Pattern Puzzle: Fixing a cowl neckline

In the forum, we’ve been discussing how to correct the cowl neckline of a specific pattern to fit. Lisa said

The facing seemed too bulky to be sewn into the armscye. The pattern was made for knits and wovens, front cut on the bias. I used a synthetic knit I had lying around. I have to wear a shirt under it since it gaps too much in the front.

Here is a picture of the pattern piece below

And here’s pictures of Lisa wearing it. For modesty, she’s draped the fullest part of the cowl so you can’t see her cleavage because it’s pretty low.

So there you have it. Prescriptions please. Of course I’ve prepared what I think is the appropriate solution but am eagerly waiting to see yours.

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  1. ken simmons says:

    I get nervous on the quizzes but here goes:
    If the cowl depth is the fitting issue you are speaking of and you want to halt the exposure of bust cleavage, then I would do the following:
    fold neck facing down into it’s folded position, then fold the entire blouse front along it’s center front line, align this on a new sheet of folded paper with the folds on top of each other. Using the center front bottom corner as a pivot point, slide the original pattern away from and off of the fold of under paper. This to decrease the length of the top cowl edge. Blend etc.

    If the fitting issue is the bulk at armhole with facing included I would replace part of the facing with an even more supple fabric like georgette or chiffon in the same color .

  2. Anir says:

    I concur with ken simmons solution except that the CF decrease has to start above the bust point. Judging from the photograph the bust fits so decreasing the CF from the bottom hem would make the rest of the top too small. After you adjust the drape, then the CF line above the bust needs to be squared up again with the CF line below the bust. Probably the easiest way to do that is, fold the facing down, slash the CF facing to the bust and make a slash horizontal to or a little above the bust, then move the cowl down to the new position. Then tape in place and redraw the pattern

    As far as the facing I would not sew it into the armseye–even if the fabric were more supple as ken simmons suggests. To have it extend to the shoulder point would be enough. However i would keep the CF deeper.

    Personally i would drape the change rather than draft it. But to each their own.

  3. The facing doesn’t need to go to the armholes, but it looks like the garment might need a cowl stay. You can see the front of the shirt falling off her shoulders, so a lightweight stay in the shape of a tank top sewn into the shoulders and side seams would help the garment stay on straight.

  4. Beverly says:

    I’m more of a flat patternmaker than a draper but this is what I see: The shoulder width is too wide, the front armholes are too curved and the shoulder slope is too vertical. I’d correct this by straightening out the upper part of the armhole by bringing in the shoulder point about 2” or so (just a guestimate as I don’t have the actual pattern in front of me). I’d also increase the angle of the shoulder slope about ½” more toward the center front. This will reduce the excess amount of fabric drape. I would do a drawing but I don’t know how to attach it to this comment :-)

  5. Susan says:

    I believe the cowl should have an upward hump (from the shoulder to the center front). Currently it is straight from shoulder to shoulder. I would drape this adjustment in order to find the desired neck drape.
    I certainly wouldn’t have the facing in the armscye.
    I have this problem quite frequently as I am high busted. I have a lovely deep cowl neck with a built in dicky that i just absoultely love!

  6. anne says:

    Typically a cowl facing does not extend into the armhole but finishes the same wdth as the should.
    A cowl neckline is best draped; when I teach that in class students can really see the cocept of draping at it’s best.

  7. Lisa B. in Portland says:

    I really do look better in other photos and real life!

    If the facing were separate from the front, would that work better?

    Also the sides aren’t very shaped, which isn’t hard to fix.

  8. Anir says:

    The vintage fashion site shows drafts for two cowl necklines on this page
    –one is low, one is high–if you compare the two drafts you can see that the wider the shoulder points are spaced the deeper the cowl–that’s why ken simmons is correct in a general way about how to correct the pattern so the cowl does not fall so deep.

    To stay or not to stay–I have a cowl without a stay that I like just fine–it probably depends on the pattern and fabric and the effect the designer is looking for.

    To reduce bulk and maintain a nice drape, you should cut the facing at one with the fabric. Sewing a separate facing on a bias cut won’t be that fun–unless you had some reason like you were cutting the facing on the straight of grain. But then that would affect the drape and make it stiffer, less soft. So it’s all in what effect you want.

  9. colleen says:

    “The pattern was made for knits and wovens”?! That’s a problem; I think the pattern should be made for either knits or wovens.

    The knit was cut on a bias also strikes me as odd. Are you working against the inherent stretch of the synthetic knit by putting it into a cowl? I recollect a cowl pattern, made for wovens, that had tucks at the shoulder allowing the excess fabric to cowl at the front. Sorry, I can’t remember the facing.

    Yes, the across shoulder measurement appears too wide.

  10. Dana Cetz says:


    As always your tutorials make the most sense for me. Thanks for meking an easy way to understand how to make a gorgeous draped cowl neck.

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