How to make a neckline smaller (or bigger) 6

You have a favorite top that is too wide at the neck opening and you want to make the neckline smaller? Or, you are working on a pattern and don’t like how the pattern is finished at the neckline?

Either way,

this article is going to outline a couple of ways to deal with this problem. You are going to learn several ways to reduce, change the shape, or enlarge a neckline opening. They can fall into two main categories:

1. How to make a neckline smaller if you have a ready to wear garment.

  • With darts/small pleats.

Make darts or small pleats with different depth, shape, and length in order to get the best result.


darts and pleats to make a neckline smaller

This is a very common way of altering the neckline, because of the various positions and number of pleats/darts you can add.  In this particular case, the problem is that the neck opening in the pattern is made for binding, but is actually done on a coverstitch machine. The neckline is too wide only at the front.

how to make a neckline smaller

Watch the video tutorial below on how to make the neckline smaller by making vertical pleats.

  • Use a gathering or elastic.

Add some elastic or make some gathering in the middle area or on the whole length of the neckline to gather the neckline. You can pull the elastic more or less when attaching it. This will result in a bigger or a smaller gathering. Choose how much to alter the neckline according to the fabric used, the form of the neckline and your preferences. You can add gathering/elastic to:add elastic to the neckline

1.A small area of the neckline;

2.The whole front of the garment;

3. Both front and back (the whole neck opening).




  • With binding.

This is a way to do it if you make the t-shirt or blouse yourself, you’ve cut the neckline too low and have some additional fabric. Then you can provide a wider binding tape. Note that this could only work with knitted fabrics and it can make a difference of an inch or so without looking odd. Here is a tutorial on making the binding more narrow, but you might reverse the process and follow the idea to achieve this result.

add binding to the neckline

  • Correcting from the shoulder.

Note: THIS IS NOT THE NATURAL SHAPE OF A SHOULDER IN A BODICE. It may result in a very strange form if you overdo it. It is a must to pin and try on the garment before cutting. But it actually gives me good results very often.This fix will work for both scoop neck and v-neck shaped neck openings. Break the shoulder seam and pull some of the excess fabric in front up. Then make the shoulder seam again.

reduce a gaping neckline

Here is a video tutorial we made on how to do it:

      • With an additional piece of fabric.

        Stitch a piece of matching or contrast fabric around the neckline to make it smaller.

how to make a neckline smaller


2. How to make a neckline smaller if you are working on a pattern.

Applying changes directly on the bodice pattern is perhaps the easiest way to manipulate the neckline. And usually, the one that gives the best results. Here is a great online course on drafting creative necklines: Patternmaking + Design: Creative Necklines.

This is what you can do to change the shape of the neckline on the bodice detail:

      • Lift the neckline opening higher.

This adjustment will result in changing only the neckline curve. It can be higher or lower or even change the form of the oval if it is a scoop neckline.

change the neckline shape

      • Change the form of the neckline.

There are a lot of varieties that can be applied. For example v-neck, square or heart shape, wider or more narrow opening. This adjustment allows you to use the same bodice pattern that fits well and create different looks. If you need some inspiration on how to re-shape the basic bodice, here is a course on how to draft nine different collar variations: Mastering Construction: Collars & Closures.

 change the form of a neckline

  • Shorten the bodice detail at the shoulder.

This adjustment can be made in case that the whole upper chest area is longer than your body measurements. You can reduce the length of both front and back bodice patterns or just the front one. It looks like this:

reduce the neckline on a pattern

This type of adjustment of the pattern requires changes in the sleeve pattern detail, too.

      • If you shorten both front and back bodice pieces, make sure to shorten the sleeve at the same height as the bodice.
      • If you shorten only the front bodice, reduce the width of the sleeve on front side only. Remove the same inch/cm as you did on the bodice.

        changes in the sleve pattern

These are the most common ways I use to make a neckline smaller. Do you have another method that gives you good results? Please, share it. Or, if you have any questions or suggestions, drop me a line below.

Related posts:

  1. Clothing alterations – sleeves and collar
  2. How to change a turtleneck into a crew neck
  3. Change a turtleneck into a crew neck – another way
  4. How To Take In The Waist Of Jeans For A Better Fit
  5. How to sew an elastic waistband


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6 thoughts on “How to make a neckline smaller (or bigger)

  • Patti Teeters

    Thank you so much for these demonstrations. You have helped me out a lot with three t-shirts that have a deep scoop neck. I haven’t even worn them yet and I have had them for two years! The scoop was so low half my breasts/bra showed! I am 64 years old and I don’t need to show that cleavage. Ha Ha. You have been so helpful. God Bless.

    • Daniela Post author

      Hi, you can go trough this post and pick another way to do it, which would work better for you. If the neckline is wide all around, I usually prefer gathering, pleats or elastic. Sometimes I might prefer to add a wider banding tape or a tunnel with a ribbon. It depends very much on what you are dealing with. Hope this helps.

  • Colette

    Great advice. Thank you so much. Sadly I think I will have to scrap my dress I was making because the Bardot neckline is huge. I don’t think it will suit elastic as the rest of the dress is quite ‘tailored’ looking.

    • Daniela Post author

      Hmmm…do you have some more fabric? You might just re-do the detail if it is a separate piece. Perhaps you might send me a pic of the neckline, so we could try to think of something. It’s sad to scrap a whole dress.