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Types Of Collars, Collar Styles and Collar Construction Tips!

A great way to make your own clothes more unique is to add collars to the necklines of garments – this could be as simple as drafting a different collar for an existing sewing pattern or modifying an existing collar pattern to be more unique!

A collar as a piece of clothing is defined as:

“Part of a shirt, dress, coat or blouse that fastens around or frames the neck.”

Wikipedia

Collars are a type of neckline finishing, and they circle the neck, either quite closely, or further away. They come in different shapes, sizes, widths and styles but should ALWAYS work to enhance the design of the garment you’re attaching it to, and not just added as an afterthought!

As collars sit so close to a person’s face, they will be very noticeable, which means you’ll want to make sure that the collar is not only flattering to the wearer, but also that it is constructed beautifully! I have some sewing tips at the end of this article to help you construct beautiful collars!

Close up collar

Classifying Collars

There are only two ways to classify collars, and within these two classifications are three collar types and many different styles, which we’ll get into further down:

  1. Convertible collar
  2. Non-Convertible collar

Let’s look at the difference between a convertible and non-convertible collar!

Convertible Collars

So, what is a convertible collar? A convertible collar is one that doesn’t conform to a neckline shape, but reacts to it.

Grab a shirt that you own and look at what should be the typical shirt collar that is attached.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

A shirt collar is made up of:

  • A stand
  • A collar

When we stitch the curved edge of the shirt collar to the slightly straighter stand edge, we force the fabric of the collar to conform to the stitched line – and it therefore sits in a certain position. You’ve probably noticed when trying to press your shirt collars that they don’t lay flat? This is because they are convertible collars.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Non-Convertible Collars

Non-convertible collars are the opposite of convertible collars. These collars mimic the shape of the neckline – they are actually designed flat, using the front and back necklines of the bodice pattern pieces! Unfastening a non-convertible collar will keep it sitting exactly in the same place.

A good example of a non-convertible collar is the Peter Pan collar – if you love this type of collar, this Peter Pan collar pattern tutorial will teach you how to draft one!

Made up of a stand and a collar. When we stitch the curved collar edge to the slightly straighter stand edge, we force the collar to sit a certain way. So Convertible Collars are collars that are cut ‘not conforming’ to the neckline shape. Part of their intended design is how they are forced to then conform to the shape of the neckline.

3 Different Types Of Collars

There are only three different collar types that can be used when constructing clothing:

  1. Flat Collar (non-convertible)
  2. Stand Collar (convertible)
  3. Roll Collar (both)

Every collar you see is a variation on one of those three collar types!

  • Peter Pan? Non-convertible flat collar. 
  • Mandarin? Convertible stand Collar.
  • Sailor collar? Non-convertible flat collar
  • Turtle neck? Convertible roll collar

What Is A Flat Collar

A flat collar is a non-convertible collar, which means that it lies flat against the garment it has been created for. The best example of a flat collar is a Peter Pan collar, but other flat collars include a sailors collar and a ruffle collar!

What Is A Stand Collar

A stand collar is a style of collar that ‘stands up’ against the neck. Mandarin collars, Nehru collars and funnel neck collars are all types of stand collars that stay in position.

What Is A Roll Collar

The roll collar is a collar style that rolls over, falling away from the neck. The most obvious is a shirt collar, created from a stand and collar. Another example would be the shawl collar.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Anatomy Of A Collar

A collar can be broken down into four main elements:

  1. Neckline edge
  2. Collar stand
  3. Collar edge
  4. Roll line

Neckline Edge

Let’s talk about the neckline edge first. This is the most important measurement when thinking about adding a collar because the neckline edge is where the collar (or collar stand) attaches to the neckline of a garment.You need to make sure that the neckline is lowered for some collar styles to work, to prevent the wearer feeling choked.

Collar Stand

This is the amount that the collar ‘stands up’ by. A collar stand can be separate from the collar (a shirt collar is a great example), part of the collar itself (a shawl collar is a good example) or a collar style in it’s own right (mandarin collar)! If the collar stand is separate, the height of the stand is the distance between the neckline edge and the point that the collar rolls over.

Collar Edge

This refers to the edge of the collar. It is the most ‘designed’ part. You can shape it in a many different ways, and it will affect the overall design of the garment. Collar edges can be gently curved like a Peter Pan collar, square like a sailor collar or much like a large circle such as a ruffle collar.

Roll Line

The roll line is the area that ‘rolls’ over on a collar. It can be the visible or invisible join line between the collar and the stand, that takes the collar from facing and framing the neck to falling away from the neck.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Collar Features

Now you understand the basic anatomy of a collar, let’s take a look at specific collar features. Some of these only come into play when designing and constructing more complex collars while others are integral for all collars:

  1. Break line
  2. Lapel
  3. Gorge Line
  4. Break Point
  5. Top Collar
  6. Undercollar

Break Line

When creating a jacket or coat with a collar and lapel, there will be what is called a break line. This is not a stitched line, nor is it marked out visibly in any way on a garment. It is the line of the fold created when your jacket is buttoned and the collar is in position.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Lapel

A lapel is also referred to by some as a ‘rever’. The lapel is actually the facing of a garment, turned over to reveal itself. Some designers use a contrasting facing fabric, so that when the lapel is folded over, it becomes a design feature.

The lapel can be constructed as part of an extended facing or cut and sewn separately.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Gorge Line

This is the seam line which connects the collar to the lapel. You see it more often and clearly in tailored jackets, with different collar styles. 

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Break Point

A break point is the term used to describe the point at which the lapel folds over from the edge.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Top Collar

Any collar constructed well will have a top and bottom collar, except those few collar styles that are created with one layer of fabric. The top collar is usually cut 2 millimetres larger than the under collar, depending on the fabric choice, so that when they are stitched together, the top collar rolls under slightly, hiding the stitch line.

Collars - Learn All About Collars - The Creative Curator

Under Collar

The under collar – also called a ‘bottom’ collar in commercial patterns – is the facing of the top collar. You can have the undercollar be the same fabric as your top collar or it can be cut from an alternative fabric for some added va-va-voom – but it must always be the same fabric weight!

Facing - The Creative Curator

17 Different Collar Styles (And Their Names)

There are so many different collar styles that you can use when sewing your own clothes. Let’s have a look at some popular styles of collar, and I’ll also link to the collar pattern tutorials I’ve provided so far with the collar style descriptions further down:

  • Shirt collar
  • Mandarin collar (also often called a Chinese collar)
  • Peter Pan collar
  • Shawl collar
  • Ruffle collar
  • Sailor collar
  • Turtle neck collar
  • Funnel neck collar
  • Band collar (also known as a grandad collar)
  • Eton collar
  • Jabot collar
  • Mao collar
  • Nehru collar
  • Notched collar
  • Pussy bow collar
  • Ruff collar (different to a ruffled collar!)
  • Wing collar

Shirt Collar

This is the most common collar style and instantly recognisable. For many years, it was the collar style attached to shirts, but gradually over the years, as fashion has evolved, shirts now come with more relaxed collar styles, such as band collars, which help to give shirts a more relaxed feel. This would then be classified as a grandad style shirt, rather than the more traditional shirt we’re used to with plackets, cuffs and flat-felled seams.

The shirt collar is a type of convertible collar. It has a collar cut with a top and bottom, and a collar stand. Sometimes shirt collars are cut with the collar and stand in one, more often they are cut separately.

Mandarin Collar

A mandarin collar is also often referred to as a Chinese collar. It is constructed very much like the stand you find on a shirt collar, only with a traditional mandarin collar, the collar usually meets at centre front only, rarely overlapping. You can learn to draft a mandarin collar with this mandarin collar pattern tutorial!

Peter Pan Collar

One of my favourite collar styles is the Peter Pan collar! It is a flat, non-convertible collar and very easy to draft a pattern and sew. In fact, I have this tutorial on drafting a Peter Pan collar pattern!

The Peter Pan collar is created by following the front and back necklines so it sits on top of the garment. As it doesn’t have a stand, it doesn’t ‘fall away’ from the neck either.

Shawl Collar

Shawl collars are often seen on coats, dressing gowns and dresses. It’s a convertible collar type, folding over to form a foldline. A shawl collar can be narrow and elegant, or wider and more dramatic.

I once made a stunning tri-colour faux fur coat (as part of my graduate fashion week collection!) which had the biggest, plushist shawl collar.

A shawl collar can be cut as part of the front bodice pattern, and extending to join at the centre back neck or it can be cut as a completely separate collar piece.

Ruffle Collar

Ruffle collars are beautiful when done well! When attached directly to the neckline, and laying against the garment they would be classified as a non-convertible flat collar, but if attached to a stand, with the ruffle smaller and pointing upwards, the ruffle collar would be classified as a convertible stand collar.

You can create ruffle collars that are full of volume and extravagant looking, or more discreet ruffle collars that are demure and elegant.

Sailor Collar

Sailor collars got their name from traditional sailor’s uniform. The collar is square on the back and creates a deep V on the front neckline. As well as appearing on sailor’s uniforms, sailor collars are also very popular on childrenswear.

Turtle neck Collar

A simple turtle neck collar – also referred to sometimes as a polo neck in the UK! – is usually found on more casual items of clothing. They are frequently added to jersey tops to keep necks warm in the winter months, and are self-facing, in that they’re cut on the fold rather than in two pieces before being attached to the neckline.

When turtle neck collars are added to garments made in woven fabrics, they will be cut in two, and have some type of clothes fastening installed to make getting in and out of the garment possible.

Funnel Neck Collar

Funnel neck collars look amazing when cut from a structured fabric with a short height. They can also be created with lots of height in a lighter weight fabric, and the funnel collar will droop down, created a lovely folded, draped effect.

Band Collar

The band collar is added to garments like sleeveless summer tops or what we have come to know as grandad shirts.

Usually they are quite narrow – less than an inch wide would be my recommendation! – and they either overlap at the centre front with a small button opening, or can enclose a centre front placket opening instead.

Eton Collar

Started back in the late 19th century / early 20th century, the Eton collar is a wide collar that has been part of the uniform worn by Eton boys since.

Jabot Collar

This is a style of collar that incorporates pleats, frills and ruffles into a short stand collar.

Mao Collar

Made popular by Mao, this simple collar is a straight collar, which when folded over creates a slightly military style collar. Often found on men and women’s military style jackets.

Nehru Collar

Nehru collars are often mistaken for Mandarin collars, because they are stand collars and meet at the front. Nehru collars are smaller though, and are found on traditional Indian clothing.

Notched Collar

A notched collar is a common collar style found on jackets and coats. The notch itself appears as a triangle cut out. This notched collar style is created with a collar piece, which is then joined to the facing of a front bodice piece, and when joined, the notch is created.

Pussy Bow Collar

This collar became popular in the 1980s and recently, Sew Over It, a UK based sewing pattern company,  created their pussy bow blouse pattern.

The collar is created with an extended piece of fabric around the back neck that is then tied at the front creating a pussy bow.

It’s a very feminine collar that can looks light and summery in light weight fabrics, and more dramatic when cut in heavier fabrics!

Ruff Collar

We’ve all seen paintings of men and women in the 17th century wearing ruffs right? Those are ruff collars, a pleated collar that has to be heavily starched to maintain its structure!

Wing Collar

A wing collar is quite a formal collar style. The collar itself is attached to a stand, and a section of teh collar is pressed to resemble wings.

Choosing A Collar Style

When choosing a collar style to draft and make, you need to consider the garment you are making, the fabric you intend to use and the body shape of the person who will be wearing the garment – because as I mentioned in my article on neckline styles, not all necklines and collar styles suit all people!

You also need to consider the construction method for the collar type, because the collar is a very visible part of a garment.

Below are some tips for sewing collars!

5 Sewing Tips For Constructing Collars

A lot of people get scared when it comes to actually constructing a collar, but there’s no need for you to feel the same.

If you follow some basic tips, your collar will come out beautifully, whichever collar style you choose! 

Here are several rules to remember when constructing a collar:

  1. Use an interfacing as needed to stabilise the top collar, and both stand sections. This will help to provide structure to your collar. Be sure to use the right weight and type of interfacing. Some people prefer to use sew in interfacing, and others prefer to use fusibile. The choice is up to you, but I recommend testing a little on your fabric first to make sure the fabric behaves how you want it to once interfaced!
  2. Your collar edge should measure the same as your finished neckline edge, unless you are using knitted fabrics, where it is usual to have the collar be slightly smaller to draw in the garment neckline slightly.
  3. Remember that the seam allowance for collars is usually less than everywhere else, in order to keep bulk to a minimum. Be sure to check the pattern before sewing! You can always draft collar patterns with your preferred amount of seam allowance, and then trim the excess fabric away before turning your collar through and pressing. This will also help to minimise bulk.
  4. Be sure to use notches on your collars so that there are no sewing mistakes! A good standard is to notch your centre back, shoulder, centre front points (the latter is only relevant if the collar will be overlapping) and also the break point notch for lapel collars.
  5. Top collars will always be cut a couple of millimeters bigger along the design edge than the under collar / bottom collar. This is to help the top collar roll over, hiding the stitchline.

Finally, have fun. Collars are a great way to be creative when making your own clothes or designing fashion collections and can add some real wow factor to your pieces.

Have you got any pieces in your wardrobe with rockin’ collars? Have you seen something somewhere you’d love to recreate? Let me know in the comments below!

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JULIE MONTGOMERY

Tuesday 25th of September 2018

Great post! I sincerely appreciate you documenting this. Did you ever make a pattern for a standup mens victorian collar? Detachable?

Angely

Saturday 8th of September 2018

I enjoyed the post about collar, it is very helpful.

Thanks

Eve Tokens

Saturday 8th of September 2018

I'm glad you found it helpful Angely! And thank you for taking the time to comment! Best, Eve

Bunny

Saturday 11th of March 2017

I just found your blog through Pinterest. This is some of the very best information out there for sewists and designers and I thank you for this effort. Your photos are perfectly descriptive and I particularly like the checked under collar photo, so clear to understand the concept.

Eve Tokens

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018

Hi Bunny! So sorry that I have only just seen this! thank you for your lovely comment - it definitely means a lot to me! Hope you're well, and you're enjoying the blog! :)