7 Ways to Add Movement and Emotion to Your Fashion Illustration

7 Ways to Add Movement and Emotion to Your Fashion Illustration

Do you wish you could draw like the great illustrators of the fashion world, but find figure drawing hard?

7 Ways to Add Movement & Emotion to your Fashion Illustration

The seven points we discuss here will lighten your fashion illustration practice so you’re not overthinking the process over creating the magic.

I know the feeling. You start drawing, perhaps, from a beautiful photo you found on Pinterest. You’re determined to do the image justice. But more often than not, your illustrated model looks wooden, like a mannequin in a shop window. She might even fall over if you stare at her long enough.

Let me ask you, has a mannequin ever moved you? Forget Kim Catrall in Mannequin (1987); we’re talking about the tailor’s dummies you see in the shop window of Zara.

Has a mannequin ever moved you, emotionally?

Of course not! Why? Because mannequins have no emotion. And where there’s emotion, there’s connection.

Connection is key for any creation. You want the viewer to feel something when they encounter your work. In essence, you want the viewer to feel connected.

Let’s look at how we can add movement to your fashion sketches, so your model evokes emotion and connects with the viewer—without falling over.

1. Begin with Sketching Exercises

You might be short on time, but it’s worth giving yourself some space and a moment to warm up. The idea is to restrict yourself before you draw so you can feel entirely liberated throughout your fashion illustration practice.

Sketching exercises can be simple and fun, such as drawing with your less-dominant hand or without looking at your paper. Or try a one-line drawing — keep your pencil on the paper!

Ten to twenty minutes of sketching exercises will be enough to get you ready to draw fashion.

2. Draw freehand

It may tempt you to trace a fashion image but don’t. Fashion illustration is an interpretation, not an imitation. If you were learning to write a new language, how much do you think you’d learn if you copied and pasted the words?

After a few sketching exercises, drawing freehand will feel free. Forget the outcome, have no expectations and draw what you see.

Squint your eyes if you like; the prominent areas will jump out at you.

3. Forget the rules of fashion illustration

Using a fashion figure template is fine for designing fashion. But, for drawing fashion, you want to explore, don’t you? Then why follow a template?

Draw outside the box!

As a rule, fashion templates are proportionately nine heads long. But there are no rules in art. Let’s not forget, fashion illustration is an art form too.

Do you think fashion designers stick to rules when designing their collections?

No. They try to break them. Continue with those ridiculously long legs if you must.

4. Leave a little to the imagination

When you try to perfect every little detail, ask yourself, ‘Am I creating a fashion illustration or a floor plan?’

Leave something out — one eye, one foot — let the viewer imagine.

When we want to create something that looks realistic, we often believe we must capture every detail, but imagination is always more exciting than reality.

5. Create a focal point

You might unknowingly focus on everything. Instead, take one thing and focus on its detail to create a standout piece within your fashion illustration.

Draw attention to something.

It might be an earring, the eyes or billowing fabric. Add more detail here and there if you like, but aim to illustrate a definitive detail, that lures the viewer in.

Catch the viewer’s eye with one key element, because people don’t take everything in at once; they’re distracted by a single detail.

6. Suggest movement

Are you looking for a quick fix to add movement to your fashion illustration? Okay, try this!

Imagine there is a gentle breeze (or a wind machine). Draw a few flyaway strands of hair.

Let the fabric float in imaginary water. Relax your grip on your pencil or paintbrush and go with the flow.

By suggesting movement, you create a moment suspended in time. The viewer may even feel like they’re, momentarily, stepping into the picture i.e. your fashion world.

With movement, you will warm the viewer more so than with a frozen fashion sketch.

7. Start with guidelines

You may want to get stuck in straight away. After all, I’ve suggested to be free and forget the rules of fashion illustration.

But, hold on, we’re trying to avoid drawing a wooden mannequin here.

To begin, I always start by drawing two guidelines: the shoulder line and the hip line. These two simple lines guide every fashion illustration I draw.

Not only do you define the angles of the body, you also split your fashion figure into three manageable parts: the upper area, the middle area, and the lower area.

It works with seated poses, side poses; pretty much any pose. And if you can’t see the shoulders or the hips, look to the elbows, the knees, the feet. Adapt this idea however you can.

Now you have a loose framework to help you draw your fashion figure without feeling restricted by proportions.

Let’s draw fashion!

Too often, creativity can become heavy, like wading through knee-deep mud; you’re stuck, and nothing flows!

It’s a good idea to find lightness. Make it fun, explore and draw more.

Give yourself a break. Some days are not drawing days, so draw a different model or choose a different day. For every illustration I’ve drawn, there have been at least ten I’ve disregarded.

The impressionist artist, Van Gogh almost gave up on drawing people when he decided figure painting was impossible. Luckily, he came back to it.

Like a photographer, find the light and keep going until something clicks.


Don’t think of these as rules, rather ideas.

Ideas are suggestions you might consider when you’re feeling stuck with your fashion illustration. These notes should relax you and remind you to keep it simple.

1. Play with drawing exercises

2. Don’t trace; draw freehand

3. Ignore the templates; play with proportion

4. Leave something out

5. Focus on a small detail

6. Create movement with a swish of hair or fabric

7. Begin with two simple guidelines; the shoulder line and the hip line

If you do one thing, remember to enjoy the process. And choose to see the outcome as a welcome surprise.

For more help with your fashion drawing, grab my FREE Fashion Figures Guide here.

“You have to make thousands and thousands of drawings before an illustration is perfected.” —Richard MacDonald

Fashion Sketch Step-by-Step

Fashion Sketch Step-by-Step

One thing I often hear is that a fashion sketch should be 8-10 heads long.

Yet, in twenty-five years plus of drawing, I confess, I’ve never measured my illustrations in heads.

I can honestly say I can’t ever remember being taught about the headcount thing at college — and I’ve been taught by some fantastic illustrators: Julie Verhoeven, Richard Gray.

At fashion college, we were made to draw each other. So somebody in the class would stand in the centre of the room in some sort of lopsided pose for 15 minutes or so. Those of a certain nature would insist on a lying-down pose so they could drift off for a bit.

“Draw what you see” was the general consensus. Or maybe it was “draw what you want.”

Admittedly, the odd person would hold up their pencil, at arm’s length, at a vertical-then-horizontal-then-vertical-again angle. But not me. I always felt a bit embarrassed by the seriousness of it all.

In fact, it was me who hid behind my easel during life drawing class peering out every now and then to glimpse at the naked male model, a not-so-modest ballet dancer, because I was made to, not because I wanted to. I was eighteen years old!

Counting heads was the last thing on my mind.

So, if you’re not counting heads, where do you begin?

Even after all those years practising my drawing, the prospect of a blank piece of paper still daunts me. So I always start by drawing two key lines to get me started, taught to me by Julie Verhoeven.

The most important thing I’ve always looked out for when drawing fashion figures is the shoulder line in comparison to the hip line. More often than not the shoulder line goes the opposite way to the hip line.

Pretty soon I worked out that if I wanted to add lots of movement (in a fashion sketch) the best way to do that would be to exaggerate the angles of those lines.

And for me, that really is the essence of creating movement in fashion illustration, especially if you want to stop your figure looking wooden.

Which brings me onto soft lines. I find, the softer the line, as in the more it curves (not how light it is), the more energy it brings to the body.

Think of it this way, soft lines allow the eyes to glide over the piece without distraction; it makes the image easier to absorb.

Any art is an experiment. Come to think of it, fashion illustration inevitably spans the widest of artistic styles, and so it should.

Fashion is a movement that’s continually evolving.

The dos and don’ts of drawing of a fashion sketch

Aside from the 10-heads long thing, there’s the 8-heads long rule. Come on! Who cares?

I once saw an advert for a fashion illustration class with three different fashion sketches in a row. One had a tick next to it, while the other two had crosses.

Why was one correct? Let me tell you, it took me a while to notice the difference.

It was the neck. The neck was (apparently) the correct thickness. Oh, please.

Call me old-school, but is that really what they teach you nowadays?

An illustration is illustrative.

I’m pretty sure us illustrators are not aiming for a to-scale diagram. Yes, long legs look amazing, so give your fashion sketch long legs if you want to. I’m little more than 5 foot tall, so I love drawing long legs because it’s the closest I’ll get to owning a pair. But I won’t be doing a headcount.

Wait! What if my fashion sketch looks like she’s about to fall over?

Relax. Just draw a vertical line (or balance line) from the head to the foot that’s carrying most of the weight, and she should be, at the very least, upright. Again, it’s a fashion drawing; let her be free to lean if she wants to.

What about other proportions? Should the shoulders be as wide as the hips?

Only if you’re drawing Cindy-perfect-10-Crawford. Maybe that should be Kaia.

Anyway, I love Cindy. She is perfect. But, you know, if you want to exaggerate the hips, why not?

Stop trying to be perfect, no one is perfect. Apart from Cindy.

Remember, you are drawing fashion, not a floor plan.

Fashion sketching doesn’t need to be complicated. If you approach drawing fashion with less perfection and more spontaneity, you’ll enjoy the process.

Invite a little curiosity into your fashion drawings. Make sure you have a good pile of paper to work on so that you do not disrupt your flow.

Keep going. You might not like some of your creations, but if you keep creating, a good one will surprise and delight you.

It’s a little bit like photography, in the sense that you keep shooting until you get the shot.

Step 1

Let’s break it down. I always begin every fashion sketch with two simple guidelines: the shoulder line and the hip line.

You’ll notice the shoulder line usually goes the opposite way to the hip line unless the model is standing very upright.

Already, your figure has been divided into three manageable sections: the head and shoulders, the upper body and the lower body.

And, if you want crazy curves, exaggerate the angles of the shoulder line and the hip line — your fashion figure will be flowing with movement.

Step 2

Draw a vertical line from the top of the head to the feet, and notice how close the feet are. The leg carrying the most weight will be the closest to this line, if not precisely on it.

Now add any other ‘guidelines’ to help you with your fashion sketch. Try marking out where the elbows, the knees and the feet are placed. Scribble light circles if you want to.

Step 3

Use your guidelines to help you outline your figure. Begin above the shoulder line and start marking your figure. Draw as much or as little as you like before moving to the middle section, and finally, to the lower part of the body.

A simple way to add more movement in your fashion sketch is to imagine there’s a gentle breeze in the air (or a wind-machine!), by adding a few strands of flyaway hair and a swish of fabric if the look allows for it.


1. Begin with guidelines

Add a shoulder line and a hip line if you can see them, then anything else that helps you, such as elbows, knees, feet.

2. Check your balance

Draw a vertical line from the top of the head to the feet. More often than not, you’ll notice the closest foot holds most of the weight.

3. Make her move!

A few strands of hair or flowing fabric will do the trick.

For more help with your fashion drawing, grab my FREE Fashion Figures Guide here.

“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect, they are much more interesting.” —Marc Jacobs

3 Simple Fashion Sketching Exercises You Can Practice Today

3 Simple Fashion Sketching Exercises You Can Practice Today

Are you having a fashion sketching slump? Perhaps you’re still staring at your paints or a blank piece of paper. Maybe the paints aren’t even out yet.

This happens to me only too often.

Let’s go through some ideas to get you focused on your fashion illustration.

Keep it Simple

You know when you see those amazing oil paintings in galleries and you think, “Is that a painting or a photograph?” You go up close and… incredibly, it’s a painting—but it’s so realistic!

I could never paint like that because I don’t have the patience. Honestly, I prefer to have painting sessions where I create as many illustrations as I can with whatever time I have. Sometimes it’s a day, other times it’s an hour.

If time is short, you’ll want to have everything you need within easy reach. So, keep your art tools in one place.

Okay, I haven’t quite mastered this yet, but I plan to! Having my tools scattered around the home definitely causes unnecessary procrastination.

Because I don’t have a studio, I paint either at my desk (where I’m writing this) or on the coffee table. Both are not ideal, but we make do, don’t we?

Chase the light

Usually, I draw for 1-3 hours at a time. And, if it’s a drawing day, I make sure it’s one of the first things I do. The light is always best in the morning, so I’ll spend that time sketching.

In an hour, I can sketch a few fashion figures, maybe 3-4, depending on how I feel. I’m not trying to copy a photograph or a face. Rather, I’m creating a suggestion.

And that’s the beauty of a fashion illustration; it’s simply a suggestion.

Fashion sketching needn’t be complicated. In fact, the word ‘sketching’ implies we’re drawing something quickly, and therefore fluid. There’s no pressure to paint a portrait, an exact likeness when you’re sketching. You are not trying to be one of the greatest renaissance artists of all time.

Fashion illustration allows for expression, so I like to think of it as drawing dreams. It’s perfectly okay if there’s a little bit missing. Maybe there’s a mist of colour or one single detail; this is what draws the eye in—like a focal point in a room; a fireplace, a mirror, a painting.

Creating a fashion model sketch can be a simple expression or interpretation. On the other hand, there is an art to simplicity.

Coco Chanel suggested, “Take one thing off.” I try to apply that to my fashion illustrations; I stop before I go too far.

Fashion sketching: where to begin?

Begin with warm-up, fashion sketching exercises. You’ll want to restrict yourself, in the beginning, to free yourself later.

If that’s confusing now, you’ll see what I mean after I explain the three exercises in a moment.

Here’s a quick checklist before we start:

  • Keep your art tools together and accessible.
  • Begin as early in the day as possible. Night light is not ideal, even with a good daylight lamp.
  • Keep it simple. Remember you are drawing fashion, not portraiture.

It’s a good idea to have fashion images to hand wherever you go. It may be a collection of torn-out sheets from a magazine. Or, in my case, a Pinterest board of fashion figures. I also make collections from saved Instagram posts, and I collate a folder of scanned images in my Google Drive.

Another good resource is Readly. I can access tonnes of magazines (plus back issues) on the app for £7.99/month. It’s worth it if you’re a magazine hoarder, trying to be a minimalist, like me. Also, their app is pretty seamless.

Clear your space. Get comfortable. Sharpen your pencils. Let’s draw fashion!

Sketching Exercise 1

Draw the outline

Let’s say you’re right-handed. You are going to start drawing with your left hand. That’s it, follow the outline with your non-dominant hand.*

*If that’s not available to you, try this instead: keep your eyes on the model and don’t look at your paper or pencil!

Do not erase anything. Just draw.

Draw another fashion pose and another.

You’ll likely end up with map-like line drawings. We’ll call them fashion islands.

Sketching Exercise 2

Draw in shapes

This may sound funny, but try this!

Squint your eyes a little. What do you see? Blurry figures with darkened patches?

Find the dark areas, the shapes and scribble what you see. Get to know the figure and its interesting shapes.

Use a pigment pen, a felt tip or a pastel if it’s easier. You’ll be able to cover a large area quickly.

Don’t worry about the detail. Keep it brisk, and be bold with your blocks of colour.

Sketching Exercise 3

Trace* an image

*I don’t normally recommend tracing an image. I think it’s the equivalent to copying and pasting if you’re learning to write in another language; you won’t learn a thing.

However, for the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to ask you to trace a fashion figure, because I want you to notice the difference between tracing and drawing body sketches for fashion, freehand.

Even though you’ve been following an outline underneath your paper, you may notice your sketch to be a little wooden, perhaps?

When you draw fashion, freehand, your illustration may not be perfectly proportioned, but I bet it has more energy.

Try it. Trace a model in a magazine a few times.

Freestyle Fashion Sketching

Now you are free.

You are ready to draw fashion, freestyle – without restrictions, so you can use your dominant hand.

You have everything available to you. You are drawing in your own way.

This is how to draw in your own style.

Copying and tracing will restrict you, like following a set of rules. There are no real rules in fashion or fashion illustration. You make the rules!

If you are creating a fashion collection, then yes, a 9-head template is helpful to get the designs sketched on paper, fast.

Otherwise, if you’re creating a fashion illustration, go with the flow.

For more help with your fashion drawing, grab my FREE Fashion Figures Guide here.

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” —Pablo Picasso

Why Every Fashion Illustrator Should Have a Fashion Muse

Why Every Fashion Illustrator Should Have a Fashion Muse

Your Fashion Muse will help you draw when the drawing gets tough.

There’s nothing more frustrating for a fashion illustrator than wanting to draw when you can’t. And the weird thing is, the other day you could! I suppose you could call it the dreaded artist’s block or, as I sometimes say, ‘feeling a bit rusty.’

So, what do you do on those can’t-draw days?

Do you make a cup of tea or go for a walk? Or maybe you start tidying a cupboard. I have really organised cupboards, by the way. Yesterday, I made cookies.

My advice? Find a familiar face; someone you love to draw, someone you’re comfortable drawing. Because, strangely, some people are challenging to draw.

You see an amazing model, and you think, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to draw her,’ but then, for whatever reason, you can’t do her justice.

A fashion muse is a must because when every drawing is looking ugly; she will be the beautiful beaming light to remind why you started drawing fashion in the first place.

Your fashion muse embraces your drawing style. By having a fashion muse, it’s a really good way of coming back to the way you draw—in your personal style.

Did you ever see the film Mannequin (1987)? As a child, I watched it over and over again!

Well, it’s a bit like that scenario: Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy) and his magical mannequin, Emmy (Kim Cattrall), create amazing window displays together and everything comes to life.

Without his muse, there would be no magic.

Who is My Fashion Muse?

At this point, if you’re wondering who my fashion muse is, I confess, I have a few.

Although, I do have one particular fashion face, that I absolutely love to draw, so much so, that I’ll buy any magazine if she’s on the cover.

As obvious as she may be, my fashion muse is a face I grew up with—and she’s still entirely relevant today.

She is Kate Moss.

Specifically Kate Moss, circa 1992; she’s totally dependable. After all, Kate makes anything look good, so why not my fashion illustration?

Why Kate? Well, I’m not exactly a rock chick myself, so there’s no Kate-connection there. And there are other models I love to draw, of course, but, drawing Kate reverts me back to a time when I was a young fashion student in the nineties, ready to explore fashion and art… and Kate was everywhere; she was the model of the moment.

The Fashion Face

I remember drawing Kate wearing that headdress when she was on the cover of The Face, when she was holding a bird in Vogue and when she was framed in fairy lights—the Corinne Day days.

I drew Kate a lot while I was in college and I guess I got used to her. I got used to her wide-set eyes, her cupid’s bow lips and her high cheekbones—I desperately wanted those cheekbones.

And when I say I always draw Kate, I don’t mean I’ve created a million Kate portraits, and now I’ve perfected her. More that I refer to her as a guide for my fashion illustration. Because, each time I’ve tried to draw Kate, she sort of works—like magic!

My drawing may not look anything like Kate Moss, but usually, and unusually, there’s something about my illustration if Kate’s had anything to do with it. Suddenly my work comes together, and that’s the point; your fashion muse will bring it all together.

For me, when I go back to drawing Kate Moss, I feel like I’m catching up with an old friend. I’m with someone I know well, even though I’ve never met her.

Aside from my Pinterest board: Kate Moss {Fashion Muse}, I have a Kate book that I bought in the nineties. It’s simply called ‘Kate.’

It’s a great book with beautiful shots of Kate in the early days. It’s very nineties; current and old school at the same time. There are some amazing shots in there, which are just perfect for me to draw on whenever I need to get into that space—when my work isn’t coming out as well as I want it to.

When you have a fashion muse, you can draw inspiration from the fashion face you love.

The Happy Accident

Let me give you a real example of how Kate has saved the day.

One particular illustration, inspired by Kate, became a sort of happy accident.

I’d been looking in my Kate book and had painted this sideways glance. I never really liked this painting. I used too much ink, and the eyes became very dark, but I rarely throw art away because I like to try to rescue it.

Anyway, one day I opened the back door to our basement to find a red leaf on the doorstep. It was such a beautifully rich colour; I had to pick it up.

The leaf had fallen from the neighbour’s plant which was sat on a window ledge high up.

I decided to scan the leaf in Photoshop, to see how it would look on some of my illustrations, one being the Kate painting with inky eyes, that was in the rejection pile. Suddenly, I quite liked her.

A few months later, that ‘happy accident,’ influenced by Kate, became my best-selling greeting card, selling out in Fenwicks!

How to Find Your Fashion Muse

So, let’s work out who your fashion muse is—because every fashion illustrator needs a BFMF {best fashion muse forever}.

I’d start with Pinterest; it’s such a great resource for fashion illustrators.

Back in the nineties, there was no Pinterest or any social media for that matter. So, it was really about trawling through magazines, tearing out pages and collecting favourite fashion shoots.

Now that we have Pinterest you can create a board and repin others’ pins, which is perfect for researching iconic fashion.

If you need a starting point, my Fashion Muses board is full of beautiful faces. Not forgetting my Kate Moss board, of course!

Other favourite faces include Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot and Christy Turlington.

Discover who your fashion muse is, simply, by sketching lots of people you love to draw, and then by seeing which of your illustrations really stand out—not just for you, but for your viewers. And don’t ask a family member or your best friend what they think because they will tell you they’re all lovely.

Which ones have significant engagement on Instagram, for example? Check your Instagram insights.

But it’s not just about engagement. Think about the paintings you particularly enjoyed creating and why? Who inspired you, and how?

These are questions you may not think matter, but it’s worth thinking about if you can find a fashion muse who will be there for you when your illustration goes awry.

The next time you’re feeling rusty, go back to your fashion muse and just see what happens. I bet she will turn out beautifully.

For more help with your fashion drawing, grab my FREE Fashion Figures Guide here.

“Fashion is about dreaming and making other people dream.” —Donatella Versace

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