didn't manage to get straight side seams visually. It wasn't a problem as she wears it with a ballroom skirt but now I need to make her a leotard that may sometimes be used on its own.

Her mum has been unable to get her any rtw as her arms & legs are far too small for ladies leos but children's are too short and tight. I ended up having to narrow leg openings further after it was already cut out which didn't help the side seam shape. Her main body features are that she's generally very broad with a big sway back, very protruding tummy, flat bottom on the frame of a short 10-yr old.

My books on pattern making for stretch don't include children so they're not helping. I do have an old Natalie Bray that does but it's for wovens of course and doesn't have anything that relates to leotards.

Any and all advice or links to blogs or books etc are very welcome.
Aka Jacky F in a former life...


Have you looked at Jalie patterns?   Might not be any use but they do a lot of that sort of pattern. 
I think the newer Winifred Aldrich pattern cutt8ng book for children’s wear has knit blocks etc in it. 


You'll need to do a full back, round chest and tummy adjustment and account for the negative ease.   Weird cross of men's corpulent adjustment (chest) and women's (hip and back).  Although you can do a FBA as long as you realize it's width and not breast weight.  And yes, I know it is a kid.

You can also grade up where needed, and realize some pieces are going to grade different then others.  IE: the belly may need to be graded from under then arm seam to the waist, then the full belly adjustment from the waist to panty.  While technically the same, on a pattern they don't always come across the same.  Same with the back: the shoulders and upper back may need it, and then not the waist, but then a flat seat adjustment.  And it can wind up looking like you have 3 different patterns in one when finished.

The easiest is to take the pattern and make the adjustments to the pattern, make a muslin and pin it on the kid, then take that and transfer it to the pattern.

The pattern is not going to be elegant looking in any fashion and will not really result in hanger appeal when finished, but will look good when on the body.  The biggest trick is to keep the balance and work on the individual areas and not all of them at once and not to work from the side seams. 

Even though it's not a woven, those tricks still apply, just make the ease negative.


Oh the joy - why the heck don't they make children children sized any more. I had to make a costume for a 7 yr old who is nearly 100 round the sum, 95 round the  chest and 95 round the hip with a sway back and protruding tum. I started with a Jali leo and worked from there. Not a pleasure I'd really like to repeat. By the time I had a pattern that fit it looked like a quatermass experiment. I wish you luck with it.
If life gives you lemons, add to gin and tonic !


Thank you all, including the sympathy which is all I could have offered myself prior to this. I forgot to mention that she also has protruding shoulder blades and is amazingly flexible. I'm in awe of her gymnastic ability. Actually, if I could just put her body on longer legs it probably wouldn't look half as daunting as it does.

@Kwaaked you've got me thinking I really should just go back to the original and make the fitting adjustments in a more leisurely and relaxed frame of mind than the first time around rather than trying to make my first child's self-drafted pattern with so many inherent complications to deal with. I will look up one or two of the specific adjustments that you mention as this may make significantly better improvements than what felt like the rather improvised techniques I had to adopt en route.

I think the Winifred Aldrich one may well be on issuu @Ohsewsimple - wouldn't surprise me if it's already in my stack!  :| It's a great resource that I often trumpet and then forget when I need it myself. I do have Jalie patterns (I like them a lot) but not a really basic all in one leotard. I went with Kwik Sew as it's more generously drafted than Jalie size-wise. Jalie patterns are a very good fit but Kwik Sew are generally good for girls who are less than lean in my experience (especially KS bottom and arms) but that didn't help this time.

Aka Jacky F in a former life...


Marniesews, if you're realtively happy with the fit, I'd suggest making a trial leotard with the smaller legholes - see how it sits on her.  If the side seams are still weird, I'd draw straight ones on with chalk and change the shape of the front & back.  It's a trick from making stretch tutus for dancers with a sway back - if the netting is applied level on the leotard, then on the girl it's tilted - giving them a duck tail.  But if the level is marked & adjusted while on the girl, the tutu netting appears level when it's worn.
Sewing & fabric collecting are two separate hobbies!

sewing in oz

I've made leos for all shapes and sizes of kids over the years, and I'd suggest you might want to measure what I call the child's "straight line vertical girth" (there's probably a proper term for this?)  to see how much of her actual girth is body "depth" and how much is body "length".  That might help you decide a starting point for which size arm and leg holes will fit her best.  When deciding, you can always make a hole larger, but it's infinitely harder to make one smaller, as I have found to my cost more than once!


Yet more useful suggestions here. Thank you.

@sewing in oz I did wonder how I could measure her vertical torso height rather than around the vertical profile of her body but my ideas of how to do it were rather Heath Robinson. I also thought I'd take her overbust measurement to see if that might be a better guide as it helps with assessing shoulder & upper body width etc for an FBA. Her arms are perhaps a little less than proportional to her body circumference but it might get me nearer to the right size with just an armhole facing sized test piece.

@MitchOfTheNorth - good point about marking her horizontal waistline on the body. I only see her every two weeks but I can do the toile in a pale colour fabric and draw on lots of reference points to help with other elements. In any case they only really need it for September so I think it's worth the drawn out process of checking via fittings throughout the process to get this right.
Aka Jacky F in a former life...

sewing in oz

Here's how I do it:

Mid-shoulder height - back my candidate up against the wall standing front square to me, feet slightly apart, arms down loose, looking straight ahead.  Hold a 30cm ruler on her mid shoulder with one end of the ruler touching the wall.  I use the ruler "edge up" rather than "flat up", as the ruler end will hit the wall vertically end-on and "parallel" is closest when the whole ruler end is touching the wall.  I tend to use mid shoulder as my upper point, as I can easily find this spot on a pattern, but if you prefer to take centre back neck height, you can place the ruler behind her neck against the wall, and eyeball the correct height from the front.

Mark where the ruler touches the wall.  I generally use half a sticky note, but you can use whatever else comes easily off the wall when you're done.

Crotch is a little harder.  Place a rigid metre ruler between her legs, and ensure that the ruler is (a) parallel to the floor and (b) just touching her crotch.  Again, I've found "edge up" works best if you can manage this.  Touch the back end of the ruler against the wall and keep it there.  I drop the front end while making sure the back end maintains contact with its spot the wall, have her carefully step over the ruler and move away, bring the ruler back up to parallel, and mark with the other half of my sticky note.

Good luck  :)