How to make a neckline smaller (or bigger) 32

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 you want to change how the pattern is finished at the neckline?

Either way,

this article is going to outline a couple of ways to deal with that problem. I am going to share what I do to reduce, change the shape, or enlarge a neckline opening.

How to make a neckline smaller if you are fixing an RTW (ready to wear) garment

Make the neckline smaller by adding darts/small pleats

This is one of the easiest ways to fix a gaping neck. Make some darts or small pleats with different depth, shape, and length in order to get the best result.

How and where to put the pleats is a creative task. It depends on the results you want to achieve. Some necklines look good with a center front alteration, some need adjustments at the sides or along the whole neckline curve.

I’m going to give a couple of examples below to show the difference.

 But, you might need to distribute them differently to get the best results. 

darts and pleats to make a neckline smaller

Just try to keep the pleats symmetrical so you don’t end up with a strangely shaped neckline.

Also, pin and try on the garment prior to sewing to double-check if that new shape is what you want.

In the example below, the problem is that the neckline in the pattern is made for binding finishing, but it’s actually done on a coverstitch machine. The neckline got stretched only at the front. 

Here is the video on how to make the neckline smaller by making vertical pleats at the front:

This is a very common way of altering the neckline, because of the various positions and number of pleats/darts you can add. Adding pleats to the center front might not be the best choice for your problem.

Here is another example. The t-shirt I am working on has a neckline that got stretched along the whole curve, so I am making deeper pleats on the sides.

Make the neckline smaller with elastic

If there aren’t any beads, sequins, or print that gets in the way, you may fix the neckline with elastic. Add some elastic to the center front or along the whole length of the neckline to gather the neck opening.

You can pull the elastic more or less when attaching it. This will result in a bigger or 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 elastic to a small area of the neckline, the whole front piece of the garment, or to both front and back (the whole neck opening).

Here is an example:

Make the neckline smaller by gathering

You can also make a gathering on your sewing machine instead of adding elastic. This will get very similar results.

Make the neckline smaller with a binding

To make the neckline smaller with binding, you are going to need a piece of matching fabric. 

Note that this could only work with knitted fabrics. This alteration can make a difference of an inch or so.

Here is a tutorial on making the binding more narrow. You can follow the same steps, just cut the binding wider instead of more narrow.

add binding to the neckline

Make the neckline smaller by 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. Make sure to pin and try on the garment before cutting. 

That said,

it actually gives me very good results every time.

This fix will work for both scoop neck and v-neck shaped necklines. It looks good on garments that have beads, sequins, prints, cowl neck, or a center front seam.​​​​

fix a gaping neckline

To make it, break the shoulder seam and pull some of the excess fabric in front up. Try it on to see if it fits, then cut the excess fabric and make the shoulder seams again.

Here is a video on this technique (please excuse the bad sound).

Make the neckline smaller with an additional piece of fabric

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

how to fix a gapping neck

What I like to do is cut a square of fabric, fold it in half vertically and attach it with a seam along the neckline.

This fix is good for necklines that are really wide.  

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

Applying changes directly to the bodice pattern is perhaps the easiest way to manipulate the neckline. And usually, the one that gives the best results. 

You can make many different looks out of the same pattern by changing the shape of the neckline. 

Here are some of the possibilities.

Draw the neckline opening higher

When making this adjustment on the pattern, we change only the neckline curve. It can be higher or lower.

 You can even change the form of the curve and turn a scoop neckline into a boat neck.

change the neckline shape

Change the shape of the neckline

There are a lot of changes that you can make to the neckline.

For example, you can turn a scoop neck into a v-neck, square, or heart-shaped, you can make the neckline wider or more narrow.

These adjustments allow you to use the same bodice pattern that fits well and create different looks from it.

change the form of a neckline

Shorten the bodice detail at the shoulder

Unlike the shoulder fix on a RTW garment we showed above, we usually make this adjustment on both front and back bodice.

We need to make this adjustment when the whole upper chest area on the pattern is longer than your body measurements.

Yet, on some occasions, you might need to change only the front bodice pattern to fit the measurements.

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.

1.If you shorten both front and back bodice pieces, make sure to shorten the sleeve at the same height as the bodice (figure 1).

2. If you shorten the shoulder only at the front bodice, reduce the width of the sleeve at the front side only (figure 2). Remove the same inch/cms as you did on the bodice so that the sleeve fits the armhole again.

adjust a neckline on the bodice

These are the most common ways I use to make a neckline smaller. Do you know another method that gives you good results? Please, share it.

Or, if you have any questions or suggestions, drop me a line below.

As a bonus for those of you who managed to get to the bottom of this article, here is the “15 ways to alter necklines” ebook. Download from the button below.

15 Ways To Alter Necklines Ebook

Get all our tutorials on necklines that include gapping necks, turtleneck to the crew neck, and collar alterations.

how to alter necklines

More sewing tutorials:

  1. Draft and sew a collar and a collar stand
  2. How to change a turtleneck into a crew neck
  3. Change a turtleneck into a crew neck – another way
  4. What is a coverstitch machine and how to use it
  5. What is interfacing in sewing?


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

  • Gaye

    THANK YOU!! I am so appreciative. I am a mastectomy patient who now finds that a lot of blouses are too low. This has given me confidence to fix them.

  • Janice Miller

    I’m making my husband some baseball shirts–or at least trying to. He is a big man. I’m using a size 3-4 extra large pattern. Making a shirt this big-with the sleeves being part of the neck–is making the neck opening really big. My question is; how do I make the neck smaller on a baseball shirt pattern? I tried to cut a little material off of all parts of fabric that meet at neck line, but this altered the way the shirt fit him. I’ve looked everywhere on the internet for some help with no success.

    • Daniela Post author

      Is it a raglan pattern? And is it a commercial pattern? If so, the size of the neck opening should be taken into consideration no matter the size. But if not, I would add some fabric toward the neckline when cutting to get a smaller neckline.
      If you’ve already cut it and want to fix it at this point, I would do what you’ve done plus I would sew a smaller binding tape to get it together.
      Hope this helps!

  • Susan Bunting

    I’ve just altered the neckline of a dress I made some time ago using your tips for different ways of solving the problem as the opening was too wide and also baggy at the front.
    It’s not now and it looks great! Such simple ideas of how to do this – I should have worked it out myself but didn’t.
    Thank you so much. It’ll give me confidence to have a go at different things

  • Joy Taylor

    Thank you, these are great ideas! For a no-sew, no-cut idea that I have used for years…using a large blunt ended needle (plastic or metal) threaded with yarn to pull up the slack in necklines…might be referred to as darning needles. Just poke a hole on the inside of the neck hem or ribbing, just big enough for needle to poke into the casing. Pull the yarn all the way around and back through the hole, then pull up the slack and tie yarn ends into a really good knot and slip inside the casing or ribbing. The hole usually shrinks up with washing the garment. Probably won’t work if the fabric frays easily or if the neckline is really big and gaping. I don’t pull so tight that it gathers the neckline, but you could if you wanted the gathered look.

    • Daniela Post author

      It’s not hard, especially if the turtle neck is a separate piece. You need to cut a rectangle that is twice the height of the finished turtleneck and as wide as to match the neckline length.
      Then, close it in the middle, fold it by half wrong sides together and attach it to the neckline as you would attach a banding tape.
      If you are aiming for an extended turtleneck, you need to extend the bodice as high as you want the turtleneck to be, starting at the end of the shoulders.
      Hope this helps!

  • Donna Young

    My Mom has a sweater , she is 85 and sure doesn’t want her bra straps showing, I will try some of your fixes and see what I can do for her. Thanks, very timely for me!

      • Ann Cassler

        For the lady that lost 80 pounds, that’s a big alteration. I have altered my clothes from size 16 to 8 with varying degrees of success. One way to alter a top is to take it apart and place your new size pattern pieces on it and cut it out. Another way is to take in both side seams and back seam. If there is no back seam create one. When you sew the side seams from the bottom up you will automatically reduce the armhole. Keep sewing down the sleeve seam as well. Adjusting the top of the sleeve is a little trickier. With the garment inside out make a mark on your shoulder where the sleeve seam should be. do the same for the other sleeve. Now take off the garment and push the sleeve inside. The tricky part is that the sleeve is fuller than the armhole and you have to gather it to fit. Mark a seamline from your mark curving down to the underarm seam following the curve shape of the original sleeve. Sew the sleeve to the bodice for about 1 to 2 inches on each side. Now you have a smooth bodice with a bunch of extra fabric on the top part of the sleeve (which is inside the garment). Do a running, gathering stitch by hand to gather the sleeve top. Be sure not to catch the bodice in those stitches. Find the center of the gathered sleeve and pin it to the bodice shoulder seam and distribute the gathers on both sides. Baste into place and turn garment right side out. If you like the outcome go back and sew on your basting line. For me it has to be a garment I really like to do this but it usually works.

    • Daniela Post author

      Hello Hilda, it very much depends on how the ready-made neckline is finished. Here we show how to do it if you want to finish with a simple hem The tutorial is on a cowl neck, but the steps are essentially the same for a scoop neck.
      If the neckline is finished with a binding you might need to replace it with a matching but longer one. If the fabric is woven you might cut out the new shape, but cut a bit higher to leave some seam allowance. Then, hem the new neck shape. I usually prefer to finish the new neck shape as it was originally finished to get the best results.
      I 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.

  • redfish

    I have a very flow-y tunic top of gorgeous batiked rayon, v-neck with three buttons at tbe top. I lost 80 pounds and the shoulders are now too wide (the shirt slides off my shoulders. I can’t bear to get rid of it, and was thinking of adding pintucks to narrow the front bodice. This would still leave the back neckline/shoulders too wide. Any ideas for the back? Are pintucks in a back bodice possible? Thanks!!

    • 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.

  • 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.