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Solving upper back dilemas

SeoulSearch | Posted in Fitting on

Hello everyone:

Could you please give me some advice for fitting a broad back? I am making McCall’s 2094 view C–a short-sleeved button-down shirt with front and back darts. I am using Nancy Zieman’s Fitting Finesse strategies to make a fitting template from this pattern.

The model I’ve made fits fine if I don’t move forward–if I pull my arms to the front, the sleeves pull forward and are much too tight.

That part that confuses me is that the armhole seam is at the very near end of my shoulder so if I tried to make that part any wider, the armholes would hang off my shoulders. I’ve compared this model to my ready-to-wear shirts and found the back piece on mine is a bit wider than my ready-to-wear that fit… so I’m pretty sure it’s not the center back.

The armhole also has plenty of room so all I can assume is that there is something wrong with the sleeve. I’ve noticed that all the fullness is at the upper 2/3’s–there is no easing on the bottom portion. I like a smooth sleeve and think the upper part is actually too full. Would it be reasonable to take out some of the fullness at the top and add some easing to the bottom of the sleeve? What would be the best way to do this? Do you think this would solve my fitting dilema?

Can I also ask, why is it that you can take all the measurements… and yet the garment can still turn out so differently? I designed my adjustments to allow 5″ of ease across the bust (and that was after taking seam allowances into account) and cut the fabric to these measurements, but it wound up being much bigger. I’ll wind up taking it in at least an inch, maybe two. What did I do wrong that this happened? I know my measurements were accurate because a fellow sewer double-checked both the pattern and my body.

Thank you! I’m just learning about the tricks of fitting and am quite perplexed.

Thank you for your help.








  1. ElonaM | | #1

    It sounds as though you have a broad upper back, even though the shoulder seam appears to end at the right point.

    An important measurement to check is the width of your upper back--the distance between the creases in your skin where your arm joins your upper back (this is about where the notches usually are on the back armscye of the pattern). The pattern at this point should be 1 1/2" to 2" bigger than you are, so have your sewing buddy measure that distance on you.

    If you need to add width right there, the book "Fit For Real People" will show you how to do it, while keeping the shoulder seam the right length.

  2. Barbaran8 | | #2

    this is actually a problem commonly seen when horseback riders try to use a regular off-the-rack coat for a riding jacket... they reach their arms forward to give the horse his head over a jump, and riiiip! the problem in that case is that normal jackets are made with an armscye that goes too low. Riding jacket armscyes come right up into your armpit, and seem quite uncomfortable to someone used to ready-to-wear. However, that seemingly tight armscye allows you to move your arm independently of the body of the jacket, where a deeper armscye pulls across the back because it is not sufficiently separated from the body of the garment.

    Reach your arms forward and feel how your garment pulls across your back from the bottom of the armscye to feel what I mean.


    1. ElonaM | | #3

      Good point. Most folks don't know that a high-cut armhole or crotch gives a lot more freedom of motion than a low-cut one. That might be a factor to consider with the design of this blouse.

      As for the sleeve fullness, it should indeed be concentrated on the top. The reason to have it is the roundness of the top of the shoulder. There ain't no roundness lower down, and putting the ease on the lower part of the sleeve cap will make it look puffy and weird there. You can check to see if there's too much fullness, though. Sandra Betzina says the cap should only be 3/4" to 1 1/2" bigger than the armhole (though I've read some disagreement about this). If it's larger, you can try pleating out the extra.

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