THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

August 14, 2007

Technical Drawings vs. Fashion Illustration

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Musings,Patterns — georgene @ 12:09 am

blog-assym-dress.jpgTECHNICAL DRAWING?

I recently had a few promos from the Big 4 pattern companies in my in-box. You probably got them too, if you have ever clicked on to a pattern company’s website. I love looking at patterns online, whether checking out the current crop of vintage on eBay, or the newest additions at the Big 4 or the Independants.

One of the ways pattern companies attempt to differentiate themselves is by the look of the envelope. Fashion drawings, photos, line drawings, stylized drawings, often you can tell at a glance who’s who and what’s what by the look of the envelope.
Here’s a quiz: quick, do you know what a Built-By-Wendy envelope drawing looks like? Simplicity, on their website, shows photos, but click on the item and you are taken to view of the envelope.

How about Loes Hinse and her ubiquitous model? (Is that her daughter?) What about Folkwear? I bet you can recognize that anywhere. And we have all heard the complaints about KwikSew’s uninspiring drawings. Fortunately for us, most companies include a line drawing somewhere on the envelope to help understand the style.

Face it, to make an informed decision about a pattern purchase, we all want the maximum amount of visuals, along with the lowdown on body measurements, fit info, yardage requirements, suggested fabrics. In the day of the $15-20 pattern, a bad pattern choice can be very annoying. The less information available, the less likely I am going to buy that pattern.

blog-redhead.pngOR ILLUSTRATION?

With so many choices available now on where to buy patterns, and what pattern to select, how to discern what to buy? There’s a minimum that I expect, but you know what? I bought a Marfy pattern from Italy, paid serious money for it, and not only are there no markings on the pattern tissue, and no seam allowances, there is not even a picture of any description on the envelope. For that I had to download and print out the drawing from the website. I guess in Italy, you would have purchased that season’s catalog. (I’ll post my Marfy pattern sewing experience another day)

Contrast my Marfy experience, where I was well informed what to expect before ordering, with recent experiences, well-documented, with HotPatterns. There was a lot of ranting in on-line forums about inadequate sewing instructions, with no pictures, not to mention issues with fitting that most had with the early releases of that pattern line. Mixed in with those complaints were the comments about the disconnect between the drawings and the final sewn product. Somehow, those fashion illustrations, even though accompanied by a technical drawing of sorts, were not enough of an indication of what the envelope contained.

It seems though, that sewing enthusiasts are being heard. Kayla Kennington recently updated her website with of garments made with her patterns. There are some beautiful examples of the pattern in different fabrics. I like to think of these as ‘serving suggestions’ – sew it up the same way, or get inspired to make it your own way.

Technical drawing? or illustration? photo? or all 3? Which is most important for you in your pattern purchase decision?
blog-assym-dress-photo.png PHOTO

Shout out to my Dear Daughter for her fashion illustration. (Mostly she is into Japanese manga and anime, but I got her to help out on a project recently.) Thanks to Irena for her Adobe Illustrator line drawing.


  1. Marfy patterns are inside the magazine when you buy it here. They are very confusing to the uninitiated, because several patterns may be printed on one sheet of heavy stock. You have to lay tracing paper over it and trace the pattern and the size you want, then add whatever seam allowance you want.

    I never actually do this, because I never actually like the designs well enough, so I have ended up using Burda instead, which works the same way but has less of the moment designs and more classically oriented designs.

    We don’t have pattern stores in Italy.

    Comment by Judith in Umbria — August 14, 2007 @ 2:43 am

  2. I think I actually prefer illustrations or technical drawings to photos, since the models used for photos typically are nothing like my body type.

    Comment by Mary — August 14, 2007 @ 5:50 am

  3. I always look at technical drawings first and mostly ignore the fashion illustration. Photos of the item on real people help, tho. Your example is quite the opposite, tho. I would have immediately passed over this pattern based on the tech. drawing as it shows it with the waistline seam at the true waist. However, the fashion picture (beautifully drawn, kudos to DD) and the actual sewn (fabulous) dress has a dropped waistline and that is a pretty big difference!

    Comment by Belle — August 14, 2007 @ 7:40 am

  4. Georgene – it’s great to see NO disconnect between the three examples for the dress you designed! Of the well known pattern companies, I’ll also add that New Look has high standards in this realm. They forego fashion illustrations entirely in favor of a photo of the finished design on a live model, and their technical drawings are always accurate.

    Comment by Phyllis — August 14, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  5. I prefer to look at the technical drawings. Case in point – BWOF. The models are always artfully shot, and it’s not always easy to see all the garment details from the photo. Many times, I have turned to the page with the lines drawings or the instructions and went “Hmmm . . I didn’t know it had that detail!”. I do love BWOF, so it’s always intersting to me to see what they choose for fabric and how they chose to present the garment or collection.

    I’ve had the same experience with Marfy, but that’s what I expected based on other’s experiences. Overall, I liked the patterns, but any sort of illustration included would be helpful!

    Comment by Summerset — August 14, 2007 @ 11:41 am

  6. I suppose I prefer a technical illustration, in concert with either a photo that shows details well, or an accurate undistorted fashion illustration – Kwik Sew’s illustrations are a bit dull, but at least you can always see all the relevant info about a pattern. I dislike the super-artsy BWOF pictures that don’t let you see the garment, as well as illustrations that are not in the proportions of a human body (some of the Hot Patterns, sigh).

    Comment by Laura — August 14, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  7. What a fabulous, fabulous dress! I always prefer the technical drawing because I feel it gives me the best idea of what the style really looks like. Illustrations are open to artistic interpretation and models in photos are often a head taller than I am so I rely on those technical drawings!

    Comment by Gigi — August 14, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

  8. Illustration vs. photo – I can go with either, but a technical sketch is a MUST, in my opinion. A fashion illustration can be artistically misrepresented, and lighting or prints can obscure photo details. A technical illustration lets me know what’s really going on.

    I’d appreciate it if pattern companies made *real* technical sketches for each size – bust, waist, hip, shoulder to hem, shoulder point to shoulder point, neck drop, etc. I know it would be hard to do with multiple sizes, but it would be GREAT.

    Comment by Oxanna — August 14, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

  9. If I had to choose only one, it would be the technical drawing. When my Vogue Patterns magazine arrives, I don’t even look at the fashion photos. I go straight to the back and find the designs whose tech drawings look most appealing, then I go back and look at the photos.

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — August 14, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  10. I like a combination of them all. Usually the selling point for me is the technical drawing.

    Comment by Erica B. — August 14, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  11. I like the fashion illustration to suck me in with fantasies of how I could look, followed up with a study of the technical drawing to see if it would really suit.

    Comment by katherine — August 15, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  12. If I only got to pick one, without question I’d choose an accurate technical drawing. I prefer a photo to an illustration, also for accuracy – artistic (ie, hiding all the details!) shots aside. Illustrations are lovely, but way too hard to relate to real life – way to open to artist’s interpretation being very different to mine.

    What would be GREAT is a cross between the tech drawing and an artist’s illustration – accurately rendered as to detail and proportion, but shown on a posed figure.

    Comment by Judy Williment — August 16, 2007 @ 4:13 am

  13. As I usally have a certain idea in mind when I start serching a pattern to match the idea I’m starting with the technical drawing. To me this is definitely the most important part.

    But I like a photo, too, because it often helps to evaluate, how the fit might turn out on a real body (even if it’s far from my own figure). Several times a made the experience, that fitting problems (like a sleeve that is to tight or a revers that is too long) do show on the photo, too. If one examines it really closely.

    And I have some very bad experiences with Neue Mode patterns that showed wonderfully close fitting garments in the illustration but turned out to be something loosly hanging in fabric… :-/ You can do anything with a pen…

    Comment by nowaks nähkästchen — August 16, 2007 @ 7:57 am

  14. I have been looking for a blouse pattern for my dd and thought of the Pussycat blouse over at HP. Everyone who reviewed it mentioned that it didn’t really match the illustration. Ah well, I liked the illustration better than the finished product. I love BWOF patterns, but I rely on the technical illustrations, not the picture. But at least they are all sewn up and you can usually see what the fit is like, if not the details.

    Comment by Nancy — August 16, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  15. The fashion illustration usually grabs my attention, but the technical drawing tells me what I need to know. Fashion photographs are just eye candy for me.

    Comment by Elaray — August 17, 2007 @ 6:49 am

  16. I prefer the technical drawing along with a photo of the finished garment. I think the fashion illustrations can be great (very inspiring) – but as a cutter/draper for theatre, I buy patterns so I don;t have to think when making my own clothes, so i would rather not have to interpret (sometimes “fight”) with a rendering at home when i do it all day at work 🙂

    Comment by marietta — August 18, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

  17. I like a technical drawing first and then a photo; however the photo has certain requirements from me. The model needs to be standing naturally facing forward, the outfit needs to be in a plain fabric that is not black or any other dark colour so I can see the detail. No fussy prints either, it’s amazing what can hide in those!

    Comment by RachelleC — August 29, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  18. I prefer the fashion illustration rather than technical or a photo. I think is because through the sketch or illustration I get fashionable heart of a design. It´s the first step on my work, then I´ll do my technical. If I don´t get in love of a design through the illustration, I probably won´t continue the work. The technical, of course, is a tool to get into a pattern
    but if you Know about pattern, you must know you have too many ways to resolve a pattern of a design, the technical is not always the best one.

    Comment by Jhordana — November 22, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  19. I would have to say that the illustration is going to give me the essence of the garment. That is what you need for the initial impact. But when it comes to constructing from a pattern I really need a technical drawing. It clarifies the finished pattern pieces and positions. At that stage of the process you are gone beyond the emotive response to a garment you re heavily into the practical technicality of construction.

    Comment by tara mooney — November 30, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  20. Personally, I prefer technical drawings and photographs. Fashion illustrations are usually too “floofy” for my taste – they give a feel for the garment, but no specifics.

    The technical drawing is what separates the pattern from all the other similar patterns out there – what differentiates THIS button down shirt from THAT one? The technical drawing’s seam lines and placement make the decision easy, for me. 🙂

    Comment by Laura — December 5, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  21. Illustrations do nothing for me – you can draw the finished garment to look and fit the way you want it to. Photos help me a lot; then I look at the line drawings. I get an idea of how the garment will hang from the photo. Since I know the model is most likely very thing, if the garment doesn’t flatter her, I know it’s going to look terrible on me. I use the line drawings to get an idea of the complexity of the pattern and to see if the seam placement and other details are things that will flatter me. For example, I can’t wear raglan sleeves but raglan sleeves aren’t always apparent in a photo.

    Comment by Mary — September 16, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  22. On modern patterns I just look at the technicals, but my all-time favourite are the illustrations from the fifties. So clean, so beautiful, so inspiring!

    Comment by Constance K — October 8, 2008 @ 4:00 am

  23. Интересненько, откуда такое чудо вылезло?

    Comment by Василий — October 22, 2008 @ 4:52 am

  24. It depends on whether I am looking for a specific style. If I was looking for a classic shirt pattern with a collar and stand for example I would ignore that pictures and go straight to the technical drawings.

    If I was looking for a style to suit a particular fabric, or just browsing looking for inspiration then I would look at the illustrations (preferably photographs), then check the technical drawings to determine if the garment would end up looking like the illustration and if it had interesting details that I would enjoy making up.

    I have been caught twice recently by Vogue patterns which did not have accurate technical drawings. This was very annoying as the very reason I had chosen these patterns were the details that was not represented accurately. In both cases the illustrations didn’t show the difference either.

    Comment by Julie — October 24, 2008 @ 5:04 am


    Comment by ASHOK — February 20, 2009 @ 3:40 am

  26. I just discovered this amazing blog….2 years late…Can anyone please tell me what pattern was used to create that beautiful blue dress that was represented 3 ways??? any response will be gladly appreciate. Please and thank you.

    Comment by christina — March 8, 2009 @ 4:45 am

  27. Oops…hello everyone!!

    Comment by christina — March 8, 2009 @ 4:46 am

  28. […]  Georgene did a post about Technical Drawings vs. Fashion Illustration […]

    Pingback by Technical Drawing For Fashion « THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion — July 15, 2010 @ 7:17 am

  29. I always prefer tech packs or u can say technical drwaing, fashion illustration are nice to watch but when i need the details any dress, technical sketch will help.anyways its a great post . keep posting..

    Comment by Ann — August 25, 2010 @ 7:42 am

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