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Create Defined Shoulders by Borrowing a Vintage Detail

It's easy to bring emphasis with a vintage-inspired detail
Threads Issue #211, Oct./Nov. 2020
Enhance a jacket’s shoulder line with a tapered, inset flange. Pattern: author’s design. Fabric: wool/ cashmere flannel, GorgeousFabrics.com.

The defined shoulder is having a moment. It doesn’t have to be broad or heavily padded, though. Incorporating a design detail that calls attention to a strong shoulder line will do the trick. I was inspired to replicate a flange detail from a vintage jacket. The jacket features an inserted band over the armhole at the shoulder. This shoulder can give an otherwise plain jacket a lift; it is reminiscent of suits from the 1940s, but it looks modern.

retro shoulder detail
A retro shoulder detail expands the possibilities of a basic jacket design.

The flange is tapered and spans the upper armhole, with its widest section at the top of the shoulder. It is inserted into an added seam in the jacket bodice rather than into the armscye seam. This position offers the illusion of a broader shoulder without creating “wings” that extend beyond the sleeve cap. The insertion seam is shaped with a square corner at the front and back, for extra interest.

I’ll show you how to revise a basic jacket pattern to include this detail. You’ll need a pattern with a set-in sleeve and a side panel rather than a side seam. This method has the advantage of not affecting the lining, facing, or sleeve patterns; the original pieces fit into the armhole as before. When choosing fabrics, look for those with some body, to support the flange and the entire shoulder area. If you are looking to add powerful new interest to a tried-and-true jacket pattern, consider this feature.

Alter the pattern

This detail is easily drafted onto a classic three-panel jacket with a set-in sleeve. Make all necessary fitting changes before drafting the flange. You’ll need the front and back patterns; the side panel isn’t changed. Remove the seam allowances and add them back…

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  1. heatherjqld | | #1

    What a wonderful article and I have this on my list to try when next choosing a jacket pattern. The detail in the PDF with how to do this is, as always from Mr. King, just exemplary. His skill and ability to convey couture techniques is much appreciated.

  2. User avater
    sunnylutz | | #2

    I follow how to alter the pattern but I'm not clear on how you put the garment back together. Do you first sew the flange to the bodice, then sew in the arm hole pieces? And then add then insert the sleeve? I suspect you just need to be careful about keeping the flange out of the way of the sleeve.

    1. User avater
      emkay96 | | #3

      If you read the original article in the Threads magazine or the attached PDF, you'll see the instructions on how everything goes together.

      1. User avater
        sunnylutz | | #4

        Thank you!

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