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How to change neckline width

cycler1729 | Posted in Fitting on

When I’ve sewn tank-type dresses the straps always slide off my shoulders and even if I shorten them it still happens so I was thinking that the neck opening is too big and I think that I need to decrease how much I cut out the opening on the fold but how do I do it and not increase the width of the straps or shoulders?



  1. Cathie | | #1

    This always happens to me, and we have come up with a couple of solutions. You could slant your pattern on center fold (cheat a little), and take out a small wedge of fabric at upper neck. You can move the straps closer to center back (and check the strap length). Also, you can cross the straps, in center back, the 2 ends here closer together. You can use ribbon straps, or something else. I am trying out bra type straps, for a very billowy rayon flared sundress. They are black elastic, with the velvet underside. Helps them stay in place, I hope. I have very sloping shoulders, so the strap thing is always an issue. Even moving them a little closer, in front, could help. I have some French pattern and sewing books, and they recommend a slight curve to the staps (as in a curve in from the front sewing on point, towards neck, and then back out to back sewing on point. Hope I am I clear here?). I usually experiment with the finished garment, using strips of twill tape, etc., first pinning. I never sew the straps on as they suggest, in the garment sewing, but add later, often hand sewing carefully. I have noticed some RTW has a tiny "dart"/tuck, at center front necklive, even thru the facing/binding (creates more of a "V"). I am trying this now, on a T with the similar too wide neckline. Also, maybe some darting/tucking out, on paper pattern, in upper chest (versions of narrow chest alteration). Am going to try latter too. Hope this helps!!!!!


  2. starzoe | | #2

    This is a problem I have as well. Just now I have found one good solution: take little darts in the front neckline, one on each side. Direct the darts to the bust point if they are 5" or so long.I have in the past taken a dart in the centre front. I didn't find that it was a solution for me. You may need some taken in on the back neckline; do it on the centre back seam if there is one, otherwise take two tinies. Play around to find out where the best positions are. It will vary with the pattern style and your personal shape.

    1. cycler1729 | | #3

      Darts seems like the best idea and I'd never've thought of that because my "straps" aren't really straps - they're the extension of the tank-style dress.

      What about for a leotard top in a stretchy material?  I'd love to be able to correct it in (or before) the cutting and not add anything to the smooth line. 

  3. User avater
    Becky-book | | #4

    Assuming you are NOT changing an existing garment but fixing at the pattern stage...

    You could place the pattern off the edge of the fold of cloth, thus decreasing the amount of cloth between the shoulders. Then add that amount to the sides to keep the finished width the same. Not sure if this will end up giving you other issues to fix? How does the back fit?


    1. starzoe | | #5

      There are any number of ways to solve this large neckline problem, the most reliable are adjustments to the paper pattern. All of these involve splicing the paper pattern to achieve a narrower shoulder but retaining the bust size and the width of the shoulders.I haven't noticed in all the information on this site that the most reliable way to alter paper patterns is to copy the original WITHOUT the seam allowances. This procedure makes the alterations so much easier and cleaner. Later, after the changes, the seam allowances are added. This is one of the first things we were taught when learning pattern design.

      Edited 8/12/2007 9:57 pm ET by starzoe

    2. cycler1729 | | #6

      Right - I want to change the pattern before cutting.  The back fits perfectly but it's not cut as low. 

      What you said about placing the pattern off the edge of the fold of cloth is what I thought, too, but I wasn't sure then if I'd need to adjust the back at the shoulders. 

      And there's no way to do a muslin because this is 4-way stretch fabriic!


      1. User avater
        Becky-book | | #7

        A trial garment should be made in similar fabric to the desired end result (not always 'muslin') if you can get some cheap stretch cloth that approximates what you want the end result to be, you can save yourself a costly mistake.

        In a woven you would need to change front and back but maybe not in a stretch?  I haven't worked much with 4-way stretch. You may need to change the angle of the shoulder seam a little.


  4. SewNancy | | #8

    I think that you need to cut a smaller size in the shoulders. It sounds like you are narrow there. If that is not enough, you can do a narrow shoulder adjustment and to keep the width of the strap the same, add it back to the neck edge and blend into the neck line. This has to be done on the pattern, before, not after cutting. Are you choosing your pattern by your upper bust measurement? This is usually fits the upper body better.

  5. Fruzzle | | #9

    I just did this on a tank top by pivoting the shoulders in from the underarm point.Here's how I did it:
    1. Trace the pattern (without seam allowances).
    2. Trace *just* the shoulder & armscye portion of the pattern, from about an inch below where the underarm point is, all the way along to the shoulder seam.
    3. Lay piece 2 on top of piece one, lining them up at the underarm point. Pivot piece 2 inward until the shoulder seam is the desired distance from the CF. Redraw the armscye & shoulder seam.
    4. Fix the neckline to line up with the new shoulder seam.This worked well on a simple round necked tank. You might have to futz with it if you have a more elaborate neckline.

    1. cat42 | | #10

      I'm reviewing all the suggestions here. I think the best method to narrow the front at the shoulder is the last one (creating pattern #2 of just the armhole and pivoting it inward).Also good is taking small darts at the neckline, but this may create an undesirable look. You can, however, take tiny 'darts; out of the pattern instead, but make sure they are tiny--less than 1/4 inch in total width at neck. If more than that, you will need to adjust the area below the bust.Laying the center front slightly off the fold at the neckline may work, but if the neckline is low, it may make it too narrow at the shoulders. This method essentially adds one upside down dart at center front (legs under throat, point above bust). Since darts get deeper as the legs lengthen, you may only take in 1/8 inch at a low necline, but if you extend imaginary dart legs upward toward the throat, it may come to 1/2 inch or more at a jewel neckline, which is too much.Another very important thing to check is sloping shoulders. If your shoulders slope, or if they are forward you will need to adjust the shoulder seamline as well, as this problem can cause slipping at the shoulders.

  6. tmorris1 | | #11

    Cycler;I have very narrow shoulders, and have encountered this problem before. My solution was to just move the straps further towards the neckline than the pattern suggests. If your pattern already fits well, then there is no need to fuss with it so much. Have you considered crossing the straps at the back, or trying a more racerback style?? Theses will both help with holding your straps in place as well. If you are making tanks to wear under other clothing, you could consider putting the old fashioned bra strap clips in your shoulder seams as well to keep the straps from slipping.Hope this helps. T.

  7. DONNAKAYE | | #12

    This is my fitting nemesis in commercial patterns.  I have to make the exact same alteration on virtually every commercial pattern I use.  Attached is a diagram.  Hope this helps.  It really is as simple as that!  The front is simply too wide.  Matter of fact, whenever I cut a commercial pattern, I plan to make this alteration, as they're all too wide across the front.  I usually lay the tissue pattern on me at center front to side seam and check out where the neckline/shoulder line fall, then subtract the desired amount from CF.  If I need the width at the bustline, waistline and/or hipline, I simply add the difference back in at the side seam.  Good luck!

    1. cycler1729 | | #13

      Thanks for all of the responses!

      I was looking through some old Threads yesterday and there was another article on creating your own dress form and there was one about how to create a pattern from existing clothes that fit and I thought hmmm - what if I create a "reverse pattern form" taking a mold of my neck and shoulders and one of something that fits the way that I want and then marking exactly where I want everything to be and then lay that out on any pattern that I use - it's a little complicated but even lower cut dresses where there are sleeves still come off my shoulders!

      1. DONNAKAYE | | #14

        What an awesome idea!  I had never thought of that before.  Think I'll try likewise and will let you know my outcome.  Getting ready to make a garment from a commercial pattern (dress and jacket) and will give it a whirl....

      2. DONNAKAYE | | #15

        An interesting note:  After reading your prior post, I remembered that I have a George shirt (in three different colors, my neighbor's hand-me-downs -- she always gives me some really cool clothes that I just love), you know, the Wal-Mart brand, and they all fall back off my shoulders.  That's the first time in recent memory that I've had this problem with a RTW garment....d.

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