Elements and Principles Introduction
In order to begin creating your own designs, you need to have a complete understanding of the elements and principles of design.
In previous modules, we covered some very basic fashion terminology, so you are already familiar with some of the fundamental elements of design. However, in this module, we will explore what you will need to know and understand to mould, create, and design your own clothing.
This module was was written to give you an understanding of design principles and to help you understand the consumer.
You will also learn about a few of the different design styles, market research, and how to identify your target customer.
Once you have worked your way through this module, you will have a comprehensive knowledge of the design skills necessary to begin creating storyboards and advancing further in your career.
Elements of Fashion Design
There are four elements of design that you will need to understand in depth as a fashion designer.
The first element of fashion design is line, which can be created through the structure or decorative features in a garment. For example, seam and hem lines are used often in fashion to create different looks and styles.
Decorative lines differ because they are not functional; they are used to create visual appeal and do not hold the garment together. You might see a decorative line designed with trims, or piping.
The use of line in fashion is crucial because it affects how we see the design. Lines have direction and weight, which affect how it can look on the body. It is important for a designer to use this element wisely so that the clothing is flattering.
In previous modules, you might remember learning about silhouettes and how they are constantly evolving throughout history.
The next element of design is shape, which refers to the silhouette or overall shape of a garment. The shape that you create for your design can either accentuate or disguise parts of a female or male’s natural body.
As a designer, it is important to choose clothing shapes that are most flattering to the body type you are designing for.
You should always try to flatter the good features and hide the less attractive features.
Silhouettes are constantly changing, and the ideal shape will most likely continue to evolve. However, the following shapes have remained fashionable and flattering, prompting designers to continue to use them in design.
The hourglass shape is an often revered shape among women because it is considered the perfect women’s figure.
This popular silhouette shows the bust and hip at the same width, with a narrower waist. You should use this shape to draw attention to the natural shape of a woman’s figure.
The wedge silhouette is popular in both men and women’s fashion.
This shape is wide at the shoulders and narrows at the bottom. It is most commonly used to draw attention to the shoulders and make them appear broader.
Another popular shape among both men and women is the tubular shape, which features little definition throughout the waist, shoulders, and hips.
This silhouette does not cling to the body and is used to smooth out body lines.
The bell silhouette is fitted at the top and flares out into a full, bell-shaped skirt.
This shape is popular in women’s fashion and is used to draw the attention to the waist and hip area.
The A-Line shape is used in women’s dresses and skirts and is popular for flattering all figures.
This silhouette resembles the letter A, is narrow at the top, and broadens at the bottom. This style is also used to smooth out body lines.
The third element of design is texture, which refers to the surface quality of what you are creating. Texture refers to how an item looks or feels when it is touched, which means a garment can have any number of textures. Your wardrobe, for example, is filled with different textures.
You could be wearing denim jeans with zippers, a satin shirt, and a sweater made with thick, heavy yarn. All of these different materials are made of textures that you as the designer can incorporate into your designs to add weight, design, or to flatter the wearer’s appearance.
As a designer, the only limit to the materials you can use for texture is your imagination. You can use different fabrics, sequins, leather, and fur.
However, there are a few ways in which texture is incorporated into designs, which you should be familiar with:
Texture may be integrated all over the garment, which means that entire garments can be made from synthetic leather, furs, or wool.
You can also use texture as an embellishment, this is great to contrast your design.
An example of this would be adding jewels to a sweetheart neckline on an evening gown.
Adding texture throughout clothing is another great way to incorporate this element into your wardrobe.
For instance, you can add a chunky wool scarf to your outfit.
The final element in fashion design is colour, which is the most important element you will learn about. There are many different colour schemes that you will learn about and work with in your career.
Since there is a world of possibilities available to you, let’s look at a couple of the colour wheels that you will be working with most frequently.
When it comes to building a wardrobe, neutral colours are about as safe as you can get.
These are your versatile colours that work well and match with anything. In fashion, these colours can be used and worn with any other colours so you should remember to take note of the neutral colour wheel. These colours include grey, brown, beige, black, and white.
When you are working with colours in fashion, they are either referred to as warm or cool.
The warm colours are either red, yellow, orange, or a combination of all of these. Learning how to use colour properly will be one of the most valuable skills that you grasp as a designer.
Each of the colours on the spectrum, whether warm or cool, will help to create an illusion.
Cool colours, which are your blues, greens, and purples, will give the illusion of reducing size. They also are calming and have soothing properties.
After some time, you will learn how to perfectly harmonise warm and cool colours together to create the perfect wardrobe.
For now, one tip to keep in mind is, it is always best to match warm colours with other warms, and cools with cools.
Monochromatic Colour Scheme
When a designer begins to combine different shades, tints, and intensities of colours on the wheel to compliment one colour, it is referred to as a monochromatic colour scheme.
Complementary colour schemes
When two colours are located directly across from each other on the colour wheel, they are known as colour harmonies or complementary colour schemes.
These colours work well when you want something to stand out, but you have to be careful when using them in large doses.
The colours red and green are a perfect example of this scheme.
Analogous colour scheme
When looking at a colour wheel, there are usually a few colours that are serene and pleasing to the eye.
They are located next to each other on the wheel, are generally harmonious, and are found in nature.
This is referred to as an analogous colour scheme and when working with them, you should choose one dominant, one supportive, and a third accent colour.
The Principles of Fashion Design
Now that we have reviewed the four elements of design let’s look at the five principles of design, which include balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and harmony.
When it comes to principles in fashion design, each one has a specific role in making your garment visually pleasing.
In order for your design to be visually appealing, it must have balance, which is simply the visual weight of your design. Balance can be achieved using necklines, seams, and hemlines.
There are two types of balance you want to look for in other designs and try to create in your own.
Symmetrical balance is simply consistency in a garment.
An example of this would be a straight hemline.
Asymmetrical Balance has been popping up more and more in fashion.
This form of balance is tricky, but it can be an effective fashion design. You might see asymmetrical balance in a one-shoulder gown or a jacket with only one lapel.
When you are designing clothing to fit varying body types, it is important to consider proportions.
When it comes to this principle, size and scale are crucial factors. Try to picture a sweater with sleeves that are twice the size of the entire garment. That would not make sense to the outfit.
The principle of proportion states that various components within a garment or accessory will look good together when they are balanced with size or scale.
This is an important principle to remember when dressing specific body types as well. For example, you would not dress a tall person in very long and skinny jeans.
The idea of rhythm simply states that the human eye is designed to keep moving, so your designs should harmonise with that concept.
So, you should create clothing or accessories that invite the eye to move with the apparel. The following techniques will help you to incorporate this principle in your designs:
When designing clothing, try to repeat shapes, lines, textures, and colours
Increase or decrease colours, shapes, textures and lines.
Create colours or lines from a centre, flower petals.
This is perhaps the simplest of the principles.
Emphasis simply means that you are making an effort to draw interest to a concentrated area of your design.
This can be achieved through textures, line, or contrasting colours.
The last principle of design wraps up all of the principles you learned and is an indicator that your design has achieved all the other aspects of design.
If your garment has harmony, it has successfully achieved all the other elements and principles of design, is pleasing to the eye, and nothing is distracting about your design.
The one caveat to this principle is that it harmony depends on the observer’s personal taste.
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