Fitting is fundamental in creating garments that not only look good on mannequins but also on people IRL.
And knowing how to effectively fit a garment sample isn’t rocket science but definitely a skill that needs mastering.
So, in this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about fitting garment samples. From a step-by-step guide to essential tips – I’ve got you covered!
We’ll also explore whether or not remote freelance fashion designers can conduct fitting sessions (the short answer is YES!).
Let’s jump right in!
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
To gain a better understanding of the garment fitting session, let’s take a step back and briefly examine the garment sample review process.
In this process, technical designers usually take the lead.
And to keep things running smoothly, it’s important to prep everything in advance before the sample fitting session. This sets the stage for discussing revisions or comments with the team, ensuring a productive collaboration.
If you’re interested in delving further into the garment sample review process, go check out my Step-by-Step Guide on How to Review a Garment Sample.
In a sample fit evaluation session, the design team works together in assessing a garment prototype’s fit, comfort, and overall visual appeal. As mentioned earlier, it’s usually the technical designer leading the fit session, with creative designers, product developers, and merchandisers hopping in to provide feedback or keep tabs on the sample’s progress.
The session involves fitting the garment on a model whose body proportions align with the fashion brand’s target customer base.
The team checks various aspects of the sample garment, including fit, accuracy, and functionality, comparing all these to the initial design intent. This evaluation serves as a critical checkpoint to identify any issues that need adjustment before moving forward with bulk production.
Every observation from these fitting sessions gets jotted down in the tech pack‘s sample evaluation comments. This then circles back to the sample makers as a to-do list for revisions.
Fitting Initial Garment Samples vs Size Set Samples
When fitting garments, it’s essential to understand the difference between fitting your first (second, third, etc.) prototype vs your size set samples (also called the pre-production samples).
Pro Tip: Yes, there are a lot of different types of samples in the garment development process! You can learn about all of them in my guide on the 12 Types of Garment Samples During Apparel Production.
Fitting the initial garment sample is all about getting that one piece perfect. In this stage, you’re refining and correcting the fundamental fit and design of a single prototype.
But when it comes to your size set samples, you’re moving to the bigger picture. Here, you’re checking how your clothing designs hold up across different sizes.
It’s important for each size to maintain the same look and feel, so you’ll need to check if the garment is graded correctly and looks good across the full range of available sizes.
A fitter, also referred to as a fit model, plays a crucial role in the garment sampling process.
Fitters try on the sample garments to assess how they fit, function, and feel. They essentially become real-life mannequins – helping designers, pattern makers, and production teams evaluate how a garment looks and feels on a real person before bulk production.
While larger fashion brands might have dedicated fit models to ensure consistency, truth be told – a fitter can be as simple as a colleague or a friend that you can borrow for a few minutes.
If you’re a remote freelance fashion designer, this can be one of your friends, family members – or when you’re out of options, yourself or a dress form.
One crucial factor to note is to select a fitter whose body proportions mirror your fashion brand’s target sizing and customer base. So, imagine, if your fashion brand specializes in petite clothing, your fitter should match the height and size that your brand caters to.
Pro Tip: While trying on your own proto samples or using a dress form might seem super convenient, I advice you to use these as last-resort options. Why? Fitting on yourself makes it difficult to make adjustments correctly, and dress forms, being static, cannot accurately show how a garment drapes, moves, and functions in real life.
When conducting fitting sessions of clothing samples, it’s super important to come in prepared.
Remember, you’re meeting with several people in the design and merchandising team, and also borrowing time from your fitters. Make sure you have everything you need way before the fitting session kicks off.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you conduct your next fit session flawlessly.
Step 1: Set a meeting
Initiate a meeting for the fitting session. Make sure to invite all relevant members like the creative designer, product manager, merchandiser, etc.
When sending a message, it’s helpful to specify which style numbers will be evaluated in the session, this heads-up helps the other team members prepare and also flag any urgent styles that might need early evaluation.
Say for example, your merchandiser only has a few minutes to spare, having them specify which proto samples are the most urgent for them can help the overall timing of the fitting session.
Step 2: Select your fit models
Select your fit models based on the necessary sizes. Occasionally, I would receive fit sample garments in various sizes, so having fit models who can accurately represent each size range is necessary.
When fitting with colleagues, be clear about the timing and duration in advance to give them ample time to prepare. Remember – just like you, they also have a couple other things to do and fitting was most likely not in their job description. 😅 Be respectful of their time (so it’s also easier for them to say yes when you ask again next time 😉).
Pro Tip: I’ve had fit models cancel on me at the last minute (completely understandable!). That’s where having a list of backup fitters comes to the rescue, ensuring your fitting session stays on track, no matter what curveballs come your way.
Step 3: Prepare your samples and materials
Expect to be on your toes the entire time during sample fitting sessions. You’ll be presenting and adjusting the samples in real time, so make sure you have all your tools ready – like your samples, notes, measuring tape, marker, pins, camera etc.
Step 4: Conduct the garment sample fitting session
You can start by addressing any important or general issues on the prototype sample and how close or far off it is from the initial design.
Then, you can move onto assessing the sample garment’s fit – checking for tightness, pulling, or any pattern distortions from all angles. Make sure to check key areas like shoulders, bust, waist, hips, and sleeves.
If anything doesn’t match the spec sheet or looks off from the desired fit, you’ll have to determine the necessary adjustments, which might involve tweaking the pattern.
Next, check for functionality and comfort. Have your fitters move around, sit, or try out any special functions of the garment sample.
For example, if you’re evaluating activewear leggings, you can ask your fit model to do a quick squat (if they’re comfortable) to check the garment’s performance.
True Story: I had a nightmare situation with one of my clients who ordered bulk production of 2000 pairs of leggings that came in way too sheer in the booty. We had done bend over tests with the protos to make sure they weren’t see through, but something happened during production. Yikes!
Step 5: Document comments and take photos
Thoroughly document all comments made during the fitting session, including any adjustments and requests needed for each part of the garment. Remember – no detail is too small when it comes to alterations and adjustments.
It’s also a good idea to record who participated in the fitting session, the fitter’s name, and the date of the session. These details will help you whenever you need to refer back to previous fitting sessions.
And don’t forget to snap some sample photos during the fitting sessions. Photograph the sample from various angles – front, back, sides, and any important details that require attention.
Step 6: Fine-tune the adjustments
After the fitting session is over, the technical designer reviews the changes discussed and prepares the document to forward to the manufacturer. This could involve reshaping darts, adjusting seams, or re-designing some areas.
Step 7: Update your tech pack
Once the fitting session wraps up, make sure to update your tech pack with all the changes discussed. Include every alteration, comment, and adjustment from the session.
This keeps your design journey on track, providing a clear reference for everyone involved, ensuring streamlined communication, accountability, and a smoother production process.
Pro Tip: If you’re reviewing multiple garment samples, consider consolidating them into a single fitting session. Since fitting sessions involve multiple people, being mindful of their time is essential. Check the availability of your fitters and team to streamline the process by fitting multiple samples together, saving everyone valuable time.
Most people think this is impossible! In fact, I recently did a freelance training, and someone literally said, “how can I do a fitting remotely? That is the MILLION DOLLAR question!”
And if you had asked me when I was just starting out, I’d have sworn that it was impossible too.
But as I worked my way into remote freelancing in fashion, I learned that everything is doable from the comfort of my own home.
And the best part is – you can still follow the step-by-step guide that I just provided.
The only difference is how you’ll handle the logistics. So, for example, you would have to request the garment samples to be delivered directly to you (wherever you are in the world). A lot of clients want to see the samples too, so you can have the factory send one to each of you.
As for the fitting session, you can call a friend to help you out and be your fit model and conduct a live online fit sample session with your client. If it’s difficult to find a mutually convenient time to meet, you can record the fitting session by taking photos or videos.
I’ve done it a hundred times and I’m telling you now – it’s 100% doable!
If you’re interested in becoming a remote freelance technical designer. I cover this in more detail in my article Freelance Technical Designer: How Do You Work Remote?
Fitting garments isn’t just about numbers and measurements. It’s about bringing your design concepts to life, ensuring that they look and feel as incredible on people as they do in your imagination.
As a designer who has walked this path, I understand the nerves and uncertainties that come with fitting sessions. But let me reassure you – those moments of adjustment and discussion are where your designs truly come to life.
By knowing how to fit a garment sample and preparing well, you’re well-equipped to overcome any fitting challenge.
The journey from concept to a final product that fits perfectly might have its twists, but remember – each adjustment brings you one step closer towards your design vision.
I’m Heidi, and I believe that you can do things differently in your fashion career.
Because the truth is, most industry jobs will underpay and overwork you. Having your own brand is far from profitable (and let’s be honest, most of them fail).
So if you ACTUALLY want to work as a fashion designer and get paid, the best way to do it is as a freelancer.
Now, maybe you’ve been told that “brands don’t accept remote freelancers”…
Or believe that freelancing means being an exploited temp employee working full time without benefits…
Or to freelance, you have to be a rockstar expert with allll the skills from design through development
I’m going to show that it IS possible to be a REAL freelancer in fashion, work remotely with brands you love, AND make money (even if you’re terrified you don’t have all the answers).