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A fashion designer is a type of artist who designs clothing, shoes, or accessories for manufacturers to produce and sell. Many designers are hired by clothing manufacturers or fashion design firms, but about 25% of designers are self-employed. The career can be highly rewarding for those who have the right combination of technical skills and artistic ability. If you have a passion for clothing, a good eye for spotting trends, and an ability to draw, the job of fashion designer may be the perfect fit for you. Whether you’re applying for a job, an internship, or school, a great portfolio will help you get your foot in the door. The following are some tips for beginners who need to put their first fashion design portfolio together.

The Purpose Of A Portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of work that shows your abilities as a fashion designer. It should give anyone who sees it a very quick and accurate idea of who you are as a designer and what your strengths and interests are. A portfolio can take many different forms, and every school or job will have its own requirements. Therefore, every portfolio you submit will be a little different as you tailor it for a specific purpose and update it with your best work.

Evidence Of Technical Skills

One of the most important things a portfolio does for you is to showcase your technical skills as a designer. If you are just getting started, you need to make sure you develop the right skillset, which could entail taking additional art or fashion design classes. These are three technical skills that any portfolio should feature.

Drawing Figures

First of all, fashion designers must be good at drawing accurate human figures in a variety of positions, as well as drawing clothes to precise measurements. Thus, not only drawing ability but a fine attention to detail are necessary skills. Fashion design sketches are an essential element of any portfolio.


In addition, every fashion designer should be able to cut patterns and sew. A solid knowledge of clothing construction really enhances a designer’s value in the eyes of most employers.

Using CAD Software

Furthermore, a fashion designer should know how to use common design software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Make sure to include computer-assisted designs and photographs in your portfolio if possible.

Creativity And Fashion Sense

Even though we think of these skills as more innate than sewing ability, for example, they still need to be developed to their fullest potential. Your creativity and fashion sense are the traits that will make your portfolio stand out from all the others, so make sure to include your most original and creative work. Here are some ways to practice being more creative.

Journal daily.

Whether you write words or draw pictures, journaling for at least 30 minutes a day is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. A journal is personal, not professional, so it’s a place where you can feel free to put down whatever ideas occur to you and to record them as quickly as possible. When people force themselves to keep writing or sketching non-stop for a certain period of time, they are often surprised by the new ideas they’re able to generate.

Get inspiration.

Creativity doesn’t grow in a vacuum. All artists are inspired by the works of others. Spend time looking at the work of visual artists and fashion designers in books, museum exhibits, on Pinterest, and all around you in the real world. Pay attention to patterns, colors, textures, shapes, or associations of elements that you can use in your own work. Keep a scrapbook where you collect images and ideas you like.

Forget perfection.

While attention to detail and striving for perfection are valuable in the workplace, perfection can be the enemy of creativity. Always give yourself time at the beginning of a creative project to let your work flow naturally. When you find mistakes, consider what other ideas they suggest rather than simply erasing or deleting them. Often the best new ideas result from mistakes.

Portfolio Format

As we mentioned above, a fashion design portfolio can have many forms, and sometimes those forms depend on specific guidelines for submission. A fairly standard type of portfolio is a spiral-bound book. Other common formats include hand-made books, posters, videos, loose pages in a box or an envelope, and of course, digital portfolios. The simplest way of going digital is to create a PDF file that you can attach to an email, and you can also set up a portfolio website that can be displayed on a tablet. We recommend making a master portfolio in any format you choose that you can pull from for each submission.

Portfolio Components

Regardless of the format, portfolios need to show not just your products but your process. Thus, each final design or set of designs should be presented within a series consisting of three parts.

The Mood Board

The first piece in a series needs to show research and inspiration, usually in the form of a collage of various images, shapes, textures, patterns, and colors that led you to create the design. These don’t have to be images from the world of fashion. Many design experts make use of current or historical events, natural spaces or phenomena, animal skins, and manufactured objects, to name just a few possible sources of inspiration.

The Process

The second part of a series shows your process and should include sketches you made as you were developing the final product. Even rough fashion design sketches can be valuable in illustrating your thought process. It might also include photographs of draping and pinning fabric on a dress form, especially if draping is a skill you want to highlight.

The Product

The final part of a series should present the final products, usually several different pieces or outfits. In this section, you’ll want to include technical flats as well as full color drawings, paintings or photographs of the clothing on models. Technical flats are drawings of clothing that indicate measurements, seams, and stitching details. They not only show specific details of a piece that aren’t visible in a sketch or photo, but they also demonstrate your knowledge of clothing construction. You can also include fabric swatches to enhance this section.

Selecting And Organizing The Content

While it’s important to keep adding all your best work to a master collection, the portfolio you actually submit to an employer or school should be tailored to highlight a specific set of work that reflects the predominant products or style of company or program you’re applying to. For each application, select three to six series that include high-quality work, and lead with your strongest. Then conclude with your second best so that the portfolio begins and ends on a high note.

Presenting The Work

In most cases, the fashion design portfolio must be able to stand alone and tell your story for you. The following are some general tips for presenting your work so that it will make the best possible first impression.

Avoid Clutter

It can be tempting to put all your favorite designs in one portfolio so that the reviewer can get an idea of everything you’re capable of. But the reality is that most of the people who will see your portfolio are very busy and won’t spend time poring over it and taking in the details. Make it easy for them by minimizing the number of images per page and leaving white space. Select the images you show with great care.

Minimize Text

Similarly, reviewers won’t spend time reading descriptions, so keep text to a minimum. If there is something you need to say or explain that isn’t expressed visually, add an artist’s statement at the end of the portfolio. In no more than one page, add any details you feel are relevant to your work. But don’t count on any reviewers taking time to read it.

Make It Professional

Everything about your portfolio should communicate that you take your work seriously and expect others to do so as well. So use high-quality paper and printing, and use professional photos and models. Choose fonts with care. Use templates for your technical flats to ensure that the proportions are spot on. Look at many different layout designs before you choose the right layout to present your work. All of these details work together to create an overall impression of quality.

Final Thoughts

A great portfolio can provide an entry into the world of fashion design. By constantly honing your skills through fashion design classes and practice, you will create a large body of work that will give you many choices in building your portfolio. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice from peers and mentors, and study examples of portfolios to get inspiration. Above all, make sure that your portfolio tells a compelling story about who you are as a designer and what you are passionate about.