Balenciaga, unknown date, images via Pinterest»
In this post we will begin to look at how the angle of the sleeve affects the drape of fabric in the underarm area. We will also consider how the distance between the garment underarm and the actual underarm of the body will affect the amount of arm movement that the wearer has.
This post forms a follow up to The Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves: Part 1 where we discussed how you can begin to form basic body and sleeve shapes when developing patterns from very large pieces of fabric. In the previous post the sleeves styles were large and loose, and we discussed how these shapes tend to create excess draped fabric underneath the arm whenever the wearer lowers their arm.
We are going to continue working from the same point of view as the last post, basically starting with large loose garment shapes and then refining these shapes in closer to the body as we discuss different principles of sleeve design. This perspective of looking at larger garments first can be a good approach to researching pattern making solutions because sometimes the advantages and disadvantages of certain styles are more pronounced when garment shapes are more exaggerated.
Arm Movement and Underarm Fullness
When designing a garment that covers the shoulder and arm area it is important to always think about how much arm movement is required. This is true whether you are designing a garment that has separate body and sleeve patterns, or if the body and sleeve patterns are blended together.
In large loose garment shapes there is often a relationship between how high the wearer can lift their arm, and how much fabric fullness is swimming around the body.
In the following diagram you can see how when the garment shape is cut square from the shoulder, then the arm is able to be lifted straight up to shoulder level, and this gives the wearer a lot of arm movement. The related consequence of this is that when the arm is lowered, there is a lot of fabric that drapes in the underarm area.
In contrast, if the pattern is cut so that it curves down from the shoulder point, then the wearer’s arm will be at a lower angle and will only be able to lift to a certain point before the whole rest of the garment begins to move. In this case the smaller amount of arm movement and the reduced fabric fullness means that when the wearer’s arm is lowered there will be less fabric draping in the underarm area.
The principle of underarm fullness is often seen in large loose sleeves described as “magyar”, “dolman” or “batwing” sleeves. If you wanted to increase the volume on sleeves even further then you could actually change the “sleeve” angle completely so that the pattern is cut to go above the shoulder line. You can see an example of this idea in the following diagram.
In garments where the underarm area has been cut away to begin to create more defined “body” and “sleeve” areas, there will still be this relationship between the angle of the sleeve and the amount of draping in the underarm area.
In the diagram below you can see how the underarm areas are both affected if the “sleeve” section of the pattern comes in at a lower angle in relation to the “body” section of the garment.
Arm Movement and Distance From Underarm
Another important point to consider when you are designing the body and sleeve sections of your pattern is how closely the garment is cut to the underarm. It can seem as though cutting a garment that is loose around the body, and that sits far away from the underarm, will give the wearer a lot of movement, but this is not always the case.
The following diagram illustrates what we are describing, the distance between the underarm of the garment and the underarm on the body.
In the following images of Balenciaga garments you can see how the garment can still restrict the movement of the wearer at a certain point, even though the garments appear to be very large and have an oversized cocoon style silhouette.
This style of loose, oversized silhouette has been used in a number of collections over the last couple of years, often as a reference to the world of couture. The following images show some examples from the Jil Sander collection of Autumn-Winter 2012 when Raf Simons was the Creative Director.
Note in these images there is no obvious difference between the body and sleeve patterns, and that the body and sleeve appear to be cut in one piece. When this occurs this may produce a need for a seam extending from the shoulder line down the outside edge of the sleeve, which is seen in these Jil Sander coats, or similar silhouettes are sometimes created using a dart between the shoulder point and neckline.
So in this post we have discussed how you can consider the arm movement of the garment wearer, the angle of the sleeve in relation to the body and the amount of volume that you want in the area under the arm. The next step is to work out where exactly you want to put seams, darts or tucks in order to shape and control the fullness of the sleeve.
Jil Sander images from Vogue.co.uk»
Diagrams by The Cutting Class»
In the Fullness and Shaping of Sleeves: Part 3» we also discuss seam, dart and tuck placement options for sleeves…