While it is exciting to get the first sample of your design and see it for the first time as a real garment, it is rare that that very first sample will be 100% exactly what you wanted. After seeing that first sample, you may want to tweak the design for better proportions on the body or the fit might need to be improved in certain areas. Even working with an experienced team, it usually takes 2-3 samples before every little detail looks and fits just right. So how do you relay to your patternmaker or factory the changes you want to make so that the next sample comes in with all problems resolved? In this post, we’ll look at five things you can do to clearly communicate your desired changes even if you aren’t a technical designer.
Establish a baseline
This step is the underrated key to getting a stellar next sample. In order to know where the style needs to go, it is important to know where it is coming from. Before you try on the garment or fit it on your fit model, measure the sample against the spec sheet in the tech pack (if the factory or samplemaker has not done so already). These measurements give you a baseline for any needed changes. Taking measurements is also a check and balance for the sample itself. You don’t want to make fit decisions based on the sample if the sample itself doesn’t accurately represent the specs it’s supposed to.
Likewise, establish a baseline for your fit model before each fitting. Especially if you’ve changed fit models, haven’t worked with your fit model in a few months, or if you know your fit model has changed size or weight recently, measure your fit model prior to the fitting. Compare her measurements to those you have on file and see if anything has changed.
Be as specific as you can
Fashion is about both feel and function and so the most helpful fit comments are those that address both of these aspects. When making fit comments, get specific about where the garment doesn’t feel right, but back that feeling up with concrete numbers. For example, instead of just commenting “the length feels too short”, a better fit comment would read “The length feels too short. Lengthen body by 2in to equal 24in.” Notice how this comment is much more specific and calls out not only the fit problem, but also the needed change and the desired result.
When indicating amounts to change, make sure to note whether your comments are about flat measurements or full circumference measurements. For example, the comment “take in sides ½in” could mean take ½in out of each side – meaning 1in total circumference, or it could mean take ½in off of each side of the front and back – which would result in 2in total circumference reduction. Be specific about how you are measuring and noting changes. Commenting with specificity eliminates confusion and makes your intended result clear to all.
Mark the sample
You don’t have to confine your fit notes to paper (or the tech pack proto page) – you can comment and mark directly on the sample itself! Use safety pins to mark new landmarks, take in seams, or pin up the hem. You can use a pencil, marker, a line of safety pins, or pinstripe tape to mark changes to style lines and seam placement. Comments marked directly on the sample don’t replace written fit comments, but they supplement and clarify the written comments. If the sample is heavily marked, it is best to send the sample back to the patternmaker or factory so they can reference the markings as they make the needed changes.
Show, don’t just tell
Whether you mark the sample or not, photos are a must-have for clearly communicating fit comments. Take a front, side, and back photo of the fit model in the sample before marking or pinning any adjustments. As you go through the fitting process, take close-ups of any fit issues. You can even take photos with a measuring tape or your markings in frame as further reference.
Reference photos of other garments are also great for communicating fit and construction comments. If there is a certain finish or detail you like on another garment that you want to replicate in your design, include a photo of that detail to show what you want in addition to a written note about what you like or don’t like about it.
Document and record
By the end of your fitting, you’ll have information in photo, physical, and written form. You may have already compiled it into an email to your patternmaker or factory, but don’t forget to document it all in the proto page of your tech pack so you can refer back to it, remember what changes were made at each step, and check if the next sample resolves each issue. The sample itself, if it isn’t going back to the patternmaker or factory, can be labeled with the date, maker, style number, and sample version and kept at least until the style is through production.
Even if you aren’t a technical person and don’t know all the industry names for everything, following these five steps will keep your desired changes clear and your fit comments easily understood by your factory or patternmaker. Clearer comments, means your next sample will be even closer to (if not exactly) the design you’ve envisioned.