A lecture in undergarments

I stopped in to visit Professor Sunahase on her second-to-last day of class in the undergarments course in Bunka Gakuen University the other day and she gave me a bit of an inside look (…hehe get it?…) into how to make underwear patterns.

Step 1- Body cast:

Students work in groups in this class to make a three piece collection, so one brave student is chosen to create an actual plaster mold of (half of) their body. I’ve seen some hardcore DIY versions of this before, but there is a twist here that I had never seen before. Once the cast is made, they use rice paper on the inside of the cast to take the  first pattern rather than the way you drape with fabric, which is of course on the outside of the body form, or the outside of the body. This is an old method of creating underwear patterns, and of course we have many new technological advances in the industry and within the school that allow us to map the body, then plot it directly into a CAD program. Once the body is mapped, we can use CAD to create 3D models of the body and design underwear, but Professor Sunahase doesn’t not believe that this method is where it needs to be. “The CAD software is great for fabrics and designs that allow for space between the body and the fabric, but not for support garments that need to be precise, and need to fit perfectly”.


Step 2 – Draw style lines:

This plaster form becomes the designers 3D model. A designer will draw her important style lines on the outside, then transfer them to the inside of the form. She will then place rice paper on the inside, very gently, splicing and spreading in necessary places, thus creating her base pattern.


Step 3 – Rice pattern:

You can see the rice paper pattern in the image below, stuck to the chalk board. Under the rice paper pattern you can see the traced version. This traced version will be used to make future patterns.  Keep in mind that none of this is necessary if you know your way around a pattern, as there are ways of altering a standard pattern to make it into an underwear pattern. This method is an absolute couture method of obtaining unique and personal patterns, based on the actual body of a customer/client/alien with 9 boobs. I think it is a wonderful method of understanding the flat and 3D all at once.


Step 4 – First pattern:

Once your rice paper has dried, your patterns have been traced, and everything is flat and on paper, you create your first fit pattern toile. Put it on the body inside out, and fit the girl as tight or as shapely as you like. Remembering all the while that professional body forms are hard, while human bodies are soft and malleable in places. This image also shows the Professors MAGIC HANDS. To the left of the torso you can see some 3D-map type images. From top down they are cross sections of the body both in the undergarments, and nude, as well and 360 degree 3D image mapping of the physique, silhouette and posture of the human form both in the undergarments and nude. This gives the students an opportunity to really understand the body in relation to their designs. We do, after all, affect the body in many ways each time we wear any garment at all, but there is special strain/influence when we wear undergarments.


Step 5 – do whatever you want:

Make it out of paper towels, for all I care.  Make a dainty Elf queen dress (please don’t. There are too many at Bunka). This course allows the students to think of underwear as outwear, and it is one of their goals in the class to break that boundary.


Some of the work from students in the class. How would you complete the look? 


The girls hard at work.


A couple body casts and their finished counterparts.


The students work in teams.


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