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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  1. Beverly says:

    I guess I don’t work with shirts enough, but I don’t see a separate stand here. Am I missing something? Or is it part of an all-in-one collar and stand?

    By the way, I am loving these posts. I enjoy seeing how garments go together the “best” way for simplified production.

    40 years ago, we had only the “Bishop Method to Clothing Construction” as our construction “bible” in university. I’ve learned more tips, tricks and techniques, here than I’ve learned from anyone else, including Edna Bishop.

    Thank you Kathleen and friends…..

  2. 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.

    Can you explain this terminology? I’m pretty sure I understand “roll” (the collar folds back on itself softly), but I always thought “breaking” was pretty much the same as “rolling.” What am I missing? and echoing Beverly’s question–what does “stand” mean if it’s not a separate pice–does it just mean the portion of the collar that stands up rather than laying parallel to the body (regardless of whether that portion is cut separately)?

  3. Jean says:

    Timely discussion.
    I am about to adapt a safari jacket pattern to be used as a dance costume. Normally, I raise the armscye an inch and add a corresponding inch height to the sleeve seam to give movement ease.
    This works but it is not always comfortable to wear such a high armhole.
    I like the idea of incorporating a bias gusset as it would be softer on the body.

  4. Miss Twiss says:

    Of course it is on the bias, no matter how it is cut. Could the pattern piece be placed differently on this comfortable shirt? Is the grain from corner to corner or from edge to edge?

  5. karen v. says:

    Is there a particular reason why a back facing is used? I don’t see them too much on blouses these days.
    Thanks, Kathleen for another informative post.

  6. Roman says:

    A shirt on the hanger.

    A poem by Bhuwan Thapaliya

    O’ how fragile and how weak
    is the shirt that hangs on the hanger
    dropped to the toe of a rack,
    without a face, nor any grace.

    O’ how hopeless looks the necktie
    around the collar of the woolen skeleton
    – concentric rings of a painful death.

    O’ a shirt on the hanger,
    what a naked romance it unfolds!

  7. Babette says:

    I’m glad this came up in archives as I’m about to do some more work on shirts. I’m interested in the gusset idea and how you can get a nice sleeve with ease of movement. I hate a cap sleeve for the same reason. I also like a slender long sleeve and I’m trying to find the ideal compromise between ease and closeness.
    What I don’t quite understand is what you mean when you say “the sleeve extends flush with the shoulder line”. How is this different from any other shirt?

  8. martin says:

    I believe the collar became ‘straight’ in a production environment, particularly in
    the 80s as automation in the factories became more prevalent. It ‘cheapened’ the
    collar I feel, but as a patternmaker I had to reshape collars to accommodate the
    equipment. That may be the reason for the method of teaching.

    Martin Taylor

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  10. Christine says:

    Love this tutorial on a convertible collar. If you ever decide to make a commercial pattern, count me in as interested in purchasing one. I’m going to make the time to read your other tutorials. Glad I found you!

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