Grading Fashion - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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Grading in the fashion industry is not the same as a teacher grading class papers.  However, if you are a teacher at a fashion school, it is true that grading is part of your responsibilities.  Anyway, grading a test is simply different then the type of grading that I plan to discuss on this page...

Grading of a pattern (or grading of size spec measurements) means adding or decreasing inches (or other measurement units such as millimeters), to a specific part of the sample sized pattern in order to size up or size down.  In other words, when grading you are creating a size run of varying dimensions and sizes.  For example, if your sample size is size medium, you will need to grade "up" to determine the measurements for size Large and X-large etc.  If your sample is size medium, you will need to grade "down" to determine the measurements for size small.

In order to do this, you need to have established grade rules.  Unfortunately, grade rules vary from company to company.  Also, they change depending on the fabrication.  For example, the grade rule for the neck opening for a knit top may be different for the neck opening for a woven top.  It is important to take into account that knit will stretch more then woven and therefore, may require different rules.

For example, one company may grade the sample size's waist measurement up 1 1/2" to make a size six a size eight.  However, another company may grade the sample size's waist measurement up 1 1/4" to make a size six a size eight.  Because their is no apparel industry standardization each manufacturer or designer has the opportunity to decide how their production pattern gets graded.  They determine their standard sample measurement as well as their specific grade rules.

Clothing Industry Grading:

Grading in the clothing industry is the process of creating patterns for various sizes of a garment based on a base or sample size. This process is essential for producing clothing lines that fit a range of body shapes and sizes. Grading ensures that the design, fit, and proportions of a garment remain consistent across different sizes.

Process for Grading Clothes:

Pattern Preparation: The grading process begins with the creation of a base pattern for a sample size (usually the middle size of the size range). This pattern is typically developed through pattern drafting or computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Measurement Chart: A measurement chart is created, specifying the key measurements for each size in the range. These measurements can include chest width, waist circumference, hip measurement, sleeve length, and more.

Size Breakdown: Graders use the measurement chart to calculate the differences in measurements between each size. These differences are known as grading rules.

Grading Rules Application: Graders apply the grading rules to the base pattern to create patterns for all other sizes in the range. This involves adjusting the pattern pieces to increase or decrease measurements as required.

Test Garments: Test garments or muslins are made from the graded patterns to check the fit and proportions of each size. Adjustments may be made based on fit testing results.

Final Patterns: Once the graded patterns are perfected, they become the final patterns used for production.

Tips and Pitfalls:


Maintain Proportion: Ensure that grading rules maintain the proportion and style of the original design across all sizes.

Fit Testing: Regular fit testing is crucial to ensure that the graded patterns result in well-fitting garments for all sizes.

Consistency: Maintain consistency in grading rules and techniques to avoid variations between sizes.


Over-Grading: Applying excessive grading can result in disproportionate or ill-fitting garments.

Inaccurate Measurement Charts: Errors in the measurement chart can lead to incorrect grading.

Fit Issues: Failing to conduct fit tests can result in garments that do not fit well in certain sizes.

Who Does Garment Grading:

Garment grading is typically done by professionals known as graders or pattern graders. These individuals are skilled in pattern making and grading techniques and often work with CAD software to create patterns for various sizes.

Technology's Impact on the Grading Process:

Technology has greatly improved the garment grading process in several ways:

CAD Software: Computer-aided design (CAD) software streamlines the grading process, making it faster and more precise. Graders can easily input grading rules, and the software generates graded patterns automatically.

3D Body Scanning: Advanced 3D body scanning technology allows for more accurate measurement data, enabling more precise grading.

Fit Simulation: Some CAD systems offer fit simulation tools that allow graders to visualize how a garment will fit on different body shapes and sizes virtually.

Digital Collaboration: Digital sharing and collaboration tools make it easier for design and production teams to work together on the grading process, even if they are located in different parts of the world.

Data Management: Digital databases and pattern management systems help in organizing and maintaining a library of graded patterns for different styles, sizes, and seasons.

Garment grading is a critical step in the clothing industry that ensures garments fit a range of body sizes while maintaining design integrity. Technology has significantly improved the efficiency and accuracy of the grading process, allowing for more precise and consistent sizing across clothing lines. Graders play a vital role in this process, working with advanced tools and software to create patterns that meet the diverse needs of consumers.

You may wish to consult a pattern maker for more information on this subject.  If you are a pattern maker, please join us for discussions at the pattern maker discussion group at the Fashion Industry Network.

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