1970s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

The Conundrum

July 21, 2012

Help! I need thoughts other than my own! This pattern has proved to be one of the more challenging that I have sewn in awhile. Although in all fairness part of it might have been user error. The cutting on one layer so the bands were backwards, my fault. Bust darts being completely wrong, pattern fail! The drunk monkeys from this post: http://wesewretro.com/2012/07/advance-5971-pattern-woes-edition/ escaped into this one!

So after this and many other adventures I got it this far:

almost ready to wear

Looks pretty good  from where it started but

Maximum movement

This is as far as I can lift my arm and bend to pick something up. So…

I have learned that butterick patterns run small so all the seam allowances are out as far as they will go.  I would really like to keep the sleeves if it is possible.

Would adding an under arm gusset work? Any other ideas for relieving tightness in the sleeve and through the shoulders? Or would loosening the sleeves help with the back tightness?

I have sadly learned my lesson and all valuable dress fabrics will be made up in muslin before I cut into them. Thanks for the help in advance.

  1. a gusset might help, but this has more to do with the armhole being cut too low, a higher armhole will give a better range of movement.

    That, and you also have to realize that some clothes aren’t meant to do strenuous work in, including lifting one’s arms, without serious movement through the body as well. Knitwear has ruined our perception of how clothes work.

  2. I’m not a professional seamstress, but I think trying a gusset is worth the effort, since you can always take it out easily if you just baste it in first and then try it on. Here’s how I would do it. With your fabric scraps cut an elongated triangle (you will need to measure carefully here because you don’t want the gusset to be too long or too wide). Then, on one side, open up your sleeve seam under the arm to the same length as your triangle. Hand baste it in. Try it on. Contemplate the new range of movement vs. any negative effects it might have on the bodice fit. If it works, sew it in. If you don’t like it, you can just take it out and stitch your seam back up the way it was.
    There are so many “how-to” gusset tutorials on the web, but a quick search yielded this one: http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/fcs2/fcs2807/fcs2807.pdf
    And a more complicated two-piece gusset here:

    Good luck!

  3. It’s really hard to tell from your pictures but generally the feeling of being ‘straightjacketed’ – tightness in the back, and poor arm movement is caused by one of two problems – either (most commonly) there is not enough room in the bicep – you should be able to “pinch an inch” – that’s 2 full inches of wearable ease – through the upper arm. The second cause is the arm socket {s too low – causing it to drag – the arm hole should follow the arm as closely as possible to allow your arm to pivot – generally if this is the problem when you lift your arms, your dress comes with you!

    Personally I would sew a new set of sleeves with a generous full bicep alteration. Failing that, I would wear it sleeveless. There is nothing worse than being pinned in by your clothes.

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