If you want to make the shoulder seam on a garment narrower or wider, so that it actually sits on the end of your shoulder, these instructions will help you adjust the pattern pieces. These instructions are suitable for garments with a basic style of bodice – darted or undarted, single piece bodices, rather than garments with panels or princess seams, for example.
Diagnosing the fit issue
- Garment shoulder seams extending beyond the end of your shoulder (assuming the garment isn’t designed to have dropped shoulders!).
- Garment feels loose in the across-front area and may have vertical wrinkles here.
Garment shoulders are too wide for your shoulders. Pinch out the excess width from the mid shoulder of the garment, to determine how much of an adjustment you need to make.
Make the shoulders smaller/narrower on the garment using the method set out below.
- Garment shoulder seams do not reach the end of your shoulder.
- Garment feels tight in the across-front area and may have horizontal drag lines here.
Garment shoulders are not wide enough for your shoulders. Measure the distance between where the garment’s sleeve seam sits on your shoulder, and the actual end point of your shoulder.
Make the shoulders wider on the garment using the method set out below.
Shoulder width adjustment method
This is a fairly simple adjustment which works especially well if your required width adjustment is up to 3/4″ / 2cm. The illustrations show the method for narrowing the garment shoulder, but as described below, the only difference when widening a garment shoulder is the direction in which you move the pattern pieces.
- Draw an L-shaped line that crosses the shoulder seam roughly at its mid-point and the armscye somewhere above the lower third of the armscye. Do this on the front and back bodice pieces.
- Cut along the L-shaped line, leaving spare paper on the open sides of the ‘L’ shape.
- To make the shoulders narrower on the garment, move the cut portion horizontally only, inwards towards the centre front/centre back of the bodice by the required amount (e.g. 1cm to narrow the shoulders by 1cm). The cut portion should overlap the rest of the pattern piece and you can tape or glue it down.
- To make the shoulders wider on the garment, move the cut portion horizontally only, away from centre front/centre back, and towards the side edge of the garment. Tape it down in place over some spare paper (which will be needed to fill in the gap between the portions).
- Draw new shoulder seam and armscye seam lines which smoothen out the jagged edges between the pieces.
- Place the front and back bodice pieces together at the shoulder seam and check that the shoulder seam join looks nice and smooth. Redraw seam lines if necessary to smooth out any minor discrepancies.
- Depending on the size of your adjustment, you may need to add a little length to your sleeve cap to fit a narrowed garment shoulder, or reduce the length of your sleeve cap to fit a widened garment shoulder. You can draw a new, longer, sleeve cap as shown or use the slash-and-overlap method to reduce the sleeve cap length.