What does a 1″ or 2″ grade mean?
A funny thing happened on the way to writing a follow up post to Pop Quiz: grading necklines -and as it has come up before, I thought to dispense with it for once and all time. Namely, what do we mean when we say we have a 1 or 2 inch grade (or however much)? This is not so easily summarized because it seems ambiguous if one doesn’t understand the underlying references. I’ll try to explain the primary tenets of grades which are:
- A grade describes sizing changes for the major fitting attribute only.
- Application of the grade is proportionate.
- Grading is a logarithmic scale. Or should be.
Defines major fitting attribute: Generally, when we say something has a 1″ grade, we mean that the major or defining attribute of the garment will grow or shrink that amount. If the item is a blouse, it is understood that the bust measure will grow or shrink 1″. If the item is a pant, it is understood that either waist or hip is the primary fitting attribute. It is also possible they both are, it depends on the company.
Application of the grade is proportionate. If a blouse is graded one or two inches at the bust (primary attribute), it does not mean the other points of the garment also grade an inch. Rather, those areas are adjusted proportionately. Meaning, a neckline may only grade 1/2″. Even so, we will still call the overall scheme a 1 or 2 inch grade because that governs the proportions applied to other garment areas*.
Grading is logarithmic. Or should be. When we say 1 or 2 inch grade, we mean that the sizes directly off to either side of the base size, grow 1 or 2 inches. It is entirely possible and actually desirable, that sizes on the farthest end grade differently. The point is, when we refer to a grade, we mean a set of defined proportions.
Here’s an example in the table below. Table A (ISHHWLDT stands for “I sure as heck hope we’re at least doing this”) shows that 10 is the base size and the two sizes off to either side are graded 1″. As the figure gets smaller or larger, the grade varies (purple). We still call it a 1″ grade because the rate of proportional change is based on the 1″ grade.
Table B is the category for purists and other annoying ilk (in which I could be included). The 1″ grade only extends one size off the base size and varies for every other subsequent size.
Redux: If you don’t know much about grading and find that the primary fitting attribute of your size 2 is 4″ smaller than the size 10, I’d think your grader doesn’t know much about grading either. Either that or it is a very loose floppy style or a low price point. Table A dictates the size 2 should be 3.5″ smaller than the 10 while Table B shows the 2 should only be 3″ smaller than the 10.
*The issue of the which proportions to apply to given areas is subject to cantankerous debate. The answer is “it depends” . To minimize debate, let us drill it down to something simple like necklines for adult males who are height and weight proportionate.
Anthropometrically speaking, the total neck size is about 40% the measure of one’s chest (again, male, hgt/wgt proportionate). It is not so difficult to draft a pattern with this as a guideline, the problem is grading it. Reason is, the front and back neckline are sized differently so they should not be graded equally. Specifically, the back neck total measure is 1/6 of chest but it is awkward to grade like this. [For the purposes of this discussion, back neck is resting between C7 & TI.] Here’s an example:
Chest = 42″
Total neck measure (40% of chest) = 16.8″
Back neck (1/6th of chest) = 7″.
Being that we represent commercial enterprises rather than bespoke, we take shortcuts of which the quality can vary dramatically depending on price points and styling of the garment. If it’s a loose top, it matters less. In more expensive suits, it is typical for the neck proportion to be split in 5ths. 2/5ths of the grade goes to the back and 3/5ths of the grade go to the front neckline. If we were to grade them evenly, it would blow the proportions. For example, if you did the math for size 44, you’d find the back neck grows 1/3″ total but the front neck grows the remainder -about 1/2″ (total grow is .8″ so the 3/4″ grade mentioned in this post isn’t so far fetched).