Can’t Draw? You’re in Good Company

Published On: February 20, 2023

We’re going to let you in on a little secret here. Some of the world’s most successful designers are unable to draw.

Whoa! Wait…yep, it’s true.

Both Elsa Schaiparelli and Miuccia Prada were trained in their brains, not their fingers. Neither were schooled or trained as couturiers; rumor has it that neither can actually draw. And yet, their extraordinary talents have left an indelible mark on the fashion industry. Both will go down in history as two of the most influential designers to ever take a bow on a catwalk.

Knowing what you like – and what you don’t like – is probably the most important aspect of fashion design. Understanding style, knowing how a garment could be improved, and styling a fashion collection, doesn’t require skill in drawing or sewing, contrary to what some people might think.

How to Get Your Ideas Across

One of the most important skills as a designer is the ability to communicate your creative ideas effectively. This is especially important when communicating with your technical designer and pattern makers.

But rest assured, there are ways to go about it that don’t have anything to do with your ability to draw, or even sew, for that matter.

Use “Scrap”. Scrap is another word for inspiration or reference photos. These can come from a magazine or something you download from the internet. Get a pen and mark up the photos. Want the same sleeve type, but the sleeves should be longer? Indicate that on the printed out picture. Should the neckline be higher or lower, indicate that as well. Draw over the actual picture to indicate a ruffle or a flounce, if that’s what you’re wanting.

The other great thing about using a reference photo is that it can give the pattern maker a very good idea of how you want your garment to fit. So if your photo has a garment that is already on a model, that’s a great start!

Use “Call Outs”. When used in conjunction with scrap or a rough sketch, call outs are also a very effective communication tool. For example, if the shirt shown in your inspiration photo has a cuff, and you want that cuff to be three inches deep, just write, “make cuff 3” deep” and use an arrow to point to the cuff area. If you want the shirt to have seven buttons down the front, just write “seven buttons evenly spaced along the front placket” and point to the placket. Pretty easy, right?

Use a Croqui. Croquis means “sketch” in French. In the world of fashion design, a croquis is a quick sketch of a fashion figure. Croquis drawings are minimalist in style and serve as a blank canvas for drawing clothing. In other words, they are a line drawing of the human figure. Typically they are very basic and don’t usually have facial features, or even hands or feet.

A quick search of the internet will unearth many croquis (in different shapes and styles) that you can then download and print out. Tape your printed-out croqui to a window or on a light box. Put a piece of paper over it, and you can trace your specific design over the croqui figure. Do this in pencil, so you can erase and change your design until you’re satisfied.

Partner With an Artist. We aren’t saying to give part of your business to another designer. What we are saying is to find someone who CAN draw and work alongside them to get your ideas down on paper (real or virtual). Ask around, maybe you know someone that can draw. This person doesn’t need to be a fashion designer, that’s your job! But if you can clearly communicate your ideas, they might be able to turn your vision into a workable sketch.

Another option is to work with a development house that has an in-house designer. These designers are highly experienced at working with emerging designers. They can facilitate the process of getting creative ideas down on paper; which can then be given to a pattern maker to start the pattern making process.

Learn How to Use Illustrator or Other Design Computer Program. 

Thanks to technological advances, a fashion designer can now create beautiful sketches without actually knowing how to draw. So maybe it’s the right time for you to start learning (or brush up on) Adobe Illustrator or other computer-aided design program. These companies often offer free trials to start, so you can give it a try without making any financial investment. What’s more, if you’re a student, you can find some amazing student discounts.

It might take a little time to get used to working on a CAD program, but in the long run, you’ll be glad you learned another useful skill to add to your arsenal of tricks!

If you’re ready to take your ideas from just a dream to reality, we’d love to help!  Feel free to reach out to us at or call us at 800-916-0910.




Get Started

For all inquiries and questions, please call or fill out the below form, and we will respond within 1-2 business days. Thank you!

Los Angeles: 800-916-0910 | San Francisco: 415-324-8779

Please check all that apply