Sometimes we see photographs of famous designers doing what they were so well known for and it’s nice to understand on a technical level why these images are so iconic.
We see many images of Chanel and other designers fitting sleeves onto garments, and these are such important images because fitting a sleeve can completely change the look and feel of a jacket. The sleeve head area is especially important and can be tricky to manipulate, which is what makes images like the one above so interesting.
The sleeve head area or sleeve cap is the area across the top of the shoulder running from about halfway up the front armhole to about halfway down the back of the armhole. (See Image 5 below) Unlike other seams on the garments which are exactly the same length and so are easier to sew, in the case of the sleeve head, the seams do not match exactly.
This means that the distance around the armhole on the sleeve piece, is not exactly the same distance as the armhole on the body of the garment. The size across the top of the sleeve is a larger area which allows space for the arm of the jacket to curve up and over the curve of the shoulder.
Sometimes the difference between the two seams can be anywhere from 3 – 6cm or even more depending on the design of the garment, the size of the shoulder pad etc. This means that there is 3 – 6cm of extra fabric along this edge which needs to be eased into the seam. This can be done by slightly gathering the seam edge, steaming and shrinking the fabric into a nice curve or hand basting the fabric together. At all times the aim is to make the curve smooth, and avoid any small unwanted puckers on the seamline.