Don’t Forget About These 5 Things When Designing Apparel

The design stage is where you get to harness your inspiration and use your creativity to produce something beautiful. But fashion is more than just art for beauty’s sake. Fashion is art that is functional. Art that works in three dimensions on a curvy body and moves with the wearer throughout her life. Because of this, you have to think beyond your two-dimensional fashion sketch. If your goal is to design successful apparel for real people to wear, don’t forget about these things when designing.

Getting into it

Before people can wear the clothes you design, they have to be able to put them on. It seems simple enough, but it is easy to overlook needed closures when you are just looking at a fashion sketch. Even trying a garment or draping on a dress-form can be misleading. The dress form has no head like a real person and the way you put a garment on a dress form or mannequin is not at all the way you or I get dressed.

If your garment has a high neckline and isn’t very stretchy, you’ll probably need a closure to get the garment over your head. Waists need to open up enough or stretch enough to get over the hips. Bodysuits and jumpsuits are garments that need special attention in this area as well. Will you step into it or pull it over your head? How hard is it to zip or button it up by yourself? Consider not only the feasibility of getting it on but the ease of getting into it.

The back

Again, fashion is three-dimensional and you have to design all sides. Don’t forget to sketch out both the front and back views of your garment. It is often helpful to sketch side views as well, especially for asymmetric garments. 

In real life, as people are wearing your design, you’ll probably see a part of multiple sides of the garment at a time. It is rare that you look at someone squarely in the face or the back. When you’re designing, think about how the design details and style lines from the front wrap around the body to the back to create a beautiful, continuous design from any angle. 

The inside

Though the inside is not as aesthetically important as the outside, it still makes a big difference in the quality of the garment. Your price point and design choices as well as the fabric itself should influence how the inside should look, whether it is lined, and what types of finishes are on the interior seams.

The inside doesn’t have to be boring. Be creative with it! A surprise fun lining print or colorful contrast binding on unlined seams can be an opportunity to delight your customers and show off your brand. 

The movement and feel 

You’ve heard me say this before, but the right fabric is key to making your design come alive. Ideally, you already have swatches of potential fabrics on hand for reference as you are designing. If not, at least have an idea of what category of fabric you envision. Consider how you want your design to move when worn and how you want it to feel. Will it stretch and hug the body or will it be structured?

The type of fabric will determine whether you need darts, style lines, or certain construction methods to achieve the look and fit. If you aren’t sure what your fabric will need, that’s okay. Ask your patternmaker or technical designer what they recommend. Show them your sketch and the fabric swatch and be prepared to make a decision about where you’d want darts or seams if they’re deemed necessary.

Label placement

There are some common placements for labels and care tags, but label placement is still something that has to be designed for the garment in order to make it consistent across your brand and functional for each garment. What size and orientation are your labels? Is the size label easy to view when hanging on a rack? Is the label scratchy or in the way when wearing the garment? Is your design reversible or multi-functional – how does that affect ideal label placement? 

Some brands design their labels to be printed directly on the fabric, sewn into the garment, or even designed to be torn out by the end customer. You get to design how you want the labels on your garment.

Fashion design takes vision and skill. Designing apparel that people love to wear involves designing for multiple angles, views, and movements. Keeping these things in mind while you design will help you create more dynamic and successful garments.

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