How to make a neckline smaller (or bigger) 18

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 a 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 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 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 with 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 a 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. 


it actually gives me very good results.

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).


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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.  

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. 

You can make many different looks out of the same pattern by changing the shape of the neckline. Here is a great in-depth course on drafting necklines: Patternmaking + Design: Creative Necklines.

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 varieties that you can apply 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.

 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

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 to 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.

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