You’re currently reading Chapter 4 of The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Fashion Portfolio (in a weekend)

We have ALL been there. You’re ready to put your fashion design portfolio together, and you’re sitting in front of a blank computer screen, hard drives, USB sticks scattered around. Dropbox is open. Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign are ready and in cue.

You pour yourself a glass of wine and profess you are finally going to get started.

But before you even get 3 folders deep into your 20+ year history of work, the overwhelm kicks in. It’s too much to even think about digging through the 100s of files that are in different places, various formats, and picking the best ones to include.

So instead, you retreat to binging Handmaid’s Tale on Netflix and eating chocolate. #guiltyascharged

You wake up the next morning disappointed that you didn’t make any progress even though you’d committed to getting started the night before and the vicious cycle of file overwhelm and blank screen paralysis begins again.

First, know that you’re not alone. I have been there. We all have been there. It is a hard place to get out of.

You know what you need to do. It’s really just 3 simple steps:

  1. Take what you have
  2. Thin it down to what sends the right message
  3. Tie it up with a pretty bow

So even though it really does just come down to YOU taking ACTION, I’ll give you my best tips on how to overcome this.

It includes taking small steps and following the simple plan of action.

First, to avoid the “blank screen paralysis”, don’t even launch a new document yet. There’s no reason to torture yourself with this.

Instead, start with culling down your work first.

You can simplify this right away by doing these two things:


Based on what market(s) you want to go after, you may not have to dig through ALL your old work.

I recently put together an updated PDF version of my fashion portfolio to share with a few brands I met at different trade shows. One was a golf show, and one was an outdoor show. I easily knew what projects to even consider for each version and immediately knew what projects would speak best to each market. There’s no point in showing golf polos to outerwear brands or vice versa.

Do the same for your work, and only consider the work that would be relevant to the category(ies) you’ve chosen.


Most brands don’t care to see what you 10 or 20 years ago…picking stuff from the last 5 (or even 2-3) years is MORE than enough. If for some reason they want to see more, they’ll ask. But for the most part, I would focus on the last few years. This easily cuts your work down by A LOT.

Now, depending on your category / market, time span of what’s relevant may vary.

If you’re in a fast trend driven market, pay more attention to showing just the past few collections that reflect that.

If your category is timeless / not so trend driven (a lot of my work has been that), you may show older stuff too.

This is a decision you need to make for yourself.

Bottom line, you want to follow the Portfolio Golden Rule.

I’ll include it again here for quick reference:

“This [project / collection / design] speaks to the brand, tells them that I understand their market, customer and aesthetic, and visually shows them that I am the right designer for the job.”

Once you’ve figured that out, you may still have work stored ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE.

If you have files in a kajillion different places (Dropbox, your hard drive, USB sticks, etc), tackle one at a time.

I know it’s not a magic solution.

It’s a logical one!

Start in Dropbox, go through those files. Then move onto the USB drive, and go through those files. Just take it one step at a time.

Now, I do suggest doing this systematically. So, let’s get organized.

First, decide where you’re going to keep all the files you want to “consider” including (your personal hard drive, Dropbox, doesn’t matter). Make a folder called “PORTFOLIO-DATE” with the current date.

Second, start going through each batch of files. While you do this, enjoy the walk down memory lane (without getting too distracted or distraught by old designs) and start transferring projects you’re considering into the “PORTFOLIO-DATE” folder.

Don’t worry about being too selective yet, this is just stage one in the process of elimination. Grab the best projects that have a chance of consideration (based on your chosen category) and put them in the folder.

If each project has multiple files (which they probably will), stay organized by creating ONE folder inside your “PORTFOLIO-DATE” folder for each project. It will probably look something like this:

Fashion Portfolio book by Sew Heidi of Successful Fashion Designer

In just a few hours, you’ll have all your files in one spot.

And boom. You just cut your work down from 100s of projects to (hopefully) 10 or 20.

Feel better already? Yeah, me too.

Go to Chapter 5: What (and How Much) to Include in Your Fashion Design Portfolio