Forward Shoulder Epiphany

Well, the more I learn, the less I know. I started fitting my chest because I thought that was the only real issue I had. Once I made a larger front, to adjust for my larger bust I started having other fitting issues. The neckline was gapey so I pinched it out. The back was too wide so I took it in. The armholes and sleeve heads were…a mess!

My shirtwaist taught me some things about my shoulders and more specifically about my shoulder joint. I thought my only problem is that my shoulders are a lot narrower than Gertie’s but then my sleeves were pulling and I couldn’t tell where they thought they were going.

In wearing my shirtwaist, I see how it still pulls funny. I still don’t know what’s going on in the back. The collar rides up my neck and I feel like I should be pulling it down in the back. I feel like I should be pulling down my yellow jacket, too. Technically, the length is fine but it rides up.

I was trying to figure out what was up with the back of my neck and my shoulders.(How do I alter for a short back of the neck- anyone?) At least I know what’s up with my shoulders. This forward shoulder alteration might help other places. I’m going to try it out and see what I learn.

Here’s a blog post full of helpful links you should read if you think you have forward shoulders.

What did you start fitting? Was it hips, arms, back? What was your light bulb moment for one of your most recent alteration discoveries?

27 thoughts on “Forward Shoulder Epiphany

  1. sweary sewer says:

    it’s really common to have forward shoulders nowadays, b/c most of us are desk monkeys with poor posture.

    i know i have slightly forward shoulders b/c my weightlifting coach always yells at me to pull my shoulders back when i am squatting. i try to counter it w/ certain stretched my osteopath/sports therapist gives me and ones i learnt from yoga.

    quick tip if you want to remind yourself to correct it courtesy of my coach: stick your boobs out! this pulls your shoulders back properly. 🙂

    • Leila says:

      I have pretty decent posture normally but I’m kinda guessing my large boobs are what have given me forward shoulders…tho you can’t really tell cos I have more square shoulders- or so I think. thanks for the tip! I’ll do some more stretching. it never hurts.

      • Leila says:

        I’m gonna try to fix a jacket I made last winter. See if there’s enough seam allowance to do a small forward shoulder. Cos I love the jacket!

  2. Betsy says:

    Sorry in advance for the long winded message.

    In my experience the main problems in making clothes at home, on real people, is that we don’t start big enough. We then have not enough ease to begin with, and things get too tight as we fiddle. Robbing Peter to pay Paul and we say.

    There has to be enough ease ALL AROUND in a muslin before you start to micro manage it with subtle fitting issues.

    It’s like fixing a problem in a golf swing. Check your basics –the proper way a swing SHOULD work before you start tearing it apart and changing lots of little things that have a ripple effect. Simplify.

    Clothes should drop from the top of the shoulders/back of the nape and the body (all the tubes)should be able to rotate inside. Tops that are huge under the arm are not slimming, but things that bind even the littlest bit, ANYWHERE on the shoulders, arms and chest are unflattering. Let alone in the fanny. The idea is for most clothes to slightly move over you. Undergarments and thin slippery lining can help with this a lot.

    So I’d say, make absolutely sure you are not just cutting a bit small–and it is a tiny bit of ease we are talking about here.

    Please don’t understand me and think I’m saying that these subtle things don’t matter and shouldn’t be worked on. if you have a serious issue with a sloping shoulder or a forward shoulder then try lots of solutions. But if you always think of going back to the MOST basic alterations, sometimes they are enough.
    For instance:

    1. Use a bigger pattern to begin with.
    2. Check how the pattern drops from the shoulders. Plumb and straight….so you do need to check your shoulder line. But remember that most people have normal tops of the arms that need full range of motion movement. Don’t shortchange the arm caps. Tight upper arms look bad and are uncomfortable.

    After that alter that the biggest/easiest things first. If you think of the body like a tube shape, that is the diameter measurements. Side seams, center seams( canting something slightly in to make a neck tighter. Underarm seams–not touching sleeve insertion points.
    Raising/lowering, or eliminating side and waist darts for shirring instead. Work downward, be able to turn inside the waist a tad.
    3. Sometimes using a different sized pattern front or back and adjusting neck/back neck can work.
    Think big blocks.
    Even form fitting things need full range of motion. Move in it, if it pulls, check both where it pulls and across from it.

    • Leila says:

      Betsy, you’re so right about needing more ease. I have been known to over fit my garments though more recently I’ve been adding more ease instead of always taking away. It’s a bit of a difference and a welcome one, indeed. Thank you for detailing all of these steps. Thank you!

  3. Andrea says:

    Yes, coming to terms with our various body parts is an epiphany! Once I took a good look at my shoulder line and started doing a forward shoulder alteration (easy peasy, btw), tops fit so much better. I laughed when I read what sweary wrote about sticking the chest out – my mother was forever telling me that when I was young!

    • Leila says:

      Thanks for saying it’s easy. Anything new is a little scary for me. But if I can have clothes that fit just a little better then yay!

  4. michelle jadaa says:

    Reminds me i want to take some photos of myself ,front back and side to really take a look at my fit and also i need to pad out my small dressform to my measurements.Back to basics really.We tend to fit as we have always done and of course age can change us .Thanks for the prompt:)

    • Leila says:

      That’s such a great idea. I made a duct tape dress form 2 years ago. That showed me that my right shoulder was a little lower than my left- on account of being right handed. I wonder what it would tell me these days. I agree age will affect everything.

  5. CGCouture says:

    I think I have this problem too, but everything I’ve tried to do to fix it just makes it worse, so yes, the more I think I know, the less successful I think I am. It’s like every FBA that makes it so that it’s too wide across the armholes, so I have to scoop them WAY out, and then the sleeve doesn’t fit, etc. etc. Fit is like a never ending battle. Fingers crossed that this little battle goes in your favor. 🙂

  6. Ruth says:

    I have the very narrow shoulder thing too. And if your shoulders are narrow, they are axiomatically more sloped. I have got much braver about taking 4.5 cm off each shoulder and that adjustment has dealt with the sloping shoulder issue too. But I still have a foward shoulder to adjust for. And forward shoulder when unadjusted makes it LOOK like you need a full bust adjustment. BUT if you do the foward shoulder adjustment FIRST, it lifts the fullness in the front of the bodice into the right place, and can magically remove the need for the FBA, or at least reduce it. So, as the experts on fit state: fit the shoulders first. Everything starts from there. [I know a lot of bloggers say to choose by upper bust/chest measurement and do FBA, but if you have really small shoulders, that advice just doesn’t cut it.]

    • Leila says:

      Such good advice! I have read in Sandra Betzina’s book Fast Fit that you should start fitting from the top to the bottom…and I figured it didn’t apply to me. Ha! Silly Leila. But what you’re saying about going off the high bust alone..yeah, that just won’t cut it. I’m so excited to try starting with the forward shoulder alteration before even doing an FBA. Can’t wait to see what I learn.

  7. Brooke says:

    It is tricky not to get into an over-fitting causality loop! I find I have to stop myself sometimes and walk away from a project for a while. I don’t tend to do the same when fitting other people though – probably because I can’t feel how it feels and am better at stepping back and using my eyes.

    The biggest sewing epiphany I ever had was learning about making mockups in college. Suddenly, everything could look like the picture I was copying! I love drawing on mockups! If you ever come down to the Dallas area, I’ll show you how I draw all over a muslin. =)

  8. Nicola says:

    I have to do a narrow shoulder adjustment, forward head and shoulder, then FBA and more often than not move the darts up. In that order, it usually reduces the amount of FBA and dart movement. Still playing around with sleeve caps.. I made myself a list so I didn’t have to start all over again with each pattern.

      • Nicola says:

        Basically it means your upper back is longer (high round back alteration) and there is too much length in the front chest. I have to admit I generally don’t choose things with high necklines at the back but you slash and spread from the side/then true. For me I shorten the front at the shoulder (as per forward shoulder)/lengthen by the same amount at the back shoulder, drop the back neck curve a little and make a small tuck in the neckline. Then I do the narrow shoulder adjustment followed by an FBA. I suppose it’s a quick and dirty fix for the forward head and shoulder. I used Fit for Real People.

      • Nicola says:

        The forward shoulder and narrow shoulder adjustment will shorten the armscye which means for that the bust fullness in the pattern comes closer to mine.

      • Nicola says:

        Sorry for the delay we have been away on holiday. I trace the armscye on a scrap piece of paper after the forward shoulder/head adjustment, cut it out along the outside edge, then do the narrow shoulder adjustment. Pin on the traced piece, hinge from the underarm to new shoulder width and redraw the shoulder down to the armscye and the armscye itself. It will be a much steeper angle but I find that my shoulders slope at a sharper rate than on a standard pattern. You might have to add a bit of fit insurance the first time but a little trial and error should get the fit right for you. Doing it this way means you keep the shorter length armscye. You could shave some off the neck side to make the slope less sharp, you might not need the neckline tuck then… Hope this makes sense!

      • cheryl says:

        I found that with my forward shoulder, i added a bit more to the neck edge of the shoulder to cover a bit more shoulder. Then I cut about one half inch deeper in the back neck. With a forward shoulder adjustment, the same amount is removed from the front shoulder neckline – so, i am missing how this would affect the armscye. Older patterns have smaller armscye’s which i confirmed when i recently compared a 50’s dress pattern to a recent vogue pattern. i believe today’s patterns are drafted purposely with larger armscyes. I tend to automatically add to bottom of the armscye on bodice patterns. its easy to adjust if i add too much.

      • Leila says:

        I’ve been adding to the front and back pieces at the underarm now, too. Makes for such a bette fit. I’ve also started pinching out an inch of the sleeve head and curving the front and back of the head to take away the excess. I did it on one patterm and I’m just copying the curve until I can remember how I did it. Haha

  9. Holly says:

    I have a large bust that i also have to adjust for and I was finding I was getting the same problem in that the sleeves pulled funny and I had a limited range of motion to move my arms. I thought it was the shoulders being too low and kept taking them up which helped a bit but didn’t fix the problem. I knew the garment was not too tight because looser fits were doing this to me as well and then I figured out that the cause was that the armholes were too big and low for my arms causing it to pull funny becuase while i have a large bust i do not have huge arms or shoulders that need large holes to fit through 🙂 I was so happy when I figured this out. It might not be your problem but its worth a shot to try raising the armsyce and making the sleeve openings smaller.

    • Leila says:

      Actually, it is something I need to do, too! I raised the armscye to something…now I can’t remember and it came out with way more ease of movement.

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