Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

topic posted Thu, January 18, 2007 - 8:47 PM by  Akasha
I am an intermediate sewer, only having sewn for a few years. I've made a few cholis with a straight forward sleeve (cutting a hump for the shoulder, wider at the armpit, tapering down to the forearm or wrist), always out of a stretch material, so I can pull it on over my head. I've been seeing links to choli patters that require a gusset. Is this more for non-stretch fabric? I ask, because I'm still learning, and am wondering if I should be attempting this type of pattern (if indeed it is for non-stretch fabric, which would support better)? I am a 36DD, so I've always needed the support of a bra (undergarment or bra top on top of the choli), which is why I've made stretchy fabric cholis with a closed back.
I like the look of the open back tops, but have never been able to wear these due to the afore mentioned support issue. I know some people have used Annabell's Panne velvet choli pattern, but having never used Panne velvet for a choli, I'm not certain it will "keep everything in it's place". Can anyone else speak to this?

So, to recap....since I babble a lot:

1. are gussets necessary only for non-stretch fabric, or are they always a good idea
2. does Annabell's Panne velvet choli pattern support the well-endowed?

thanks! :)
posted by:
  • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Thu, January 18, 2007 - 9:27 PM
    Gussets provide more stability and ease of movement in "high traffic" areas of a garment. Dancers will recongnize gussetts from leggings and tights. These are areas of high stress, and so require a little help and better structural integrity. As for arm gussets, it's in your best interest to follow the pattern specifications and put in the gusset. You won't lose anything, but will gain better range of movement for the arms with less stress on seams and other parts of the garment.

    As for your other question, I haven't used that pattern before, so can't help ya there. Hope this helps somewhat.
  • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Fri, January 19, 2007 - 12:51 AM
    Haven't made Annabella's yet, but I just made the Fat Chance choli, and it supports quite well. I take a 40D, and it fits like a well-fitting bathing suit top- the back-neck ties keep everything hauled up, and the underbust band gives additional support. It's non-stretch, and has gussets. Haven't actually danced in it yet, but it seems to stay put through swinging my arms around, raising them over my head, etc.
  • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Fri, January 19, 2007 - 7:56 AM
    Gussets are a must for a non-stretch costume top. Without them you will either be limited in your movements or you'll likely tear the underarm seam open. They are not needed in regular clothing because we rarely, in daily life, have to reach up high over our heads while spinning, bending, twisting and flinging a veil about our bodied. All things you will want to do in a dance costume.

    My personal preference (34DD or E)... if the fabric has no stretch it will not be used to make sleeves on a costume. Actually, the only non-stretch costumes I have are all loose-fit skirts or harem pants with a bedlah made from the same fabric as a base. All my costumes have and will always have a solid bra as the base (elastic replaced with gros-grain ribbon) for good support and containment.

    As to that pattern, I have never tried it so can't help there.
  • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Fri, January 19, 2007 - 8:00 AM
    My Annabellla provides some support--enough for personal practice-- but I prefer to wear a bra under cholis, so I sew in an old one. I sew it in at the side and shoulder seams, so I can hide the stitching, then cut off the excess straps (so it's perfect for old bras who'se straps have lost their elasticity). I'll also tack the bra in place at the front bottom band and inside neck edge, just to keep it from poking out while I dance around. Panne velvet is one-way stretch. I have full range of movement in my arms w/o a gusset.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Fri, January 19, 2007 - 8:19 AM
    Gussets aren't rocket surgery, really they aren't...

    It's just a square or diamond of cloth inserted into the armpit area of the sleeve. Stitch the sleeve to shoulder of the item, halting the stitch line at half the gusset width. Pin the gusset to one side (front or back, that is) of the sleeve, from the sleeve-body seam outward. Stitch. Then pin the gusset to the same side of the body, from the sleeve-body seam downward. Stitch. You should have now sewn one-half, or two sides, of the gusset to the clothing item. Fold the gusset in half and do the same to the other half of the gusset. Now sew the rest of the item together. Sleeve sewn from the outer point of the gusset to the end of the sleeve, and side seam of the body from the lower point of the gusset to the bottom.

    Grrl, if you can insert a sleeve, gussets are way easier than curved sleeve thingies...
    • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

      Fri, January 19, 2007 - 8:27 AM
      Absolutely! When I made my fully lined shantung renaissance dress a few years ago, I didn't notice that it was tight until I tried it on. I wound up ripping and inserting gussets a few times before I got the right fit, but it actually was quite easy and having a pattern to help will definitely make life a LOT easier!

      You can do it, yes you can!
  • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Mon, February 5, 2007 - 12:04 PM
    thanks everyone for your wonderfully helpful suggestions. I will from now on put gussets in any costume. As Savarna stated, it is easier than fitting those "curved sleeve thingys"! :)
    • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

      Mon, February 5, 2007 - 3:31 PM
      I have used the Annabella pattern. I like it. (38-40D).
      The key I found was the top ties. I added two loops about 2" lower than the straps... and crossed them-like shoe-laces then tied.
      I had to modify it a little bit to fit me... I took it in a little at the shoulders -but that's about it.
      Annabella is great too- when I experienced a brain fart, and e-mailed her a question about the pattern, she got back to me right away.

      A few of my friends have used the pattern too--- and liked it.

    • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

      Thu, February 8, 2007 - 1:20 PM
      Another way to "cheat" at gussets is to cut the curved sleeve thingy differently. If you cut the top of a sleeve off square, at the highest point of the hump at the shoulder, the sleeve itself will have enough fabric at the armpit to act as a built in gusset. Problem is, it might be tooo much fabric, if so, you'll understand why people designed sleeves to have less fabric under the pits for daily wear... and you'll get bunching and gathering when the arms are down. But, then, it's easy to cut away excess. Always easier to cut away excess than to cut short and add more :)
  • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Mon, February 5, 2007 - 5:35 PM
    I would like to put in here that I've only made cholis from the Fat Chance pattern, pre-Folkwear, and I am a self-taught sewer without much experience pre-bellydance, and I easily modified the sleeve of the pattern to make the gusset unnecessary. I simply made the sleeve a bell or butterfly sleeve, and I no longer had to use the gusset, even in non-stretch fabric. However, if you want a tight-fitted sleeve the gusset is a must.

  • Re: Arm gussets - are they a necessity?

    Thu, February 8, 2007 - 1:16 PM
    Gussets are nice but not always necessary. It's easy to cheat by leaving the underam seam open. Or when re-purposing flea market tops, just rip the underam seam open. The "hump at the shoulder" sleeves are designed so that there is not a whole wad of fabric sitting under the armpit when the arm is down at the side. Nice for everyday wear, but in dancing the arms are often lifted over the head, and with a closed armpit seam and no gusset the sleeve will tug and pull the whole shirt up. Opening the seam allows the sleeve to move up with the arm while leaving the side seam and body of the top in place. Adding a gusset simply covers up the "hole" that appears when the arm is raised & the armpit seam is open.
    I'm an old D, so I understand the need to support the girls. One option is to sew bra cups right into the choli. As long as the straps keep the top on securely, the sewn in cups will provide support and shape. It really does help. I have a "mass market" velvet open back choli, I sewed cups into it.
    Another option is to sew a whole bra in, but "hide" it under wide straps.
    Dina Lydia's books (I think it's the Tribal Toppings) has instrcutions and samples of virtually backless cholis with bras hidden beneath. Disclaimer! My photo appears in one of her books. I get only bragging rights - but her books are so good I'd recommend them even if she didn't like my photo.

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