What is Pattern Grading, and why do we need it - that’s the question that the newcomers to the fashion industry often ask.
We get it! If you do not understand how the process in the industry works it can seem like a complete waste of time and money. Is it another step to make the designer’s head spin or an essential part of the process that improves the quality of the product and saves money?
We set out to write this blog not only to tell you what pattern grading involves, but to equip you with a few practical tips that will make the process more streamlined hence cost-effective.
Firstly, you should only start grading patterns when we are entirely happy with the proto sample.
If you don’t learn anything from this post but this one thing it will already saved you tons of money!
To understand the reasons for this, we have to look at the grading principles.
Grading is a process of creating new pattern sizes by reducing or increasing the size of master pattern according to the rules. What a master pattern is and the difference between that and grading we have taken time to explain in detail in our blog post Pattern Grading or Pattern Making What is the difference? .
Grading tremendously reduces garment development time. Imagine the time you spend to develop your first sample and make alterations to it multiplied by the number of sizes? Grading not only makes it faster, but cheaper and simpler. It’s the final step and the outcomes depend on the quality of your grading rules (we will have a detailed look at the grading rules below) and how well-developed and fitted your proto sample and master pattern is. Any changes to the pattern after the grading is made can become a costly exercise as all the problems are multiplied by the number of the sizes in your grading set. A Grading set is a set of patterns of the same style in different sizes. Changing patterns after grading can also cause production delays and irritate your manufacturer. The manufacturer will expect to receive from you production-ready patterns at this stage.
So, what are the grading rules and where can you find them?
Grading rules is information, usually presented in a form of a table, and carries instructions on how much by and in what direction to increase or decrease the pattern for each size.
Here is a simple example of a chart of grading rules (it can also be called a size specification sheet) for a skirt. A grader, is the person who makes grading, will apply these rules to create skirt patterns in sizes 6 to 12.
The difference between sizes in the grading chart are called increments. Increments will be applied to the various points of the garment and shift the point depending on the rule on X and/or Y coordinate.
Every respectful grading company has a set of own grading rules that are available to its clients. There are pros and cons of using this out of the box solution.
- Cost-effective - it might cost a little fortune to develop your branded grading rules properly
- Trialled and tested
- They might not work well for your demographic
- As you're moving from one grading house to another or when you change over to another grading house, manufacturing the rules will change and therefore your sizing. Your brand will be lacking coherence and consistency in sizing that your customers are looking for.
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to creating your own grading rules.. I always think that taking control and ownership of the manufacturing process is the best way forward. Even well established fashion houses don’t always have cash for the fully blown grading rules development. There are ways of making it on a shoestring budget: you can always adopt and tweak exciting charts. We have male, female and kids grading charts available as a part of our fashion designer toolkit.
A good starting point will be our Grading 101: become a grading expert masterclass.
Make this investment in your brand and you will reap the benefits for years to come.
The main thing that you need to remember: what works for one designer might not work for another. Whether you are developing your own grading rules, slightly adapting an existing grading chart to work for your brand or going with what your manufacturer or grading company has to offer you need to weigh all the options out. Your garments will be sold on fit, and you shouldn’t underestimate the role grading plays in it. This is not the time when you can fake until you make it. If you have any doubts whether your approach is right - seek help from people who have experience in this field. We are here to help, feel free to reach out and share your concerns. One of the experts will be able to help you.