What are the principles of fashion design?

What are the principles of fashion design?

Written by Polly Coleman

The principles of design are used by fashion designers to create balance, rhythm, emphasis, proportion and harmony in a garment. These elements in design are fundamental to whether a garment will be aesthetically pleasing or not to a customer or client.

What does balance in fashion and design mean? Balance in fashion refers to the line, shape, design and print of a garment. Print is used to break up area or space to achieve harmony in the design. Features like necklines and hemlines are used to create balance which can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Balance in fashion can be described as “equal weight” using specific elements to create balance in an outfit, for example, the design composition will be the same on both sides of the outfit this will create symmetrical balance.
The next principle is rhythm and movement. This refers to repeated lines, pattern, colour or texture. A designer may use gathers, pleats and tucks to create a rhythm in their garment. The rhythm in an outfit leads our eyes around the piece easily. There are different types of rhythm including transition, opposition and radiation. Movement comes from the curves, shapes and lines of the design, a visual beat for the eyes.

Emphasis is the way the designer makes an area of the outfit stand out, or look exaggerated. It can also refer to the way the designer draws the focus to a particular area. Designers use different techniques to create emphasis in their design, this could be the use of plunging necklines to create focus or exaggerated shoulders to draw the eye. It is a helpful tool in highlighting specific areas of the garment; this helps the customer to decide what part of their body they wish to show case. It is where the eye is instinctively drawn to.

Proportion is another important aspect of fashion design, proportion is the principle that holds the size of various components and gives size and scale to a piece. A proportionate design needs to be synchronized with the placement of motifs and colour of the garment. A designer will measure the width of shoulders or hips to create proportion in a garment and give the relationship between parts of a whole. Proportion can be manipulated in design to alter body proportions and create illusions about our figures. Proportion can be broken down into ratios for every garment; uneven ratios are the most pleasing to us as they are closest to our natural bodies.

Harmony is the last principle of design; unity and harmony are how the outfit looks overall. Each element should complement each other giving the overall effect of unity to an outfit. To create harmony in design the garment must have a silhouette that is in proportion to the body, the lines must be consistent and any colours or patterns must be pleasing to the eye. If the outfit is not harmonious, unity will not be achieved and will not complement the wearer. If all of the principles are applied then a garment should have harmony and unity. The principles of design are integral to fashion design, they are a summary and guideline in how to create harmony in a garment which is the overall desire of the designer. A good knowledge of the principles of design will not only help to create a successful garment, but will also help the designer to analyse what is wrong with a garment and correct it to achieve harmony.


Examples of balance in a garment


Examples of emphasis in a garment


Examples of proportion in a garment

Rhythm in a garment

Examples of rhythm or movement in a garment


Examples of harmony unity in an outfit

What are the most important aspects of fashion design? Let us know in the comments below!


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