Why Your Fashion Illustrations Won’t Help You Get Your Product Made

fashion illustration

We have all seen fashion illustrations – those tall, slender models with artistically drawn clothing. Sweeping and dramatic, they are glamorous representations of the garments. While illustrations like these can be great for presentation boards, social media, or to impress friends and family, they won’t help you with development or production.

Then there are fashion sketches. These rough pencil drawings – sometimes found on the back of a napkin – are used to quickly jot down design ideas. They are often part of the design process as concepts are put to paper and weeded through to find the best ideas. These, too, while very useful during the research and design process, won’t cut it when it comes to making your designs a reality.

When it comes to development, the focus needs to be on the details and not just on the overall look and idea. For example, your patternmaker wants to be able to see which sections are separate pieces and where darts and closures are positioned. Your factory needs to see what seams you want and where the topstitching goes. On an illustrated fashion sketch, you can’t see these details clearly.

There are types of sketches, though, that will help communicate these details. One type is called flat sketches. Flat sketches are usually done on the computer in programs like Adobe Illustrator and are black and white drawings of all key construction details. They aren’t the exaggerated 9-heads proportions of a fashion figure; they are proportionately accurate to a real body to show how the actual finished garment will look. Below is an example of a flat sketch for the illustrated ruffle tee above. See how all the stitching, seams, and style details are clearly visible? That is the purpose of flat sketches.

flat sketch

Flat sketches have many uses both internally and externally. During the design phase, your team can use them to visualize and plan your collection. Once product development starts, they are used to communicate design ideas to your patternmaker, technical designer, or product development team. Often they are put with the finished pattern so that your factory has a visual of what garment the pattern is for. Flat sketches can also be used on linesheets to show buyers during the sales process.

Another type of sketches that will help you in development and production are technical sketches. Technical sketches use the flat sketches and then add comments, callouts, and explanations of each seam type, hem finish, closure type and placement, and other details. Sometimes actual seam or stitching sample swatches are attached to the printed technical sketch to even further clarify the desired construction. Often there are technical sketches of design detail close-ups or inside views of the garment as well. Technical sketches are sent to your factory as part of the tech pack that holds all the instructions and information needed to produce that design. Remember that while there are text explanations of the construction details, the visuals should show all of those details accurately on their own . Here is a technical sketch of our ruffle sleeve tee. Stitches are called out and there are visuals of what the stitches look like. There are diagrams along with the common names of seam that are used. This sketch also includes ISO/ASTM codes for the stitches and seams.

technical sketch
technical detail sketches

If you just love creating fashion illustrations for fun, then go ahead and do them. Just know that when it comes to the development and getting that design made, they are not going to be much use. Flat and technical sketches will be a much more useful tool for communicating your design vision to your factory that will be producing it.

Are you wanting to start development for a design and only have illustrations or concept sketches? Are you intimidated by having to communicate technical information to your factory? I can help you create the type of sketches that will cut down on confusion and give you the confidence that your designs will be made how you envision them without wasting time and money on incorrect samples. Contact me to get started.



12:40 pm January 11, 2020

I need help with illustrations and actual flat sketches


5:57 am July 18, 2020

Hey Alison, I learned about you from Sew Heidi's tech pack course. Would you be so kind enough to tell me if you got the ASTM stitches/brushes/seams readily available to use in illustrator? Thanks!

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