Front And Back Neck Width

INTRO PHRASE1 Front And Back Neck Width

Just like across front, across shoulders, and across back, the relationship between front and back neck width is one that won’t fail. It doesn’t have to be paid for, it’s not an embarrassment of your past, and it will stand the test of time. Lovely how that works, ain’t it?

I learned about the relationship between front and back neck width the first month I worked in technical design, about 2 and 1/2 years ago. It was a piece of information I had never read in any textbook and to this day receives mixed feelings and opinions (when I asked other technical designers/pattern makers about it, some agree and some disagree). Regardless of others opinions, I have stuck to the rule and it has worked. Even better proof of its validity, when I deviate from the rule, drag lines result. No bueno.

BACK NECK 2a copy1 Front And Back Neck Width
The rule states that back neck width is 1/2″ bigger/more than front neck width (measured straight – see sketch) and the reasoning has to do with horizontal balance. Since the shoulder seam sits slightly forward, extra width is needed to get around it. Also, the wider part of your neck is in the back; the skinny part is in the front. This rule gets tricky in that it only applies to close fitting necklines such as on a sloper or a collared shirt. Obviously, if the neckline is a wide, such as on a boatneck, extra width is not needed to get around the back neck; front and back neck width should be the same on such a neckline.
BACK NECK WIDTH 11 Front And Back Neck Width

The pattern correction for this is easy but takes some critical thinking. Also, each person’s correction will differ because each person’s neck width differs. To correct the pattern, you will need to determine which neck width can be increased or decreased based on the patterns measurements. For example, the front neck width on my sloper/block measures 3″ and the back neck width on my sloper/block measures 3 1/4″ (remember that the pattern measurements are 1/2 the total measurement, so if my back neck width is only 1/4″ bigger than my front neck measurement on my pattern, the back neck width will be 1/2″ bigger than my front neck measurement on the sewn garment). If my front neck width measured 2 3/4″ (hypothetical number), I would increase it to be 3″ because my neck width is already small enough. Really, what you have to ask yourself is, “Can I make the neck smaller? Or can I make it bigger?” That all depends on the silhouette of the garment and how you want it to fit. After reducing or increasing front/back neck, ensure to also reduce/increase shoulder seam at armhole so that shoulder seam lengths equal. 
BACK NECK 32 Front And Back Neck Width

tags: Pattern Making Comments: 23

23 Comments
  1. Clare

    Maddie, these posts are invaluable!! I have them saved in a special folder in my inbox. I’m about to start my final year of fashion knitwear design, but plan on doing some woven stuff next year too, so I now have lots of information to work from! Keep ‘em coming ;)

    Reply
  2. Worker_b

    I don’t understand, sorry. How do you change the width without altering the length of the shoulder seam. Where on the bodice do you introduce or delete the width? If you make the width 1/4″ wider do you shave it off the neck and add it at the shoulder tip and then reshape the armhole?

    Reply
    • maddie

      Exactly! I’m sorry I didn’t specify this. Let’s pretend I am increasing FRONT neck width 1/4″ at shoulder/neck seam, then I would reduce BACK shoulder seam length at shoulder seam/armhole 1/4″ and reshape both neck and armhole at shoulder seam so they transition smoothly through the shoulder seam. Make sense?

      I updated sketch and post. Thanks again lady!

      Reply
    • Gayle

       I have the same question — I understand to take the 1/4″ off the back neck so the back neckline is wider … but where do I put it back so the seams once again match? 

      Reply
      • Maddie964

        Good callout you two! If you are increasing the back neck width, then the back shoulder seam length will be reduced, which means front shoulder seam length must also be reduced if the shoulder seam lengths are to equal (I’m not accounting for the 1/”-3/8″ that the back shoulder seam is normally longer). If you look at the pattern correction sketch, there is a dotted line on the front bodice at armhole that indicates where to eliminate so that the front shoulder seam length matches the back shoulder seam length. Does this make sense?

        Reply
  3. sewdebeaux

    Thanks for these posts. I am learning pattern making so they ar really helpful. Although I know I am a way of being able to incorporate/understand all of the techniques. :-)

    Reply
  4. sallieforrer

    Thank you Maddie!

    Reply
  5. Seraphinalina

    You know, I wouldn’t have thought about that but it all makes sense.

    Reply
    • Maddie964

      it’s the little tricks that make a perfectly fitting garment

      Reply
  6. Stephanie

    Thanks Maddie – I’m going to try this out! I actually always have excess ease in my back pieces that lead to gaping at the neck. Maybe I need to go down a size then do an fba?

    Reply
    • Maddie964

      I don’t think front/back neck width is canusing  the problem you’re describing. If the back shoulder seam doesn’t have a shoulder dart, it can be up to 3/8″ longer than front shoulder seam. This ease is added so the back lays nicely over “the hump.” The problem I’m describing would cause diagonal drag lines that originate from shoulder seam at neck and “point” towards across front.  

      If you want more information or help on your issue, please email and I’d love to help more!

      Reply
      • Amanda Russell

        I was actually thinking the same thing as Stephanie, cause I often have the same problem as her… lots of ‘gaping’ at the back neck area – would you consider doing a post about this? ^___^

        Reply
        • Maddie964

          I sent both Shannon and Symon an email but I thought I would explain how their issues are different from the pattern issue I described in the post.

          As I wrote in the post, the 1/2″ difference between front and back neck width applies to close fitting necklines. As the neckline becomes wider, the extra width in the back neck is not needed to get around it. Also, the draglines for the fit issue I described can be seen on the front bodice and not at the back neck.

          With that said, I still think that your back neck width is too wide but there is another way to solve it –
          by eliminating @ CB neck and blending to 0” at bottom back yoke (Shannon’s top had a back yoke).

          When you eliminate from a pattern that is on the fold, you are throwing off the grainline (since the grainline was the fold of the fabric). Also, when you eliminate a pattern that is on the fold (or any pattern for that matter), you have to think about what the correction will do to the rest of the pattern. When you reduce the back neck (like I did in the photo), you are also reducing x-shoulder and x-back. To maintain these measurements, you need to add back whatever you eliminated. So after you reduce back neck, be sure to add to x-shoulders and reshape back armhole. Make sense? Let me know if you have any additional questions by emailing me

          Reply
          • Amanda Russell

            yes, that totally makes sense; in fact, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing!! ^___^ Yay, good to know I’m not totally botching my clothing! LOL Thank you so much for taking the time to clarify this! :)

          • Maria

            Hi,
            I know this is an old post but this is exactly what I am trying to figure out at the moment. I have made exactly the same neck reduction at CB and maintained the shoulder length that was reduced. I would like to know whether I could get again CB on fold with this new back neck length? how to get that again? Is it possible?

            Thank you

  7. anto

    Great tip! thanks Maddie. 

    Reply
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  11. Andrea Instone

    Just found your blog via this article – because I got these draglines as soon as I make a blouse from my sloper. When I use it for dresses without sleeves and/or collars, the shoulder fits perfectly (which took months to achieve. But every blouse ends up with these lines und I tried everything one could find about it – normally something about shoulder sloping and armholes. But lately I thought it might be a problem of too tight a back neck and after measuring I found that my back neck is only 0.7 cm longer. In the next days I am going to change it and try it out. If it worked you’ll be one of my heroes :-)

    Thanks for your good work here!

    Reply
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