Why do Working Drawings?

Working Drawings are a formal summary of the construction details and decisions made for each Made- to -Order costume.   They are the equivalent of a blue print for scenery.   Some designers never do formal working drawings except to support information not easily apparent in the rendering.   Some designers prefer instead to add lists, arrows or include small drawings in the margins of their final costume sketches.  Occasionally working drawings are required for commercial projects as part of the bid process, or if a project will be sent offshore for construction. Professional shops or design studios sometimes hire design assistants to create these, and they are common in the fashion industry as Spec Sheets or as CAD generated flats.  Many areas of the fashion industry no longer use an artistic rendering, requiring flats instead.

A good understanding of the working drawing and the flat will make you more valuable in the work place.  Using clear working drawings will speed up the process of working with a professional shop, and this can mean the difference between making your deadline or not.

At UCI, we use full separate Working Drawings as an educational step.  Renderings are both artistic documents that indicate the overall goal of the costume, such as how it will be worn (e.g. wrinkled, distressed, sleeves rolled up, etc.)  and construction documents.  Once a rendering is painted, the details can sometimes be obscured.  A working drawing will show the seam lines and other details.  Including a working drawing also forces beginning designers to really look at their research, or do further research into typical period construction to  prepare for cutter meetings, and to learn the specifics of building garments Made-to- Order.

As a beginning designer, this step sometimes reveals that you did not really understand the research you gathered, or you did not gather enough of the right kind of research.   To prepare for meeting with a cutter/draper you will augment your artistic research with patterning and draping text books, construction or sewing books, books indicating seam lines and the actual parts of the garments.  For 20th century designs, many designers use vintage patterns as a construction guide.

Familiarize yourself with the proper terms used in the industry so you can communicate effectively.  Whenever possible, use the proper terms for the parts of garments and be prepared to synchronize your terms with the shop.  There are several names for every kind of garment — French, Italian, English terms as well as differences between generations and East/West coast.  Don’t be afraid to ask for definitions- you will have to do this throughout your career.

If you cannot figure out how to create a specific effect, take your research to your mentor, the cutter or shop manager to work it out together.

Always begin with the underpinning of a costume- it is the foundation that creates the shape of every piece worn onstage.  It is easy to forget in our contemporary clothing that comfort in clothing is a new concept that did not appear in Western Fashion until the 1960s for fashion forward people, and took until the 1970s for the rest of society to catch up.  Until that time, you molded your body to live up to your clothing shape– not the other way around.

Mentor Approvals

The working drawings must be approved by the mentor.  Each show and garment will call for different kinds of working drawings- the Mentor  we will ask you to prepare the working drawings or flats or both for different situations.   Clarify your approach with your mentor each time.

Period shows (Pre-1970s)  will  require an extra step in working drawings and your discussions with the shop to identifying the appropriate underpinning shape for petticoats, corsetry or girdles and bras.  In this case you will create a Period Fitting Guide indicating how the period garment will fit the human body, and  a Period Underpinning Guide identifying the specific undergarments.

Creating Working Drawings

To create working drawings, begin with a copy of your pencil sketches before you paint or color them.  Draw the garment seams and details on your pencil sketch.

You may consult home sewing pattern books for ideas, look through period patterns in our files, use the fashion illustrations in the Library Special Collections, and closely study your research.  In each case, you are trying to answer the question What exactly is this garment piece?  Is it a dolman sleeve, a bishop sleeve?  How much fullness is at each point?   How wide are the pant hems in this period?  How much of cuff is turned up in the trousers?  Are those radial pleats or knife pleats?  These are the same questions any professional cutter in any shop would ask before building your costume.

We don’t expect you to know how to build a garment to have your cutter meeting.  We do expect you and the cutter to work that out together and move to the muslin or mock up stage.

Include your research clearly labeled.  If you found the exact collar or draped details in period research, indicate that on the working drawing and attach a copy to the working drawing. ( See Working Drawing #5 below)

Sample Working Drawing Styles

Working drawing #1 shows a single garment separately from the body.  This style of drawing is called a FLAT.   This type clearly illustrates the construction details and would include indications of top stitching also.

Single Garment Working Drawing #1

Working Drawing #2 illustrates a pair of trousers designed   by Van Ramsay for the mini-series Lonesome Dove

Working drawing #3  is digitally drawn over an actor photo.( image TBA)

Working Drawing #4  shows the system used in  the fashion industry.  This style is increasingly important for offshore construction contracts.

Working Drawing #5 includes references to the fabric swatches.  This style is often used in professional shops to match fabrics to garment pieces.
Working Drawing #6 uses the Fashion Spec Sheet as a model- the garment is drawn from front and back on one sheet with details drawn and noted.  This format leaves space for fabric swatches to be attached.

Working Drawing #5 West Side Story

Working Drawing #6 Spec Sheet Style

Shop Meetings to Discuss Construction

Prepare for construction meetings by copying your research, and assigning it to each working drawing. If you found the exact collar, a pocket detail, or a type of seaming you want to use, include that research with your working drawing.  Its ok if you found three details on three separate pieces of research- include them all so the drapers clearly understand what you see.    Be prepared to problem solve with the cutter, who may have suggestions how to create your desired look.  It is expected that you will change some things, create new ideas together, or think of a new approach after meeting.  This is not a failure on your part, but information gathering.  If your first working drawing is a mass of illegible arrows and lines, please redraw it so all can understand the final result.