The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves: Part 1

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves: Part 1

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves Part 1 | The Cutting Class. Céline, SS14, Paris.

Céline, SS14, Paris.

There have been a few questions posed to The Cutting Class recently about sleeve shaping, so this post is the first in a series that has been put together to take a different look at sleeves. The focus will especially be on the fullness created around the armhole area and will help you to think about where exactly the fullness and shaping is distributed through a few different styles of sleeves.

The best place to start when you are trying to work out a new shape is often to think as though you are draping on the mannequin, and start as though you have a very large rectangle of fabric. Starting from this point we are going to begin from a very oversized kaftan style that swims around the body and then work down into sleeve styles that shape around the armhole and shoulder and may restrict the movement of the wearer. This will help you to see how basic pattern shapes need to be formed out of a large piece of fabric because of our desire to shape garments in specific ways around the armhole area.

Loose Kaftan / Kimono Styles

Effectively we’re starting from a position where there isn’t really any sleeve, there is just a large rectangle of fabric with a hole cut in the middle as the neck hole. This means that the straight grain will run up and down the body, and the cross grain will run across the shoulders.

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves Part 1 | The Cutting Class. Michaele Vollbracht Dress.

Michaele Vollbracht Angel Fish Dress via BustownModern»

This image can be used to illustrate the very simple shape that we’re talking about. The important things to notice about this shape are:

  • The shoulder line is at a right angle to the centre front (CF).
  • The fabric fullness will collapse into the area under the arm when the arm is lowered.
  • The arm has a large range of movement and can be lifted easily up to shoulder level.

Starting from this point, you could develop a range of garment designs using darts, pleats, gathering or tucks to eat into this rectangular shape that can shape and control the fabric. This would allow you to retain the simplicity of the single piece of fabric, but will still give you different design options.

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves Part 1 | The Cutting Class. Examples of sleeve variations.

You could also start to cut into the area under the arm to begin to create different seams for the side seam and under arm seam to begin to define different “body” and “sleeve” areas. The following diagram shows you very roughly how the usual bodice and sleeve pattern blocks relate to the fabric shape to help you to see how the fabric could be cut all in one piece.

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves Part 1 | The Cutting Class. Examples of body and sleeve patterns cut all in one.
One of the limitations of this shape that is so squared out from the shoulder is that you will find it hard to control the fullness in the fabric that forms under the arm when the arm is lowered. We are going to slowly move towards sleeve shapes that allow you to control the fullness in this area under the arm.

Sleeves Squared From Shoulder

By adding different seam and panel lines into this shape you can break this shape up into a series of different panels, rather than keeping it all as the one piece of fabric.

In these images from the Céline collection of Spring-Summer 2014, you can see that the tops are essentially based on a very wide loosely cut “T” shape, and there is still fullness under the arm area when the arm is lowered. The fact that there are shoulder seams and that the sleeve has actually been cut as a separate pattern piece means that the sleeve can be slightly shaped where needed, and the sleeve can be cut on the straight grain.

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves Part 1 | The Cutting Class. Céline, SS14, Paris, Image 1.

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves Part 1 | The Cutting Class. Céline, SS14, Image 2.

Céline, SS14, Paris.

These types of wide sleeves that are cut all in one with the body or as separate pieces are sometimes referred to as “kimono sleeves”, although often the garments that they are used in begin to look very different to the shapes of traditional kimonos.

At the moment we are not adding any slope into the shoulder area and the patterns are staying very square.

The important things to notice about this shape are:

  • The shoulder line is still at a right angle to the centre front (CF).
  • The fabric fullness will collapse into the area under the arm when the arm is lowered.
  • The arm has a large range of movement and can be lifted easily up to shoulder level.
  • You can add in panels to begin to create subtle shaping and to alter grain lines.

Every time that you add in a new seam line on any pattern it gives you the opportunity to change the grain line of a panel. For example, with the sleeve cut as a separate piece to the body you could change the grain direction so that the straight grain runs directly down the sleeve as it would for a traditional set in sleeve.

Every time you add in a new panel line you also have a new opportunity for shaping. So you could begin to dip into the armhole shape in the front and back body panels to create nicer curves, and slightly round out the top of the sleeve head shape if needed.

The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves Part 1 | The Cutting Class. Pattern variations beginning to cut sleeves as separate pieces.

Images of Céline from Vogue.co.uk»

Pattern diagrams from The Cutting Class»

The “Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves” continues here… The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves: Part 2»

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