Pop Quiz: Fitting the common T-shirt

eric_fit_shirt_front_smIf I had a “favorite” fitting defect, it would be this one. Favorite because it is so easy to diagnose and fix. It is more common in wovens than tee shirts which is why this example stands out. There’s also a larger version of the photo at right if you need it.

Your task is:

  1. Identify the primary defect
  2. Identify its cause
  3. Explain the best way to correct the pattern to eliminate the defect.

In the event anyone goes off on rabbit trails -unwarranted in my opinion, this is a straightforward proposition not a trick question- it should be obvious from the photo that my model is right handed. The only hint I will give you is that the defect is worse on the left side.

Consider carefully because this fitting problem is often misdiagnosed according to the primary defect’s secondary effect. Ask yourself why handedness would matter in diagnosing the defect. For what it’s worth, even the solution for the most common misdiagnosis (the secondary effect) often corrects the problem but knowing the root cause is better for those cases in which it will not. Extra credit to anyone who can explain how to prove the difference between a primary and a secondary defect.

I’ve provided two photos of the back for your convenience. The first is smaller (32 kb, only one half) and the second is full size (172 kb) if your bandwidth isn’t limited. Okay, have at it and good luck!

Get New Posts by Email


  1. I would say that the primary defect is the shoulder slope is to straight which is causing the folds in the fabric, the right handed side is more square than the left which is why there are less folds. The correction would be to redraft with more slope in the shoulder.

  2. Anne says:

    The shoulder seam is not straight. This results in the armhole curve being out of alignment. Hence, the puckering.

  3. bhagvati says:

    My Guess is that the primary defect is that the knit is cut off grain. This is causing the the shirt to twist and move up into the armholes. It could also be, that the arm hole is cut too high. If it is the grain, then that is easily remedied, just cut it on grain. If it is the latter then the armholes need to be cut a bit lower and that smooth out the creases.

    i hope it is ok that I put in two guesses.


  4. dosfashionistas says:

    The back is too short. The pattern for the back should be split across the shoulder blade section and allowed to drop, thus allowing the back neck to come up and the front neck to drop forward. This should eliminate the diagonal pull in the front and back shoulder both. Just as an estimate, it looks like the back needs about another inch. If not, reslope the shoulders (secondary problem, resulting from the first problem). No?

    OK, I’ll bite. How can you tell the man is right-handed?

  5. Elizabeth Kloian says:

    The back of the shirt is too narrow between the armscye lines, and the back scye depth needs to be deeper?

    If these changes make the “I look like my shoulder slope is wrong” lines go away, that makes it the primary problem, which could be tested by trying to change the shoulder slope and finding that the stress lines re-occur meaning that the shoulder slope was not the primary problem but a symptom. ??? Extra extra points for run-on sentences?

  6. Jennifer says:

    Armholes not scooped enough and shoulders too high (need to be lowered)? Also looks like front and back patterns are the same.

    I think I kind of know what to do but finding it difficult to explain in words…

  7. Linda Slater says:

    I LOVE the pop quizes!! As an rank amatuer I privately try and solve the puzzles, but learn so much by the generous sharing that others offer, and by Kathleen’ solutions. THANKYOU everyone !

  8. Ok, here I go without reading previous propositions.
    I would say that something is wrong with the armhole, drafted too high I suppose
    Result is unsightly diagonal wrinkles from neckline to underarm.
    Solution lower the front harmhole and make it more curvy to accomadate for the protruding shoulder.
    That’s my first attempt et solving fitting issue. Sorry if I am silly.

  9. Sarah says:

    I’m with Linda. Love the pop quizzes but do ’em privately too. However, taking a deep breath and …. First thoughts on seeing it was that the front shoulder slope is the wrong shape. I would say it’s too flat.

  10. Marie-Christine says:

    Shoulders too square – take out a wedge from the shoulder seam, say 1/2″ at the arm side to zero at the neck. That’s the primary cause, the vertical wrinkles which make the shirt look too wide on top will disappear. mmm. Secondary means it’ll spontaneously disappear when you fix the real problem??
    Actually I’d narrow his shoulders a bit too, but that’s less striking.

  11. Donna Wentt says:

    Let’s see…I think that 1/2″ ease needs to be added at center between the shoulder and the neckline, tapering to nothing on chest. Neckline on left side needs to be dropped, it looks higher on left side. Sleeve cap would then need to be adjusted also. OR, just add one inch seam allowance to shirt under the arm on right side, like a gusset. Re-cut pattern using right side as guide.

  12. Barb Taylorr says:

    It does look like the shouders are too sloped, but I believe that is because the shoulders are too wide. I determined this by looking at where the seam was in relation to the body. I’d try bringing the shoulders in. When you re-set the sleeve to fit the correct shoulder point it should look worlds better.

  13. Elaine says:

    I was wondering if the primary defect is that the back neck edge is not scooped enough… If that is the case, after re-drafting the neck, the back would need to be lengthened. The slope of the shoulders seems to be incorrect as well, but if the neck was changed, that shouldn’t be such a problem. But, if re-drafting the neck, then adding a wedge to the back shoulder seam (on the neck end) would also be a good thing for this particular model. I also think the back width is too wide, and hangs between the shoulders, although the width of the front seems to be reasonably flat.

    Most T-Shirts are “one size fits all” so I bet this one would fit someone!

  14. Lesley says:

    I’m with Alison – I think if you were to lay this flat, it would be a very boxy T shape, with little slope to the shoulder, and probably very flat sleeve heads.

  15. Donna says:

    This looks exactly like my own personal fitting issues. Because I sew and draft mainly for myself I always slash and spread the center back anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch and because I know my shoulders have more slope than normal I also taper slightly from neck to shoulder point. I redraft sleeves to fit correctly. This is what I do on commercial patterns only. If using my own block all the fitting issues have been accounted for. When I was still wearing more dress-up clothes I always used a slight shoulder pad to give a garment a more structured look. This also corrected the poor fit of most garments. I was taught that the wrinkles always point to the spot that is too tight so based on that I would say that in the picture the neck looks too tight and needs to be cut a bit larger at the shoulder. In addition I would make the same corrections I make on my own shirts.

  16. Patricia K. says:

    I think the arm holes are too low, pulling it down wards. In the front I think they are too far back, if they were scooped more inwards it would decrease some of the the fabric that is being pulled inwards.

    In the back I think the back is too wide across from one armskye to the other and that the armhole is just too low for the body pulling it downwards there in the same way it does in the front.

    Also, it doesn’t look like there is much of a sleeve cap on the sleeve. My guess is that this looks like a “T” shape when it lies flat. So, the sleeve has to be pulled downwards when it is put on a body and the arms aren’t straight out to the sides.

  17. Bente says:

    T-shaped, to much chest width and shoulder width for a fitted style and also too big arm hole and arm hole not shaped: looks like someone was used to make big floppy XXL t-shirts and tried to make a fitted one! OMG, never seen something as bad…I am glad you cleaned the logo on the back..LOL

  18. Andrew says:

    At first glance, looks like the armholes are too high, and shoulderline possibly too straight, causing diagonal drag lines between neck and armhole and bunching at armpit. This could be easily fixed by dropping armhole, and if necessary giving shoulder a steeper slope as other commenters have mentioned.

    Am guessing that the primary defect though is that back neckline is too narrow? Imagine someone grabbing your t-shirt at CB neck and pulling and those are the kinds of wrinkles that appear.

    To fix, widen neckline (after checking binding hasn’t caused back neck to draw in excessively), possibly deepening at the same time to give more length and allow fabric pulled from front to relax back into position. Deepening back armhole 1-1.5cm to give greater difference between back and front armhole or so wouldn’t hurt either.

    You can tell he’s right handed from the fact that his right shoulder is lower than the left. Often comes from carrying a heavy bag always on the same side.

  19. Nele says:

    I think as well that the underarm is too high and the shoulder not sloped enough. In addition the frt and bk sleeve are probably having the same shape/ curve – the Frt should be more cut out. That would prevent some of the bunching up in the sleeve.

  20. Karen Judge says:

    Love this. When you do the “reveal,” would be great if you did some kind of little illustration as (speaking for myself and maybe some others) some of the terminology people are using is new to me. Thanks!

  21. Marianne says:

    My guess: wrong shoulder slope is the primary problem; it should be MORE sloping. Lack of slope causes the bottom of the armscye to be too high. Correction: lower sleeve end of shoulder by 1//2 to 3/4 inch; lower bottom of armscye by same amount. You can tell Eric is right handed because his right shoulder is slightly lower than the left — just like mine.

  22. Faviola says:

    I believe that the shoulder length is too long, if you reduce that, it should move the shoulder slope to the proper position and take away the excess fabric that is there, this reminds me of the camel toe post!

  23. ash says:

    The shoulder seams are falling back, they need to be move forward. The fabric is torqing as well making some issues. Shoulder slope is too deep, it needs to be raised at the neck side and the armhole needs to be lowered. the sleeves might be sewn in without matching the notches well, so the sewer needs to take better care.

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.