Bunka Style Sloper Review and Pattern Magic Fun


Throughout my schooling and career, the patternmaking bible has always been Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design*.  This is the book that we followed in classes, and this is the book that I regularly flip through for references.  In patternmaking, the sloper is a basic bodice from which one can develop different designs.  In Armstrong’s book, the sloper is drafted from approximately twenty different measurements, so imagine my curiosity when the magical internet tells me that there’s a way to draft a bodice sloper with only three measurements! The patternmaker in me decides that this must be explored.

As it turns out, the answer was in my storage, and I didn’t even know it.  More than six years ago, I came across a book in San Francisco’s Japan town that captured my interest.  The book, Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi* was written entirely in Japanese, and even though I couldn’t read a word of it, I still bought it without hesitation.  I was attracted to the photos and ideas in the book, and kept it for inspiration.  The author of the Pattern Magic series, Nakamichi, was a professor at Bunka Fashion College in japan, where the Bunka style sloper was developed.

The Pattern Magic series has been translated into English and several other languages since I purchased the first book.  With a quick search, I was able to find the English version of Pattern Magic 2 on Amazon.  Both Pattern Magic and Pattern Magic 2* have detailed instructions for drafting the Bunka style sloper.  Pattern Magic 3* works with stretch and jersey fabrics, and I suspect that it may be my next purchase.

As a blogger, I do not feel comfortable re-posting the materials published in the books.  I can, however, talk about my process and steer you towards trying it out for yourself.

The three measurements needed for the Bunka style sloper are: Bust, CB length, and Waist.  (All measurements need to be taken or converted to the metric system.)  The latter two are only used once each, but the Bust measurement is the most crucial, because all other measurements are conveyed as a proportion of this bust measurement.  The Chest Width (or more commonly known as Across Front), for example, is calculated by the equation B/8+6.2cm.

bunka sloper draft

bunka-bodice front


I drafted and sewed up a muslin bodice based on the instructions given in the book to see how accurate of a fit I was able to achieve without making any alterations to the original draft.  I am quite pleased with the overall fit of the bodice.  It hugs the form beautifully, with just the right amount of ease all around.  There are, however, three problems that I will have to fix based on this muslin:

bunka bodice armhole

1) Shoulder Width – As you can see from the photos, the Shoulder Width of this muslin is too big, and sticks out much further than the actual shoulder of the form.  Even after subtracting the ¼” seam allowance I added for the armhole seam (out of habit), the shoulder seam is still about ½” too long.  The book introduces this sloper as “created for the body shape of the modern Japanese women.”  I speculate that proportionally, the average Japanese woman for which this set of equations are developed have a smaller bust than my size 8 PGM form, and since on the draft, the placement of the end of the Shoulder was supposed to be based on the Chest Width,  the shoulder width came out too long.

bunka bodice-side

2) Side Seam –  From this view, the side seam sits correctly at the top but swings towards the back at the waist.  Since the total amount taken in from the waist darts and side seams are calculated by subtracting the waist measurement from the bust measurement (plus ease), I   suspect that the Bust to Waist ratio have something to do with this problem.  The “average Japanese woman” with a smaller bust would have a larger Bust to Waist ratio than my busty-chested yet wispy-waisted American dress form.   In any case, this is a very quick fix.

3) Shoulder Seam Placement – The shoulder seam placement is bothersome to me, because it does not match up with the shoulder seams of my dress form.  It sits toward the back at the base of the neck, but swings towards the front at the armhole.  I really don’t have an answer for this, as I followed the angle that was given to me for the shoulder slope (22 degree angle for front shoulder slope, and 18 degree angle for back).  This is something that I will just have to fix without over thinking.

The Pattern Magic books, overall, is more advanced and should not be your first introduction to patternmaking. However, If you have had some experience with drafting patterns, I would definitely pick the series up and start trying some of the projects inside.  Here are a few quick muslin experiments I did that were inspired or based on the second book:

stole collar pattern magic

This stole collar bodice was drafted based on my own measurements. I really like how elegant and flattering the lines shape around the neck and face, and I am planning on making a dress with this bodice for myself in the near future.

balloon-sleeve pattern magic

This Balloon sleeve is on the cover of the second book. It was actually a very easy draft just by looking at the illustrations. The writing and instructions made it seem more complicated than it is. Further experimentation is needed in order to fit it on to the armscye, which was not covered in the book.

cage-sleeve pattern magic

This cage sleeve was not in the book. It is made by using half of the panels of the balloon sleeve, and pulling it vertically instead of horizontally. This makes for a really interesting detail to use for future designs. 

spiral-sleeve pattern magic

This spiral sleeve is also the same pattern as the balloon sleeve. Instead of pulling the balloon panels open horizontally, I pulled it diagonally. The result is structured yet whimsical.

Aside from a few easily adjustable problems, I am quite pleased with the Bunka style sloper.  The fact that only three measurements were used makes this sloper a great place to start for anyone interested in diving into the complex yet rewarding world of patternmaking.  From my searches, I have found that Bunka Fashion College have a series of five textbooks that covers all of the fundamentals of garment design.  I have not had the chance to read through any of them, so I cannot recommend for or against them just yet.  If you have these textbooks, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

*In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to make a purchase at Amazon. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself.

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1 Comment

  1. I can’t tell you how empowered I feel right now.Bravo on a job well done and thank you for being such an inspiration.

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