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Shoulder pads.

Shoulder pads are back again and featured often in designer garments. Creating the ideal shoulder shape requires correct shoulder-pad positioning and attachment know-how, but the end result is a slimming, polished look. Read on to achieve shoulder pad success in your next garment.

Position Perfection

To create the ideal shoulder silhouette, consider the shoulder pad position. Shoulder pad positioning depends on the pad type.

Position tailored shoulder pads on the garment. The tailored shoulder pad has a distinct armscye edge and two points: narrow and wide (1). In a tailored garment with set-in sleeves, place the narrow point toward the back and the wider point toward the front. This will fill the hollow between shoulder and bust. Position the shoulder pad armscye edge 1/2" to 5/8" past the armscye stitching line to help support the sleeve (2).

Use molded or raglan shoulder pads in drop-shoulder, dolman or raglan sleeve designs. For a smooth line extending off of your shoulder, position the shoulder pads on your body first, and then position the garment over the shoulder pads and pin the pads in place (3).

Attachment Advice

After positioning the shoulder pads based on the type, follow these steps for properly attaching the shoulder pad to the garment.

Secure the shoulder pad with pins on one side of the shoulder seam (4).

Stitch the pad to the shoulder seam allowance with loose catchstitching, being careful not to stitch through all pad layers (5).

Using loose stitches to allow ease between the pad and the garment, tack the shoulder pad ends to the armscye seam allowance at front and back (6).

To attach a dropped shoulder or raglan sleeve pad, properly position the pad per the instructions on page 20. Secure the shoulder pad with pins on one side of the shoulder seam. The sleeve should hang straight once the pad is secure (7). Loosely catchstitch the pad to the shoulder seam allowance only, avoiding stitching through all pad layers.

TIP: Don't extend the shoulder pad too far into the sleeve or it will create a "dent" in the upper sleeve below the shoulder pad edge.

TIP: For dolman and raglan shirts, position the shoulder pad so the sleeve hangs straight from the shoulder.


There are three main types of shoulder pads: tailored, molded and raglan. Learn the use of each type to select the ideal shoulder pad for your garment.

Tailored shoulder pads are frequently referred to as "set-in" shoulder pads, as they're often permanently attached to the garment (A). The tailored shoulder pad has a distinct armscye edge and two points: narrow and wide.

Molded shoulder pads are often made of foam and conform to the body nicely (B). The foam molded shoulder pad usually has a bra strap fastener made of hook-and-loop tape for ease of wear.

Raglan shoulder pads are either attached to the garment or worn using a bra-strap fastener (C). They work well in a variety of shirt types, especially with drop shoulders and dolman tops. The basic shape of a raglan shoulder pad will cover the shoulder and the upper arm top, much like a cap sleeve.


Create a shoulder-pad pocket in garments to use the same pads in a variety of tops. This solution offers the option of changing the look of a top by removing the shoulder pad from time to time.


* 1/2 yard of self, skin-tone lining or lightweight jersey knit fabric

* All purpose thread

* Removable fabric marker


Determine the desired shoulder pad thickness by trying on the garment with a variety of shoulder pad types.

Download and print the Shoulder Pad Pocket pattern at extras. This pattern is designed for 5/8"-thick shoulder pads. To use a thicker shoulder pad, lengthen the pattern piece as needed.

Cut four pocket pieces from the desired fabric, transferring the dot marking to each.


Use 1/4" seam allowances unless othenvise noted.

Align two pocket pieces with right sides together. Stitch from the notched end to the dot (D). Repeat to stitch the second pocket.

Press open the seams. Press the remaining raw edges 1/4" toward the wrong side, and then edgestitch 1/8" from the pressed edges to secure. Continue stitching along the stitched-portion seam allowances (E).

Fold the pocket in half widthwise with wrong sides together, lapping the edgestitched opening edges so the pocket outer raw edges match all around; pin. Stitch the pocket outer edges, and then zigzag- or serge-finish the raw edges (F).

Position the pockets as desired in the garment. Loosely tack the finished pockets along the shoulder seams with the pocket opening toward the body. Tuck the pads into the pockets through each opening.

TIP: In tailored garments, it's often possible to loosely tack the pad to the interfacing; other garment styles may allow tacking the pad to seams or darts in the front- or back-shoulder area.

{by Marla Kazell, Sew News March '96 & Barbara Welland, Sew News Nov. '89 and Feb. '91}
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Title Annotation:Best of the Basics
Author:Kazell, Marla; Weiland, Barbara
Publication:Sew News
Article Type:Instructions
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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