I've often mentioned being narrow in the shoulders and upper chest, and some commenters have asked me to elaborate on my method for altering for this issue.
Big disclaimer: what I am describing today are some strategies I have tried and what seems to be working for me now. Like many of the sewing bloggers I follow and learn from, I don't have any particular training in pattern drafting. I only have the standard-issue level of interest/obsession, plus some insights gained over the course of my sewing career, which included a very helpful stint working in a fabric store.
Please let me know if you have a different method or a critique of mine!
So. I am pretty short at 5'2", and I seem to be fairly evenly proportioned top to bottom. I don't have an especially short or long waist, or short or long legs. The length of my arms is in proportion to my height. But where I deviate is in the shoulders and upper chest. Though I have a fairly full bust (though modest in comparison to what it was in younger days, thank goodness), my upper chest is unusually narrow.
For years I tried to correct for this problem using the advice given for "Narrow Shoulders," which basically boils down to removing width at the edge of the armhole, from midway up the armscye through the shoulder.
|Singer Sewing Library The Perfect Fit|
|Palmer & Pletsch Fit for Real People|
The owner of the fabric store where I worked, Lucille, finally made me see the light. One of the first measurements Lucille takes on a new client is the width of the chest above the bust, from armpit to armpit.
|This is very difficult to photograph! But the upshot is, my armpit to armpit measurement is 11 1/2".|
Now we compare my measurement to the pattern. This is a Butterick size 8, which I know from experience is too wide for me, even though pattern's circumference measurement corresponds to my high bust measurement. From the seamline (marked with red dots) to the center front fold is 6 1/2", or a total width of 13 inches. Since I am only 11 1/2", the pattern is a whopping 1 1/2" too wide for me from armpit to armpit. Thus, I need to remove 3/4" per side.
|Unaltered pattern is 13" wide from seamline to seamline at the armpit. I need to remove 3/4" per side.|
|I draw a line from the middle of the neckline to a seam that is not the armhole and is not the center front fold. The shorter line you see here didn't actually help this alteration on the front, but it did on the back.|
|Cut from the neckline to the very edge of the garment on the long line, and then (unnecessarily in this case) from the first cut line to the very edge of the neckline, leaving a tiny hinge at both seamlines.|
|Overlap front cut edge toward the center until I have the armpit-to-armpit width I need, which in this case is 5 3/4" (half the finished width of 11 1/2").|
|Move small triangular portion to give the smoothest neck curve. In this case the change to the neckline is too great for the triangular piece to be able to compensate for it entirely. Tape all pieces into place.|
|Using a french curve (or drawing freehand), reshape neckline. Trim pattern.|
|Cut and overlap. In this case I am simply eyeballing the amount, knowing that I need a similar amount of reduction in the back as in the front.|
|Slash from the cut line to the edge of the neckline. Angle the resulting triangular piece up until the neckline curve smooths out. Tape in place.|
Do you see how this alteration lets me remove the width I need at the center of the chest while retaining all of the coverage at the shoulder? The length of the shoulder seam did not change. The width of the body below the chest did not change. Only the width of the chest and the width of the neckline changed. Obviously any facings, plackets or bindings that involve the neckline will also need to be altered accordingly.
I chose this pattern to demonstrate this alteration for two reasons: first, I wanted to make it anyway! and second, I thought it would be easier to demonstrate on a very simple garment. I have used this method on more complicated shapes, including wrap styles and gathered styles. The principles are the same: draw a line from the neckline through a garment edge which is neither an armhole or a fold. Slash and overlap until the width of the chest corresponds to your armpit-to-armpit measurement, plus seam allowances. Tape in place. Reshape neckline. Finished.
Over the course of the last few years I have learned that I can use a size 6 or size 8 bodice pattern without requiring any length adjustment. Perhaps if there is a smidgen of extra length, it gets taken up by my bust. Generally I taper outward one or more sizes from the bottom of the armhole through the waist, and I don't require any additional FBA. Sometimes I do need to shorten at the center back, though, depending on the style.
I really lucked out on the striped sleeves and cowl! I wanted something other than the dot fabric to tone down the 101 Dalmations vibe, and I thought my only option was a solid black. When putting away some laundry, I saw a little Ann Taylor waterfall cardigan my mom had bought me last year. Though I liked the stripes and the fabric, somehow the cardigan just wasn't me and I had rarely worn it. The sleeves were cut from either cardigan front, which were already pieced in this chevron.
The cowl is made from the entire back piece of the cardigan. A cowl takes a surprising amount of fabric.
A very quick tunic, and I think it's so cute! I did shorten the length 1", and otherwise used the size 8 throughout. This is so voluminous there was no need to size up through the waist and hips. Wouldn't you agree that the bodice would be much too sloppy if it were 1 1/2" wider from armpit to armpit?!