A yoke is a shaped pattern piece which forms part of a garment, usually fitting around the neck and shoulders, or around the hips to provide support for looser parts of the garment, such as a gathered skirt or the body of a shirt. Yoke construction was first seen in the 19th century. Bodice yokes were first seen in the 1880s, whilst the yoke skirt, a skirt suspended from a fitted hip yoke, was first seen in 1898.
The yoke of a dress shirt is the area under the collar, that drapes over the shoulder and holds the shirt’s backing over the body. It is essentially the piece of the garment that behaves as a hanger, and creates the crisp lines of the shirt’s backside.
Dress shirts have different types of yokes. The primary methods are a single yoke or a split yoke.
What is the difference between a “one piece yoke” and a “split yoke”? A one piece yoke is made from a single piece of fabric. A split yoke is split down the middle and sewn together in the middle.
The benefit to wearing a split yoke shirt is that it provides more stretch. The fabric of most high quality woven cottons will not stretch very much at all if you try to stretch it vertically or horizontally. However, if you try to stretch it diagonally it stretches a bit. The benefit of the split yoke is that by rotating the fabrics to the angled orientation, the design is essentially adding stretch to the yoke across it’s width. This added stretch will provide comfort to the wearer.
How to Measure a Shirt: Yoke Width
Button up the shirt and spread the shirt out on its front. Measure for the point where the yoke meets the sleeve, straight across, to the same point on the other side. When taking this measurement, pull the two ends of the yoke tight but don’t stretch the fabric.
You may also want to learn about Western Wear.
If you are very interested in shirt construction, you may also want to learn about gussets.