“Filling in the Gaps” Joi answers a Common Student Question


QUESTION: I don’t wear shoulder pads or breast pads, why should I use them for measuring? Won’t the garment then not fit me correctly?


 When you address  body contours and “fill in the gaps”  with styling tools such as padding you are actually providing a consistent surface for your garments to rest on. As a result you achieve better fit and sewing results. Of course if you add something like a shoulder pad when measuring the body you would then install that into your garment when sewing. You also may have different sets of measurements for different types of garments. A set of measurements is not one size fits all for every garment. You might need shoulder pads to smooth out an armhole for a suit jacket, but you would not need them for a t-shirt.   


I see this question quite often when I teach fit because it is different than what is normally taught. I mean who wants to add padding to a garment, right? Most fit classes and fit teachers never address shaping the actual body before you sew and especially before you measure the body. But think about it; Why would you sew a garment and then when you are ready to wear it add padding if you have not allocated space in the pattern for it from the start?  Can you imagine some of the fitting problems that may result? Instead I see sewists who have been taught to do weird pattern adjustments to match inconsistent body shapes, and sewing these pattern pieces together can be difficult for even the best seamstress.


Barring a few people I have encountered that don’t wear bras most people wear a bra daily. What would your clothing look like if you did not wear a bra? The fit/lift or lack thereof would be totally different. Even in this example you can see how a garment would be affected. In sewing you should wear your foundation pieces when you take body measurements. If you come see my in my studio that is the first thing I will discuss with you and remind you to bring to your fitting.  Think of shoulder pads, bra cups, and custom shapers as styling tools.



As we age there are many things that happen to our figures from  curvature of the spine, to the neck protruding forward, shoulders sloping forward, rounding out of the back, tummy shift and sooooooo much more. However, we don’t wake up when we are 50 or 60 and all of a sudden have drag lines, hollows in the armhole or sleeve, pulling in the back or bunching in the waist to name a few. These issues really start to develop starting in the 30s give or take, and understanding them helps us know how to better address fit because how we fit ourselves this year will be different than our fitting needs in two years from now. You can’t do the same thing forever and achieve the same results.  “Filling in the gaps” helps our clothing looks polished, and surprise some “fit” issues are not fit issues at all. Instead they are styling issues or you may just need a foundation for the garment to rest on so it looks correct.


Common areas that need padding include; uneven shoulders, uneven hips, arm hollows in the front armscye, bust area, and the back. You can purchase premade pads from tailoring supply companies or make your own by layering things like interfacing, garment flannel, or the fashion fabric. Blending is key and if done correctly they are almost always undetectable. Adding something like a shaper to the armhole does NOT add bulk, heat or unnatural height; instead it adds a natural shape and contour to the body by “filling in the gaps.”

It truly is a personal preference if you apply this to your sewing and fitting. If you find that you are just not achieving your desired level of fit and you are not following these professional tips and tricks this may be why.


Share with me some of your fitting issues that you think may be a result of needing to “fill in the gaps”


  • Kathleen Marlow

    05.05.2017 at 21:47

    Wow…you are good……I attended your two previous Sewing Holidays and love it. Good luck on this year’s event and new format.

    • joi

      08.05.2017 at 14:25

      Hi Kathleen, Thank you so much for posting. I remember you. Yes I am super excited about having Sewing Holiday in my new full time studio and sewing event studio. My knit class is sold out and I have just a few spots left in my fitting class and quilting. So the new format has been well received. I think this is the right direction for sewing events. Hope you can join us for one of our events in the future. Hope all is well.

  • Kay Shakespear

    06.05.2017 at 03:53

    This really is not a fitting issue,but need some help.with a question. Am working with a piece of lawn border print of a summer top, will cutting it on the cross grain so the border is on the bottom effect how it fits or drapes? Thanks,kws

    • joi

      08.05.2017 at 14:22

      Hi Kay, anytime you change the grain a fabric will drape different, however, some fabrics that are lighter and have a balanced weave, they will drape kind of similar in different directions. If you are not sure I would just drape the fabric over a dress form or pin to your shirt and see how it reacts. I would feel comfortable cutting a lawn on the cross grain. Leave a good 2 inch seam allowance and baste the sides. Let it hang or wear around your sewing studio for it to stretch out and hit the final drape. Post a photo on my FB page when you are done . I have a whole bolt of a beautiful floral cotton lawn that I am deciding what to make from it. It is so beautiful. I love lawn.

      • joi

        08.05.2017 at 14:23

        Ok I can’t resist. If I had a bolt of Cotton lawn fabric I could say I was cutting the lawn LOL. I have been gardening so greens are fresh in my mind.

  • Kay Shakespear

    06.05.2017 at 03:53


  • Sarah Liz

    06.05.2017 at 04:58

    Thank you for this post, great information.

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