Monday, February 27, 2012

Fitting sleeves - it starts with an armhole

Would you agree that fitting takes the most time when working with a new style or pattern? Fit is one of the most important factors for the success of a couture garment, next to the design, fabric, construction and engineering. And for me, it is the most challenging step in the entire process of making a couture garment.

So, now I am working on the fit of V8646, the dress Susan Khalje chose for her online couture class. Fitting the bodice requires number of fitting steps, and the sequence is the key. I usually check the fit from the top to the bottom.  In the following fitting sequence I wanted to share some tips on armhole depth since I wanted to focus on sleeve fitting, and the correct armhole shape and size is very important.

1. Shoulder and Neckline - correct fit at the shoulders and the neckline is the foundation for the alignment of the dress. Start checking the neckline and proceed to the shoulder slope.

Establish the shoulder point. To find the shoulder point lift your arm at right angle to the side of your body and look for a dent where the arm and the shoulder comes together. This is quite location placement of the shoulder point.

2. Back width and armhole - Armholes are often cut too low in commercial patterns, so this is a very frequent alteration that should be done after the shoulder and neckline adjustment. After finding the shoulder point and correcting the shoulder length, start re-drawing the armhole line. (you will very likely need someone to help you with that. I do often end up doing it on my own - takes longer, but possible)

Armhole line should start vertically from the end of the shoulder seam on both, the front and the back. Continue drawing making a curve towards the side seam. The armhole should be as small as possible, but should not hamper your arm movement.

So, how low should the armhole be? High-cut armhole is more comfortable, because, by following the shape of the body, it allows wider range of movements.

The height of the armhole is determined with the help of the ruler. I read about it in a fitting book by Jan Minott (out of print unfortunately, but you can find affordable old copies on Amazon and elsewehre). Raise your arm at the right angle to your body and hold a ruler under your armpit. The lowest point of the armhole in a sleeveless garment should be just below the point where the ruler touches the flesh, or where the imaginary sideseam starts to curve under the arm.

In a garment with sleeves, drop the armhole depth some 1/2" (1cm to 1,5) lower. One of the factors you want to consider when determining the depth of the armhole is fabric characteristics: thickness, flexibility, etc... 

3. Darts - proceed checking the bust darts, waist darts, etc.

4. Bodice length - this is the last step in fitting the bodice.

I realize that there are maybe some deviations, but this rough sequence, recommended by many fit experts works for me. I hope it helps you too! By the way, a moulage - tightly fitted custom sloper - is an immense help, but making a moulage requires a lot of experience and help.

Finally, check this excellent article by Sarah Veblen: "To Get the Right Armhole, Fit the Bodice" on

What about you, readers? Do you follow any particular fitting sequence? Share tips and links!


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