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Principles of Design in Fashion

Updated on May 27, 2017

Principles Of Design

Principles of design may seem complicated at first but their basic use is to serve as guidelines for combining elements of design to create attractive garments. They come to the rescue of designers when they realize something is wrong with a design. Designers are able to analyze the problem in terms of proportion, balance, repetition, emphasis or harmony.

1. Harmony

HARMONY can be described to exist when it looks like one thing belongs with another.

Harmony is created by equal division.

Harmony is a combination of Unity and Variety.

HARMONY= Unity+Variety

Unity: The viewer sees the design as a whole rather than seeing each element differently.

Achieved through

  • consistency in style
  • Matching and color-coordinated fabrics

Unity and variety in a garment

Variety is used to relieve monotony.

Can be created by using different shapes, textures, colors, or details in a garment.

The different components of the garment/interior must relate to one other and to the overall theme of the design.

2. Rhythm

RHYTHM is the repetition of visual movement of the elements.

It is created when a design element is repeated.

It is achieved by repeating patterns or using a variety of lines or textures.

Rhythm can sometimes lead to monotony, so a balance must be maintained.

The pattern repeats in the garment.


Gradation is a term often used under Rhythm.

It is a gradual change in either

1. Colours: value changes from dark to light

2. Pattern: same shape changes in size - from small to large

Gradation in colour: dark to light.


3. Balance

BALANCE is achieved when the visual weight is distributed equally throughout the composition.

Symmetrical Balance

  • When in a composition one side is a mirror image of the other.
  • It represents a state of rest and calmness.

Balance in a composition


Asymmetrical Balance

  • In a composition the objects on each side of the imaginary central line are different.
  • Gives a more exciting and dramatic look. It appeals to the eye more.

In terms of garments, uneven hem or one shoulder dresses are examples.


4. Emphasis

EMPHASIS is the area or object within the composition that draws attention. It becomes a focal point and stands out.

With emphasis, the feature is seen first and repeatedly draws the attention of the viewer.

Can be created by varying necklines, adding textures or trims to the garment.

Emphasis is often used to create an illusion by different body shapes to draw attention to their best feature.

Contrasting emphasis of black and white. Your eyes immediately go to the bodice.


5. Proportion

PROPORTION is the relationship between objects, or parts, of a whole. It involves shape, size, and visual weight of an object.

The various components in the composition look "right" when viewed by the eye.

A balanced 50:50 ratio looks boring and uninspiring while unequal amounts are more pleasing to the eye.

Balanced vs Uneven composition.

Principles of Design

The lines between each of these principles are blurring as they tend to be very similar to each other but with time and exposure to your surroundings, you will be able to notice each of these indepenedently. Keep these principles in mind while creating your design/composition!

Keep these principles in mind while creating your design/composition!


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