One of the most difficult aspects of designing and manufacturing clothing is the grading. Now what is grading?
Grading is the process of creating the measurements for each size, going up the size chart and going down the size chart, starting typically with a size 8. You start with the first production pattern and size it up and size it down all relative to the first pattern size. Grading is an important part of production, so the grader must be experienced. Production samples of these graded sizes are sometimes made to test the fit, and specifications are written for each garment and each size. This ensures that in production the garments are sewn exactly as the approved production samples.
So how does anyone know what the size should be? Or put another way, in fashion industry lingo, how does anyone know what the grade should be?
Well, this is one of the most frustrating things for a new fashion business because this is where you have to commit to the “fit” of the garment, meaning, is your garment only going to fit tall and skinny people, or will you allow for a person to have curves or a little extra in the tummy area, YOU are the one who has to decide who your customer is going to be. You can’t be all things to all people which means you decide right from the start who your customer is going to be and make the garments to fit that specific customer. So, what you might choose for your grade is each size will be two inches bigger or smaller than the one before it. So, you would say you’re going to do a two inch grade. When you say this, every technical person and factory will know what this means. So for example, if you are making a men’s jacket and have a size 40 as your based size (meaning this is your reference size), your next size up will be a size 42, then 44, then 46 and so on. The same thing applies going downward, so if your base or reference size is 40, the next size down is a 38, then 36 and so forth.
In outerwear, you will be more likely to have a three or a four inch grade between sizes because these are garments that are worn over other garments and therefore you need to allow for extra room inside the garment. In addition, you’re likely to see sizing like what you see in t-shirts, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, etc.
You will often hear people talk about grading rules, but the reality is, the word “rule” is what trips up most people. The rule is more like the ruler, how many inches are you going to use for increasing and decreasing the size of the garment. There is no “rule” in the way we typically think of rules, as in, there is a specific way that something is done. Toss out that kind of thinking and replace it simply with deciding how many inches up or down do you want to go with your sizing.
You can choose to grade your garment in any way you want, you just have to commit to a specific number of inches in both directions and THAT is your grade rule, simple as that! The tough part is knowing what those inches should be.
One way to select a grade for YOUR garment is to just go and do some shopping. Go to a store that carries a garment similar to the one you want to produce. But a few sizes of the exact same garment and measure it. See how much of a difference there is across the chest area. You’ll quickly identify the grade they’re using for their sizing. Again, simple as that.
This is not to suggest that determining your grade is easy, it’s more just a matter of understanding WHAT grading is and then deciding what is going to work for you.
Many people will be reluctant to select the grade because they’re afraid they’ll make a mistake. Well take heart, you’ll get through your first production and you might discover that you need to change the grade. If that’s the case, just make the change based on the new information you have about the people actually wearing your garment and you’ll know whether or not you need to increase or decrease your grade.