Judging Clothing Projects

Guide C-103

Susan Wright, Extension Clothing and Textiles Specialist

College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University. (Print Friendly PDF)

This publication is scheduled to be updated and reissued 3/06.

Judging is necessarily a matter of opinion. But decisions should always be based on informed opinion. The judge should make every effort to make selections in accordance with established, up-to-date principles of clothing construction and fashion, even though the judge may prefer something else.

In judging clothing, the finished product is more important than the method used, except where certain methods are part of the requirements and must be taken into consideration. If the finished appearance is good, it makes little difference by which method the zipper was put in. If you were judging biscuits, could you tell whether the shortening was cut with a fork or with a pastry blender? And, if the biscuits were good, would you care?

When You Judge Any Garment Look For:

General Appearance

  • Attractive fabric suitable for the pattern and purpose of the garment.
  • Well-pressed and clean.
  • Current styling or good basic style.
  • Trimmings and findings attractive and easy-to-care for.
  • Pleasing color or color combination.
  • Attractive matching and placement of plaids or stripes.
  • Correct grain lines.
  • Thread and notions matched o fabric as closely as possible.
  • Professional looking finish.
  • Hems and facings inconspicuous from the garment's right side.
  • Linings, interfacings and/or underlinings should not add excess bulk or cause unsightly wrinkling.


  • Seam type selected according to fabric requirements using straight, even stitching with correct stitch length and tension.
  • Seam finish appropriate for fabric, garment, and probable care.
  • Ends of all seamlines secured using a neat, effective method.
  • Darts tapered to smooth point and firmly fastened at the point.
    • If wide darts are trimmed they should be at least 1/2" wide.
    • Closed darts should be pressed toward center of garment.
  • Pleats evenly spaced and hang straight without bulk at hemline.
  • Gathers evenly spaced.
  • nside seams of collars, facings, necklines, bands and cuffs graded and clipped as needed for smooth finish.
  • Facing, collar, and cuff seams understitched to prevent rolling.
  • Underlinings, interfacings, and linings smooth and firm, but not heavy enough to appear bulky. Interfacings are necessary where buttons and buttonholes are used.
  • Facing and hem edges finished as fabric and garment require.
  • Plain seams pressed open before being crossed by another line of stitching.
  • Fullness at top of sleeve evenly distributed; no tucks, pleats or gathers unless the pattern is designed for them.
  • Hem width, selected according to garment, should be even. Seams in hem should be graded to reduce bulk if necessary.
  • Hem stitches evenly spaced and inconspicuous from outside.
  • Fasteners neatly and firmly attached, as fastener requires.
  • Belt and belt loops neatly made and sturdy.
  • Zipper appropriately finished and smooth.
  • Buttons securely sewn in place with shank as required.
  • Hand stitching neat, even, and inconspicuous from the outside.
  • Stay tape or double stitching at waistline and double stitching in crotch seam and sleeve underarm is desirable. Crotch and sleeve seams may be trimmed to one-half seam width below notches. Do not clip sleeve or crotch seams.
  • Staystitching on off-grain or bias seams is desirable if fabric requires it.
  • No loose threads or ravelly seam edges.

Serger Sewn Garments

Garments sewn with a serger may be judged against garments sewn with a traditional sewing machine. When judging a serged garment, look for the same factors considered when judging the general appearance of the traditionally sewn garment. But, when judging the construction of the garment, some factors must be evaluated differently. For example, seam widths will be narrow and will not be pressed open. Here are some general guidelines to follow when considering stitches and seams:


  • Correct length and choice (2, 3, 4, or 5 thread) for fabric type and garment style.
  • Sewn with correct length and balanced tension.
  • Thread color appropriate for fabric.
  • Stitches do not show on outside of garment (unless decorative).


  • Smooth and secure. No ladders or puckering.
  • Seam ends secured neatly.
  • Seams pressed in correct direction:
    • Shoulder seams pressed toward back.
    • Vertical seams pressed toward center back.
    • Sleeve seam pressed toward sleeve.
    • Seams in hems turned in opposite directions to prevent bulkiness.
    • Seams incorporating fullness (yoke, waistline) are pressed toward smoother side.
  • When seams cross, seams can be turned in opposite directions to reduce bulkiness.
  • Seam width appropriate for fabric type and garment style.

4-H Clothing Projects

Judges should be familiar with project requirements and with any special requirements within the county.

4-H'ers should be encouraged to wear garments before the fair, if they wish. Judges should disregard signs of ordinary wear. Boys and girls of 4-H age often grow so rapidly that they receive little benefit from garments kept from two to six months before they can wear them.

Score cards are available for judging 4-H garments or similar score cards can be developed at the county or district level for general entry garments. Special requirements will vary with the project.

Special Points to Consider

Special points should be given special attention when judging selected items. Below find tips specific to selected garments. Judging score cards may be available that have special categories for the following garments:


  • Sturdy, easy-to-launder fabric.
  • Matched/well-planned use of plaids, patterns, or stripes.
  • Napped fabrics, such as corduroy, run in same direction, except where crosswise nap is used for trimming.
  • Correct grain line.
  • Fasteners firmly secured and correctly spaced. Buttons sewn on with a shank if required.
  • Flat felled seams on shoulders turned toward sleeve, and underarm seam turned toward the back. With permanent press fabric, flat felled seams and top stitching need not be used because of possible puckering.


  • Firm, smooth, easily laundered fabric unless strictly for party wear.
  • A small print in a light or medium color that does not show soil easily is preferred.
  • Work aprons of size to provide ample protection.
  • Simple, easy-to-launder trimmings.
  • Pockets are desirable, but should not be large enough to catch on protruding objects. Avoid large ties and bows that may catch on objects.
  • Party aprons may be more impractical, but in good taste as far as color, design, and decorations are concerned.

Tailored Coats, Jackets, Suits

  • Good general appearance as in any garment.
  • One hundred percent wool usually most desirable, especially for coats.
  • Avoid obvious pressing resulting in a shiny appearance or seamlines that show.
  • Coats and jackets interfaced in the front facing, across the shoulders and chest, and in collars and turn-back cuffs.
  • A bias strip of light-weight fabric in hems is desirable to cushion garment hem. Should extend above hem edge about 1/2".
  • Bound or corded buttonholes with 1/8" welt and square corners.
  • Appropriate style buttons evenly spaced and firmly attached with shank.
  • Set-in pockets and patch pockets neatly made. Patch pockets lined.
  • Facings, collars, and cuffs rolled so that seams do not show.
  • Seams graded, clipped, and understitched as needed for flat finish.
  • Linings caught to seam at armscye, sleeves, underarm seams, but not so tightly that the seam pulls.
  • One-half inch to one-inch ease in linings (sleeve and hem) except in long coats, where hem may be made separately and fastened to coat hem with long bar tacks at seams. Coat linings should be 1" shorter than the finished coat length.
  • A 1" pleat in back of lining at neckline neatly caught 2" or 3" below neckline and at waistline.
  • Hems inconspicuous from outside.

Children's Clothing:

  • Colors suitable for a child.
  • Fabric design - stripes, prints, plaids, etc., in proportion to a child's size.
  • Matched/well-planned use of plaids, patterns, or stripes.
  • Washable fabric desirable, especially for small children.
  • Trimmings simple and easy-to-care for.

Self-help features

  • Front openings where possible.
  • Buttons and fastenings that a child can manage.

Suitability for purpose and ease of care

  • Sturdy, easy-to-launder fabric for play or school.
  • Plenty of ease so activity is not restricted.
  • No frills and extra fullness that will restrict activity.

Growth features

  • Ample hems, raglan, or kimono sleeves, elastic at waistline, etc. are desirable.

Sturdy workmanship with no bulkiness

  • Machine and hand-stitching firm.
  • Fasteners securely attached and plackets reinforced.

Judging 4-H and General Enter Garments

When 4-H or general entry garments are entered in the fair, requirements should be given careful consideration. In the case of 4-H projects the ability to follow instructions is an important part of the project.

General Requirements for Garments Include:

  • Stay stitching on off-grain or bias seams.
  • Double stitching on sleeve underarms and in crotch of pants.
  • Shortened stitches for reinforcement at corners.
  • Interfacings where necessary for professional appearance.
  • Appropriate finish on seams and facings.
  • Grading, clipping, and understitching on facings, collars, tops of pockets, cuffs, etc.
  • Waistline taped or doubled stitched for reinforcement.
  • Hems finished with appropriate hand stitch or by machine hemming.

New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.

Reprinted March 2001
Electronic Distribution June 2001