Let’s Talk About Fitting Some More

Do you like fitting?  Me, I can’t get enough of it!  So let’s talk about fitting some more.

Following completion of the Tuxedo Shirts, I have turned back to the task of fitting a dress shirt muslin to myself.  I really want a dress shirt block that I can use for projects to come.

In a way, it was good to take some time away from this fitting project, because I was able to revisit this muslin with fresh eyes. Also, I enlisted some help from Tammy at Sips N Sews as a reviewer and fitting consultant. With several decades of sewing experience, she has an uncanny eye for spotting fitting issues and offering suggestions for solving them, and I am grateful for her help.

A Sleeve for Muslin F

When we last left off with the shirt fitting, we were up to Muslin F.

I started with the muslin F body, then drew a new sleeve based upon the sleeve draft I learned in Paul Gallo’s class in January. Here’s some wonky cellphone selfies from this muslin:




Here’s some things I learned from this fitting:

The first draft of the sleeve is way too tight on me. Mobility is constrained if I reach forwards or back, and the sides of the shirt pull up if I raise my arms.

Tammy noticed that the armholes looked boxy to her – she expected to see some curve at the armscye seam, especially in front. Mine looked very straight up and down. Also, she noticed that the shoulder point at the armscye seam is too far out, and is likely causing some bunching up of fabric at the shoulder/arm area. I move the shoulder point inwards on previous muslins, but I guess I haven’t gone far enough.

In the class I took in January, Paul Gallo demonstrated draping on a person as well as a dress form. When draping on a person, he prepared a loose-fitting muslin for the client, then used a marker to dot in the armscye and neckline curves directly on the muslin. I asked Tammy to do the same for me.  (You can catch a glimpse of them in the back view above).

I used the new armscye and neckline curves for the next muslin. The entire armscye seam moves closer in on the body, so I transferred the fabric lost from the bodice onto the sleeve, and adjusted the sleeve to match.

I drew new armscye curves with pencil and paper and french curve ruler, then scanned them into the computer (I hope to visit this process in detail in a future article). I also raised the underarm point (where the sleeves and armscye meet at the armpit) by an inch.

Finally, I added a collar to the next muslin, to start dialing in the collar fit.

Muslin G

Muslin G is the last I made using actual muslin fabric.  I don’t have fitting photos for this muslin.

Relocating the armscye seams did help clear up the bunching at the armholes. The front of shirt looks really good.

The neckline established from the last muslin is a bit too tight. I can barely get the collar stand buttoned. I am fixing this by removing a small amount (around 1/8 inch) at the neckline, to increase the neckline circumference a small amount.

The sleeve is still too tight. I have the same mobililty issues reaching forwards, backwards and upwards.

As a quick way to see if enlarging the sleeve curves would help mobility, I restitched the sleeve with 3/8″ seam allowances rather than 5/8″.  This adds 1/2 inch ease at both front and back where the sleeve joins the armscye, and simulates what would happen if I widened the sleeve cap at those areas. This changed helped a great deal, so for the next muslin I added about 1/2 inch ease in front, and 5/8 inch ease in back to the sleeve curves.

Finally, the underarm point is now probably a bit too high. This was causing some bunching in the underarm area and may be contributing to issues when reaching upwards. I lowered this by about 1/2 inch for the next muslin (which is still 1/2 inch higher than in muslin F).

Muslin H

This muslin was executed in fashion fabric rather than muslin. I measured the neckline on muslin G and found that it had shrunk about 3/8 inch compared to the paper pattern. I am tired of muslin shrinkage wrecking measurements and fit.

With the muslin fabric that I have (a 25-yard bolt, alas) even a dry iron causes noticeable shrinkage. While ironing, I can literally see the muslin shrink on the ironing board. I tried pre-pressing the fabric before cutting the pattern pieces, but even that’s not enough to stop the fabric from shrinking by pressing during construction.

I used a cut of shirting fabric that now makes me wonder “What was I thinking?!” when I bought it. Looking at it now I don’t like the yellow/green plaid pattern very much, but it turned out to be excellent for judging grainlines during the fit evaluation.


The good news is that this muslin finally fixes the sleeve mobility issues I’ve been having since I first drafted the sleeve – yay! There is a small amount of tightness when I reach fully forward, but that’s perfectly acceptable to me. And it has been pointed out this is a dress shirt – I am not planning to play basketball wearing it.

But two problems remain. The first is there is a small amount of pudlding of fabric along the neckline in back, just below the collar. This is a frequent problem I have with ready-to-wear shirts.


I am solving this in the next pattern by taking 1/4 inch off the neckline on the yoke, tapering to the existing seam where the yoke meets the front piece. I also trued the collar and stand to match, since it makes them a smidge longer.

The second issue is that the box pleat is poofing out in back. Also, a strange drag line now runs diagonal from the box pleat, down to underarm point.  It’s not too noticeable in this photo, but believe me it was noticeable in real life.


This is where I noticed how helpful the plaid pattern is. Tammy and I noticed the back piece is drooping in the center, indicating it is not hanging correctly. You can see it in the photo above if you look at the dark green horizontal linke just below the yoke.

The solution is to hike up the back piece at the yoke seam by about 1/2 inch center back, tapering to nothing at the armscye. Here’s the correction pinned out in back:


And here’s the correction after I pulled and restitched the yoke seams for a temporary fix:


This is what the adjustment looks like on the pattern. In this screenshot of the back piece, the magenta arc is the new seam line, the black line just above it is the old one.


Finally, I had to correct the sleeve length. The alterations to the sleeve cap also raised the sleeve cap height, and made the overall sleeve about 3/4 inch longer. The excess length causes the sleeve to crumple and bunch along the forearm.

I fixed this for the next muslin by moving up the elbow inflection point on the sleeve, as well as shortening the sleeve at the cuff by about 3/4 of an inch.

Wearable Muslin A

I’m committing the next pattern to a wearable garment, and I’ve called it “Wearable A”. Besides the alterations to the yoke, neckline, and sleeve length, I’ve also drafted the other necessary pattern pieces, such as a front band. I’m also adding the seam allowances I would use for construction, rather than a standard 5/8 inch all around as I did for the muslins.

Here’s the work in progress. It’s being made with a blue gingham check shirting I found at JoAnn’s a few years ago.


Next Time

A look at Wearable Muslin A, being worn!

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Fitting Some More

  1. Mainelydad

    As always I admire your determination. You’re very lucky to have a fitting buddy. Doing it alone can be an exercise in frustration. I look forward to seeing where you end up. Onward ho!

  2. Anne Lyth

    Wow. You have some endurance with this shirt project. I have the same pulling problem in the back neck as you have on your green muslin, and it seems to me that the problem stems from my slightly forward tilted shoulders. This means that I usually need more fabric in the upper back portion of any fitted garments. It’s an easy adjustment. It might deal with both your problems in the back. Anyway, it’s just a suggestion. Good luck with the project. I very much enjoy to follow your progress.

    1. mportuesisf Post author


      Thanks for the suggestion. I’m hoping to see if the neck adjustment, in particular, helps out with a dip at center back. But I’m pretty sure the pattern could use more tweaking.

      Can you describe the adjustment you’re suggesting, or perhaps point me to a web page that shows it in detail? I’m having trouble visualizing it.

      1. Anne Lyth

        Sure I can give you some links to illustrate what I mean.
        I often go to the Thread Theory blog for solving fitting issues with mens clothes. If you look at the last fitting adjustment in this blog post you can see how this particular adjustment is done. https://threadtheoryblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/fairfield-sew-along-creating-a-custom-fit-2-of-2/
        Also I think that “Mainelydad” from “the Japanese Pattern Challenge” have much the same fitting problem accros the back as you do. (I see he commented on your post already)

        1. mportuesisf Post author

          Thanks – though the forward adjustment that does the slash/spread across the back is kind of the reverse of what I’ve just done!

          Waiting to see what the blue gingham shirt looks like, but this article is very useful. Thanks.

        2. SJ Kurtz

          Mainelydad has explained this beautifully. It does look like you are chasing that diagonal drag line up through the back of the armsceye. I can still see it, and it seems to start where your magenta seam line meets the old seam line.


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