Market and Trend Research

We live in an age where information is everywhere and easily accessible. Lots of information is overwhelming and ultimately, meaningless, if it is not organized and extracted for insight.

Productive market research and trend forecasting streamlines focus, captures key data points, looks for patterns, and uses learnings as a framework for future decision making.

I can’t stress enough how powerful research can be in designing a valuable product. Good research is holistic and involves looking into the past, present, and future of your target customer.

The past

Identifying mistakes and successes of the past, helps activate better decision making for the future. If a product didn’t sell, find out why. Some discoveries take time. (For example, at one company, It took me a few seasons, and a lot of stinky sellers, to finally figure out that my customer didn’t want to buy novelty leggings. She preferred to buy more inauspicious leggings that she could wear over and over again. This type of product would be better suited for a market category with more disposable income and a larger closet.)

Customer reviews are also amazing data points from the past. Customer reviews can tell you what worked and didn’t work about a style. Remember, customer reviews can be analyzed for competitive and aspirational brands as well! That’s a lot of data to draw from.

The distant past

Perhaps the best profits have the best memory.

It’s unoriginal, but the past tends to repeat itself in cycles, even decades. Knowledge of past fashion cycles, music, and culture will help train your prophetic eye. With a good handle on the types of silhouettes, fabrics, details, and accessories of each decade, it’s easier to navigate future fashion trends. Design elements usually group together. For example: If you’re starting to see a lot of shoulder pads, be prepared for more acid wash, high waisted jeans, and neons in the market place (all associated with the 80s).

Vintage shopping is a great way to become familiar with different decades and source design inspiration. There are numerous online shops selling vintage clothing like etsy and ebay. Even your local thrift store may be holding some gems.

Researching exclusively new collections can get tiresome as originality in design is lackluster, especially in the mass-market category. Ironically, vintage clothing is a breath of fresh air compared to current mass-produced garments.  

The present

Market research on your present target customer (or target market), where she currently shops (competitive brands), and where she would like to shop (aspirational brands,) can help build a landscape of your customers current preferences; and you can begin to imagine what her preferences will be in the future.

To find competitive brands, look for brands with a similar aesthetic and price point. To find aspirational brands, look for brands with a similar aesthetic but higher price point. Once you identify your competitive and aspirational brands, regularly check out the product for design details, fabrics, new product categories, etc.

Market research can be both online and in store. In store is always better because you have better visibility to both customers and the positioning of product. Where product is placed in the store indicates how confident a brand is in the product. Usually confidence is derived from testing and sales history. A table of product prominently displayed at the front of the store is what the brand in believes in from either a seasonal, trend, or past selling perspective.

Social media like Instagram and Pinterest are great ways to discover lifestyle information about your customer in addition to which brands and products she is liking.

The future

Great designers balance memory of past trends and selling, awareness of the present market, and anticipation of future.

Anticipating the future is trend forecasting. I personally love trend forecasting. There is something so fulfilling about being open and receptive to everything that’s going on in the world, organizing that data, and zoning in on key ideas that will be popular a year to several years from the present moment.

There is a ton of research that goes into trend forecasting like studying the lines of high end designers to streetwear brands, influencers on social media, trend and forecasting services like Wgsn and Google trends, travel to concerts and festivals, and market research in popular travel destinations and fashion capitals.

As you can imagine, this is a time consuming process that is key to many brands. Many large corporations have full-time trend and concept teams that do a bulk of the research, create trend presentations or “decks,” then roll this out to teams.

Not all trends are the same. Trends are classified as three different cycles: the fad, standard, and classic style. A fad is a trend that fades very quickly (ex. fidget spinner;) the standard cycle lives for a longer time (ex. off-the shoulder tops); while a classic cycle is more prolonged (ex. skinny jeans).

It’s important to interpret the endurance of a trend and pinpoint where it is expressing on the fashion cycle. The goal is to send product to market before a trend is declining or, worse, obsolete. It’s brand damaging to represent a product that is over-exposed in the market. Some fast fashion brands are organizationally built to be speedy to market, so they can identify a trend and quickly ship similar product to stores.

You don’t need to be a psychic to anticipate what your customer is going to need. Many trends are practical in nature. Trends that are comfortable to wear and easy to style stick around for a long time. Yoga leggings and skinny jeans continue to be a staple because they are so practical!

Trends can also bring balance to a previously introduced trend. For example, if super high waisted jeans are introduced to the market, you can expect a demand for cropped tops. If wide leg pants are on the rise, expect a demand for smaller tops to offset the volume in the leg.

A final note about trend forecasting, which is often overlooked, is that not all trends are relevant to your customer. As a designer, you filter and interpret trends for your customer. The key is to balance authentic customer and brand identity with cultural influence and trends.

Garment Categories

Within the market categories, there is further organization into garment, or product, categories. Different garment categories require different expertise. It’s because of this that teams—like design, production, fabric, and tech teams—are separated by category. Even factories specialize by garment category since each garment category requires different sets of machinery and sewing skills. In smaller companies with less employees, there may be one or a few teams working on a variety of product categories, but in large companies with many employees, this is rare. 

It’s not uncommon for people to work on a single category their entire career. Going narrow and deep creates an expert in a specific area. I developed more shallow and wide, specializing in knit tops and dresses, woven tops and dresses, outerwear, and denim jackets over the course of my career. It’s helpful to know which garment categories interest you, but there is no right or wrong way to position yourself as a designer. You may unexpectedly arrive in new garment categories over the course of your career and develop a broader perspective.

Garment categories 

  • Career/ Business/ Suits—tailored pieces including jackets, skirts, trousers, pants, and coats

  • Sportswear (coordinated separates)—broad range of non-tailored tops, skirts, and pants. Easy-care machine-tailored jackets are included in this category.

  • Active sportswear—any garment that is designed for performance in activities and sports like yoga, hiking, running, tennis, snowboarding, etc. This category employs technical fabrics with properties like moisture wicking, anti-pilling, heat transfer, and sun-protection.

  • Outerwear—can include lightweight jackets like windbreakers, utility jackets, trench coats, and rainwear to cold weather pieces like puffer and parka jackets.

  • Knitwear—any garment that is fully-fashioned.* This category is quite technical and requires a specialization in knitting techniques. Sometimes cut-and-sew knits* are included in the category.

  • Dresses—includes all dresses except for evening wear and bridal

  • Evening wear and Bridal—this is a specialized category because of the techniques and fabric typically used in special occasion gowns require special handling. Garments can be hand or machine embellished depending on the price-point.

  • Intimate apparel and beachwear—these groups are placed together because they share similar garment silhouettes, body-hugging stretch fabrics, and sewing techniques. Underwear, bras, shapewear, robes, swimwear, and beach cover ups are included in this category

  • Denim—any garment that is made out of denim including jeans, jackets, short, and overalls. This category requires specialized knowledge of denim weave, denim wet process, and dry process techniques like destroy and grinding.

* Full-fashion-knit—a garment that has been sculpted and shaped through adding and reducing knitwear stitches (there is no cutting and sewing of fabric into seams.) This process of engineering a design with special stitches can be done by hand knitting but is commercially produced by knitting machines

*Cut-and-sew knit—a garment that has been sculpted and shaped through cutting knit fabric by pattern piece and sewing seams together

Market Research and Market Categories

Market research is gathering information about target customers needs and preferences with the goal of creating product that provides value to them. Lifestyle, demographic, income level, and aspirations of your target customer all filter the decisions made in the design of a garment.

There are many different market categories within the fashion industry. Markets are categorized by:

  1. age, size, and body shape of customers

  2. price point

Navigating different markets and determining where brands are categorized is challenging. Not only do market names change, but many brands have several different lines, at different price points, to attract as many customers as possible and win a greater market share. It can get a little convoluted. 

I did my best to provide a well-rounded explanation with examples below, but the best way to get a handle on the retail industry is to do market research and explore yourself. Most department stores separate market categories by floor, this way a customer can shop her favorite brands without traveling to other floors. Studying floor directories, price points, how brands sit next to each-other in real life, provides so much context into the fashion industry.

In reality, you don’t have to memorize each market and know where all brands sit. The most important thing is to study your competitors—brands that share the same customer base (similar aesthetic and price point)—and aspirational brands—brands that are relatively one or two markets higher end than the one you’re currently in (similar aesthetic with higher price point.)

1) Below are market categories separated by age, size, and body shape:

  • Junior (teenage to early 20s)

  • Misses (35 and up)

  • Petites (under 5ft 4”)

  • Women’s plus size

  • Maternity

2) Below are market categories separated by price range. The price point set by a market isn’t arbitrary. Factors like fabric quality, construction technique, design originality, exclusivity, brand recognition, brand relevancy, and overall quality affect price point.


• $$$$$$$  Haute Couture, also known as “made-to-measure.”  

In contrast to designer “ready-to-wear” collections, haute couture pieces are made custom to an individual’s measurements. These custom fit pieces are made of the finest material and with the most traditional, labor intensive, and impeccable construction. As you might have guessed, this is the highest end market with prices from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars in price. 

This is the most prestigious market, with only a handful of couturiers officially registered and recognized by The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in France. 

Examples: Chanel, Christian Dior, Valentino 

• $$$$$$  Designer, also knows as “ready to wear” (the translation to the French term “prêt-à-porter), “off-the-rack"

Often abbreviated to RTW (ready-to-wear), this designer market category utilizes standard sizes and faster construction techniques—a departure from made-to-measure haute couture. The design, fabric, and construction details of designer collections are still high-end and expensive, but relatively more accessible than custom made clothing. 

With a smaller pool of elite customers and lower profit margins, couturiers are most utilized for marketing. Most couture brands have a diffusion RTW collection as a revenue stream.


Advanced Designer/ Ready to Wear (slightly higher price point)Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Gucci, Celine, Vetements, Dries Van Noten, and Proenza Schouler. 

Designer/ Lifestyle—Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, St. John, Victoria Beckham

• $$$$$ Bridge, also known as “diffusion”

This market category attempts to bridge the gap between mass-market retail and high-end designer brands, with an “accessible luxury” price point. Often designer lines will create a separate or secondary “diffusion” line with lower price points.

Examples: DKNY by Donna Karan, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, D&G (by Dolce & Gabbana)

• $$$$  Contemporary

Contemporary is the market category for culturally relevant brands, or for product that is modern, hip or in. While contemporary clothing is fashion-forward and trendy, it’s not low quality or disposable. Since denim is so popular, many high end denim brands are in this category and are positioned on the same floor as other contemporary brands for outfitting purposes. 

Examples:  Etoile Isabel Marant, See by Chloe, Self-Portrait, Iro, Sandro, Whistles, Reformation, Maje, Rebecca Taylor, Zimmerman, Veronica Beard, A.L.C., Alice and Olivia, Theory, Tibi, Tory Burch

Contemporary Denim: Re/ Done, Moussy, J Brand, Frame, Rag & Bone

• $$$  Better

A step above moderate, and a step below contemporary, this product category is difficult to pin down but is usually more classic and less trend driven for a slightly more mature customer. 

Examples: MICHAEL Michael Kors, Anne Klein, Jones New York, Perry Ellis

• $$ Moderate, also known as mid-priced specialty stores, or mid level high street*

This market is similar to the budget mass market, but the price point and product is slightly elevated. These are the brands you would find commonly in malls. Companies in this category must establish and maintain authentic brand identity to attract core customers and differentiate product in a saturated and competitive market. 

Examples: American Eagle, Levi’s, Express, Lululemon, and department stores—Macy’s + Dillards. Fast fashion examples include Zara and Topshop

  • “High street” is the UK equivalent to “main street.” These are mass market brands that would usually have a flagship store on the main street of big cities.

• $  Budget Mass Market, also known as “value market,” or “mass market high street.” 

Designers for this market typically design with a democratic approach and make design decisions that will appeal to a broad customer base. This market operates on high volume and low profit margins.

Examples: Target, Walmart, Old Navy, Primark and department stores like JC Penney and Kohls. Fast-fashion examples include Forever 21 and H & M.

• $-$$$$     Off-price market, also known as “discount market.” 

Off-price retailers sell clothing at a discounted price. The clothing could have originated at any price point—from mass market to designer—but was discounted after it didn’t sell at the intended price point. Some of these reasons including slight defects, close-outs, or decreased relevancy based on season or brand popularity.

In some cases, discounted product is produced specifically for the off-price market, which is the case in licensed apparel. The product will boast the main label of a desirable brand, but often the quality and design is inferior to the brand’s main line. 

Examples: TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack 

While I respect the traditional methods of bespoke design in haute couture houses, I’m also excited about new developments in the market as fashion catches up with technology.

•$-$$$$ Direct to consumer

Web only companies like Everlane, Asos, Outdoor Voices, and Misguided are increasing, shifting some of the market share to e-commerce.

Amazon and other online shops have increased the popularity of dropshipping where inventory is shipped from a wholesaler or manufacturer directly to the consumer, and the selling merchant conveniently doesn’t stock inventory.

With subscription services, instant gratification, and fast fashion on the rise, Subscription services like StitchFix and Rent the Runway gain popularity. Even traditional brick and mortar stores like American Eagle are offering new subscription services to their customers.

•$-$$$$ Secondhand

Consumption of used apparel including the resale and thrift & donation sector is increasing with secondhand apps like Poshmark, Mercari, thredUP. Customers get great product at a fraction of the cost. It’s exciting to think consumers are becoming more conscientious and responsible with their financial health and long-term impact on the environment. This is a category I feel most passionately about. 

Let’s get real for a second. Each market category has a certain reputation. I want to go over that a bit, in case you are wondering which market you are most suited to design for. I don’t have experience in every market, so I am speaking from my experience, friends’ experience, and reputation. Obviously, I can not speak for every company in every market as culture can vary. I hope I don’t get in trouble for this…

In general, the higher end the market, the more creative and original the design work; the trade-off is longer hours, lower pay, and crankier people. Larger, more mass-market companies, tend to keep more regular hours and workers are generally more protected by human resources; the trade off is the work can be less creative and obstructed by bureaucracy. The best way to proceed is to keep your ears open and do your research. If there is high turnover in a position at a company—there is probably a reason. 

Tools and Materials (it's more simple than you think)

In fashion school, I spent so much money on various tools and materials from special marker paper, to special tracing paper, colored pencils, light-boxes, markers, watercolor, etc. The investment was somewhat justified in having the opportunity to experiment with media as a student to find which materials resonated most with me.

The honest truth is that the tools I use to design most often in a professional setting is a regular mechanical pencil and standard 8.5 x 11 paper.

Fashion design doesn’t have to involve a huge investment in materials. A simple pencil and any piece of paper will do. Your greatest asset is your creativity, some knowledge of garment construction, some knowledge of fabrics, and a pencil and paper. If you’re not the best artist—who cares. I know a lot of designer who aren’t the best at drawing but leverage other of the many skill sets involved in being a great designer.  Plus, anyone can learn how to draw clothing with practice.

When it comes to your portfolio, rendering in a media of your choice is necessary to communicate color and fabric, but the backbone of your collection is the thousands of small decisions you make about silhouette, body length, neckline shape, etc. The rendering is a cherry on top.

the 5 pillars of great design (in my opinion)

1.Design to create value

When I decided to go to school for fashion design, the general feedback I received was how are you going to make money. To them, design wasn’t defined as something that provides enough value to be a legitimate career path and way to earn a living.

I’m here to tell you that is totally false.

Fashion designers create value in a variety of ways. Whether you’re creating a technical solution like a rainproof shell jackets for hiking, a fit solution like a new curvy fit jean for customers with unique proportions, an outfitting solution like a perfect cropped top for super-hight waisted jeans, or making someone feel great about themselves, you are creating value!

A great designer empathizes with the customer, has a sense of what they need or want, and creates products that resonate with them. This is the structure of creating value: fulfilling needs and desires. Whenever you create value, you are compensated. This is a law of nature. 

While training to become a fashion designer, you learn a variety of technical skills, but the most valuable thing you learn is how to think in terms of perceiving needs and creating value. This is a mindset and a skill that will make you successful wherever you go, regardless of the industry. 

2.Sharpen your lens

The thing is, unless you’re a magic genie, you can’t fulfill all needs. This is where focus becomes the greatest asset to a designer. Attempting too many creative solutions at once weakens focus and impact in one particular area.

The more you can zero in on a specific population, or target market/ customer, the more you understand and can empathize with them, the better positioned you are to be able to deliver high quality, life enhancing product to that specific group. In short, know your customer, and be intentional with your time and design. 

Every decision you make about every step of the design process: silhouette, fabric choice, neckline shape, length, etc will be originating from a data point about your customer. The more data points available to you, the better chance you will be able to design something that resonates with your customer. 

In fashion school, one of the first projects assigned to us was to create a target customer profile. I remember feeling a little lost, like I had to pull a person out of thin air. I ended up assigning my “customer” an arbitrary age, occupation, and income, then designed a meaningless collection based on a phantom person. The collection stunk because it wasn’t grounded in a reality. 

I suggest not making anything up. If you’re not sure, walk the path of discovery. Try picking a company that resonates with you and find out everything about their target customer. Visit the store, read customer reviews, research their collection for visual cues about the customers age, socioeconomic background, aspirations, etc. 

This is good practice for when you’re in the industry—whether you’re working for small or large brands, or have your own company—there is always work to be done understanding your customer. Even if you’ve totally nailed it with understanding your customer—it’s only temporary. Your customer grows up, they evolve. Companies fail because they think their customer is exactly the same as ten years ago. They fail to stay relevant by neglecting their customer. 

Students and beginners often start designing for themselves. It’s a seamless process, as we know ourselves best. Eventually, it’s a good practice to design for a muse or company with a slightly different customer and aesthetic than your own. This will teach you to adapt and flex the empathy muscle. 

Not everyone is capable or willing to design for a specific customer. This is something that takes practice, skill, and humility. Having the ability to design for a variety of customers will make you a more professional, versatile, and creative designer.

3.Hone your point of view

If you have your own brand, and that brand is a direct result of your personal aesthetic, your point of view will be pure and unfiltered. The reality is that most designers will work for a few different brands as a career, or they will work for different brands before starting their own company. Because of this, it’s important to learn how to balance personal aesthetic with the aesthetic of the brand you’re designing for.

 I have to admit, because I started working for brands early as a student, I delayed cultivating my own aesthetic. I mistakingly thought denying my personal preferences made me a greater asset because my whole self was available to serve the customer of the company I was working for.  It took me a while to give myself permission to privately indulge in fantasy and cultivate my own aesthetic.

It sounds contradictory but increasing awareness of my personal preferences gave me greater power and precision over professional design decisions. Without boundaries, or the ability to separate professional from personal, I was more likely to act on instinct in situations where it was not appropriate. For example, I naturally prefer more androgynous silhouettes but the customer might prefer feminine silhouettes. Because I’m aware of the disconnect between my personal aesthetic and the aesthetic of the brand, I’m not unconsciously going to assert my aesthetic on the customer. If I do, it will be done conscientiously and under the right circumstances. Because I’m aware that I am biased, I can overcome it and design objectively.

The thing is, your inner nature and personal aesthetic is inside you, waiting to develop. There is no sense denying it. It will rear it’s head unexpectedly and beyond your awareness, where it has the potential to affect your work negatively. 

When cultivated, your personal aesthetic is your greatest asset. Your personal aesthetic filtered through the lens of your target customer is your unique point of view. A collection designed with a pure algorithmic approach that pleases every data point of your customer, void of creativity and gut instinct, lacks luster.

4.Develop a critical eye 

As visual people, we often can sense when a design doesn’t “feel right.” It takes practice and skill to be able to identify which element or combination of elements are interfering with the harmony of a design. The ability to identify issues and communicate those issues, whether it’s a fit, fabric, design detail, or sewing issue, is one of the most important skills as a designer. After all, good design is a series of successful edits.

If you work on a team, your ability to identify and effectively communicate issues in a product will help mobilize the entire team to find solutions. For example, if the product looks too flimsy, the silhouette is too boxy, and the sewing workmanship is sub-standard, the fabric team can source heavier weight fabric, the tech team can make fit edits, and the pre-production team can advise better sewing wokmanship or find a new factory.

Developing a critical eye is essential to design and can be practiced anytime. When viewing or trying on a garment, explore which element or combination of elements are displeasing to you. Is the fabric appropriate for the design? Is the pocket too small? The neck too high? The rib height too long. How much shorter should it be? 1”? 2”

As a designer, you have permission be critical. Lean into that. Beauty is in the details and sometimes 1” makes all the difference. 

5.Seek feedback

I’ve designed some true stinkers, and you will too. The point is not to get it right every time, but to learn each time and improve. 

For that reason, I think customer reviews are a goldmine. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain reviews that can be dismissed, but generally you’re customers knows what’s up. If they don’t like something, listen and find out why. 

After a collection launches on the website, I wait with angst for a week and then look at every review. I do this periodically through the garments lifespan on the web. This is an amazing, high return on investment opportunity.  As a beginner or student, you are privy to the same feedback loops as designers. When you’re online shopping, why not read reviews to learn more about how consumers shop and their criteria for good or bad reviews. 

Customers will offer priceless insight. They will call out fit, design, fabric, and outfitting issues and may even post photos. Hearing your customers feedback, will make you more critical, discerning, and connected. 

Most importantly, when your customer has a voice and a face, it makes the work more personal and meaningful.


Creating life-enhancing products to a specific population, honing your personal aesthetic and unique point of view, developing a critical eye and communicating edits, and lastly, regularly seeking feedback from your customers will make you a successful designer.

Easy Way to Draw the Face for Fashion Illustration and Sketching

1. Draw an oval inside of the square. Left and right sides of head should be mirror images of each other.

2. Find the halfway point between lines A and D. This will be B.

3. Find the halfway point between lines B and D. This will be C. 

4. Mark where the eyes will be on line B. The width of the eye will also be the width between the eyes. 

5. Draw a half moon where you marked the eyes. Draw a circular iris at the center of the curve.

6. Optional: Indicate bridge of nose

7. Mark center indentation of lips, just below line C. 

8. Fill in remainder of lip. Edge of lips can fall anywhere between the inner corner of eye and the inner edge of the iris. 

9. Shape lips as desired.

10. Draw upper and lower lid.

11. Optional: Add lashes to eyes.

12. Draw the eyebrows above the eyes (top of eyebrow falls about 1/3 of the distance between line B and A.) Use the iris as a reference point when shaping the brow.

13. Add volume to the inner half of the eyebrow.

14. Make a wide “V” shape to indicate the nose. Nose should fall a lip distance (1 lip, not the whole mouth) above the top lip. The width of the nose is approximately the width between the eyebrows.

15. Add shape for cheekbones and jaw. Draw ears slightly above line B and ending slightly above line C

16. Note shading lines in grey 

The first few times you try this exercise, your girl may look heinous. Don't fret if she has cross-eyes, a unibrow, or looks like a straight up goblin. Try again and again until she looks like a queen. Once you've mastered this, see the next post for adding makeup to your girl. 

If you like shortcuts, download a free template with pre-measured proportions and guidelines. 

Fashion Sketching: a Step-by-step Guide to Drawing the Basic Fashion Croquis

A Croquis is a Drawing of a Fashion Model.

You trace over your croquis to design clothing.

Fashion croquis can be all different shapes, sizes, and styles. It all depends on the end use of your design and the demographic you are designing for. I’ve used different croquis throughout my career. Some were more stylized while others were super simple. 

Below is the croquis we will draw in this tutorial.


What are the Proportions of a Fashion Croquis? 

The standard fashion croquis follows the proportions of runway models.

Let me first say that you can evolve your croquis to be any shape and size. This tutorial will teach you how to create the standard croquis (with the proportions that most fashion colleges teach students.) Once you have the standard template, you can adjust however best fits your personality, design aeshetic, and most importantly, your target demographic.

The standard croquis is an unrealistic (or idealized) figure with longer legs, a larger head, and thinner hips than the average woman, like a fashion model. The croquis is 9 heads tall from the top of the head to the ankles. (The feet are excluded from the equation since they can vary in height depending on type of shoes and heel height.) 

The above image illustrates the difference between a realistic body (left) and a fashion croquis with 9 heads proportion (right)

The above image illustrates the difference between a realistic body (left) and a fashion croquis with 9 heads proportion (right)

The point of view is that a fashion model’s length and simplicity of form help to display clothing with a dramatic effect. The design intent of a garment is exaggerated when displayed on an elongated scale, and this elongated scale helps to portray a fantasy (aka helps to advertise and sell more clothes.)

Personally, I think this is just another standard of beauty that is subject to change, as beauty standard have changed throughout history (and to hell with beauty standards, right?) 

Currently, there are more and more fashion models with relatable body proportions. The industry is learning that people buy clothes that they can personally relate to. Therefore, it’s best to be open, have you’re own point of view on beauty, and feel free to evolve your croquis once you’ve learned the basics.

What Does “9 heads” Tall Mean?

The height and width of the head is used as an index for the dimensions of the rest of the body. 

In this image, you can see how the body is broken up into 9 equal sections from the top of the head to the ankle bone. The feet are excluded because they can vary in height depending on the type of shoes and heel height.

It’s helpful to use the head as a point of measure instead of an actual measurement because your paper size can vary. From a tiny piece of paper to a billboard, you can map out the size and proportions of your figure by drawing 9 heads first.

If you are working with an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, you can have each head be roughly 1” tall but this measurement will change depending on your paper size.


Creating Guidelines

Before we begin, you will need paper and a pencil. A ruler and tracing paper would be helfpful but isn’t totally necessary. Draw lightly with pencil so you can erase easily.

Step 1: Divide the page into 9 equal sections.

Quick trick: lightly mark 4 equal sections of your paper, then split each section in half. Draw an oval in each section, labeling 1-9.

Step 2: Add a dashed line at roughly 1 1/2” and 4 1/4” heads

PART 1-03.png

Step 3: Label anatomy as marked on this page 

Creating the Croquis Skeleton

Step 1: Draw a vertical line, perpendicular to the horizontal guidelines. This will be the center line

Step 2: Draw an oval for the head 

Step 3: Draw a horizontal line for the shoulders (roughly 1 1/2” heads wide)

Step 4: Draw a horizontal line for the waist (roughly 1 head)

Step 5: Repeat step 3 for the hips (the hips and shoulders are the same width)

Step 6: Connect the shoulder, waist and hips

Step 7: Draw a guideline for the arms as pictured

Step 8: Draw a vertical line from the waist down


Step 9: Draw a cylinder for the neck

Step 10: Connect the neck to the shoulder

Step 11: Draw small ovals for the knees

Step 12: Draw small ovals for the ankles


Adding Shape

After the skeleton of the croquis is established, we can add muscular structure and shape. This is the most challenging part, it takes practice so be patient! Draw lightly with pencil so you can erase easily.

Step 13: Add shape to the neck and arm as illustrated. Repeat on other side


Step 14: Add shape to the leg and foot as illustrated. Repeat on other side

Step 15: Your croquis will look something like this. If you’re not happy with the proportions, feel free to adjust as necessary. You can trace over your croquis with a darker pencil line, a different colored pencil, or tracing paper. 

Step 16: Add bust line

Step 17: Add underwear line

Step 18: Add a line separating the croquis in half 

The below guidelines will help you draw symmetrical and accurate garments


I’ve added my croquis below. Feel free to print and use!


The Fashion Model vs. the Average Woman

Fashion models are significantly taller and slimmer than most women. The fashion model's length and simplicity of form help display clothing with a dramatic affect. Style lines, asymmetry, and silhouettes of garments are exaggerated when displayed on an elongated scale. This elongated scale helps to portray a fantasy. These garments are then edited into the real world to be enjoyed by a wider range of people. 

The image on the left is an average woman. The image on the right is photoshopped to represent an exaggerated fashion croquis or template that is 9 heads tall from the top of head to the ankles. This proportion is common to fashion sketching. 


Drawing the fashion figure with 9 heads proportion—Part 1 goes more into depth about the proportions of the fashion figure. This is the place to start if you're interested in fashion sketching. 


Drawing feet on the fashion figure: high heels vs. flats

Let's be honest, drawing feet is annoying. I find drawing flat shoes to be more challenging than drawing heels. Flat shoes often end up looking like little boats or skis or Donald Duck's flippers—not cute.

"Things don’t always work out the first time, but keep trying." – Donald Duck.

"Things don’t always work out the first time, but keep trying." – Donald Duck.

Out of frustration, I had a photoshoot with my feet to try and figure out how to draw heels and flats with ease. 

In the far left image, my heels are planted firmly on the ground (my feet are completely flat). In every following image, I am raising my heels slightly higher; the far right image displays my maximum heel hight. From studying this progression of heel hight (while standing forward in an upright position), I noticed this relationship:

The lower the heel, the more the feet face out away from the center body line.
The higher the heel, the more the feet face in towards the center body line. 

To help illustrate this point, note the red arrows on the below sketch. 


Also note that the placement of the feet from the bottom of the page stays consistent (this is the floor and floors don't move). The knees and ankles gradually gain height from the bottom of the page as the figure gets getting taller with the new heel height. 

I recommend exploring this relationship by standing in the mirror and slowly raising your heels off the ground.
How does your anatomy appear to be affected? 

  • What area on your foot begins to support the weight of your body?  
  • How does the activation of muscles affect the silhouette of your legs?
  • Are there any other structural changes you notice in your body?
  • Curiosity enhances learning, so try approaching this with the spirit of curiosity and exploration. 

See this article to learn how to draw the face on your fashion sketch.