Why Armholes Matter


Effect of Armholes


How the sleeve is cut and fits into a top or jacket can change the way a garment appears on your body.  If you have a deeper, lower cut armhole, this will add some bulk to your chest region, so is great for women with narrower shoulders (A shapes) or smaller busts who would like their bust to appear larger, and also great for women with long torsos, as it visually shortens the body.

Alternatively, higher cut armholes visually lengthen the body, making it appear slimmer and the bust appear smaller, so if you have a short waist, broad shoulers (V shape) large bust, are petite, or fuller stomach, go for a higher cut armhole to create the illusion of a longer, leaner body.


the effect of the armhole


Here you can see on this old pattern on the left below that the lower cut armhole adds breadth and bulk to the upper body.



armscye by imogenl featuring a long jacket

Here on this pattern the higher cut armhole creates a longer, leaner silhouette.

So depending on what effect you’d like to create, choose the armholes that are most flattering for your unique body.


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  • As a US citizen with relatives in Europe, have shopped both in the US and Netherlands/Germany/ Austria/Switzerland … and noticed over the many years that often why European clothes "fit" better… is because the armhole was cut higher/slimmer than a similar US cut T-shirt or blazer/jacket. How do others perceive their country in the "arm hole" measure? curious to find out about other countries in the world….

  • Remember that the cut of the armhole drastically affects how the garment moves when you move. A lower cut armhole will cause the entire torso of the garment to rise if you raise your arm. Reach forward, and the whole garment twists.

    Those garments on the old (old) Dick VanDyke show, earliest seasons of Mission Impossible, and others, are all cut with smaller armholes (and closer crotches in the men's pants). This means that the actors and stunt doubles could truly MOVE in those outfits, without ripping something!

  • It's so true, though I rarely give this any thought. Instinctively I go with high armholes (to balance out large chest and short waist). I also have narrow shoulders though. Hmmm…

  • Ver y interesting, I've never thought about this before. It changes as fashion changes to, doesn't it? To me, high armholes look very 80s. Glad your back!

  • I can't wear the higher cut shirts because of sweat stains in the arm pits :-((

    Helmut Lang was the god of high cut armhole, sooo sexy, those blazers he designed.

    Last season the bat-wing-sleeves returned to the shelves at Benetton and Sisley. I fell for the really low cut sleeve and will keep it for some more seasons to come.

  • I love it when you point out things like this— less obvious clothing details that might pass unnoticed, but make a BIG difference in the way something looks and feels. Such a good blog!

  • Thank you so much! This explains something that had previously only been a vague notion. This new knowledge will save me from wasted time in the fitting room. I am you new greatest fan.

  • This is very helpful, thanks Imogen. I've started paying more attention to styling details like this, and am finding that paying a little bit more for better tailoring makes a huge difference in how something looks when worn.

  • I love your posts! I’m 5′ 7″ and 125 pounds. I am short waisted but also have
    shoulders that are more on the narrow side…hmm which one would Be best, lower cut armholes or higher cut?

      • Imogen, I am confused at your response to Bridget. I thought from the above explanation that the high set arm holes will slim the upper body, not broaden it. Please explain.

        • Katie – high cut armholes have no effect on shoulders really. I think I was trying to say that puffed sleeves and epaulettes and other shoulder details will broaden shoulders, whilst the armhole height actually affects the chest and upper body area rather than shoulders.

  • Thank you so much for all your information on -so many things. I am in my seventies and can not identify with the photos of real people- when you explain that this goes with that. So I appreciate your sketches of how to this and that-how to wear certain items of clothing etc.- It helps me to make decisions on what to wear and what not to wear. Thank you so much

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