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Introduction

A suit with no zip feels better than one with a zip because a zip prevents its seam from stretching like the rest of the suit. In addition, where a suit has a zip in its centre-back seam, it can be very hard to reach the zip to work it.

These zipless patterns use an overlap instead of a zip, with elastic to improve tension. You can see the lower edge of the overlap in the picture here: the band across the shoulder-blades.

Zipless works well for normal catsuits, but is particularly suited to zentai suits:
My front or my back? You'll never know!

Zentai

Zentai refers to a bodysuit with gloves and socks attached, and a spiderman-style face-covering hood to keep your nose squashed. Most zentai suits have two zips: a short one down from the top of the hood to the nape of the neck, and one up the back.

Zentai apparently means 'whole (-body) tights' in Japanese where it supposedly started. (If you're curious about Zentai, take a look at Zentai Forum or Suya-Zentai for a gentle introduction - they're friendly, and safely on the other side of your screen if you're of a particularly gentle disposition.)

The patterns

Some background on these suits, if you're interested.

There are three overlap styles here, my personal preference is the first one, the 'rear inner' style.

The only downside of these is where the elastic gets its tension from: For the 'rear inner' style, the inner neckline pulls the ends of the dart seams into the suit slightly, whereas for the other two suit styles, the elastic can pull up under the arms,

What to do

If you haven't already made a standard suit you should at least familiarise yourself with the instructions for it, or this page will make little sense.

You'll be drafting two modified raglan sleeve patterns - a short inner sleeve and a longer outer sleeve - and then sewing one of each sleeve to each side.

Measurements

Plot your measurements

For the 'rear inner' style suit


  1. Follow the standard suit instructions until you've completed sleeve stage, complete with seam allowance.
  2. Make the 'yoke' as follows: Copy to a new piece of tissue, this upper part of the back of the suit, including seam allowance: the raglan curve (pink) including seam allowance, the neckline (blue), and the centre back line (red) from the neckline to an inch below the underarm line (dotted black). Copy the underarm line too, and the underarm slash (black, at the end of the raglan curve).
  3. On the yoke, plot a curve (green) starting perpendicular to the centre back line (red) and about an inch above the underarm line (dotted black), to an inch down the underarm slash (black). At the underarm end, it should be parallel to the raglan curve above it.
  4. You can avoid an extra seam if you lay the yoke's centre-back seam (red) along a fold when you're cutting it out. Otherwise, add seam allowance and cut two half yokes out.
  5. Make the 'half sleeve' as follows: Copy to a new piece of paper some of the back half of the sleeve, including seam allowance: from the dressmaker curve (pale blue in the third picture), a few inches down the sleeve centre line (black), across to the outer seam an inch or two down from the armpit point, along the long sleeve seam, along the raglan curve (pink), and around the section of neckline (blue).
    • As mentioned in the standard suit instructions, the two pieces that join to make the shoulder of the sleeve should be evenly bisected (that is, the yellow line to the right of the blue line in the picture to the side). That's important here.
  6. Make sure to mark notches at the sleeve dart point on both the sleeve and the half sleeve.
  7. Modify the body piece and half sleeve as follows: As in the diagram, lay the body piece out, particularly its back neckline area. Lay the half sleeve atop it, so the neckline curve (blue) of the body continues into the neckline curve of the half-sleeve, and the neckline end of raglan curves (pink) of the body and half-sleeve are adjacent.
    • The lower end of the half sleeve will overlap the body piece where the raglan curve bends.
    • When you align the raglan curves, be sure to align the curves themselves, not just the seam allowance. The seam allowances should overlap more than just the other part's seam allowance.
  8. Draw a perpendicular (green) across both pieces, from the back's centre back line (red) to the point of the dart on the half sleeve. Cut along this line on both pieces and add seam allowance.
  9. Re-notch the dart point on the half sleeve (big black arrow).

For the 'full/partial inner' style suits


In the diagram to the side, the blue and white line down the middle splits the two shoulder pieces apart.

  1. Prepare as for the standard suit, but leave twice as much length for the raglan curve construction stage, because there will be two front and two back raglan curve body pieces.
  2. Follow those standard suit instructions until the sleeve stage where you cut along the base (red diagonals) to separate the body from the shoulder parts. Do not cut yet.
  3. Where you've drawn quarter-circles for the neckline on the centre front and centre back lines, complete these to semicircles (green).
  4. Plot the centre front and centre back lines (red) right through the circle to the other side, to complete the shoulder circumference measurement.
  5. Extend the side-line (blue and white) up from the underarm line by the length of the shoulder circumference, and mark that distance on both sides of the line. This will be the underarm corner you'll need to pay attention to when you sew the suit later - I'll call it 'noteworthy'. Continue the line a few inches beyond that.
  6. Mark a 'short seam' - one inch past the circle along the centre front/back lines (yellow).
  7. For the outer back panel of the suit, draw a curve (blue) from one inch (yellow) past the circle on the centre front line, to two inches (twice the width of your elastic) past the shoulder circumference mark on the side-line (blue and white). It should be horizontal by the neck, and about 45 degrees at the side-line. This is called 'the elastic curve'.
  8. For the inner front panel of the 'full inner' suit: Draw a curve (blue) from one inch past the circle (yellow) on the centre back line to one inch (the width of your elastic) past the shoulder circumference mark on the side-line (blue and white). It should be horizontal by the neck, and about 30 degrees at the side-line.
  9. For the inner front panel of the 'partial inner' suit: Draw a tangent (orange) to the centre-back's neck circle (green) that extends to one inch (the width of your elastic) past the shoulder circumference mark on the side-line (blue and white).
  10. Now resume the standard instructions for making the pattern - adding the shoulder dart etc, and add seam allowance where necessary - but be aware that you have two sleeves to draft: the one associated with the back of the suit only needs a short sleeve perhaps half the length of your upper arm; the one associated with the front of the suit should be a full sleeve, complete with glove if you want one.
  11. Notice how in the diagram above, the orange line of the 'partial inner' style's sleeve cuts off a chunk of the inner sleeve of the 'full inner' style: this is the elastic curve that will run from your armpits and around the back of your neck.

Sewing

For the 'rear inner' style suit
  1. The following instructions all operate with right sides together.
  2. Sew the full sleeve shoulder darts up.
  3. Sew the body's centre back (and front) seam(s) up.
  4. Sew the full sleeves to the yoke's raglan curves, and to the front body's raglan curves.
  5. Add a 1" casing along the lower curve of the yoke, from armpit to armpit.
    • A casing is a long thin rectangle, folded wrong sides together along its long midline with its long edges sewn, to form a tube with a seam. This is very much like the collar on the zipped suit. For a 1" wide finished casing, you need a rectangle 2" wide plus seam allowance.
    • You can put elastic in the casing if you choose; if you do, consider sewing a broad zig-zag along the length of the casing - once the suit's sewn - to prevent the elastic from twisting inside.
  6. Align the full sleeve seams and the ends of the yoke casing. Sew the end of the yoke casing and the short edge to the underarm slash, then continue all the way along the full sleeve to its wrist. If you chose to elasticate the yoke casing, be sure to catch the ends of its elastic into this seam.
  7. Sew the remains of the raglan curves of each half sleeve to what's left of the raglan curve on the body's upper back, being careful to get right sides together.
  8. Add a casing to the half-sleeve/upper-back/half-sleeve edge formed (starting at the half-sleeve's shoulder dart notch (big black arrow) across to the same on the other half sleeve).
    • I don't recommend you elasticate this casing unless your fabric is very heavy/floppy.
  9. With the right side of the half sleeve facing the wrong side of the full sleeve, align the half sleeves shoulder dart notches with the full sleeves' shoulder dart notches, and sew each half sleeve into its corresponding dart seam, catching the end of the half sleeve casing and some of the half-sleeve's centre line into the dressmaker curves. (You will probably need to trim the casing to match the shoulder dart.)
  10. Align the half sleeves' lower edge with the full sleeves' long seam, and sew the side-slash closed, continuing around the armpit to catch all the half sleeve's edge into the full sleeve's long seam.
  11. Install a casing or a hood into the circular neckline formed by the full sleeves, the front panel, and the yoke.
For the 'full/partial inner' style suits
  1. With right sides together...
  2. Sew the shoulder darts up.
  3. Sew the centre back (and front) seam(s) up.
  4. Sew the front and back raglan curves to the bodysuit.
  5. Sew the short seam (yellow) of the front sleeves.
  6. For the 'full inner' suit:
    1. Sew the short seam (yellow) of the back sleeves.
    2. Cut a rectangle two inches wide and as long as the neck circumference, and sew the short ends of this neck circumference rectangle.
    3. Now check you can get your head through it, and then treat it just like one of the elastic curves in the next steps except that it doesn't need elastic.
      • If you can't get your head through.. uh, then your catsuit may be too tight. See how small a loop you can get your head through, and stretch the neckline while you're pinning it evenly round.
  7. Cut rectangles of fabric twice as wide as your elastic and as long as each 'elastic curve', remembering to add seam allowance to all edges.
  8. Fold each rectangle in half, and sew its long ends together, wrong sides together, and then pin the seam along along the corresponding curves, right sides together, and sew. (Sew the back sleeve's neckline if you have one.)
  9. Thread elastic through the casing running along each 'elastic curve'; the elastic should be one inch shorter than the casing. (You may not need to elasticate the curve that will end up on the inside of the suit.)
  10. Fold the front (long) sleeve in half, right sides together, and pin along its edge, around the corner at the underarm and along the short slash down the side line (blue and white).
  11. Sew along the long sleeve and around the corner to catch its casing and elastic in the seam.
  12. Fold the back (short) sleeve in half around the long sleeve, right sides together (right sides of the short sleeve facing the wrong sides of the long sleeve), with the noteworthy underarm corners aligned, and pin along its edge, catching the long sleeve's seam at the same time, and around the corner at the underarm and along the short slash down the side line (blue and white).
  13. Sew along the short sleeve and around the corner to catch its casing and elastic, and that of the long sleeve, in the seam.
  14. Sew the neckline of the hood to the front (long) sleeve's neckline, right sides together.

How to wear

Donning the 'rear inner' suits

  1. Pull the suit mostly on, up to your armpits.
  2. Slide your arms inside the suit and pull the neckline over your head, then slide your hands against the front of the suit until you find the sleeves.
  3. Alternatively, slide your hands against the front of the suit until your find the sleeves, then pull the neckline over your head.

Donning the 'full/partial inner' suits

  1. Pull the suit mostly on, pull the back over your shoulders (and head if it has an internal neckline) and fit your arms into the short internal sleeves.
  2. Put your arm vertically up to find the start of the outer sleeve, draw it open with your other hand, and pull the front's elastic curve out of the way so you can slide your arm into the sleeve.
  3. Put your other arm up and repeat for that side.
  4. Pull the front's elastic curve over your head and carefully slide your head into the hood.

Doffing

  1. If you have a hood, grasp the hood's chin and duck your head so your chin slides into the hood's neck.
  2. Grasp the front's elastic curve (behind your neck) and carefully draw the hood off, alternately pulling the hood up at the back of your head, the top of your head, your ears, and your forehead.
  3. Holding the front's elastic curve near your shoulder, slide your arm from the long sleeve. It's usually easiest to let the sleeve turn inside-out. Repeat for the other arm.
  4. Pull the back's elastic curve over your head (if it has an internal neckline), and then over your two shoulders one after the other, easing the suit's underarms out of your own underarms as you do so.
  5. Allowing the short sleeves to turn inside-out if it's easier, wriggle the suit downwards. You may be able to reach up behind yourself and gently draw on the elastic curve, alternating one side with the other.
  6. Once you have one arm free, the rest is easy.

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