Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Comparing Men's Shirt Patterns

I hope this doesn't make your eyes glaze over, but I thought it would be interesting to compare a new-ish men's shirt pattern with a 1980s 1979 men's shirt pattern.

Specifically, KS 3244:

And McCall's 6890:

This is Michael wearing McCall's 6890. Great fit.

Michael wearing Kwik Sew 3244. Much more ease, and too much length between shoulder and upper chest. Look at the fabric bunching up in his armpits.

Both pattern sizes used were for the same body measurements. In the comparison pics below, the KS is in white tracing paper, the McCall's is tan tissue.

The front piece. The KS has a cut-on button placket so ignore that section with the Xs. The pieces were lined up at center front. The KS has more length above the armhole, which you can see on Michael above. There is also significantly less sideseam shaping and the McCall's armhole is cut higher and a little more toward the torso. The KS shoulder is more sloping. Both patterns are about the same length from the armhole downward. (The green KS Michael is wearing is not hemmed .)

The KS neck is too big. Nice collar points, though, right? ;-)

The length difference is confirmed in the pattern pieces. The McCall's pattern has 5/8" seam allowances for the collar and stand pieces and the KS has 1/4" seam allowances, so the difference is actually a little more than it appears in the pics.

Michael in the McCall's, rear view. Lovely.

Not lovely. Way too much ease. Way. Too. Much.

The KS yoke is longer. The width is nearly the same. Note that the neck opening is also the same. The extra length on the KS neck is all in the front piece.

The McCall's has a back pleat under the yoke. I've aligned the two pieces at the actual center back. The KS is wider from mid-armhole downward. The back armholes are actually closer in length than they appear here, after accounting for the difference in the yoke length. Note the waist dart option on the McCall's.

The KS sleeve is too short. I'm pretty sure Michael doesn't have gorilla arms, so that's just odd drafting IMO.

The KS cuff is shorter, but not as much as it appears here because of different seam allowances.

The sleeve pattern has significant differences. First, the KS sleeve cap is much flatter, resulting in those folds down Michael's arm. The overall sleeve is wider at the bicep area and a few inches below. This is too much fabric on Michael. The McCall's has the elbow dart built in (green arrow), something we don't see very often in contemporary men's or women's patterns. The McCall's sleeve fits Michael much better and is just a nicer hanging sleeve overall. It's interesting to me that the more shapely sleeve fits "longer" on Michael too, even though there really isn't that much length difference between the two at first glance.

Parting Shot: This is where Dani was during the pattern comparison photo session. She was sound asleep until I came into the room with a camera. She's made herself a little nest from the comforter scrap we keep on top of the bed for the dogs.

As you can see, the bed is still unmade. She'll jump off and stand by as it gets made, and then hops right back up when I'm done. Ahh. The life of a princess.


  1. Great info to know. I've always heard that KS is much better than any of the "big 3" but in this case, I suppose not.

    Thanks for the walk-through!

  2. Very interesting - also did you link to my blog post - I am glad you did, but how did you do it? I've tried it in the past but am too computer fuddled at times (or distracted by children)

  3. Very interesting! I have an a McCalls from the 70s and a modern Vogue that I have made for DH and the differences in fit are similar. I would have expected better of Vogue...

  4. @Myra - I don't think I've linked to your post. ??

    The easiest way to create links in your blog posts is to use the Blogger (if you use that) buttons when you're writing. It will prompt you for the URLs, etc.

  5. Debbie, no eye-glazing from me...I loved the comparison! Velly intellesting!

  6. What? My eyes won't glaze over when looking at looking at patterns or guys modeling anything! Thanks for the comparison. The princess has a look of wonder that you are bothering her. How cute!

  7. "Better" is in the eye of the beholder! KS patterns fit my DH perfectly, right out of the package. I have decided that men's KS patterns are drafted for "corn fed" midwestern men built like linebackers.

    Since finding KS, I don't even bother with other pattern companies for my husband. I have to do so many alterations to make them fit, it's not even worth it.

    At age 3 DS is already showing signs of being built like his father, so you'll be peeling my KS patterns out of my cold, dead hands.

  8. @Stacey - I like KS patterns too! That's why I already had that one (and a bunch of others). They work for my guys. Just not for Michael. I just thought it was interesting to see the differences in cut and why the McCall's works better for him.

  9. Debbie - Weird, the link is not there now. If you ever want to, fine with me. It was under the comments on the latest or next to latest post as a link to this post.
    I have not tried a man's shirt yet - Mike has a closetful since his mom keeps buying them every Christmas for him, some are good, some not so good. I keep telling her to stop, since he has enough for the next ten years. Do MIL's ever listen?

  10. It's interesting how apparently small and fairly subtle differences on the pattern pieces (in the main front & back at least) can result in such a different fit. But then I know nothing about pattern drafting.

  11. I think that clothes these days, whether RTW or patterns, have a much looser and sloppier fit than those from 30 years ago. I found this post very interesting as a point by point comparison!

  12. that was so fascinating! I love doing comparisons like that. I'm really excited about making my 70's pattern for Doug, altho the KS small size isn't as voluminous on him as it seems to be on Michael!

  13. I have the KS pattern but am yet to make a shirt from it. One of my sewing friends swears by this pattern.

  14. I actually found this fascinating, Debbie. My husband is nearly 6'1" and about 155 pounds (and that's at age 40; will he ever gain any weight?) with the long limbs to go along with it. I think I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for men's vintage shirt patterns. Dress shirts are his favorite thing for me to sew and I'd love to make him some more when we finally get our remodeling done and I have a room to sew in again (not to mention a table to eat at :))

  15. Wow what a difference! Hand how much wider the shoulders look on the KwikSew even though they are not really wider in the pattern - must be the length between shoulder and armhole.

    I am struggling with shirt fitting for DH myself at the moment. I always thought there can not possibly be much to fitting a men's shirt. Hey, it doesn't even have darts, where's the problem ...
    But it is not so trivial indeed.

    Lucky you that you found a pattern which fits so well as the McCalls.

  16. Wow! What a difference! So much to alter in the modern pattern. Makes me want to look up the vintage one.

  17. I love this comparison. I'm going to look for the same details in my vintage pattern. It's making me very excited for the MPB sew-along, and I'm so excited that you're joining in. Thanks, Debbie!


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