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Introduction to pattern modification : The collars and neckline (beginner)


Since we have covered many of the basics now, I will teach you a little bit about my speciality: pattern-making! As we’re still doing beginner level, it will be about making modifications to existing patterns, specifically collars and neckline! After all they are often something you will want to modify on an existing pattern as every school or military uniform in japanese anime has it’s little quirks. Let’s try to uncover some mysteries in there.


Where to start

First, as you would do for any design reproduction, you need to analyze it! Here are the most important things to consider:

  • How wide is the neckline and what shape is it?
  • Is the collar standing up or laying flat?

With these elements in mind, you can start the modifications of a commercial pattern. Most of the time changing the neckline is not too difficult, if you measure everything on yourself. Feeling unsure? you can always make a mock-up of the pattern (using cheap but similar fabric and make the pattern to see how it fits). Drawing the lines on yourself will allow you to see clearly where everything is supposed to rest. In any case, this is only about making a hole bigger or smaller, in the shape you want it.

Let’s go big and small with sizes!

If the costume you want to make doesn’t have a collar but you need to change the neckline of the pattern to become wider, it will probably need some support, otherwise it will dangle and won’t look properly fitted. You also most likely need to add a facing supported with interfacing, so the fabric won’t stretch and hang down. Most of the time, just making a regular hem on a neckline won’t cut it anyway, so better get used to make a facing! For this, you just need to draw the exact same shape of the neckline tracing a line under it, about 2 inches lower and that’s it.


On the other hand, if you change the neckline to make it smaller, you should make sure your head can still go through! If not, you may want to add a zipper, some buttons or any other closure options that better suit your costume. While working with fabric that stretches, if the hole is smaller than your head make sure to use a sewing stitch that won’t break as the fabric extend!

Time to put on those collars!

Ok, so we have the neckline covered! Now we need to add a collar to it! Let’s take the time to remember the crucial question: “is the collar standing up or laying flat?” because this is where it matters.

First, measure your neckline from the middle of the back of your neckline to the shoulder seam and from the middle the front of the neckline to the shoulder seam. Remember to measure where you will sew which should always be under the seam allowance not on the fabric border!

Second, draw the measurement from the middle of the back to the shoulder seam as a straight line and add a little notch there. Easy so far! If you want your collar to be standing, draw the measurement from the middle of the front to the shoulder seam as a curve going UP.

If you want a flat collar, you make it go DOWN.

You now have the base of the collar that will be sewn to the neckline. From there, the shape is all up to you! Is it pointed? Round? Bat-wings shaped? Large or small? Draw the shape that you want from there. Doing a mock-up for unusual shapes might be a good idea.


Third, you can cut this half collar pattern! Don’t forget to add seam allowance all-round, right? 😉 it’s now ready to be used to cut your fabric… and of course your interfacing! Don’t forget to fold your fabric (or interfacing) and place your pattern so the fold will line up with the beginning of your pattern, making a complete piece! You will need 2 pieces of each, the fabric and the interfacing for the next step!

It’s now time to assemble everything: attach the interfacing to your collar pieces, and sew the top together, good side on good side. Cut the excess fabric before turning it on the right side, iron neatly and sew onto the neckline. The notch will help you get everything at the right place smoothly since they go on the shoulder seams. Ta-dah! You now have a collar!

If you have made a flat collar, you will probably need a facing, so the sewn insides won’t show up all the time. Making the collar sandwiched between the shirt and the facing.
It will be neater and more comfy to wear too. 🙂

So to make it short

  • Make sure your head goes through your neckline!
  • Measure your neckline properly!
  • Curve going UP = collar going UP. Curve going DOWN = collar going DOWN/FLAT.
  • When in doubt, do a mock-up. Doubt everything!
  • If you only have a neckline or if the collar is flat you’ll need a facing!


This should help you make most of the collars out there! If you need help figuring a specific shape, you can always try to look for a tutorial. Some collars, like the sailor are more tricky but as soon as you grasp the basics, the rest will come in no time!

In the next article I’ll be covering something you will definitely use and overuse in many cosplay projects: bias tape!


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About The Author

Roxanne Nelson

Cosplayer since 2005, Simakai has just been having so much fun and never wanted to stop. After a diploma in pattern-making and some time working in the industry, she started her own sewing business of geek apparel and cosplay commissions. From the simplest projects to the most intricate one, she's willing to help anyone who wants to learn.

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