Updated on September 25, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
I dislike this. I really do. Most of the time it happens to a top that fits me properly. The neckline gapes! With a neckline that gapes, you have a dud of a dress/top in your hands. You know how important a neckline is in a dress.
A neckline that gapes is a sewist’s nightmare. When you think you have done everything perfect for the dress – all that time and effort to make it and then the neckline decides to gape! With knit tops like T-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops this is a common problem.
Neckline which does not fit cannot be seen in isolation. The reason for this may be because of fitting problems somewhere else. It may be a problem with the fabric. It may be your carelessness in handling, washing and caring for it.
Sewing hack to make neckline smaller
What do you do if you have this garment you have bought from a shop or one you have made yourself – which has stretched by the neck. My favourite method is to attach elastic tape to the back of the neckline to gather it to fit. But there are many other ways to make a neckline smaller….
Solution 1. Take in the extra at the neckline with small darts
Mark small darts on the neckline – machine sew the darts
Or make dart with hand stitches
Solution 2. Take in at the shoulder seam
You may have to loosen the seams at the shoulders and re-stitch the shoulder seams with the extra taken up there. If you have a collared shirt you will have to remove the collar and then restitch the shoulder seam
If the neckline gapes on the front and the back, take in from both sides. If only the front gapes, taken in only the front shoulder seam.
If the clothing you want to fix the neckline has a complicated construction at the neckline with facing, piping etc this solution maynot be easy to do.
Solution 3. Insert elastic to make the neckline smaller with gathering
This is a beautiful method which I have tried and found to be really neat. I have heard it called an elastic neckline. You will be sewing narrow elastic tape to the back of the neckline – just stretch it slightly as you sew. This will naturally gather the neckline. Use zig zag stitch to sew the elastic on the the wrong side of the neckline.
Another method is to use a casing to insert the elastic – You can make the neckline smaller with a drawstring or elastic gathering.
You can insert elastic thread through the edge of your neckline – use the binding used on the neckline as this casing. or Make a small casing a small distance down from the top edge of the neckline.
Just make a hole on the binding to thread elastic- use your seam ripper to loosen the stitching line and insert your needle threaded with elastic thread. You can also insert a drawstring or a piece of very narrow(1/4inch) elastic through this casing. Gather by pulling the elastic or drawstring to whatever tightness you want and stitch the elastic securely.
Solution 4. Stitch a stay tape for the neckline
This is used for neckline which is not too big. The stay tape refers to a rigid piece of fabric strip – it could be anything which doesnot stretch – you can use an interfacing piece.
You can also buy bias fusible stabilizing tape which works really well for this. Do not use bias cut fabric pieces.
Make gathering running stitches or make dart along the neckline and gather the running stitches to the correct size of the neckline you want. Adjust till it fits snugly. Put the stabilizing tape evenly to the edge of the neckline. Now pin or baste stitch the stay tape to this and then finally stitch or fuse in place. The stay tape will fix the neckline in the position you want.
Solution 5. Add a fabric piece
This is a solution to fix a very deep V neckline. Add a small piece of extra fabric on the neckline. You can add lace for added charm. You would have heard of it as a modesty panel. You can buy it at the stores by this name and use it for many tops or make one yourself. You may want to give a dart in the middle of this piece if the Tshirt neckline is too wide; otherwise, this also will gape.
You can also add a wide lace at the neckline
You can buy a neckline insert from shops – this is attached to the bra and it is a perfect solution for necklines that gapes. You can look for it under “modesty panel” “clip on camisole:, “lace bra cover” “cleavage cover”
Solution 6. Cut a center seam on the back
For t-shirts or tops you can try this sewing hack – Cut a center seam and try to bring in the extra into the new seamline. You can add an inverted pleat.
Solution 7. Sew in pleats /tucks
Make small darts on the neckline, taking in the extra. You may want to re-bind the neckline, especially if the binding has stretched beyond repair.
Solution 8. Try to shrink neckline
Fabric manipulation is an old trick done by many professional tailors to get the fabric to behave the way that want it to. Some fabric can be shrunk with adequate heat applied to it.Try on a similar fabric or an inconspicuous place to know the correct temperature settings.
No guarantee this would work – most times it wouldnot . But one should try, right?
Solution 9. Alter it into an off-shoulder style
If nothing works and you do not want to discard the clothing, change the neckline to an off-shoulder style. Check out the different types of off-shoulder tops you can make.
Solution 10. Alter it into an off-shoulder style with a single strap
Add a nice thick strap in a very interesting fabric on one shoulder – it adds charm to the dress and solves the problem of a too wide neckline falling down on you.
How to prevent the neckline getting too big
To be truthful, these solutions are all too much trouble. You should make sure that you do not give the neckline a chance to stay away from you. Yes, by following the old adage “Prevention is better than cure”.
Reduce the chances of gaping of necklines
Select appropriate clothes
You see a model wearing a beautiful blouse on an online shop and order it then and there. And when you wear it, the neckline gapes. Result of buying clothes seen on a model who is 5 feet 11″ tall when you are 5 feet nothing.
When you are petite sized the probability of neckline gaping increases. So if there is a slight look of a wide neck on the clothing seen on a too tall model, stay away. If you are on the shorter side, the neckline will be wider on you, because most probably your torso is short too.
If you are sewing, Prewash fabrics before sewing to ensure that the fabric would not sag on you when you wash it after it is made into a garment. More on prewashing fabric here.
Most often when I have just finished binding the neckline of a dress, the neckline will do all it could to stay away. All that effort and time wasted, for want of a fitting neckline.
This is because the neckline has stretched after it is cut ( before sewing) This happens all too often when sewing with knits or thin weight fabric,which almost always stretches. I have had this happen on thin cotton fabrics as well. The way the neckline is cut crosswise is sure to make even the closely woven cloth go awry.
The solution is to make a line of stay stitching (simply stitching close to the cut edge to stabilize the edge) as soon as the neckline is cut. This ensures that the neckline does not stretch with handling. An extra step but well worth the trouble. More on stay stitching here.
Careful washing drying and pressing
Most knit fabrics stretch. I love its stretchiness. But this also causes it to stretch beyond shape sometimes.
You should do your best to prevent this stretching. In the washing machine the clothes undergo a lot of agitation and they twist with other clothes resulting in the necklines stretching beyond fit.
Don’t crowd the machine with too many clothes. Don’t hang the garment full of water by the neck of the garment. If possible hand wash these types of clothes or use the delicate cycle in the machine. Try not to use the full-on dryer.
Do not leave clothes tangled in the machine after washing. Take out as soon as the wash is over. If you see a stretching of the neckline, arrange it carefully and lay flat to dry.
Sewing a facing to finish the neckline
Use a facing to finish the neckline; the facing should be interfaced with a fusible web for more stability at the neckline. Binding a neckline is easy but when I do it at times it ends up making the neckline gape, which is why I prefer facing. More details on sewing neckline facing and generally on facing here.