Pop Quiz: Fitting the common T-shirt pt.2

eric_back_right vs leftFirst I appreciate your effort and time, we got some great responses to yesterday’s entry. Here’s the cut to the chase answers with discussion and analysis to follow.

Primary defect: the armhole of the shirt was too high.
Correction: Lower the armhole.
Secondary defect: Shoulder slope.

If the primary defect was due to the tee shoulder being too high, then the left shoulder would have been better than the right side because the left shoulder of a right handed person is higher than the right. Meaning, the left shoulder was higher so it would have fulled out the too-straight shoulder slope of the tee. However, since the tee fit tighter on the left side of the body, we can know that shoulder slope of the shirt is not the primary problem. Now, the reason why the problem is worse on the left side is because that side is slightly longer because the body is listing or leaning over to favor the right. One side (right) compacts and the other expands. That my right handed model’s left back is ever so slightly larger than his right is more obvious from the back.

eric_front_right vs leftIn the photo above right, you can see that the left shoulder is higher and with worse constriction. The red lines represent perfectly squared lines. In the photo at right -in which slope and handedness is less obvious- you can still tell owing to neck angle and orientation. Actually, you can tell if someone is right or left handed by looking at their feet. Not always, but nearly so. A person who was born left handed but forced to learn to write with their right hand will still have a left handed body. [Call me crazy, I amuse myself by gauging perfect strangers, calling it before I’ve seen them use their hands. Now even Mr. Fashion-Incubator can do it. A clear pattern forms after awhile. My favorite finds are lefties who’d been forced to become righties. I always have to mention that I can tell and they’re suitably impressed.]

Primary vs secondary defects:
There are several ways to define the difference, the easiest is a matter of comfort vs cosmetic. A primary defect requires correction because it is critically related to comfort. A secondary is mostly cosmetic.

Another way to define primary vs secondary is a matter of triage. If you could only repair one, correcting the primary defect would result in the greatest benefit.

A third difference between primary and secondary is determined by elimination and may not be strictly comfort related. A defect can be said to be to secondary if correcting it will move the problem somewhere else, creating a “new” problem. A secondary defect repair does not solve the root issue.

By the way, nobody taught me any of this. I didn’t read it in a book or anything like that. It came from 30 years of analytical fitting experience so if you see this elsewhere (presumably without attribution), it probably came from here.

Returning to our example, lowering the armhole would solve the primary problem of a tight underarm. The folds are formed from scye to neck-shoulder point because that span is too short and looking for the closest opening -namely a cut edge to spread. The best way to correct it is to increase the length between the two points -resulting in a lower armhole.

One would or could then correct the secondary defect of shoulder slope for the sake of appearance. We know it is secondary because cutting fabric from the shoulder line would have made the constriction worse because whatever extra length that was in the shoulder line (that didn’t need to be there) couldn’t be borrowed by the underarm for movement. There are plenty of square shoulder garments (kimonos etc) that do not tightly constrict the armpit so we know that shoulder line does not govern armpit discomfort.

Summary: Correcting a primary defect will reduce discomfort. Correcting a secondary defect improves the look of it but doesn’t impact wear-ability and may move the problem elsewhere requiring yet another iteration. Secondary defects get the most attention (often on public sewing forums) because they are usually the most obvious.

Again, thanks to everyone, quite a few deserved gold stars. Karen asks that some terminology be defined but I’m not sure which terms she was referring to so I (or you) can elaborate as needed in comments.

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  1. Seth M-G says:

    I assume that a too-high armhole is a patterning issue, but I don’t understand how a patternmaker could fail to have a mirrored shoulder slope. In regards to the secondary defect, was this a problem with cutting, was the t-shirt serged incorrectly on one side (say, correct at the neck, and then cutting off too much towards the arm; although if it was, the sleeve shouldn’t have fit in…), or is the jersey skewing as it is washed?

  2. Claire M says:

    Bit confused about how to spot ‘handedness’. In the post ‘Pop Quiz: Fix this dress pt.2 (22.07.10)’ you say,
    “This is true of all humans. That the right shoulder is higher means the child is right handed or she may be standing with her weight on her left foot. It is still pulling on the right shoulder, just not as dramatically as on the left.”
    This seems different to above where …”the left shoulder of a right handed person is higher than the right”.

    I think this post has the correct description? Sorry if I have missed something silly!

  3. Kathleen says:

    Seth: Both defects are repaired with pattern corrections.

    The issue isn’t that there was a failure to successfully mirror the two sides of the tee (through cutting or seaming) but that the hemispheric attributes of the figure vary.

    I neglected to mention in this post that I felt some comments to the first entry strayed from the focus of this site in that suggested corrections amounted to custom fitting this (or any particular) figure. I’m not suggesting this is bad, only inppropriate given the site’s purpose. And not that our visitors are the only ones to do this; in fitting prototypes on a fit model, observers commonly suggest one shoulder be modified at the expense of the other resulting in non-mirrored sides.

    RE: skewing of the fabric etc. The fabric was a very nice quality -which made the dichotomy of poor pattern vs nice fabric more striking. My comment is a bit OT (I had thought to include this in my post but didn’t) but I wonder if indirectly a tee like this leads to fit entropy. Ex: the pattern is very boxy, a near if not perfect rectangle which results in lower costs all around (reduced cutting, minimal waste etc). Meaning, a commodity with value pricing that appealed to producers of give-aways (this tee advertised an industrial product, one my husband likes very much so he asked I blank it out). With its costs so low and selling so well based on its value proposition, it could be likely this shirt would be copied by entrants to the market based on its success rather than its less obvious fit attributes. Before you know it, with copiers copying other copiers, it becomes the prevailing fit paradigm. I think that’s how we ended up with mono-butt jeans.

    Claire: I don’t know what to do about that entry, it was a selective word edit (moving from a negative to a positive) that didn’t save properly. In my edit window it shows the corrected version so I thought it had been fixed long ago but the display out here hasn’t updated (thanks for letting me know). I’ll take another stab at it today.

    I’ve created this illustration which you can print out as a reference. Red lines indicate typical balance of the figure when asked to stand normally or comfortably (feet about 6″ apart) with weight evenly distributed on each foot. Foot position can be challenging because it is subtle. The red lines at foot position don’t indicate weight placement but positioning. The foot of the dominant side is usually a scant 1/8″ or 1/4″ in front of the other.

    Caveats (of course) are: shoulder and hip height can be affected by injury or surgery. Also, it is not unusual for women who carry children a lot to deviate from the pattern. You sometimes have to read whole body balance to know. Lefties forced to become righties show left sided dominance.

  4. kay says:

    The big tell for handedness, imo, in that picture of the back is the development of the shoulder muscle mass — look around the shoulder blades and just above, deltoids and trapezius. That’s harder to pick up in a suit, but pretty easy in a tee.

  5. Clara says:

    I’m right-handed, but my left is stronger. I first found this out at my wedding, when the right shook as it held the bouquet, but the left could hold it fine. I’m guessing it is because the left holds things while the right does the more delicate tasks.

    Now, as a baby carrying Mom, I hold the baby on the left to leave the right free. I seem to lead with the left foot. Makes me wonder what foot I lead with before having kids.

  6. Andrea says:

    People are asymmetrical — however in most this is not readily visible. In my experience uneven shoulders can be a result of scoliosis, a shorter leg, a hip, knee or foot injury — or just the genetic lottery (I have observed two sisters and a mother from behind as they stood for a long time at an event — they all had identical crooked shoulders and identical posture). Muscular development certainly plays a part in this two — whether that is a result of sports, repetitious daily work motions, or load bearing tasks like carrying children or a heavy book bag. I am not convinced about the handedness being the major or sole culprit. Do you have any links for studies that substantiate this ?

  7. dosfashionistas says:

    Kathleen, I am going to have to disagree with you on this one. When I look at the lines on the back that radiate up from the waist, it seems to me that the entire back need to be longer, not just the armhole. That would, of course, lengthen the back armhole and not the front so not sure where I am going with that. I would have to see exactly what turning the back loose did to the front.

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