In a previous blog, I wrote about the first steps in creating a grading standard, but failed to discuss the details. It would be helpful to also review my blog entry titled Too Many Sizes! In this blog, I will try to explain grading terms and the rules by which grading can occur. In the future, I will show how to develop your actual grade rules and how I grade a pattern (which is different from any other method I have seen).
There seems to be a lot of confusion about grading. Some people view grading as a magical process that can turn your beautiful pattern in one size into any other size you desire. Before anyone can grade your pattern, you should have already done some homework. You should have chosen a category, size range, and measurement chart. Your category and size standard should be fairly simple. You should only be working in one category and your size range should not have more than 6 sizes. You may want to work in men and womens plus and regular sizes all at once, but it is just not possible.
Now, I have to stop here for a moment and explain the concept of categories. I don't know if this is the appropriate term or not. I work in a children's category, but you may work in Misses, Juniors, Mens, or whatever. Within those broad categories, there are sub-categories or classifications based on your sizing system. A classification is based on a specific figure type such as Misses, Petites, Plus, or Talls. Each of these designations have a separate and distinct sizing system. You can't magically start with a Misses size and turn it into a Plus size by grading it. That is not how grading works, so don't even attempt it. There is no magic formula.
Grading is a simple, yet difficult concept for people to grasp. Grading is a process by which a base pattern is proportionally changed to create smaller or larger sizes. Grading is always based on a set of measurements specific to a size range and classification. Successful grading does not change the overall proportions of the intended design as the size changes. This is why a size range should be limited to about 6 sizes. Any more than that and the largest or smallest size will be proportionally wrong.
Successful grading is all about having a good starting point. A base pattern is a pattern created and perfected to fit a sample size. From that base pattern, you will create the other sizes in your size range. Now some of you want to offer Plus sizes in addition to your Misses Sizes. It should be as simple as grading your base Misses patterns up to the appropriate plus size, right? After all, it would save a great deal of work. You already have a perfect pattern and why would you want to go to the work of creating a whole new set of patterns.
The reality is, you will have to create a whole new set of patterns in a new base size contained in a new size range and classification. I know this sounds like a lot of work. The truth is that it is, at least initially. You will have to develop a set of base patterns for your Misses sizes and a separate set for your Plus sizes. You may sample a new style in a Misses size initially. Once a style is approved, your patternmaker will then create patterns in any other size ranges you want to offer. The process required to create the plus size patterns will be very similar, if not identical, to the process required to draft the Misses size patterns. There may be a little tweaking for fit during sampling, but the process will be faster than the original style development. Your patternmaker will already know what should be done.
For example, one company I work for will create a new style in a size 5 (in a children's size range of 4-6x). They then decide they want to offer that style in the entire range 2T-16 and plus sizes. I have already broken up the sizes into ranges of 2T-4T, 4-6x, 7-16, and 8+ to 20+. I then make patterns in the sample sizes of 3T, 5 (which is already done), 10, and 10+. The patterns for each sample size are then graded within their range. It may sound like a lot of work, especially if done entirely by hand. Since I work in a CAD environment, I can accomplish this task in less than a day. By hand, it may take 2-3 days.
Going back to our previous example......Once your set of Misses patterns and Plus size patterns are finished, you will then send those off to be graded. And this is where you have to create your grade rules. To create grade rules, you will need your measurement charts. So here is your homework assignment. Read your measurement chart. If you are offering more than one classification, compare the two. How does a Plus size differ from a Misses? Do your measurements make sense? Do the measurements decrease for the smaller sizes and increase for the bigger? In the next blog, I will show how to create your grade rules from your measurement charts. Once you see the grade rules, you will then understand why you can't grade a Misses size into a Plus size.