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Fashion Sketching 101: How to Draw Fashion Figures

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Fashion sketches
Photo via ELLE

One of the cornerstones of fashion school is learning how to sketch fashion figures. However, as fashion school students learn, there’s a big difference between proper body proportions in art and in fashion.

In art, the body’s proportions are measured in heads. The average figure is about 7-7 1/2 heads, including the actual head, tall.

However, in fashion, the body proportions are elongated in order to better represent the models, who are above average in height. Because of this, the figures become 8-10 heads tall. Though the basic proportions of the fashion figure are about the same — give or take 1/4-1/2 of a head — every illustrator adds their own style to the formula.

If you want to embrace your inner fashion designer, or just want to learn more about what fashion school is like, read on!

Today, I’ll teach you how to sketch a proportionate female fashion figure and how to translate the measurements into a walking pose. Scroll down to learn more:

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Ruler (if you want to be extremely precise)
  • A sketchpad (duh!)

Fashion Sketching 101: How to Draw a Female Fashion Figure

Step #1

Draw a line. This is the balance line, a.k.a. the line which determines the body’s center of gravity. The balance line always extends from the base of the neck (where it meets the shoulders) straight to the ground.

Step #2

Draw a head with the middle of it on the line. To draw a head, sketch a large circle on top with a smaller circle below it. Connect these two on the sides with slightly rounded diagonal lines, as shown in the sketch below.

fashion figure sketch steps

Step #3

Measure the head, either with your pencil or the ruler. Using this measurement, draw nine small dashes equal distance apart, then number them from the bottom of the chin (#1) down to the bottom of the feet (#10).

Step #4

For the top half of the body, draw lines extending from 1 1/2 heads, 2 1/4, 3, 3 1/2, and 4 1/4 heads, as outlined below. These marks are where the shoulders, bust, waist, high hip, and crotch are located, respectively. The elbows are also located with the waist at the 3 heads mark.

Upper body proportions
(Click to enlarge.)

Step #5

Draw the features in, using straight lines: The shoulders on the woman fashion figure are 1 1/2 heads wide, the waist is a head’s width, while the hips should be about 1 1/4 heads wide. Therefore, the woman fashion figure should have an hourglass silhouette.

Step #6

For the lower half of the body, mark 6 1/2 heads as well as 9 for the knees and ankles, respectively.

Sketch bottom half
(Click to enlarge.)

Step #7

Draw the legs by making lines which curve and narrow as they go from the high hip to the knee for the thighs. For the calves, make a smaller cylindrical shape by curving the lines from the knees and then tapering them at the ankles, which jut out slightly on the inner half of each leg.

The thighs (from high hip to knee) and the calves (from knee to ankle) should be the same length.

Step #8

The last head is for the feet, which begin at the ankle to flare out in diagonal lines for 3/4 of the length of the head before they meet at a point.

Step #9

Draw the hands similarly. These begin with the wrist at the crotch. The fingers should end a little above the 5 heads mark.

Fashion Sketching 102: How to Draw Figure Movement

Once you get the proportions down, now it’s time to give the figure movement! There are three crucial components which all fashion figures require: a balance line, a high shoulder, and an opposing high hip.

Start by sketching a new figure. However, this time (after drawing the balance line and putting down the 10 head marks) tilt the shoulder line so that one side is higher. Tilt the high hip, too, but with the opposite side higher.

Sketch tilt
(Click to enlarge.)

For example below, I made the right shoulder higher so the left hip would be higher in order to keep the figure balanced. Try it yourself: If you tilt your shoulders, what happens to your hips?

Additionally, by tilting parts of the body, the rest of the body will follow suit. Anything above the high hip will follow the tilt of the shoulders, while everything below will follow the tilt of the hips, however all of these tilts will not be as severe as the shoulders and hips.

There’s one more rule that fashion figures must follow: the leg which comes from the high hip cannot be bent and that foot must touch the balance line. This keeps the figure balanced. Again, you can try this by shifting your weight to one foot . When this happens, the leg supporting all the weight cannot be bent.

Example of a walking pose:

Notice the tilts including the subtle differences between the two knees.

Croquis
(Click to enlarge.)

Now you can have fun and try drawing your own fashion figures! To start, find poses to mimic by looking through magazines. To copy the pose, just remember to identify the balance line, the high shoulder, high hip, and the supporting leg (the one which touches the balance line).

What do you think?

Did you know about fashion proportions? Have you heard about measuring the body using heads? Did you find this tutorial helpful? Would you like to learn how to draw some basic poses? Tell me what you think by leaving a comment!

Posted on on April 12, 2013 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , ,

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49 Responses to “Fashion Sketching 101: How to Draw Fashion Figures”

  1. 1
    April 12th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Great- I love it!

  2. 2
    April 12th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    College fashion is a God-send! I am an avid reader. This past week, I’ve been trying to figure out how to develop my fashion illustration skills. See, I make clothes, and I have been meaning to keep a sketch pad of all of my designs, in addition to the pictures of the clothes worn by my customers. (I just got my samsung notebook, and it has been extremely useful with sketching now).
    Your fashion sketching 101 course is sooo simple to understand. You broke it down, in very few words. Now, I would illustrate to my heart’s content. Thank u, thank u, Whitney!

  3. 3
    April 12th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    This was exteremely helpful- especially for someone who is as clumsy with a pencil as myself! I’m glad someone else recognizes that you draw fashion figures slightly elongated, it’s something my friends and I argue about.

  4. 4
    April 12th, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    “However, in fashion, the body proportions are elongated in order to better represent the models, who are above average in height. Because of this, the figures become 8-10 heads tall.”

    This explains a lot.
    Great series, by the way!

  5. 5
    April 12th, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I’m in love with this post! Great idea!!

  6. 6
    April 12th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    This is fantastic! Thanks for the great tutorial!

  7. 7
    April 12th, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Wow Interesting!!! Great post Whitney!

  8. 8
    April 12th, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    This was a really cool post to read! I’ve always been curious about this!

  9. 9
    April 13th, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Now you have me trying to bend all funny to attempt to go against nature.

    Love the tutorial though, thank you! I’ve been wanting to use fashion figures as decor and didn’t know how to draw them myself. :)

  10. 10
    April 13th, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Very helpful indeed! I can use those tips in my illustrations! :)

  11. 11
    April 13th, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Thanks for the info. Personally, though, I find the insistence on a “standard figure@ in fashion illustration a bit repellant, and I wish more designers would sketch out designs with many different body types in mind.

  12. 12
    April 13th, 2013 at 7:37 am

    This is brilliant! College Fashion, I salute you! x

  13. 13
    April 13th, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Thank you for this! its so helpful… whenever i try drawing a figure, i struggle to get it proportional. haha =)

  14. 14
    April 13th, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I love this! Thank you so much for sharing! :)))))))

  15. 15
    April 13th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Can’t bend the knee if all your weight’s on one leg…unless you’re a dancer.

  16. 16
    April 13th, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Please PLEase PLEASE keep up these posts!! I am not a super sketcher, but this post helped me to draw my first humanoid fashion sketch. Please keep up this series it is one of my all time favorites and I have been reading for at least 3 years!

  17. 17
    April 20th, 2013 at 6:19 am

    this information is very help but if u can go further,.

  18. 18
    May 6th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks everyone, I love reading all of your comments!

    Temi- I’ve been wanting to do experiment with digital illustration. what’s the samsung notebook like?

    Miss K- I agree. The illustrations reflect the mindset of the whole industry, which I believe should cater to more body types. I’m going to keep that in mind when I design/ illustrate!

    Mady- Thanks, I’m flattered! What else would you like to learn?

    Shyne- What would you like me to elaborate on?

  19. 19
    May 12th, 2013 at 3:35 am

    I found web page very useful. I sm putting my portfolio together in order for to get in to fashion design college. Thanks for your help.

  20. 20
    May 24th, 2013 at 8:56 am

    i really find this as a very helpful tutorial. i liked it.thank you.:D

  21. 21
    May 27th, 2013 at 2:01 am

    thank u so much for such a very valuable tutorial…..thanx again….and give a some more tips pls…

  22. 22
    June 20th, 2013 at 7:39 am

    thanx alot i really loved d tutorial.

  23. 23
    August 10th, 2013 at 5:44 am

    So much helpful .I was looking for the tutorials like this one ..thanx guyss..plz provide some more tutorials for the same.

  24. 24
    August 12th, 2013 at 5:48 am

    I’m a fashion designer in training and I don’t understand a thing

  25. 25
    August 20th, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Love the post!

    However I am struggling a bit to understand it.
    When you keep saying head, for example 1 1/2 head and 3 1/4 head what do you mean?
    Do you mean the head measurement you told us to take in step 3 ?

    Also what is 1/4? is that meant to be inches ?

    Sorry for being a bit slow but i really don’t understand that part. Everything else seems straightforward. I am sure I can do it if you will just explain that head thing.

    Thanks x

  26. 26
    September 7th, 2013 at 12:51 am

    that’s great. you have really helped me . thanks

  27. 27
    October 9th, 2013 at 6:00 am

    thank u so much! i love designing my own clothes & i used to struggle while drawing proper proportions of body!! it has helped me to improve & sketch on the dresses more precisely….

  28. 28
    October 24th, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Its relly excellent 100 out of 100

  29. 29
    October 29th, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Thanxs for the tutorial i want this to be my career and this help will get me there i got a while though but by then ill be a master at it thanxs again

  30. 30
    October 29th, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    This tutorial has proven incredibly valuable. I know this may sound stupid but a lot of tutorials like to make these things sound excessively confusing and as a simple minded person they make me lose hope quickly. This has been put in an easy to understand way and I’m sure other people thinking the same thing would agree. Thank you for posting this and I look forward to reading any other posts or tutorials you may make about this topic!

  31. 31
    November 17th, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I was searching the net for help “drawing figures” for my daughter. She’s 8 years old and loves designing clothes for herself and her dolls. Have you thought about publishing? Out of all the sites I visited to get a body template for my kid, this one is THE best and easiest to follow. I am one of many who would pay money for a child’s design “how to” book. Thanks for your time.

  32. 32
    November 30th, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Found this information very helpful

  33. 33
    December 4th, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial! It was great and easy to follow. Personally, I’m not that good with drawing but this really helped! Thanks again!

  34. 34
    December 23rd, 2013 at 2:15 am

    hi i have question regarding the difference between fashion figure and fashion illustration.could you please explain that?

  35. 35
    December 31st, 2013 at 9:16 am

    An fail free tutorial the first website i clicked on and understood it perfectly. Thankx…

  36. 36
    January 10th, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Thank u very much for d illustration whitney. But how do I put clothes over d drawn models now

  37. 37
    January 24th, 2014 at 1:19 am

    This was very awesome.. great tutorial. This is my first time creating a sketch. Lol. It is a bit flimsy. But with these directions I know I will nail it.. thanks a lot..anoni

  38. 38
    February 10th, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Its really awesome thanks for the tutorial i want this to be my career thanks ..

  39. 39
    February 12th, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    This is the tutorial, that I’ve been looking for. Just GREAT!

  40. 40
    February 18th, 2014 at 2:25 am

    I think you’ve done a great job. This is a great help for the beginners. Fantastic! Thanks for your help!:-D

  41. 41
    March 20th, 2014 at 1:34 am

    This helped me a lot. Thank you!! :D

  42. 42
    May 12th, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Thanks 4 sharing :)
    Love it!! Really!

  43. 43
    May 12th, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Whitney, the Samsung note 10.1 which I use is beautiful. It’s great for sketching. The sketchpad app has various pencil and brush heads and you also get to pick from a wide range of colours from the pre installed colour pallette. And you can record your sketch session also! You should look up the features on gsmarena.com.

  44. 44
    June 14th, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I just loved it

  45. 45
    June 14th, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I love this!!..i had tried different methods previously and couldnt get it right but one shot at yours and i’m a sketch guru already!.thank u

  46. 46
    June 21st, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks. It was extremely helpful. the method gives precision. once again. Thanks

  47. 47
    June 26th, 2014 at 7:50 am

    l ask my boss to teach me this And he never did and now I know. God bless u very much.
    but plesse, I want to know about the poses in dress. thank u.

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