Making a choli that approximates the 15th century Malwa silhouette is tedious but not difficult. Anyone can do this! Having a friend to help with the fitting helps immensely.
1. Put on your best bra
2. Take a piece of cheap muslin wide enough to reach your elbows on either side and long enough to reach from shoulder to bottom of sternum, doubled. Cut a hole in the center just large enough to fit your head through.
3. Put the fabric over your head. Now pin the fabric so that it fits snugly from the underside of the elbow to the ribs, and then repeat on the other side.
4. Take a marking pen and draw the line where the pins are. This will become the underside of the sleeve and the side.
5. To mark the sleeves: find the point of the shoulder. Draw a line from point of shoulder to armpit, front and back, on both sleeves.
6. Now draw a scoop neckline. It should be tight to the sides of the neck and only scoop as low as the collarbones.
7. Now find roughly the center between point of shoulder and neckline along your shoulder. Draw a line carefully from that point, down to the point of the nipple, and then carefully to the bottom seam. It should be as straight vertically as possible. Repeat on the other side.
8. Now find the midpoint between the breast seams. Draw a line from neckline-center to bottom hem. This will become the center seam.
9. Now turn around and draw a line from the neckline-shoulder edge to the bottom hem in the back. It should be the same distance from the side seam at the bottom as the width at the top. Mark big X’s at the center of the shoulder blades, this is where the top tie will go.
10. Unpin the fabric and lay it out flat. Label each piece and cut apart your new rough pattern!
The pattern pieces should roughly resemble the shapes of the pattern pieces above. Lay them out on fresh fabric, trace around them, then add a large seam allowance and cut them out. Lay the right and left pieces on top of each other. If they are different sizes and shapes, lay them both on top of fresh piece of fabric and split the difference in size between the two to make two pieces the same size and shape. Label each piece.
Most people need an underarm gusset. Start with a diamond 4″ on each side and adjust down if needed.
Once you have “clean copies” with seam allowance, the fiddly part begins. Sew the pieces together. Pin rough ties on the X’s and at the bottom. Take off the bra and try on the choli.
A choli should support the breasts as well as a sports bra but with more “lift and separate” and with less constriction. If it doesn’t fit correctly, pull the pieces apart, adjust, and sew back together. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you are happy with the fit.
Once you’re happy with the fit, cut out your new choli and sew together!