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Across Shoulders, Across Front, and Across Back


Some relationships are toxic, some relationships are paid for, and some relationships are an embarrassment that should only live in the past. Fortunately, the relationship between across back, across shoulders and across front  isn’t any of these. It’s a relationship that will stand the test of time, for better or for worst.

Across back, across shoulders and across chest are points/landmarks on a pattern that are used to draft and gauge armhole shapes. Across shoulders is shoulder tip to shoulder tip, and across front and across back for most sizes are approximately 5″ below high point of shoulder (HPS), which is where the shoulder seam meets the neckline. The difference between the across shoulder and across front/across back tells us whether the armhole shape will be good or god awful. Too big of a difference means that the armhole is too scooped and too little of a difference means that the armhole is too straight.

For a woven, across front should be approximately 1 ½” less than across shoulders and across back should be ½” less than across shoulders. So, if my across shoulders is 13 ½”, then my across front should be 12” and my across back should be 13” (these are actual measurements from my block – I’m not making it up). Because the fabric stretches, across front on a knit can be 2”, maybe slightly more, less than across shoulders and across back can be 1”, maybe slightly more, less than across shoulders. I use these measurements loosely as everyone’s body is different. This should not be  an absolute rule but a guideline. When I evaluate a pattern, I use this formula to analyze the armhole shape and when I draft an armhole, I’ll use this to guide how I draw the curve. It’s just another trick of the trade. Enjoy!


  1. Reply


    great post, as always. This is so interesting and I’m learning so much from your blog, so thank you very much for that!
    it’s so inspiring to get insights of how things work in a real and successful company.

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    Hey Maddie! I’m enjoying learning about arms etc as this is always my biggest fitting nightmare. I’m curious too, are you working in a new department? You mention your ‘last job’. I hope the change is positive!

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      Oops, of course! You’re blogging for them now! It’s early here, that’s my excuse!

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    Thanks for the interesting post! One of my UFO has some armhole fitting issue. BTW, have you ever though of writing a book with sewing tips? It would be a best-seller!

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      You’re such a gem! I eventually want to write a book, yes, so I know I will have at least one buyer (you!). First on the list, though, is patterns.

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        WOW! I would love to learn more from you! Many books on patternmaking that I currently use are from the 60th to 80th. Nothing wrong with that, but the style they are written is just not very modern. Looking forward to both your patterns and the book!

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    Anna A Hodge

    omg, this makes me miss school so much.  Amazing post, love. If you get a sec, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my latest post for LaurenConrad.com. xo


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      heading on over!

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    brilliant!! I actually think this is one of the big problems with the block i drafted awhile ago! Thanks!

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    When your department gets the samples in, is it like a quality control check?  If the measurements don’t seem right they get redesigned?  I’m really curious about this process. 

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      Good question. No, it is not a quality control type of thing. We measure the garment for our record for two reasons. One is to have the garments specs before the fit so that after the fit, we can remeasure it and see how much it stretched (I worked in the knits, sweaters, and intimates department). We will have to make adjustments to the pattern if it stretches a lot during wear. We also measure the garment so that if any POM is “out of spec” (a number far from what we asked for), we can pay extra special attention to it during the fit. When the sample is at production stage, that’s when QC comes in and specs the production samples (rather than fit samples) before it hits stores as one final check. Make sense?

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    This info is completley new to me. Thank you. Can’t wait to apply it to some of my current sewing projects.

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    “Last job”?  Did I miss something?  Are you no longer working there?  If so, what’s next?!

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    Carrie Elias

    Hi Maddie!  Thanks again for your kind words about my grandma.  It’s nice to be back in the blog world reading your lovely posts <3

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    I’m going to measure some stuff… armholes are drivin’ me nuts right now!

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    Thanks for sharing these details–interesting! This would be helpful, too, if one was copying an existing garment. (Armholes are hard to copy–I’ve tried!)

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    Makes Her Mark

    I’m a little late to the game on this post, but I’m so excited to find it as armhole positioning has been bedeviling me as of late (oddly, I don’t want them positioned behind my actual arms!). My question is about sizing: you say that across front/back is 5″ below HPS for a size 6. Is this ready-to-wear sizing, or pattern sizing? Thanks!!

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      Maddie Flanigan

      I’m glad you found this post informative!

      Good question – 5″ below HPS is for a size 6 in RTW

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        Makes Her Mark

        Thanks!! Since you were talking about it in reference to work, that was my assumption, but sometimes that doesn’t work out so hot in sewing 🙂

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    Bruno Tremblay

    Hi Maddie.
    I wish to thank you for your blog.
    I find your way to try to find a way to apply measurements interesting. But in my experience, I have realized that the best way to find out the across shoulder, across back and across front measurements is to measure them on the person directly. As every individual differs from another (some are average, some are erected and others are stooped), I have realized that when you are making custom made patterns, it is hard to find rules that apply to everybody. I’v been a professonal pattern drafter for more than 20 years and I still get amazing results when I take measurements on my customers. Standardization in fashion is good for the industry but it does not apply to custome made garments if you wish perfect results.
    Thank you for your help! .

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