THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

April 7, 2009

“Not Couture” Jacket Diagnosis

Filed under: Fit/Pattern Alterations,sewing,Tailoring — georgene @ 11:02 am


Here’s what I imagine the technical sketch for Hillary’s jacket looks like.

It’s a bit like diagnosing a patient you’ve never seen in real life, but here are some possible approaches to fixing the problems we can see in the photos.


The armscye looks like it needs to be raised so the base of the armhole is not so low. Higher armholes can increase the movement range in a jacket sleeve, if there is enough ease in the sleeve as well as the body of the garment. One of my pet peeves in RTW is the plague of low armholes in larger sizes. Just because a person has more girth does not mean that the armhole has to get closer to the waist….in fact that has the opposite effect of causing the sleeve to tug and bar across the arm, as well as distort the side of the jacket when the arm is not at rest by the side of the body.

It’s hard to say whether Hillary is truly a petite fit in the upper torso, but certainly for this garment we could take some length out of the armscye. So let’s raise the armhole up a bit.

We could use some more length in the front as well, as the hem is hiking. It’s possible that an actual full bust adjustment is in order. Some length could be added and a small dart eased in at the side bust along that vertical dart that goes into the pocket.

The high hip and low hip (at 4” and 8” from the waist, respectively) could use a bit more ease. I would distribute that on all of the vertical seams, as well as adding a wee bit at the center back seam.

The sleeves are a bit more problematic, as we don’t want to add to length in the armscye, but we do need more girth at the bicep. I would fold out some length in the cap to account for the raising of the armhole.

This drawing shows how you might add to girth with a bit of slashing and spreading without adding to the circumference. You might have a bit of additional work easing in your elbow dart, but that can be managed.


  1. I am wondering what’s different now that Mrs. Clinton is our Secretary of State as opposed to Mrs. Clinton the candidate for President. Her clothes fit much better when she was stumping even though they were not usually my personal style favorites. Perhaps she has less budget for clothes or less help in dressing? Or in the case of the bright blue coat, had to wear a sweater underneath due to unforeseen cold weather engagements? I seem to remember thinking that in both the case of Ms Albright and Ms Rice their wardrobes improved considerably the longer they were in the office. Wonder what the protocol is….

    Comment by Mary Beth — April 7, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  2. I think that the matching sweater and jacket were no accident, and were probably bought from the same source.

    Comment by georgene — April 7, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  3. Georgene, thanks so much for showing that sleeve alteration. I haven’t seen that particular approach before – it adds girth without affecting the armhole seam length. I’ll have to give it a whirl! – Heather

    Comment by luckylibbet — April 7, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

  4. thanks for showing that pattern analysis. I have a lot of the same problems with my tops/jackets, and plan on trying some of your suggestions in my own wardrobe. I appreciate you sharing the insight.

    Comment by Joyce — April 7, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  5. This is a great post. I have figured out that I need a smaller size in the upper chest and shoulders, but like you show for Hilary, I need more girth in the upper sleeve. I used to think that it was the armscye causing problems, but I think that your diagnosis is what I need.

    Comment by Nancy k — April 7, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

  6. Great point of view and analysis for a similar jacket pattern.

    Comment by Els — April 7, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  7. Thanks for this analysis, Georgene. I appreciate your willingness to share what your highly attuned eye sees and your knowledge of proper fit!

    Comment by Leslie in Austin — April 7, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  8. This is an excellent post as the more exposure to how flat pieces are tweaked into 3 dimensional clothes is appreciated. As a side issue, focus on fit has got me off focus on fat ie working with what I have on my body now rather than spinning into a spiral of self-criticism (however, I still do go to the gym:). Thank you for such a generous analysis. Susan

    Comment by susan — April 7, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  9. I’m always amazed by how such small changes can have a great effect (I’m thinking of the illustration of the jacket body alteration). Its very cool to see how all the puzzle pieces fit together. Thank you, Georgene! Rose

    Comment by Rose in SV — April 8, 2009 @ 1:27 am

  10. Oh that is going to help me with my sleeves BIG Time! Thanks for showing us this.

    Comment by Petra — April 9, 2009 @ 6:30 am

  11. Great post, Georgene, thank you!

    Comment by Tany — April 9, 2009 @ 6:35 am

  12. Thank you for this. It looks extremely interesting and I think it speaks to my particular fitting needs. I don’t have the time to read it now because I’m trying to get caught up on my (basic) tailoring and haute couture homework assignments. (Sigh). But I am definitely bookmarking it and will come back to it.

    Sorry about the previous kerfuffle, but I get so tired of the over-scrutiny of Hillary’s clothes. I even read somewhere that once she started campaigning for President she started wearing cheaper clothes that fit less well (supposedly more populist) so she may have continued her practice.

    I know people who’ve worked for her in the long-ago past and like her or not, she’s a smart person who works like a dog.

    Comment by Sewist — April 9, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  13. Thanks so much for posting your diagnosis Georgene!
    I just had a perplexing sleeve issue over the weekend, and I beleive you have explained to me how I will fix it.

    Comment by Robin — April 13, 2009 @ 9:08 am

  14. More thanks for the pattern analysis. I have the same tight, restrictive sleeve problem in pretty much all of my RTW. It seems that an off the rack jacket fits only a couple of places, not everywhere.

    Comment by lorrwill — May 3, 2009 @ 1:34 am

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