Fashion Sketch Step-by-Step

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

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

Pin It on Pinterest