Russian drafting: girdles, panties & bras

My friend Rita lent me some of her Russian pattern drafting books -Russian pattern drafting being my some time obsession but if you saw some of these, you’d understand. Case in point is one book on the pattern drafting of lingerie such as girdles, panties and bras (I confess to keyword stuffing but too few would know to search for “foundations” which is what these items are called). The book I’ve culled from is copyright 1976 but the paper quality is such that it requires careful handling. I’m still researching as to whether this title is available (please don’t ask if it comes in English, I sincerely doubt it and unlike the Japanese books, you do need to read the text) but suspect it is not. Truly, I think the greater kindness would be to shave off its binding, scan it page by page and reprint it on sturdier paper but I wouldn’t know how to have that conversation. But I digress.


From a previous entry on hat pattern making, you can see the Russians do things quite a bit differently.There is a lot more math to it -take for example, this page of formulas of which I can make neither hide nor hair.

torso_contour_mappingThe most novel approach is their concept of body mapping by means of contour rods and or a 3D pantograph (there is a better word for this tool but I can’t think of it just now). Transcribing contours with rods is nothing new; it’s been a common if not archaic practice in anthropometry. This book illustrates it as shown at right but there is a photo of the same as used by Rockwell International’s Space Division in Roebuck’s book on page 35.

Speaking of the image at right, in the right side of the picture, the torso pattern looks very similar to anatomically correct doll patterns.If you strip away bust shaping, you get a much different picture of human anatomy. The former varies greatly, the latter not so much.

The other drafting concept used heavily in this book is measuring and application via triangulation. We don’t do much of this in Western drafting (to include US, UK & German). A sample of what I mean is below. On the left, measures are taken. On the right, the measures have been applied in a draft.


Triangulation means to measure from one fixed point to another and from there to still another -some argue this is more accurate. In western drafting, we measure mostly on planes, cross sections of the body (illustrated by the contour rods above) or what we call Cartesian coordinates. I don’t know that I have ever drafted via wholly triangulated measures but we all do a variation of it probably every day without realizing it. Say in determining the placement of a detail on a bodice; you determine design placement based on a triangulated measure (down from neck, shoulder or above bust dart end) as opposed to the X-Y Cartesian coordinates. It seems logical that triangulation is probably the best method of the two for highly contoured garments like bras and girdles.

torso_contour_overlayOn the other hand, measuring via planes (body slices if you will) is fine for most applications. The results also provide insight, take for example the image at right which displays various anatomical landmark points of measure overlaid on each other. [The image would probably be more effective if color coded.] The concept of examining the body in terms of planes (slices) isn’t new, Wampen popularized it in the 1800’s.

If you are interested, I uploaded more images of triangulated girdle drafts. I realize nobody makes girdles anymore unless they’re into historically accurate garments or into re-enactment but I think the drafting of them is useful because they must be tightly defined and contoured to fit the body in the same way corsets are. Anyway, see these images if you’re interested:

There are plenty of things in this book I don’t understand.  An image of one of them is below:have_no_idea_what_this_is1

I look at this and this other one and don’t know what to make of it. Any guesses?

So that’s my off-the-wallness for the day, don’t know if you enjoy pondering these sorts of things but I do and I remain eternally grateful for people who lend me stuff and humor my perseverations.  -Speaking of, now I’m intrigued, I think I will have to draft a garment via triangulation as a point of comparison to see how differently it comes out -if at all- as compared to a control pattern. Or you can and share your results.

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  1. sfriedberg says:

    Without seeing a couple of pages of context on either side of the mystery diagram, these are just observations.

    First, the right side of the diagram seems to be circular arcs, and I am guessing that’s just a geometric construction to locate points down the vertical centerline.

    I don’t fully understand the role of the two horizontal base lines at the top. But the numbering of the points is similar to the numbering of points in “triangulated shell, draft two” where the first number is a vertical column and the second (subscript) number is a horizontal row. So it appears that the two horizontal base lines are relating points on two adjacent columns (or possibly rows if we’re not dealing with the same actual numbering). I’m guessing that the spacing between the baselines is not important, but the spacing of points along them is.

    The numbered radial lines are clearly a construction for dividing a (partial) (approximate) circular arc into equal pieces, but note that they only show stuff down at the bottom for radial lines numbered the same as points on the horizontal baselines at the top. It appears they are dropping a construction line from the upper baseline straight down to intersect with the radial line of the name number. Notice that the points on the upper baseline have a dashed line connection to one or two points on the lower baseline. It looks like they are using the purely horizontal distance between the upper point and the nearer lower point as the radius of an arc centered at the intersection. Where this arc intersects the radial line is the significant point.

    Hmmm, so what’s going on there… They start with two points on the central vertical line that have the distance between 1-1 and 1-2. Then, at equal points around a circle, they are adjusting the two points. The inner point is based on the distance from N-2 to 1-2 on the upper baseline, and the radial distance between the inner and outer points is based on the distance from N-2 on the upper baseline to the dash-connected point on the lower baseline.

    Again, without context, I can only guess that has something to do with neckline or bust. I have no idea what they are doing between radial lines 5 and 15.

    I don’t read Russian but could possibly fumble my way through the page of formulas if the Cyrillic were transliterated to Latin. (In the misty past, I used to be able to read Czech.) I strongly suspect that this page of formulas is just like English tailors’ draft instructions, but with a heavier use of “variables” for quantities.

  2. Austin says:

    There are nondestructive book scanning techniques, including a lot of DIYers. You may want to see if someone from is local to you or the owner.

  3. kay says:

    There was a large body of scientific work published in Russian translated to other languages by the Israelis. It’s possible that this title is indeed in translation. Have you looked for it in WorldCat?

  4. April says:

    Rough translation from a few legible lines of this page of formulas:

    Sum solution for tuck on the line across the chest/breast.

    Sum solution for the tuck on the waist line.

    Sum of the widening on the the hip line.

    Solution for the front tuck on the waist line

    Solution for the lateral tuck on line:
    across breast

    If you want to try to match up the formulas with the translation, I started mid-page with the word that starts with Ob. Does that help any? Seriously, even with that, the formulas are still utterly incomprehensible, at least to me!

  5. Quincunx says:

    The first one shows two solid curves which would join to make a flattened hemisphere, if I connect the upper curve point 10 with the lower curve point 9 and sew downwards. That is the shape of the cup of one of my bras, so let’s call that one the inner (upper curve) and outer (lower curve, with the extra low dip to the curve to cradle the outer breast) pieces of a bra cup. No side seam shown though so I don’t know how it would be attached to the whole, nor can I judge if the curves above those points are equally curved to make a smooth line atop the cup or whether more sewing is required. The second linked one has too much overlap when I try to assemble it mentally so no idea there.

  6. I’ve done some pattern work with triangulation, and find it much more accurate. It’s also considerably more time-consuming.

    Worth it for fitting a very specific body very closely (yeah, like girdles), but generally overkill for most of what we do today.

    Absolutely worth exploring – increases skill set considerably!

    I’d love continuing posts from this book, and this mind-set.

  7. Rita Yussoupova says:

    Dear Kathleen ,

    I am so happy you are having fun with these – I knew you would .
    I wish we could organize some kind of workshop to share these method of drafting with others.
    We would need to invite some math/ geometry teacher to help to explain the formulas in English
    Also pls keep in mind that all the formulas are in metric system. I usually do it in metric and then convert the finished measurements to inches.
    To those who is interested getting this book pls. let me know, I will try to get few copies from Russia but I can get a better price if I buy 12 or more.


  8. Andrea says:

    The second diagram appears to be information concerning the shoulder and bust viewed from above — like the theory of bust projection and posture angle of the shoulder– but I have no clue about the right hand section of the diagram where it swoops away…

  9. Matthew Pius says:

    Kathleen – I notice that the image you don’t understand (and slightly less so, the second one you linked to) look awfully like the torso cross-sections. The one you included in the post seems to be a cross section through the breast and one at the ?armhole?
    As sfriedberg says, the quarter-circles on the right seem to be there in order to determine the placement of points on the vertical line. Then the points along the 2 guide lines determine horizontal distances which indicate key points where they meet the radial lines.
    However, it seems to me that the 2 parallel guide lines at the top are not straight lines – or is this an artifact of the fact that the book won’t lay flat on your scanner?

    Incidentally, Western drafting systems do use some triangulation. I seem to recall the drafting system I was taught in school did this to locate the bust point. Measure horizontally from center front half of the bust point spread and then use CBneck-bust point as a diagonal (from the side neck which has already been determined.

  10. Jen Rocket says:

    This is great! It reminds me of a Taiwanese book that my sister brought back from one of her many work trips abroad. I have been planning on giving some of the designs a shot using the pattern images inside. The book is really cute and I am seeing some of the 60’s/70’s trends coming in this season so no time like the present! You can see it here on my website
    if you look above the book you can see the tiny blocks that the previous owner made with newspaper.

  11. Brina says:

    I think Mathew is right about what the odd images represent.

    I have also used triangulation in drafting my patterns, though not to the extent that the Russian drafts represent.

  12. Marsha says:

    Rita, please, for the love of everyone, I want the book translated.
    Many moons ago in my portfolio year (this was before BA) I had a convo with a Russian student about drafting. Outside class we snorted because the instructor told us to use ‘slopers’ (they were called ‘blocks’ where we studied) in class to cut patterns with; the instructor even inquired where I procured my ruler (from a French fashion school branch in Jakarta) before proclaiming that the closest place I could obtain a replacement from was from France. Huh?

    Anyway, we agreed that the pattern cutting part of the program was eeeasy. I confided to this Russian student that I could actually draft from scratch, Cartesian-style. He confided to me that the Russian pattern drafting system is crack with triangles and anyone who masters them can do practically anything.

    I guess this is it. Now, where is he again?

  13. Ellen Sheets says:

    Kathleen – are you still interested in help with the math? And could you include the text with the two mystery diagrams? That would help to identify them. Is there a page you could post showing a diagram of the triangulation that relates to the formulas?

  14. Marge says:

    Hi everyone, this seems like a long shot on how to copy this book into a computer/website. My reference is by way of transcribing documents via genealogy system. The scenario is meeting a fellow distance family member reseaching the same name and we were at a church, I did not realize he had had a stroke and could not write, he pulls out a cylandrical optical reader, as wide as the page, turned it on, held in hand and slowly moved to scan the whole document page from top to bottom. Nocopier needed. The old book’s spine unharmed. The device may be called an OCR reader, optical copy reader possibly.

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