< email > home > catsuits > options > surplice


A surplice neckline means you don't need a zip in your catsuit. It changes the mock polo-neck (turtle-neck) into a special sort of V-neck as shown in the image to the side.

The only downsides are the seam across the chest and having to learn to get into it.

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 the surplice front panel piece, and cutting two of them, then sewing both to the body and one to each sleeve.


Plot your measurements

  1. Plot as for the standard suit, until the stage where you cut along the base (red) to separate the body from the shoulder parts. Do not cut yet.
  2. Find a spare rectangle of tissue paper, half as wide as the overall pattern by a few inches longer than half the over-shoulder length. (Purple-shaded area above.)
  3. Tape this rectangle to the centre front line (red) so it reaches from the centre of the circle to a few inches lower than the underarm line.
  4. Plot a new line, which I'm calling the 'dropped parallel' (black), one inch (or at least the width of your elastic) lower than the underarm line (black and white) and parallel to it, onto the new piece of paper. It should be as long as the distance between the side line (blue and white) and the centre front line (red).
  5. Mark the chest half width (blue) and the flat half width (green) on it, from the centre front line (red).
  6. Draw a line (blue diagonal) running through the dropped parallel at the chest half width mark (blue) and just touching the edge of the neckline circle.
  7. Draw a perpendicular (green) from the end of the half flat width mark (also green).
  8. Where this perpendicular meets the (blue) diagonal line you just drew from the neckline circle, draw out (yellow) to the end of the dropped parallel line (black).
  9. Draw a perpendicular (orange) down at either end of the piece (at the side line (blue and white) and the dropped parallel (black)). Join the ends of those perpendulars with a line (orange and white) parallel to the dropped parallel line and an inch below it.
  10. The piece you've plotted - shaded orange - is called the surplice (front) panel. (If you want a double surplice, do the same for the back).
  11. Now continue with the plotting section for the standard suit instructions, cutting the shoulder and body parts apart, but notice that the underarm slash you mark will only extend a little further than the orange perpendiculars you've just made. Come back here when you've done that.
  12. Cut along the long orange and white parallel to separate the surplice piece from the chest, and add seam allowance anywhere you haven't added it already.


  1. Cut the surplice front panel from folded fabric, so you end up with two mirror-image pieces. (As shown in the figure at the top right of the page.)
  2. Sew along the whole back seam. (If you didn't remove the centre front seam, sew the centre front seam up too.)
  3. Sew the sleeves to the body's back raglan seams.
  4. Sew the sleeves to the surplice front panels.
  5. Measure a rectangle as long as the neckline (underarm, across and around the neck, to underarm), and twice the width of your elastic. Add seam allowance (5mm) to all edges, and cut out. Sew the long edges together, wrong sides together to form the neckline casing.
  6. Sew the neckline casing along the neckline by its seam, right sides together.
  7. Thread your elastic through the neckline casing. The elastic should be an inch shorter than the casing.
  8. Align the surplice front panels' bottom edges (orange and white) and sew along that edge to keep them together, right side to wrong side as shown in the figure in the top right.
  9. Sew the front panels' bottom edges to the corresponding edge of the body, right sides together (so the seam ends up inside the suit).
  10. Lay the suit out flat, and see how the neckline casing pokes past or through the slits along the side line (blue and white). Pin the casing and trim it (and the elastic in it) to align with the side line.
  11. Pin and sew the casing to one layer of the side/sleeve and sew, being careful to trap the end of the elastic into the seam.
  12. Now pin all along the side line and the sleeve's underarm and sew.

Note: If you want to make a double surplice (as shown in the diagram at the top right), you should make the front and back dropped parallels different heights - at least the width of your elastic - so you're not trying to wedge eight layers of cloth and two bits of elastic through the serger at the same time: that's not pretty.

This page is designed to work with level 2 Cascading Style Sheets (CSS2). If you can see this text, you may wish to upgrade your browser.