Fashion Sketching For Beginners

Fashion sketching for beginners!In the past two years, I have designed four dress collections (Time flies!). Each time I’ve shared a collection here we have received tons of requests for a how-to post about fashion sketching.

I am self-taught (and still learning!), but I thought it would be fun to share a little bit about my process. I hope that some of you feel inspired to pull out your pens and pencils and notebooks today. Fashion sketching isn’t nearly as intimidating as I once thought it would be.

1. Create a good croquis. A croquis is the basic drawing of a model pose that you can trace over and over again while sketching your fashion ideas. You can find croquis to use online or in books, or you can create your own.

I created my first croquis years ago by tracing a pose on a vintage pattern. Typically, croquis are exaggerated tall model forms. But what if you want to design for someone else, say a child or a plus sized woman? Make your own! Here’s how I do it…

Fashion Sketching 1011. Print a photo that has a good pose and body form that you want to design for. I chose a couple photo with my husband because sometimes I enjoy designing “his and her” looks.

2. Using window light, trace the basic body shape on a new piece of paper.

3. Use your new croquis, by tracing over it with a fresh sheet of paper, to sketch your own new designs over and over again. Fun, right?!

Fashion Sketches by Elsie of A Beautiful Mess2. Don’t stress, just practice. Instead of stressing over getting the perfect sketches, just start where you are and practice. Before I shared any of my sketches (even with my friends) I was sketching for a whole year in secret notebooks.

Each time a notebook was full I would rip out my favorite designs and start a new one, throwing the rest out. Nothing can replace quality practice time. It’s the only way to grow and develop. You’ll gain confidence as you go!

3. Focus on developing a style of your own. There are a lot of things that determine the unique style of your illustrations. Do you want to use watercolors, markers or colored pencils? How will you illustrate the faces on your models? How much styling will you include?

All of these little details will work together to create a look that is distinctly yours! Focus on creating sketches that express your unique aesthetic with each element.

The Fashion Sketchpad

Resources I recommend: When I first started learning to sketch, my pal Mallory let me borrow Figure Drawing for Fashion Design. It was super helpful for learning the basics.

I also highly recommend The Fashion Sketchpad (pictured above). It’s a notebook with 420 figure templates to sketch on. I’ve been using it for a few years and absolutely love it for a quick sketching and traveling!

Thanks so much for reading. If you love to sketch fashion ideas, feel free to leave your own tips and resources in the comments! xo. Elsie

  • Thanks so much Else for sharing your experience, I thought it’s so difficult to sketch, I love fashion designing but was sonervous to start. This was helpful ?

  • It was amazing see this tips for fashion sketching! From the basic it is important tu pratic more and more! I loved loved loved!!!

  • so helpful.i’m just 14 and I already like designing dresses buut my mom do not support me.she wants me to get a more professional courses.

  • Thanks. Am such a perfectionist that i always try to make all my designs special. I can draw just that am always scared of making a mistake. You have really inspired me. But please can i email you for further advice

  • comment: thanks so much for these, I stumbled upon it after a long search. am a young African lady trying to get a footing in fashion.
    I have a lot of nice designs but can’t create them.
    I tried and tried and almost gave up,thanks for inspiring me.
    is it okay if I show you something I created after I practice this?

  • Hi it was really very helpful thank you for sharing this…
    I want to do learn fashion sketches..plz help me..

  • Thanks for the useful and great information. For those who want to learn Fashion Sketch, we created a fashion sketch book to help easily create your fashion styles with figure templates.

  • Want to member or to partner with you. Would need free journals from you as well.
    Thank you

  • Thanks for the tips! I was thinking about learning to sketch because I have a design in my mind but I can’t draw. My brother tells me I don’t need to know how to draw but that’s probably because he can. I would like to learn. Thanks again.

  • Wow Elsie, you are amazing. I am in Africa and have been seeking out a site to take me through my design journey… You are adding value to the world through your site. Bless you.

  • I would like to learn and sketch lovely pictures but my sketching skill is weak.

  • I like this I may be young but I love fashion it is my dream and I hope I can make that come true.

  • i absolutley love it and it’s very helpful and will help me to pusue my dream to be a fashion desighner

  • Hey…
    I want to become a professional fashion designer. So can you please suggest me which fashion design course is best?

  • Wow this is great clothing fashion. Check our International Designers Womens clothing fashion with best quality, fast services and free shopping

  • AH, so cute! I have to admit, ever since you posted this I have been daydreaming about fashion sketching! Thank you for sharing the inspiration! 🙂

  • Great information! I try to post a fashion illustration a day on my blog:

    Like anything else – practice, practice, practice!

  • I love this post and I don’t even know why since I can’t draw to save a life, haha! Maybe it’s because I enjoy designing too, but on the interior side.. with The Sims 3 as my models 😛

  • I’m loving this project. Question: Do you have a favorite pen for projects like these? Would love to know!

  • Wow! I never would think of doing that! It’s great!!! I’ve alway wanted to desing because I think I have a good hand todraw pretty oufits, but I’m just terrible at making bodies!!! :/ So thanks for the idea, you’re awesome!!! XO! ♥

  • Very good article! We are linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the great writing.

  • Elsie, I’ve found out that the first book you suggested is actually Italian, so – if it could be useful for your Italian readers – the original title is “La figura nella moda. Corso di grafica professionale” published by Ikon. I’ve found this website as well do you know it?
    Thank you so much for this post: it’s always interesting discover the “behind scenes”!

  • I’ve always been interested in fashion and art, such a lovely way of combining both!

  • You’ve just successfully piqued my interest, and this is something I’ve never even been curious about before… A good thing for a creative-minded person to know about!! Thanks for the post – such a good topic!


  • Thanks for sharing this. Never thought about it. I always wanted to get into fashion sketching but never knew how. Could the first method, the picture with the couple be used for say creating an illustration of oneself for a blog button or header. Would that work, or it has to be a big enough picture to trace the details out. This is so genius.

  • SO HELPFUL! I never knew what to call the templates! I remember Googling years ago and failing.


  • Love this sketches! Thank you for sharing.. Xo

  • Thank you for the fabulous recommendations! I have always wanted to practice sketching, but never knew how to get started.

    Can´t wait to practice:)

  • I’ve always wanted to try fashion sketching! Great post!


  • When I was little, I had this light up table as a toy that came with a bunch of model poses that I loved to outline and design my own dresses on 🙂 This totally takes me back!

  • I was just gifted a sewing machine for Christmas, and want to try my hand at designing some clothes. Thanks for the excellent tips!

  • I was just starting to do some fashion sketches so this is perfect, thank you

  • I used to want to be a fashion designer… I wasn’t bad! I just can’t sew.


  • such great tips. you have a lovely drawing style!


  • Great tips! I look a fashion class in high school and we learned many tips to drawing and sketching. If I didn’t learn them, my drawing skills would be horrendous. Some designers are so talented with their artistic skills! It’s inspiring.


  • oh wooow! LOVE this! makes me want to try fashion illustration 🙂 x

  • Amazing blog!! Congratulations for great idea for post 😉 What about following each other? xoxo

  • Thanks Elsie for sharing this tips. I am not in designing clothes but I love ilustrattion, so this this are very helful. Thank you, love nina.

  • This is such a great post! It has given me ideas on how to sketch. I want to start designing bags 🙂 Thank you for sharing !

  • wish i could learn to draw this good!!! i’ll have to try this method!! thqank you for the useful post


  • I absolutely love this post! I’ve been wanting to try fashion sketching before but I don’t have a clue where to start, and I’m not good at drawing human figures either.
    After reading your tips, I slowly gained my confidence to try again. I’m excited to fill my sketchbook with human figures and really hoping to see my improvement in fashion sketching.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • This is wonderful! I study fashion design and practice a lot of sketching, it is great that you give so good ideas… and you’re right, the key is practicing a lot… I still have a lot to learn! Thank you!

  • So cute and fun! Great tips! xx


  • Love this post! I once took a fashion illustration course and one thing that surprised me (and that you did perfectly because you’re a great drawer) is that the eyes go in the middle of the head, rather than in the top third like I thought they would.


  • Such a lovely post, sometimes the sketches are the best bit. I am often on the lookout for vintage fashion sketches to frame up.

    gemma typically.pretty.english

  • That you for the introducing! I will try it this way. Very exited about the result! 🙂

  • great tips, i love the idea of using a tracing of a figure over a photo! I just started sketching (like, a week ago!), & am inspired to have a go at it & really get into it. Have you checked out Kris Atomic’s blog? she does a lot of fashion sketches which are really cute.

    Katie x

  • I love sketching myself but I’m not really good at it so I never do it. But this post has motivated me to do it and helped me. Thank you so much. 🙂

  • Maybe the third try to get through captcha will work

    I have been fashion sketching on and off since I was a girl. Last year was a slow one sketch-wise but this year I have a bunch of events coming up so I will be designing more often.

    Anyway, a favourite book of mine for croquis and flats is 9 Heads ( It’s definitely runway inspired in that the models are super tall but it is a great resource – I’ve had it for over seven years.

  • I went to school for fashion design and took an extra fashion illustration class in Italy. My favorite fashion sketching book is 9 Heads – you must get it!! You’ll love it! The title refers to the “rule” that your croquis should be 9 heads tall for perfect model proportion!

  • The tracing over an image idea is brilliant! I’m not much of a fashion designer but that’d be such a cute idea for a handmade gift for someone! Hmmm…. ideas ideas!

  • Love this. You guys give the best tutorials. I have always been interested in fashion design. These are such great tips for drawing inspiration!

  • Wow this post is so helpful! I used to do my own little fashion drawings all the time but I stopped after a while. I may just have to get back into it again! x

    rosa @ rosa & fox

  • Really interesting. Didn’t know the term “croquis”. I love using tracing paper when starting a painting. I used to get heat from a peer in art school about how tracing paper and graphite paper was “cheating”. I think it’s an essential tool if you want to get through a stage of sketching and then elaborate and change later. Let it be your friend! Thanks, Elsie!

  • This is so inspirational. Thank you for sharing. Now I have yet another great idea for a cold weekend in!

  • My all time favorite book about fashion sketching is 9 Heads by Nancy Riegelman! I was lucky enough to take one of her fashion illustration courses in college and her method is the BEST. Highly highly reccommend!

    Great post! xo!

  • I am terrible at drawing but I think even I could do this! This could make adorable home made Valentines.


  • Thank you so much for sharing this!
    I’m having such a hard time drawing bodies to put on some clothes:)
    xx from Germany,

  • Thank you so much for this post! I’ve always wanted to do some sketching but didn’t quite know how I should start.

  • love to see how different people sketch their fashion designs differently!
    mine is definitely different! love yours too!

  • fashion sketches have always been one of my favorite things to fill my sketchbooks with…and doodle on the side of paper (a reason why my gpa could have been better in college)…love this post.


  • Thanks for sharing Elsie! I actually just decided that creating a template and photocopying it to draw overtop of is the best technique for me and I put one up for free download . It lets you spend more time on the sillouhette and details of the garment instead of the body, and as long as you print it in gray or something light, you will hardly even notice it underneath.

  • I used to use “croquis” for working out plans in architecture school! You just need a roll of trace paper and you can just keep drawing on top of it!

  • I am not much into drawing for fashion but these are helpful hints and I also love getting a peek inside the world at ABM.

  • OO so lucky you are so creative..
    Well done…
    Visit my blog if you like!!

  • i love fashion sketching!! awesome post. gonna go try draw some myself right now 🙂

  • Thank you so much! I love this! Definitely makes me want to sketch more. Fashion sketching is always something I have wanted to do.

    Juliette Laura

  • Wow! This is perfect. I have always loved sketching designs and I just started focusing on it again last week. Thank you so much for sharing your process and for the inspiration!

  • Love how easy you make this look. Breaking out the colored pencils when I get home!

  • Perfect timing! My husband and I were chatting about me taking a class on this or something just last night! I’ve been refashioning/sewing my own clothes for a year now and want to start sketching out my ideas 🙂 So, thanks for the breakdown on how you go about it, because this really does make it not scary at all!

  • I don’t think I’ve ever jumped over to Amazon so fast! I’ve been looking for a sketch book challenge and this is right where I want to be, thanks for the link!

  • Love this! Fond memories of when i went to college and did drawings like this.

    Lulu xx

  • I’m such a perfectionist that even doodling becomes a chore for me because I can never make them look just right. So your tip about just filling in notebooks and saving the best pieces really stuck out for me. Thanks!

  • Awesome! That is such a good idea to trace a magazine or photo!

    You’re totally right, sketching is all about the practice! But save your sketches! Sometimes you might look back at something you hated at the time and love it! At least, that’s what happens to me…

  • Very cool post. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it but never knew where to start!

  • I love how your personal touch and style comes through on your croquis. I found that the hardest part of not being a very great artist and trying to fashion sketch. Your drawing style is so cute!! Definitely inspires me to give it another try!
    xo, Kellee from Pirate&Lilac

  • I love that you spent a whole year drawing in secret notebooks, practicing until you were ready to show your work. Such an inspiration. <3

  • I really want to learn how to make those sketches:)

  • Oh, what great tips! For some reason, Ive never even thought of tracing from a photograph! And I very much agree with the idea of practicing and practicing and practicing! Thank you for giving us a sneak peak into your creative process!


  • I’m majoring in technical theatre design with an emphasis on costume design and although fashion proportions and the proportions for costume design are somewhat different the 1st book was extremely helpful for me as I got started. A really wonderful, easy to use book for someone looking to learn some great skills.

  • Great tutorial! I’ve never been a good drawer but maybe I’ll give it another try.

  • this is great elsie! I’ve always loved sketching but didnt like the results, since I couldn’t draw people well. I can’t wait to start!

  • I’m going to try this soon.. 🙂
    Your blog is so inspiring!

  • Wow, thank you for this guide! I’ve been wanting to get back into sketching for quite some time now and this was most certainly very inspiring!

  • This is such a lovely idea and a great step by step guide, something I still wouldn’t be very good at. 🙂


  • You make all creative adventures seem easy and doable – I love that about your blog!


  • This is so interesting, I’m just starting to try drawing more after believing I had absolutely no ability. Practise and a bit of self belief are getting me far

  • This is a great post! I’d love to hear more about your entire design process. There are a few key pieces I’m keen to find for my own wardrobe and I know finding them to buy, or even finding a pattern, is probably not gonna happen – it’s so daunting to figure out how to make them myself!

  • I really enjoyed this blog!! I’ve always been interested in fashion design and this makes me feel like I can pursue it!

  • I had just made a post about fashion sketching and how terrible i am.
    Thanks for the tips and the book recommendations.

  • These are some great tips! I’m a studio art major and we learn a lot about these things, but sometimes it can be so overwhelming. It’s nice to see a post where all the main points are higlighted. Love your style 🙂

  • This is so neat! I always wondered how you did this! They (obviously) matched so well and I LOVED seeing your behind-the-scene sketches! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    ♥ Talia Christine

  • I would LOVE to be able to fashion sketch! I love these tips because you’re right – without practice, you’re never going to get better! Thanks for the recommendations!

    Stephanie May*

  • Oh my! Thank you so much for this post! I am the worse possible drawer but i wish wish that i could draw. I am excited to try these tips out! Thank you thank you


  • I’m amazed by how simple you’ve made this whole process! I’m just beginning to venture into the world of fashion sketching simply for my own personal clothes making processes and this post is perfectly timed!

    I already loved this blog and now I love it that little bit more!

    Thank you!!

  • Love it. I’ve been drawing fashion sketches since I was a little girl so I just got these notebooks for my 10 yo daughter –

  • Cool!!! Such a functional post 🙂 Lovely!

  • This is great! I never in a million years thought I could do fashion sketching, but you’ve made me want to try it!

  • I love that you shared this behind the scenes peek at your gorgeous drawings Elsie! My drawing skills definitely stand to benefit from your tips 🙂

  • Thanks for this! Do you have any recommendations when designing accessories such as handbags?


  • Loved this post! Very interesting & inspiring. Makes me want to be more confident in my sketches. Thanks for sharing! x

  • You’re awesome! Just showed how easy this process could be to my older sister – she loves it. I’ve really been pushing her to get creative, so this is truly wonderful! Thanks again for the post!

  • This is so funny, I just started practicing my fashion illustration today as I really want to improve. You are right, it really is all about building confidence & getting the practice in.

    Also, thanks for reminding me of that book, ‘Figure Drawing for Fashion Design’ I actually have that (somewhere!) & now I must find it! Great post 🙂

    I’m hoping to be able to post some of my new fashion illustrations on my blog soon, but it’s hard to be brave enough.


  • I love designing and sewing clothes, but never really drew them out on people because I thought it was something that only professionals did. I didn’t know it would be this easy!

  • 😀 i used to trace over sooo many magazine models! I no longer need it but it always helps for practice.

    A little trick i do for when i sketch clothes is not giving a lot of matter over the long of the girl in the sketch, actually a lot of designers draw really (REALLY) long women, mostly because it helps visualize their designs and also cause models are freaky tall …. but it help me with clothes :3 to focus on style, instead of focusing over anatomy. (draw long and short girls! it doesnt matter)

  • hi there! i absolutely loved this post,so much inspiration! However,could you please suggest more similar skechpads since the one mentioned in the post can not be delivered to my country(Greece) ? thanks anyway,you are awesome.

  • this is so great. When I was younger, I used to fill notebooks with fashion designs of my own. I loved it and there was a time when I thought for sure that I would be a fashion designer. Then as I got older, I found love for SO MANY things that now I just create what I want. I have been thinking about fashion again lately though as my little girl now enjoys drawing outfits and coloring them.
    I may just need to designate one of my sketch pads for fashion again! 🙂
    thanks for the inspiration!

  • this was super helpful! I’ve always been nervous to try…but I love the idea of tracing over a photo (or even a picture in a magazine) to get a basic outline 🙂
    thanks elsie!

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