Alright, let’s talk tech packs – those detailed fashion blueprints that can drive fashion designers like us a little nuts. If you’re here, chances are you already know how much stuff goes in a tech pack (spec sheet, technical drawings, etc.) to ensure that it’s production-ready.
Today, we’re taking it up a notch by diving deep into one of the most crucial parts of creating tech packs – the graded specs.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to create graded specs in a garment tech pack. I’ll go over the importance of having precise graded specs, walk you through a step by step guide on how to create them (including some handy shortcuts!😉), and the best tools to utilize when making one.
Let’s get started!
Before getting to the nitty gritty, let’s familiarize ourselves with what a graded spec is.
A graded spec is a comprehensive chart of your garment’s measurements across all sizes. It acts as a guide, ensuring that each aspect of your design is adjusted across different sizes while preserving the original style and proportions.
Basically, graded specs make sure that your design looks just as good on an XS as it will on someone who rocks an XXL.
Graded specs, a key part of a comprehensive tech pack, help clothing factories create garments. With a detailed spec sheet, they can produce garments with accuracy, as the graded specs leave no room for confusion in sizing.
Still mixing up graded specs and size charts? I got you!
When it comes to creating tech packs for garment production, they serve completely different purposes.
The key lies in your audience – who are you communicating to?
Graded specs are vital to translate sizes to manufacturers and pattern makers, ensuring consistent fit across for your design.
Size charts cater to customers, providing basic body measurements for various standardized sizes like small, medium, large, and so on.
TLDR; a size chart helps customers find their ideal fit (like when you’re shopping online!), graded specs offer a detailed guide for factories to construct your garments.
Now, let’s break down the graded specs into its 3 key details.
Every garment construction process begins with measurements taken from specific points of the clothing item – these are called your Points Of Measures or POMs.
POMs are the key points in a garment that determine how it will fit on the body. Common POMs include bust, waist, hip, shoulder width, sleeve length, and more.
There is no one size fits all instruction manual to learning POMs and it’s a skill you’ll develop over time throughout your fashion career. If you want to dig deeper on this topic, you can head on over to my Ultimate Guide to Measuring Garments and Creating Points of Measure.
As much of a nightmare my first fashion job was, one thing I learned from working in corporate fashion is that tolerances matter. A lot more than most people realize actually…
In essence, tolerances are (standardized) acceptable variation allowed in measurements during the garment production process.
Have you ever sewn something? If so, you know that it’s nearly impossible to get the measurements 100% perfect. And your clothing factory sewers are humans just like you!
Setting appropriate tolerances ensures that the final garments will fit right but also won’t drive the clothing factory nuts. Too much wiggle room can lead to inconsistent sizing while too little could stifle factory operations leading to cost overruns and delays.
Look at the below chart as an example. The waist has a tolerance of ⅜” while the waistband has a tolerance of ⅛”. This means the waistband could measure 14 ⅛” (13 ¾ + ⅜) or 13 ⅜” (13 ¾ – ⅜) and still be “within tolerance.”
|POM (Point of Measure)||Tolerance (+/-)||Medium|
|½ waist at top edge||⅜||13 ¾|
|Waistband width at CF||⅛||3 ¼|
Typically, larger measurements will have larger tolerances, and smaller measurements will have smaller tolerances, like the example above.
Of course! The graded sizing is arguably one of THE most important components when developing detailed spec sheets in a fashion tech pack.
Mostly done by technical designers, it involves determining the specific measurements for each point in your garment across your chosen size range. This step ensures that your designs fit perfectly for every customer, no matter their size.
Now that you’re equipped with the basics of a graded spec, let’s learn how to create one.
I’d love to give you a direct guide on this except there is NONE. Each garment is unique so you have to take time to analyze the key features, style lines, and any design details that may affect the fit across different sizes.
Ask yourself, if I’m the one constructing this garment, what POMs will I need to make it accurate?
Of course, there are also a few guides out there that you can use as a starting point. I’d say The Spec Manual by Michele Wesen Bryant and Diane DeMers is a great reference (and only one that I know of!) to help you start making specs for your garment. If you want a quick intro, I also have a review of the book!
Accurate measurements are an absolute must, as they lay the foundation for seamless grading across different sizes. Make sure to cover all your POMs and input the correct values for each one.
While some seasoned technical designers create their measurements from scratch, it’s also a common practice to use reference garments when creating measurements for a new design. This way, you’re not Einsteining your way while creating measurement specs.
Pro-tip: In the fashion industry, it’s a common practice to start from the middle size when creating graded specs. For example, if you are making a garment across a size range of small, medium, and large. Using the middle size, medium, ensures that you have a well-balanced starting point for scaling both up and down.
Determine the size range you’ll be offering, like small, medium, large, etc. This step is crucial for setting your grading rules later. Brands with limited sizing might use larger grading increments, while those with more size options can choose smaller increments.
For example, let’s say Brand A only offers medium and large sizes but aims to cater to a wider range of clients. To achieve this, they use larger grading increments, around 2-3 inches, to adjust the width of their garments across sizes.
Meanwhile, Brand B who offers all sizes from XXS to XXL, can choose smaller grading increments like 1 inch to adjust across sizes.
Decide on the grading increments for each point of measurement. Consider factors such as body ease, fit preferences, fabric, and standard size intervals.
Some fashion brands have their own standardized grading rules, but for independent freelance fashion designers, you may have to set up these rules if you’re working with a startup brand that doesn’t have size requirements established yet.
Pro-tip: Yes, you can be a freelance technical designer! If you’re unsure how that process works, here’s how you work remotely as a TD, step-by-step.
Similarly, set tolerances to allow for minor variations during manufacturing.
Using your grading rules, apply the adjustments to the base size measurements and calculate the values for the other sizes. Software tools like Excel can do this easily with formulas, making grading more efficient.
If you want more info on this, there’s a bunch of applications out there that will help you finish this step. I’ll cover them in more detail in a bit!
In my free tech pack template, there’s a graded spec with measurement formulas built right in so everything auto calculates. Grab it now!
[[[tech pack opt-in]]]
Pro Tip: Make sure to double check the values even if you’re using software. If you have a good manufacturer, they can catch grading mistakes, but if you’re not as lucky, you might end up with a poor fitting prototype.
Creating graded specs may seem like a daunting task, but there are tools that can make the process waaay simpler. So, if you’re still doing your graded specs the old-school way, you’ll love these tips!
I guess most of us have used good ol’ Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, right? They’re pretty straightforward and easy to use when grading designs in detailed tech packs. Just input data, do some calculations…voila. You’ve got yourself a perfectly graded spec!
I know, I know, easier said than done – that’s why I made this guide on how to auto calculate grade rules in your tech pack using excel.
The cool thing about using spreadsheets is flexibility – but remember since spreadsheets are general tools, they’re not specifically designed for garment construction or detailed design notes. So, be prepared for additional manual work like setting the formatting yourself the first time.
Pro Tip: Templatize everything! (yeah I kind of made that word up, but you get it!) It takes a bit of time upfront but trust me – you’ll save heaps of time, avoid unnecessary headaches, and ensure consistency across all your designs.
You can make templates for similar types of garments such as t-shirts, button-downs, pants, skirts, etc! No need to start from scratch every time!
Snag my free tech pack template and use it as a foundation to get started.
If you want something more specialized, consider tech pack software. These programs offer a lot of handy tools such as automated grade rule calculations, digital sketching capabilities – some even help with assigning style numbers.
If you want to learn more about tools and software used for fashion tech packs, I cover this in more detail in my Tech Pack Software Comparison Guide.
Now, all that’s left is to insert your graded specs into your tech pack!
And there you have it! Creating graded specs might seem overwhelming, but it’s easier than you think. Once you get the hang of it and start playing around with different garments, you’ll become a graded specs pro in no time.
Sure, there is a learning curve, but that’s all part of the process! Embrace the journey, learn something new every step of the way, and before you know it, creating graded specs will become second nature.