Rad Fashion Friday Easter Special: Shoulder Alterations

While we've focused mainly on making new things out of scraps, it's important to make repairs to things you already have. Home-done alterations save you money on those outfits that might get put by the wayside because of a minor fit issue.


One of the most common alterations I do on clothing is in the shoulder region. This area can be quite tricky on a lot of sleeveless tops and dresses; there's lining to worry about, finicky materials that bunch and stretch, sometimes it's just a pain. But don't back down from the challenge! You'll feel great when you can still rock that favorite dress this spring.


We will cover two types of shoulders today, one with a seam that's directly on the shoulder line and one with two seams per sleeve. Both have lining, which I feel is the more difficult to work with.


Dress Sample #1 - The One With One Seam On The Shoulder


Epic title, I know. So descriptive! But that's what this one is, it's the seemingly simpler one of the two samples today.



You'll notice how you can't even see the seam because of the lace material. It's not even just lace, it's stretch lace. Seems intimidating, I know, but stick with me, my story gets better.



See that seam there on the inside now that I've flipped it inside out? Now you have a more clear start, and here's a few pointers to consider before you begin:


  • Make note of where the stitches are all at. I only work on one shoulder at a time. This leaves you with an example of what it originally looked like. Taking pictures helps too sometimes, make sure your pictures are clear and include the important details.
  • You don't need to open the seams to a crazy amount either, just enough to work comfortably. Take out less than you think you need to, you can always open up more if you need to! But the less you have to top stitch later, the better.
  • Open the sides. Carefully take out those top stitches.
  • Be wary of the condition of your nails/hands. Rough hands can damage chiffons, stretches, and other delicate fabrics. One bad nail can make a huge pull, ruining your dress and putting you up a creek without a paddle.
  • Don't take out the old shoulder seam. Leave it in, sew a stitch down on the new location, THEN cut your excess.


  • After you open your side seams, flip the shoulder inside out. You can make your alteration here.


  • After you sew your new seam, chop off the excess and flip it right side out again. Pin the lining and face fabric, make sure you have both lined up nicely. You want to catch both fabrics the first time.


Check out that top stitch...Oh wait, you can barely tell!


Dress Sample #2: Electric Avenue


Not really electric avenue. I just don't know the term for this style of shoulder.







It has a seam in the front and in back, which we're going to open and pretty much feed the shoulder fabric into the gap and sew shut. 


  • Pick a side you want to open more. I'm going with the neck-side, you might choose armpit-side. Whichever you prefer to top stitch shut later.

  • Sometimes you need to assess the situation and do what you gotta do. We're going to cut the liner for this adjustment. NOT ALWAYS SUGGESTED, I'M LITERALLY CHOPPING THIS DRESS APART.



But it's ok! We're turning it into the new seam, nobody will be able to tell because it's the lining and it's on the inside.


  • Pin your shoulder piece so that it's face to face with the face fabric, like so:


  • Pull your liner around so that it sandwiches the shoulder piece with the face fabric. Make sure the line where your old seam was is lined up with where you're putting the new shoulder line. I'm adjusting this an inch, so my should fabric is pulled way out:


  • Sew your new seam and flip it right side out again.

You have a nice sandwich going on here with a little open area left to stitch down. You'll want to distribute however much you're taking off between your two seams for evenness.



If your thread is the right color, you won't even notice that top stitch. I won't tell if you don't.


I hope you enjoyed my segment today on shoulder alterations, I hope these tips help lower the frustration of tackling a strange new project on your own. Enjoy your holiday weekend!



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