Pop Quiz: Grading necklines

This amounts to an informal survey, it would be great if you could provide a bit of insight.

I had a conversation last week with someone who wanted to know why we grade necklines like we do -this refers to adult apparel. I’ll number these so you can respond easier.

1. When we use a 1″ grade, we typically grade the neckline a total of 1/2″. Do you or don’t you?

2. However, when we grade with a 2″ grade, informal feedback says we grade the neckline only 3/4″. Do you or don’t you?

3. With respect to #2, why aren’t we grading the neckline a full inch? If a 1″ grade takes a half inch increase in the neck, it only stands to reason that a 2″ grade would be double that.

I asked this of two grading friends, both concurred with #1 and #2 but were stumped and not able to explain their reasoning (#3).  It doesn’t make sense on the face of it. Ideas?

All I can say is I’m beginning to understand why beginners have trouble understanding grading. It would seem we change the rules depending on the phase of the moon. In the particular book the person asked me about, I’d penciled in my own grade for those specific moves because I don’t use the one from the book. I’ll bet that is common enough. Let’s call that #4 so you can weigh in on it too.

Not long ago, a dear friend chastised me for grading a neckline 3/4″ for a 2″ grade. She said it should only have been 1/2″.  I noted her objection and resolved to think about it later (but I continued with my grade as is). She has more experience than I do in grading so she either knows better than I do -an entirely likely scenario- or she didn’t realize it was a 2″ grade. I tried to call her for clarification but she wasn’t in.

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  1. kay says:

    Dumb question: is a 1″ grade a “regular” size, and 2″ plus size? I’m thinking about the plus size garments that have huge necklines (and that tends to contribute to the armscye around the biceps problem, too). Reducing the neckline growth would tend to improve the neck fit in some of the plus home sewing patterns I’ve seen.

  2. Theresa in Tucson says:

    I would go with, and I’m just guessing, that the reason you go up 3/4 for a 2″ grade is because you are covering a wider demographic range, as in S, M, L, rather than 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18. You don’t want to get the neckline too large. The garment should fit the upper range well and the lower range should still fit nicely, even if a little looser than ideal.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Not a dumb question at all. I would have explained but knew that my post had very narrow appeal to a limited audience but I’m happy to explain.

    A 1″ grade is typically 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc. Sort of. That will suffice for the sake of this discussion.

    A 2″ grade is usually S, M, L, XL etc. Again, sort of but will suffice.

    Speaking of, see a practical guide to grading (in my book) pg.170-175, most specifically starting with “the sizing controversy” right hand column of pg.171 through 172.

    When we say 1″ grade, we don’t mean (or should not mean) all sizes are graded up or down 1″. It is only two sizes off to either side of the base size that are the 1″ grade. Smaller than 2 sizes takes a 3/4″ grade and 2 sizes larger than base size is 1.5″ -but again, you’re just “supposed” to know this. See fig 5.66 on pg.172. That represents a correct grade. Fig 5.65 is how people do it these days with a 1″ up or down for all sizes. Actually, if they are likely to do that (the same for all sizes), they usually go with a 2″ grade -which makes for some serious problems. See the chart, left hand column, top of page 171. “New” method is on the left (hiss, boo). “Old” method is on the right and generally conforms to best grading practices.

    I’ve written about this before but I don’t know which posts at this moment. Alison probably does…

  4. katyrenee says:

    I’d say it has less to do with adhering to the rule and more to do with what works. Like English phonics: I before E except after C. So while the rule would have you do otherwise, it works better to go with 3/4″

  5. Brina says:

    Well, after grading up a M to an XL and making the neck-line and yoke way out of proportion my guess would be for #3 is that the neck is a much smaller circumference than the torso, so the grade increase needs to be relative not absolute. That is the grade needs to be relative to the part of the body where the increase is needed and not an absolute (the same) across the garment. To extend the idea–the grade needs to be a relative ratio and not an absolute ratio. That is, a ratio relative to both how large the body part is and how large that body part tends to increase in girth as the human body becomes larger, in each size increment.
    I will now go back into my right brain…

  6. Andrea says:

    Stop ! You’re stumping me !

    Is there a grading book which explains the theories of grading as opposed to the directions and measurements necessary ? I feel the absence of the theory(from my education) has definitely impaired my comprehension. We were simply taught how to do it — it was easy for students who could follow directions without asking why — but I need the why explained to do it properly.

  7. dosfashionistas says:

    First of all, I want to say I have not been actively involved in any grading in the last 6 years. I have always thought the grade for necklines tended to be too large for the amount that a neck actually grows, and any time I had control over grading I would make the grade as small as I could get approved. I like a 3/8″ grade going down and no more than 1/2″ going up. As Kathleen remarked, a 1″ grade becomes a 1 1/2″ grade 3 sizes up, and may become a 2″ grade if the grade goes up high enough (not good practice, but I didn’t get to choose how many sizes the label was going to cut). But this is only based on my personal observations about sizing. I would love to see a comprehensive study of body measurements for both the neck and shoulder area. Does anyone know if any such study has been done and where it could be found?

  8. Kjersti says:

    I am just going to throw out a guess, but I know nothing about grading. I understand your explanation of 1″ and 2″ grades to mean that the first has more sizes than the second? If I misunderstood this, then this explanation doesn’t help I’m afraid. But if it does, this is my reasoning.
    When grading from the base size in the 2″ grade you are grading what is equivalent to two sizes in the 1″ grade. And, since you are using a logarithmic scale for grading necklines (meaning that the amount you add/subtract gets smaller as you move away from the base size), the first size is 1/2″, the second would be 1/4″. Combine these and you get 3/4″. So, grading one size in 2″ is the same as two sizes in 1″.

  9. Ann Vong says:

    I had to go back and look at my textbook, Concepts of Pattern Grading but I remembered that the neck grade has both a neck width grade and a neck length grade. From page 126 “..by calculating the difference in the cross shoulder grade and the shoulder length grade, the neck width grade is determined. ” Also in the accompanying chart there is a note that the Neck length equals the back or front neck minus the neck width. The part of the book is on grading from specifications. In the example, the 1″ grade has 1/16 width & 1/16 length grade and the largest 2″ grade (16-18) had a 1/8 width and a 1/16 length.

    Some academic articles:

    Bye, E., LaBat, K., McKinney, E., & Kim, D.-E. (2008). Optimized pattern grading. International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology, 20(2), 79-92. doi:10.1108/09556220810850469

    Schofield, N. A., & LaBat, K. L. (2005). Defining and testing the assumptions used in current apparel grading practice. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 23(3), 135-150. doi:10.1177/0887302X0502300301

    Schofield, N. A., & LaBat, K. L. (2005). Exploring the Relationships of Grading, Sizing, and Anthropometric Data. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 23(1), 13 -27. doi:10.1177/0887302X0502300102

  10. Barb says:

    I agree with dofashionistas, the neck does not vary as much between sizes. But one must also take into account neck drop measurements. I sometimes increase my neck drop 1/8 or a 1/4 on the largest sizes, which allows me to accomodate large necks without getting the opening too wide on large people with more slender necks.

  11. My response is the same as Brina’s – it’s a proportion issue.

    The neck doesn’t get bigger at the same rate that the body does, just as the shoulder width doesn’t increase as dramatically with bigger bodies (and hardly at all if bigger is because of weight gain).

    Perhaps something closely tailored, like suitcoats or jackets for bodybuilders, would need a slightly bigger increase than the corrected grades we’re talking about, as they might bulk up at the neck as well? If I were building those for that market, I’d take actual measurements from as many of my demographic as I could and run field tests, even if they were only with a strongly reinforced, shaped neck opening.

  12. Bo Breda says:

    Complicated issue for a bunch of reasons: knitwear will work differently than wovens, of course, and as mentioned above, the size category drastically changes it. Plus size varies little in the neck as the body grows quite a bit. I don’t like to use actually numbers because every company I ever worked for had a different grading chart even when it was the exact same market. The most interesting experiment I made was doing some activewear tops, missy sizes, where the whole change was in the drop rather than in the width. Fit great, but it was a synthetic blend with some lycra in it. I really like to doing fit workshops at shopping malls to get the real people input.
    Happy grading

  13. Renee says:

    Thinking a little left field, could it have anything to do with the fact that a neckline is (typically) curved and therefore could have a tendency to ‘give’ more. Eg, thinking of a cutout in the back of a dress/top – even if the cutout was patterned into a perfectly fit plain bodice pattern (like a sloper), when sewn up the cutout tends to gape and needs material taken out via darting/pattern shifting. Not sure if I’m using the right terminology here. So, if a neckline could behave the same way as a curved cutout in another area of the pattern, I think it would make sense to make the neckline grade a little smaller as you’d be in effect removing that little bit of extra fabric each time…? I could be way off track, but it’s the first thought that popped into my head.

  14. Sarah says:

    I love this post, I’m a bit of measurement geek and LOVE comparing measurements and techniques! I’m from australia and our sizing is a little bit different than USA in that most of our RTW womens wear has a 5cm, or 2″ grade as standard with a size range of 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 etc. A 1″ grade is mostly only available for jeans and we’d call that a 1/2 size. I was always taught to grade the Neck a total of 12mm, or 1/2″, so quite a small increase compared with what some of you have listed here. But I would suggest that the amount of increase would depend on your market and type of clothing being produced. :)

  15. Marie-Christine says:

    Disclaimer: I’m not a grader at all. But my reference is the older Burdas, which did grade up and down monstruous amounts without any problem (32 to 60 in one whizz). And the old friend who’d always buy a size 14 Vogue pattern also because the neck and shoulders fit her 60″ body just fine. In both rtw and US patterns, huge gaping necklines are a bane of large sizes. I don’t think you should grade necklines more than 1/4″, ever.

  16. dosfashionistas says:

    Barb, that is a great thought! I think you are not alone in that idea, as I have recently noticed necklines in clothes I have purchased that tend more toward a V on me but are not as overly wide on the shoulders as I am used to seeing (I am a larger size.). A lower neckline is more flattering on a large woman as well.

    Ann V. Thank you so much for the references!

  17. Tula says:

    Andrea makes an interesting point about theory vs. application. This reminds me of engineering school, where several professors I had insisted upon making us derive the formulas and equations we needed for various applications from the theories behind them. As in “why does this formula represent the output of that circuit?” They insisted you needed to understand the “why” of the formula as well as the “how” in applying it. Otherwise, you didn’t gain the ability to fix problems or change things to fit different scenarios or different desired outcomes.

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