Ask Angela …: There are countless women like me who must have the same question to ask, so I’ll make an attempt to speak for the group. After reaching those golden years, we start to wonder why our clothes — especially shirts and blouses — seem to have lost all sense of shape. We might just as well be wearing ponchos because our collective shoulders have gradually disappeared over the years. How about a hint on making conservative shoulder pads . . . not like the 80’s kind and not just for jackets/coats and blazers. I would like something that can be used with casual or dress shirts and blouses, so it should not be too bulky.
Sure hope you can address this problem — I’ve seen you on It’s Sew Easy many times and feel that if anybody can solve this issue, it is Angela.
P.S. My next project will be creating a bra with suspenders to keep it in place. Any ideas?

Sarah from Ohio

This was a great question from Sarah, and although I’m not going to talk about making your own shoulder pads, I am going to give you a few tips that have worked for other clients of mine in the past.

All of us have different body shapes, meaning I might not need the same thickness of shoulder pad as you or maybe I don’t need extra padding at all.  With that being said, there are just as many sizes and styles of shoulder pads.

Do you remember the shoulder pads of the 80s – they were very, very, VERY LARGE! In fact, I’m pretty sure the shoulders of the jackets extended at least 2 inches past the actual edge of any female’s shoulder.  I always laugh at some of the old photos where I am wearing enormously huge shoulder pads – my head looks SO small! 🙂

Take a look at these two shoulder pads. Both are considered a raglan shoulder pad, meaning that part of the shoulder pad will be directly on your shoulder and a small part of the shoulder pad will extend past your shoulder to fill in the sleeve cap.  These are typically used for jackets, but the smaller one will work in tops as well.

This shoulder pad is very thin and a perfect option for blouses and tops.  It gives that soft edge to your shoulder and evens out your profile, without standing out that you are wearing shoulder pads..

It can get rather expensive to add shoulder pads to every top that you own, not to mention shoulder pads turn out disastrously after being washed.  So why not design your own removable shoulder pads!

You will need:

1” wide Hook & Loop tape; which comes in a variety of colors including beige, black, foliage green, olive drab, and white

Shoulder pad options I would consider:

Hand Sewing Needle and Thread


Shoulder pads are listed by thickness and length.  The thickness is the height of the shoulder pad, so if you are looking for the bare minimal to even out the shoulder area – start with the ¼” thick shoulder pad.  For unlined jackets and sweaters consider using the raglan shoulder pads (which is what I will be using here). For knit tops and blouses, choose a flatter shoulder pad that won’t extend into the sleeve cap but the straight edge will line up with the edge of your shoulder.


Take a close look at the hook and loop tape.  There is a softer side (which will be attached to your garments) usually referred to as the loop side.  Then, there is the hook side that is  stiff and rough, this part will be attached to the shoulder pad.

In creating the removable shoulder pads, there will be hook or loop tape permanently attached to the seam allowance in the shoulder area of the top and the shoulder pad. This will also allow you to have shoulder pads in various colors to coordinate with the garment. If you are only starting with one color, I would go with beige as that will coordinate with any color.

Cut the hook and loop tape 3” in length, longer if needed.

Cut the 3” strip in half longwise.

Now you should have 4 pieces: 2 hook sides and 2 loop sides.

That’s one for each shoulder seam and one for each shoulder pad.  This is for one top, cut 2 additional “loop” strips for each top.

Attach hook tape to the shoulder pad. The hook tape will be stitched onto the shoulder pad. In case you are wondering, yes it does matter which side you attach to the shoulder pad!  Did you feel that roughness? That roughness can stay on the shoulder pad and it will never touch your skin. The softer side of the tape will be sewn to the garment. Then, if you don’t wear shoulder pads one day, you won’t even notice the loop tape sewn in.

The seam line shown on this shoulder pad is right down the center – which will align with the shoulder seam on the garment. If your shoulder pad doesn’t have a seam, simply fold the shoulder pad in half and chalk mark the center. I have marked the part of the shoulder pad where the end of the loop tape will be attached.

Align the hook tape with the center of the shoulder pad.  That will be the seamline on this shoulder pad; I have drawn blue dotted lines to show you where this hook tape will be attached.

With a double thread, hand stitch the tape in place.  I’m using a contrasting thread so you can see the stitches, you should use a thread that matches the shoulder pad or hook tape itself.

The loop tape can be sewn on with a hand stitch, but I find it faster to use a straight stitch on the sewing machine.  You can see in the photo below, the loop tape is aligned on top of the shoulder seam allowance. Stitch one row attaching the loop tape to the edge of the seam allowance.  Then, making sure the body of the garment is pushed out of the way, stitch a second row closer to the shoulder seam taking care to stay within the seam allowance.  When you are finished, check the backside of the seam allowance to make sure the stitching is only on the seam allowance and you didn’t accidentally stitch through the garment.

That’s it! Now you can attach the shoulder pad.

Even though I am showing this jacket on a mannequin, you can definitely see how the shoulder pad on the right shoulder fills out the sleeve cap and evens out the shoulder area.  The left side does not have a shoulder pad in, and it almost looks like the sleeve cap is caving in.

The same process would work on a knit top, blouse, sweater, fleece, etc …

The idea is to add loop tape to any top that you need a little umph, then you can use any shoulder pad and best of all, remove the shoulder pad before washing.

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and thanks again Sarah for such a great question!  Do you have a sewing or fitting related question? Click here to Ask Angela.

As far as Sarah’s question about the bra with suspenders; I don’t have a solution for that one, but I do know of two highly recommended bra sewing classes by Beverly Johnson on Craftsy. 

Angela Wolf

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!