Putting together a mood board for your designs will help you to pull together the color palette, early fabric options and inspiration for your garments all in one place. It is something that you can easily create and post up on a wall so that it’s an easy reminder of your ultimate goals. Whenever you feel yourself starting to stray away from your original idea, you can come back to your board to find a renewed sense of direction.
During my tenure at the University of Cincinnati at DAAP, we created our mood boards by tearing images out of magazines and folding or cutting them to fit on a foam core board. Flipping through the pages of fashion magazines, I would tear out anything that invoked the same feeling my designs created for me. Once I had a stack of magazine tears, I would then go back through them to choose ones that not only created a gut reaction from me, but also made sense for my project. For my Senior Thesis, my bedroom had mood board posters hanging all over the walls. That way, when I was sewing my projects, the images and colors surrounded me. Today, it is maybe easier to create a mood board digitally. Pulling images and placing them on an Adobe Illustrator artboard might be faster and more comprehensive than relying only on a stack of magazines. But I still like the practice of browsing the glossy pages with my own fingers, allowing the images on each page to speak to me or fade away as I turn over each leaf.
Once I have inspiration images chosen, I then like to go fabric shopping, requesting swatches at the store. Most fabric stores will allow you to swatch anything you need, and will cut a small square from the bolt for you. Those small swatches get pinned all around the board, bringing texture, more color and fabric ideas to your design. Pin up buttons that you like, as well as trims, zippers and ribbon. Seeing all of the elements of your garment in one location will help you to see if they truly look good together, or if the vision in your mind needs to shift a bit. Doing this before you start sewing and buying large quantities of trims and fabric is key. Without this process, you could lose weeks working on a garment that doesn’t look good in real life.
For example, in a professional setting, this step can be (sadly) overlooked. With a line plan as long as the product manager’s arm and limited time for the designers to come up with ideas, a true mood board process can be the first deliverable cut from a company’s timeline. However, for the few times I have seen this implemented at work, it was a crucial advantage to the development process. I often see first prototypes rejected for various reasons, but one of them is that the details of a garment aren’t coming together properly. The aesthetic in person isn’t matching the designer’s image in their mind, and the garment either gets dropped or completely redesigned. If color, trims, fabric swatches and details had all been evaluated for each garment ahead of time, these time consuming delays could have been avoided. Sometimes, this can mean months of additional time added to your project, which could mean missing your launch date or on-time delivery to your consumer completely.
If you are working on your own line, I highly recommend taking the time to create your own mood board. The vision of it hanging physically in your space will keep you motivated and inspired. If you created your mood board digitally, print it out and pin it to a bulletin board for the same effect. Its process of searching for exciting images, fabric ideas and colors is not only one of the most fun parts of the design process, but it can also give you a huge advantage in understanding how your final design will truly come to life.