Jackets of the season – shawl collar

Eileen Fisher’s jackets are current classics, so we can wear them for several years. But each season she picks out one style to emphasise. And this season it has a shawl collar.


Style details : long lapels down to a single button, and lapels about 1/3 the width of the shoulders. The turn of the collar is softly rolled, not pressed flat. Cut away fronts below the button. Slightly angled welt pockets. But otherwise this looks an easy fit classic boxy blazer shape.

I’ve found surprisingly few classic jacket patterns with shawl collars. Most shawl collar patterns are for outerwear with wide picture collars.

Here’s a possibility, Burda.8201.


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Understanding the shawl collar pattern

Shawl collars are cut differently from most jackets, the collar is cut in one with the front.
There’s an explanation of the difference between shawl and notched collars in Threads magazine.

Here’s the characteristic corner joining body and collar, from Vogue 8605 (which happens to be the only current pattern with a full shawl collar that I’ve got !).


The corner needs to be stay stitched and clipped, so one side of the angle makes the front shoulder seam, and the other side goes along the back neck.
Not a trick for sewing beginners (see later).

And for pattern making, it’s not a trivial enterprise to add one of these to the neckline of a favourite jacket pattern.

Here’s an on-line lesson on how to draft the shawl collar.

If you really need convincing that drafting a shawl collar is no simple process, here’s a YouTube video on how to draft a shawl collar pattern using OptiTex CAD software !

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Types of shawl collar

It’s a bit difficult to tell from a design drawing how an integral shawl collar is cut. There are two ways of doing it.

One has both the upper and under collars cut on. So there’s a front-under collar pattern piece (see previous diagram) and facing-upper collar pattern piece. The front-under collar in one piece makes the under collar look neat and tidy, if you want to turn the collar up. Good for outerwear, but less needed on an indoor jacket.
Both the sewing videos (see later) are about that type of collar.

The other approach is to cut the front and under collar separately, and the front facing with the collar cut on.

Palmer-Pletsch oop McCall’s 4598 is an example. Here are the front and under collar pattern shapes (left), with the front facing for a notched collar (centre) and a shawl collar (right).


It helps to be able to look at the pattern to see how the collar is cut.

But if that isn’t possible, one clue that patterns must have a separate notchless collar, rather than an integral shawl collar, is if there’s a curved neckline. So the neckline can’t be on a fold, and upper and under collar must be added pieces. This happens in many current jacket patterns, which have an open soft curved V neckline and a ‘picture’ collar. Such as Butterick 5570.


And here’s another reason to make a separate collar. One Eileen Fisher jacket uses a different fabric for the collar.


Difficult to see in black, but the collar is layers of transparent fabric.
So of course that has to be cut separately.
And patterns with the collar/ lapel cut separately are much easier to change the neckline shape and depth if you want to.

Nancy Zieman’s McCall’s 6293 could be a starting point.


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Sewing a shawl collar

I haven’t found any good on-line written tutorials for sewing that tricky corner on shawl collars.

There are a couple of YouTube training videos for industrial sewing machinists.
The videos use different methods for sewing front-plus-collar to back.

In this first one, you start stitching from centre back, and back neck and shoulder seam are sewn in one continuous step. Two machining steps. This is also the method used in the book ‘Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers’.
Shawl collar sewing

In this second one, shoulder seams are sewn first, then across the back neck. Three machining steps. This demo includes adding the facing. Much of the commentary is not in English, but if you’re not a beginner sewer it’s not too difficult to understand what is going on.
Shawl collar part 1
Shawl collar part 2

There are several other methods. Some people avoid getting kinks in the fabric by hand sewing the corner. I prefer to machine sew each corner in 2 separate steps, starting from the corner each time. Four machining steps, so not used in industry ! Make samples and see which technique you like.

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Style elements

What about the details of these shawl collar jackets.

Single button. Try out the best height for you. Should it be where your body bends, higher, or lower ? I’m short waisted so look best with a single button below waist level.

With my high round back and forward neck, I always have to change necklines and collars to get a good fit. I would need to check there’s no gapping on that long V-neck.

What about the soft roll of the colar. Is this right for you, or is a firmly pressed flat collar more to your personal style ? Which would give the best emphasis to your body shape ?

And notice how the fronts are cut away from the centre line below the button. This adds vertical lines below the waist, even when the jacket is buttoned. Flattering for some of us.

Also means that, when buttoned, the edges of the front opening make an X shape (look at the photos) rather than a Y. Which shape might be more flattering on you ?

Try out how much (if any) cut away of the lower fronts would be good. Perhaps by folding existing jacket fronts away at the front edge to see what looks best.

And the placing and angle of the pocket welts ? On me, emphasis at high hip level is best avoided, so I would make these nearer vertical.

So, if I made one of these jackets, there are several good reasons to start with a test muslin to try out the details.

Some stylists say a shawl collar looks matronly. Others think it’s flattering as it frames your face and adds vertical lengthening lines. I certainly think they can look good if you get the details right for your own body shape and style.

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Easiest continuous neckline

The easiest way of getting the long lines of a notchless collar look, though not the same effect as an integral shawl collar, is simply to add a neckband wide enough to fold over. There are several patterns for this, such as Christine Jonson’s 511 Boyfriend jacket (left), or the Shawl jacket from Loes Hinse (right).

”cjboyfriend” ”lh-shawl-collar”

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Well, obviously when I’m let loose I can go on for rather a long time about a single garment 😀

Classic notched collar blazers are the main fashion jacket this season. And there are several in the group of jackets picked out by Eileen Fisher, see next post. Plus some other jacket styles. More jacket posts planned !

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Patterns and links available March 2011

Explore posts in the same categories: current fashion

4 Comments on “Jackets of the season – shawl collar”

  1. Helen Says:

    Fascinating post! A couple of things really resonated with me, in a “why didn’t I think of that” kind of way! First, dropping the single button below the waist-line on the short waisted (yes, of course!). And secondly, the X vs Y shape of the jacket and the angled pockets – these will give more shape to those of us that are a little boxy!
    I’m planning to make a jacket at some point this year and I’ll definitely be referencing this post when I do.

  2. Marie-Christine Says:

    The single-button with below-waist cutout would not seem too good for me at first glance – gaping in the top part due to bust size, aggravated by round-belly emphasis in the lower part. That said, the Loes Hinse jacket fits me well and looks very good, so that shows you all about theory :-).

    • sewingplums Says:

      Good point, Marie-Christine ! It’s always important to try out what looks and feels good – some disappointments and some happy surprises 😀

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