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Fitting Shoulders

Fundamentals of Fit #1

By Linda Lee
Shoulder Fitting is Critical!
Shoulder seams on a garment
should fit the width and slope of
your shoulders. The fit of the
shoulder seams influences the fit of
an entire garment, improves the
overall drape, and many times
solves other fitting problems.

Measure your high bust and full

bust. Compare the two

If your full bust is at least 2 more

than your high bust measurement,
use the high bust measurement as The basic concept of fitting is to start at the top.
Make all lengthen and shorten alterations first,
your starting pattern size and alter then make the adjustments at the shoulders
other areas from there. before altering other areas such as the bust.
Know Your
Helpful Rulers Notions

Gather various shapes of

fashion and drafting
rulers. These aids help to HIP CURVE

draw smooth lines. It is

almost impossible to
hand draw the correct
shapes and lines without VARIFORM CURVE
the proper equipment.


with GRID

Measure Your Shoulders
Start by determining the correct
length of your shoulder and adjust
the pattern, making it narrower or
wider, if necessary.

Measure the shoulder length from

neck base to shoulder joint.

Find the neck base by wearing a

simple chain necklace or bending
your neck toward the shoulder to
locate the crease.

To locate the shoulder joint, raise

the arm and feel the indentation at
the socket.
Measure Your Pattern
Using an indicator such as a
red dot, mark the ends of the
actual stitching line on the
shoulder seam of your size.

Measure the width of the

shoulder seam on the pattern
between the stitching lines (the
finished length).

This shoulder measures 5 1/2

finished for a size small.

Use a good quality tape measure

that does not stretch and has clean
and finished ends for accuracy.
Compare the Measurements
Compare your shoulder
length with the pattern
measurement to determine
how much to adjust the

For example:
Your shoulder length = 5
Pattern width = 5 1/2

Adjustment - reduce the

shoulder seam length 1/2
If the pattern has a wide neck
opening and you dont know
exactly where the shoulder
seam ends at the neck, pin-fit
rather than measure to
determine the shoulder seam

Other pattern alterations are

best determined by pin-fitting
the pattern or making a mock-
up (muslin) of the garment.

You may need to combine two

or more shoulder adjustments
Pin-fitting any pattern can tell you a lot about how the
in one pattern. total garment will fit - not just the shoulder seams.
Never cut out a pattern until you know that the pattern
is at least large enough.
Dont choose a size based on what you normally wear in
ready-to-wear - patterns are sized differently.
Tracing the Armscye
We will refer to this technique
more than once in this
tutorial. Heres how to do it.

Use pattern tracing paper or

vellum to trace and record
the original armscye shape
of both the front and back.

Linda likes using the

Primacolor Col-Erase 20045
Carmine Red pencil with an
eraser to draw lines on
pattern paper.

The word armscye is an historical fashion

term describing the armhole opening in an
item of apparel. Alternative spellings are
armseye or arms eye.
Using the Tracing
Mark the new end point for
the shoulder width.

Lay the tracing under the

pattern matching the top of
the traced armscye with the
new shoulder point.

Pivot the paper until the

bottom armscye point is in
line with the side seam.

Tape the tracing in place and

trace the original armscye
shape to the pattern.
Using the same armscye contour does not
Repeat for the back piece. require drafting skills or the need to change
the sleeve cap shape or length. The original
sleeve pattern will fit.
Narrow Shoulders
At the end of the shoulder
seam, mark the new shoulder
width (both front and back).

Trace the original armscye, and

place it under the pattern piece.

Position the top of the traced

armscye at the new shoulder
mark. Pivot the tracing until the
bottom of the traced armscye is
aligned with the side seam.

Redraw the armscye of the

front and back to the original
shape. Use the reverse technique to adjust for
BROAD SHOULDERS. The new shoulder
width will be wider than the original
pattern and the side seam slightly lower.
Sloping Shoulders

You can detect a sloping

shoulder problem by
looking at what happens
under the arm. A
Watch how this changes!

A. Natural shoulders
B. With shoulder pad
C. Natural shoulders
pinned to show the
amount of slope to
adjust on the pattern
Sloping Shoulders
Trace the original armscye Both the front and back seams are
of the front and back sloped the same degree and amount.
pattern pieces.

Measure down from the

end of the shoulder seam
to mark the amount the
seam needs to be lowered.

Lower the side seam at the

underarm the same

Redraw the original

Use the reverse technique to adjust for SQUARE
SHOULDERS. The shoulder seams are raised instead
of lowered. The side seams will also be raised.
Forward Thrust Shoulders
As we age and work at our
desks, sewing machines,
cutting tables and kitchen
counters, our shoulders begin
to roll forward and we become
more stooped.

The starting point of this seam

at the neck point is fine, but the
angle of the seam needs to
move forward at the shoulder/
sleeve point.
Forward Thrust Shoulders
Measure down from the DOWN

shoulder line along the armscye

of the front pattern piece.
Measure up from the shoulder
line (the same distance as the
front was reduced) on the back
pattern piece. Add pattern

Draw new shoulder lines

starting at the original neck
point to the new ending points.

Move the dot on the top of the

sleeve forward the same
amount the seam was lowered.
Balancing the Shoulders
When a garment continues
to fall back and you keep
tugging at it to bring it
forward, the shoulders need
to be balanced, giving the
back of the garment more
fabric at the shoulders and
less fabric at the front.

This problem tends to occur

when the garment is over-
sized and has rectangular-
shaped pieces.

The entire shoulder seam

needs to be moved forward.

Plaza Jacket
Tip - Remove the strip of pattern
How to Balance the Shoulders tissue from the front shoulder line
and re-tape to the back shoulder.

Remove 1/2 from the REMOVE

front shoulder seam.

Add 1/2 to the back
shoulder seam.

On the sleeve, move

the top dot forward
towards the front 1/2.

If there is a stand or MOVE TO FRONT

collar piece, move the
shoulder dot forward
towards the front 1/2.

1/2 is about the most that can be removed and

added successfully without other issues occurring.
Adjustment for Extended Shoulder Lines
The Trio Top is a sleeveless
garment but the shoulder
seam extends beyond the
normal shoulder ending. If
you have narrow shoulders
or wear a small size, this
may be too wide.

This adjustment is also

used when the sleeves are
cut onto the bodice of a

Trio Top
Adjustment for Extended Shoulder Lines (Narrow)
Draw a horizontal line
extending from just below
the arm opening to a vertical
line extending to the
shoulder seam (back and ADJUSTMENT

Mark the amount of shoulder

adjustment to be made.
Cut along the new lines and
lap the pattern to the new
adjustment point.

Blend the the cutting lines of

the shoulder and side Use the reverse
technique to adjust for
Adjustment for Two-Piece Raglan Sleeve
The Trio T-shirt is designed
with a raglan sleeve cut
into two pieces. Because
the shoulder seam extends
along from the neck base
to the wrist, you can shape
the seam to fit the contour
of your shoulder and arm.

Reduce the amount Change the placement

of shoulder curve of the shoulder curve

Trio T-shirt
Rounded Back Adjustment

Adjusting your pattern for a

rounded back has the
added benefit of fitting a
sloping shoulder better.
The two fitting issues tend
to go hand-in-hand.

Telltale wrinkles
How to Adjust for a Rounded Back
Halfway down the armscye on
the seamline, draw a horizontal
line perpendicular to the center

Draw a vertical line, perpendicular

to the first line, to the shoulder

Cut along both lines to remove

the wedge. Place paper under the
pattern. Slide the cut section
straight up the amount needed.

Restore the shoulder seam by

drawing a straight line between Spread
the original shoulder and neck
The average amount of spread is from 1/2 to 1.
Fitting Shoulders
Fundamentals of Fit #1

By Linda Lee

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