Gussets and collars

Speaking of product reviews (yesterday’s Ungaro) I also wanted to show you this shirt. It has a couple of interesting features you may want to experiment with yourselves, specifically an atypical collar and a sleeve gusset. Below is your basic camp shirt with a convertible collar, cap sleeves, front and back yokes and minimal vertical darting for shaping.

It looks pretty flat on the hanger and those yokes actually have a bust dart pivoted into that seam so here’s the view on me below. I realize it looks like one side is longer than the other at the hem but that’s because I pressed it skewed.


So far, it looks quite ordinary, no? I like simple and basic on the outside but there’s some unusual features in this pattern. First let’s look at the collar. Make a mental comparison to this collar and the usual convertible collar. You’ll note this collar is not breaking (and shapes even better on the body). It rolls smoothly around the neckline -yet it has a stand.

The reason it lies like this is because this isn’t your typical convertible collar; it’s actually drafted like the collar on a suit -the way they’re drafted in industry as opposed to pattern books. Below are two sketches. View “A” shows how pattern books tell you these collars should look. View “B” represents the patterns you’ll find in good suit plants.

Each of these collars has the same depth of stand; it’s the depth of the back neck that’s different as well as a gradual slope downward which fits neatly into a front neckline. If you think about it, it only stands to reason it’d be this way because your front neckline is lower down than your back neckline. Considering human anatomy, I really don’t know why they tell you to draft these kinds of collars otherwise. Below is a photo of this collar (top collar) laid flat. You can readily discern the outside curved line of that collar; it isn’t straight.

Below is a photo of the undercollar laid flat. The undercollar is cut on the bias and there’s a seam at CB.

The second interesting thing about this shirt is that there’s a gusset in the underarm/sleeve seam (below).

The reason I stuck the gusset in there is because I like the look of cap sleeves but I don’t like how they can limit your range of motion. Typically they bind and contrict your movements. I don’t know that it’s readily apparent in these photos but in the first one, the sleeve extends flush with the shoulder line; this means your underarm has sufficient manuvering room to permit it. Normally, if your sleeve extends straight with the shoulder line, you’ve got a big sleeve with wads of fabric in the underarm and it just looks shapeless, like a tee shirt. This one looks like a set in sleeve but the range of motion is greater.

Now, there is some extra fabric in the underarm but this is concealed on the body; it in the armpit. If you move the sleeve hem upward, straightening the underarm, you’d see that the sleeve actually extends beyond the shoulder line, giving one plenty of room for movement. This is a very comfortable shirt.

If you want to play with adding a gusset yourself, you’ll first have to make sure you’re starting from a good pattern; one you’ve made or have tested extensively because the armhole shape has to be right. You can’t correct poor armhole shape with a gusset (see pg 168 of my book). It should have a well defined set in sleeve that is again, well made. If the front and back of the sleeve look almost the same, it won’t work. It should look more like the sketches in this post. For the gusset itself, I’d stay away from those diamond shaped things they always have you draft, no hard shaped edges. The sides of my gussets curve, bowing outwards. They look more like this:

I’ve played a lot with gussets and as far as the functional ones are concerned (omitting such as done by Vionnet), I can’t find a practical justification as to why those sides have to be straight lines. And they’re so hard to sew too. Bowing the lines out actually expand the range and function of your gussets.

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