The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Matching Prints

This is one of those things that is in the eye of the beholder, but even then there are some rules.  One of the best ways to study this is to look at the designers.

Here is a Koos from Vogue 1377 and shows a great combination of patterns.  The great thing about starting here is that the distribution and location of the segments is already done for you by the designer.  This means you only have to deal with the patterns, colors, dominance and balance.

I know that sounds like a lot, but believe me having the distribution already figured out is a huge step.  Look at this as if it were color-by-numbers, and you get how much of the work has already been done.

So let’s look at the paint-by-numbers line drawing above and figure out what’s going on.  If you notice you have several principles of design and elements of composition that are at work here.  Basically you use the elements of composition to make a design, which is based on some rules (principles of design), so you hafta know both to make this work.  When you go to art school you learn this so well, that you can then break the rules, but in the meantime, don’t even think of it till they are second nature to you!

The Elements you will use to make up your design are:

  1. Line (it’s in the pattern already)
  2. Shape (the pattern has already done this)
  3. Color
  4. Texture
  5. Size (Koos has done this too in the pattern)
  6. Space
  7. Value

Can you see how much of the work has already been done

The Principles of Design are:

  1. Pattern
  2. Emphasis (This combines with Unity and Balance for clothing, and is included in the pattern design)
  3. Variety
  4. Unity (Above)
  5. Balance (Above)
  6. Rhythm & Movement
  7. Proportion

I know it sounds confusing, but think of it this way – you gotta have something (like fabric) to make you your garment and then you gotta have a way to put it together (like a pattern).  So think of the Elements of Art like your fabric, and the Principles of Design like your pattern.  Using that, we can use color, texture, space and value (cause the others have already been done for us by the designer), to mark out the different segments in the pattern.

So how are we going to apply these elements?…we’ll use the guidelines of Pattern, Emphasis, Variety, Unity, Balance, Rhythm & Movement and Proportion to apply these. (Actually these are all the Principles of Art, but in clothing design some overlap….like Emphasis, Unity and Balance can all be combined into Point of Interest.)

Color: the designer used opposite colors to balance this design.  Rust/orange are opposite of blue and blue is a more recessive color that a true orange, so to tone down the value of the more advancing color.  IOW, he took the recessive blue and made it brighter and truer and took the advancing orange and made it duller and less aggressive.  That’s how the designer used balance to apply the element of color.

Texture:  The designer here has used stripes and applied cording/passementarie to offer more texture which offers more interest than just smattering around the color of the segments.  He’s also used some shiny surfaces and some dull surfaces.  The black is dull while the lighter colors are shinier.  This offers more interest/excitement/depth to the garment than just mixing up the colors.

Space: Remember this is not the application of the element, this is referring to the element itself – so here we’re talking about here is the space in the fabric.  What this refers o is the density of design of the fabric, the stripe contrast, print dimensions and that sort of thing. If you use a foulard print (most often used for small-print tie patterns), it will have less density than if you use a dramatic huge floral print – the space in the design will affect it’s advancing/receding characteristics, and need to be considered when placing it in a segment piece.

Value: This refers to the brightness or darkness of a color.  Most often a bright, true color will project more than either the dark or lighter version of the color.  Something else to consider when using in a segment of the pattern.


OK – so looking at this – I really messed up the color on the right side – on purpose (the left side is the original).  But see how dull the right side looks compared to the left side…the right side looks heavy and misses the mark – the purpose of all the segments is sort of lost – I mean why not just make the coat out of the same fabric.  The charm of the segments is totally lost.  Using opposite colors brings more interest and at the same time balances the rust colors.  Adding that yellow zinger in there makes a point of interest. Close your eyes then look at the garment really quickly and your eye will always go to the yellow – that’s what a point of interest does.  When your eye moves to the yellow, then it goes back to the face, that’s what movement does.  Because the color placement (courtesy of Mr. van Akker) is balanced, there’s not a heavy or out of proportion.  And finally cause of the different sections and how the pattern carefully lays them out there is certainly variety, but not too much that they conflict with each other.

When you look at a garment this way you see there was a whole lot of thought gone into designing this garment.  Sometimes these things look like they are just thrown together. They aren’t and there’s a real effort at making the garment artistic as possible.

From Raf Simons Mens F/W 14

Actually van Akker didn’t break too many rules in this jacket for Vogue Patterns, which makes it sort of easy to follow.  I love the idea of this jacket…..of course you know me – I’d like more fit on it.  But we can’t have everything can we?!!!

….or can we? Hmmmmm – this in a more fitted version would be really kickin’.  And I wonder how long it would last?…like the heirs would be fighting over it – – probably!

Better Living thru Better Fitting


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