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Creative Design for the Dressmaker Explained

Oct 26, 2007
The dressmaker capable of creating original design is an artist - as a sculptor working with the material on hand to create and mold a pleasing effect - one which creates an attractive picture by enhancing the best qualities of the wearer and unobtrusively subduing or camouflaging the less perfect points by applying the skill which comes with knowledge and practice.

A dress of good design is almost timeless - it can be worn for a great many seasons without appearing out of style.

The basic requirements of good design are the proper use of balance, rhythm, and proportion.


This can be symmetric or occult.

Symmetric balance is formal, dignified, simple, measured and exact. It is duplicated in reverse on each side of the exact center in the same line, form and shape.

Occult (asymmetric) balance is off center balance. It signifies movement and freedom and the balance is achieved by feeling and sight rather than by measure. It can be achieved by various methods - by the use of line, color, or ornament.


Rhythm is movement repeated. In dress designing it can be achieved by repetition of lines of direction in construction of the dress itself, or by repetition in the use of buttons and miscellaneous ornamentation, or the repetition inherent in tucks, pleats, and folds. Rhythmic movement can also be accented by the use of contrasting colors.


Proportion is the relation of one part of a design to another in line, mass, or color. Proportion is also the relation of the entire design to the wearer. Care must be taken in keeping this relation of one part to another interesting - not to allow it to become monotonous. A good sense of balance and rhythm and the proper use of them will help your judgment in this respect.

Just as a chain is no stronger than its weakest link so is no design truly good unless each part of it is as perfect as you can make it.

Interesting Design

Balanced design, to be attractive, has to have one dominant quality which is achieved by convergence or a central focus of interest from which minor, or secondary points of interest take their cue. Proper contrast in direction of line design and contrast in color should attract attention to the center of interest.

The secondary points of interest should never be important enough in line, mass, or color to detract from the dominant quality - but should be used in a way to create balance and rhythm to the entire design. Under no circumstances should there ever be more than three secondary interests - usually two are enough.

These can be expressed as contrasting color accents, pleats, ruffles, various types of ornaments, buttons, pockets, or the direction of any of the inner lines of design.

To preserve unity in your design so that each part of the dress or costume seems to be made for each other it is necessary to soften sharp angles and abrupt changes from curves to straight line. Such coordination or harmonious movement is achieved by transitional lines.

A well designed costume or dress will be pleasing in appearance for its line alone. Once the becoming outline is adapted to the figure, the next problem is the introduction of the inner lines of design which must be in harmony with the outer lines, or silhouette. All future ornamentation will be on this space within this outline.

If these proportions are not harmonious and attractive then the most beautiful ornamentation or colors cannot make up for this lack. If you remember and practice the basic principles of good design then the dresses and costumes you create will have unity and grace which will be both beautiful and becoming.

Good design should be applied to everything you create. Well balanced arrangement becomes good - in utility clothes, wash dresses, severely tailored garments, formal wear. Each will be more attractive and flattering to the wearer for the care and creative thought that went into it.
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