Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Buying and Using a Sloper

Slopers have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I theoretically understood what they were, but never how to use them. Not having serious drafting abilities, I also felt that I would never actually be able to create a sloper to use.

Well, have I got news for me (and you)! I'm taking a semester-long pattern making class at the local Stitch Lab, and I have new-found knowledge to share with you that makes the whole sloper thing much simpler! So let's dive in to the magical land of slopers.

What is a Sloper? 

I am going to quote the wonderful Adele Margolis here, from her book Make Your Own Dress Patterns

"It is used as the basis for creating new designs..It has no fullness, design details, or seam allowances." 

At the risk of repetition, I will summarize in my own words. A sloper is a building-block for a pattern, and it has just enough room for it to fit your body and for you to be able to breathe. They are also sometimes called: 
  • Blocks
  • Foundation Patterns
  • Basic Patterns

Types of Slopers

There are bodice slopers...


Skirt slopers...


And pants slopers...

With those three things, you can mix and match to create just about anything. So a dress would just be your bodice sloper + a skirt sloper, for example.

How Do You Use a Sloper? 

The two main ways you can use a sloper are to: 
  1.  Design new patterns.My pattern teacher, Tina, describes design textbooks like cookbooks. You basically open it up and say, "I want to make a cowl neck sweater" and it gives you a recipe for modifying the bodice sloper to do that.
  2. Perfect fit. 
    If you compare your sloper to the pattern you are working on, you can see where you'll need to make adjustments to make it fit you. Just don't forget your sloper doesn't have seam allowances. Threads has a great article on using a sloper for fit.
My guess is that for most of you, #2 is where a sloper is going to come in most handy. Essentially, it takes some of the concepts I outlined in the body graph method of fitting, and allows you to have a flat dressform to work with. 

How Do You Get a Sloper?

So, let's say that you're completely sold on the idea of a sloper. How on earth do you go about getting one? You can draft your own, Madalynne has a great tutorial on drafting your own sloper, but I think it's best to start out with a simpler route to focus on using the sloper first. 

Easiest: Purchase a Custom Sloper from String Codes

This is the method we are using in class, and by gollies, it's amazing! All you do is send your measurements to String Codes, tell them what kind of sloper you'd like to have, and they will send you back a custom-made sloper! The prices are even pretty reasonable.

BONUS! The size on your sloper is your name! That's pretty neat. 

Once you have that, you: 
  1. Trace the pattern onto tracing paper, freezer paper, or something similar. 
  2. Stitch up the sloper to make sure everything fits you properly. My changes were extremely minimal, and others in the class had zero changes.
  3. Make adjustments as needed to create your final sloper.
  4. Mount the final sloper onto a sturdy paper. We used tag board, which is about the weight of a manilla folder. 
  5. Cut out the pattern, including the darts. 
  6. Start using your sloper (methods outlined above)!
For more information on using Pattern String Codes, Kathleen Fasanella from Fashion Incubator has a great series. There are a few quirks I've discovered along the way that Kathleen helps to explain. Mainly, depending on your cup size, the CF may be too short because they're using your CB measurement.

Easy-ish: Purchase a Fitting Shell Pattern 

Site: Vogue or Butterick

The major companies have a pattern that is like a sloper that they call a "Fitting Shell." They come with instructions for how to alter the garment to fit you properly. 

All my steps above apply, you're just likely to need more fitting than a custom-made one. And the pattern name is something ordinary like "14" as opposed to your name. Ok, so I'm easily impressed.

A Couple of Pointers on Buying from String Codes

  1. There are varying levels of custom. We did standard custom fit. This means you have a sloper based on your measurements for bust, waist, hip, center back length, and waist to ankle. My teacher didn't recommend full custom fit unless you had a professional take all the measurements. See the FAQ. 
  2. They have a few different types of pants slopers. Here's the differences between those.
    (a) Trousers fall down at the back from the waist.
    (b) Slacks hug the rear, then fall down from there.
    (c) Jeans are the most fitting and hug the body all around. 
Do you have other questions? Do you think you'd use a sloper? 


  1. I have always considered using a sloper lack time so thanks for the tips especially on purchasing one made to measure (who knew). thanks I would love to hear more about how you use it.

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful! I'm just getting started on the whole thing myself, but I'm planning on doing some more posts as I continue to learn!

  2. this is a very late reply almost one year later! But thank you for sharing the links and the information. I have got to check this out!

    1. You're welcome! It's so useful, even if you're not designing. I've been saving so much time lately using my sloper for fitting!

  3. This is great a personal sloper you don't have to adjust!

  4. Thank you so much for this post, I've been thinking about getting a sloper to make sizing up patterns easier. It's so hard to find good plus size patterns!

    1. You're very welcome! I hope it's helped you!

  5. That is one adorable dress. You know how to work with stripes and darts. Perfect. I have heard great things about Slopers. Thanks for sharing and I may have to take a class down the road.

    1. Thanks so much, Bobbie Lynn! I would definitely recommend them. It speeds up my fitting and results in a better finished garment, I find. It's also a good way to get into pattern making!

  6. I like the idea of ordering a custom slipper from String Codes, but having studied patternmaking as recently as 2 years ago, I'm surprised and impressed if String Codes can come up with the right fit without an in-person fitting of the first draft.

  7. (Autocorrect I'm tired of your shirt!). SLOPER!😉