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Chapter: 12th Textiles and Dress Designing : Chapter 6 : Designing of Clothing

Principles of Design in Clothing

The principles of design refer to the organization of a work of art.

Principles of Design in Clothing

The principles of design refer to the organization of a work of art. The principles of designs are said to be yard sticks as these help us to assess a design. These assist a designer which textile or garment to create and enhance in a very pleasing, attractive and effective manner. The principles of design are as follows.

·               Harmony

·               Balance

·               Emphasis

·               Proportion

·               Rhythm


1. Harmony

Harmony means unity. It is very much essential and fundamental while creating a design. It results from a combination of related elements in art. Using related and repeated elements of art this is obtained. Harmony is an art principle that expresses unity through selected and arranged consistent objects.

Harmony of Line

When a set of lines are drawn within a corner following the lines of the corner, repetition occurs.

When a horizontal and vertical line come together in a right angle or a corner, these lines are in opposition to each other and form contrast.

Any line that cuts across a corner from one opposition line to another is a transitional line, but when a straight line drawn across a corner is so sudden and sharp that it cuts off corner harshly is called contradiction (Figure 6.21).

Harmony of Shape

A combination of lines results in shapes. Transitional lines have a graceful, softening effect and have the power to bring together shapes which might in themselves be inharmonious.

Harmony of Texture

Textural surface ranges from smooth to rough. An example of poor texture combination sometimes seen in the shops is cane furniture upholstered in lustrous rayon. These textures are entirely unsuited to each other. Harmony in texture is brought in a garment by combining satin with lace or netted materials.

Harmony of Ideas

It is not enough that sizes, shapes, colours and textures should have something in common, but there must be harmony in the ideas presented together. For example, an apron and hood may have motifs of a cup and saucer.

Harmony in Colour

Colour schemes are like musical chords, structuring colour groups according to certain visual relationships among their attributes of hue, value and intensity. The guidelines for creating colour harmonies are

Warm colours should be combined with warm colour and cool colour with cool ones.

Colour harmonies are divided as expressed in Figure 6.23.

Colour harmonies can be created in two ways, namely, mechanical and nonmechanical. The colour harmonies under the first category are further divided as related and contrasting colour harmonies. The related colour harmonies include mono-chromatic, analogous and neutral, and these types of colour harmonies give a lot of freedom to its creator. A large number of objects with a variety of tints and shades are available in the market these days. Therefore one can successfully combine them to create ‘ready-made’ or non-mechanical colour harmonies. Non-mechanical are nature-based and ready-made. Landscape and other natural object based colour harmonies are included in this category.


I.  Mechanical Standard Colour Scheme

These schemes are based on the Prang Colour wheel, and are the most easy to use. The mechanical standard colour schemes / harmonies may be of two types;

Harmonies of related colours and Harmonies of contrasting colours.

I. A)  Harmonies of Related Colours

Related colour schemes are based on common hues and tend to create a restful, quiet effect as these colour combinations give the most pleasing effect and are likely to be those schemes having harmony or unity. They are based on either a single hue or a series of analogous hues, and promote harmony and unity. The related colour schemes are Monochromatic, Analogous and Neutral colour harmonies (Figure 6.24).

I. A. i)  Monochromatic Colour Scheme / One Hue Colour Harmony

Mono-chromatic scheme is the simplest of all other schemes to use, because they are based on only one hue. Monochromatic means ‘of one colour’. Under this scheme only one hue is used with different values and intensities. The popular scheme of beige brown, and orange is a truly, monochromatic scheme, because the tans and browns are simply tints and shades of grayed orange. A brilliant form of orange may be used as an accent or even for larger areas, but if any other hue is introduced here, the harmony is no longer monochromatic. Another example is that red can be used with its various intensities giving vermilion, carmine, crimson, etc. and various values in high-key giving Alps red, peach, flesh tint, Indian red, brown, burnt sienna etc. The range may vary from almost white to almost black and from very bright colours to dull colours. Black and white are neutrals that can be used to add spice and interest to the scheme. While using a mono-chromatic colour scheme, one can create a feeling of warmth or cold in a room.

Normally the lightest of the colour (highest value) should cover the largest area and at the highest level, the mid value of the colour at the middle and the darkest at the lower level and so on.

I. A. ii)  Analogous Colour Scheme / Adjacent Colour Scheme

Analogous colour scheme is one that combines colours that are adjacent to one another in the colour wheel. In this colour scheme, colours situated next to each other on the colour wheel of a Prang colour system, are used. It generally uses one colour as its major force with the two neighbouring colours as secondary forces, Example, yellow with yellow- green and green or blue with blue- green and blue-purple. Because of their position on the colour wheel, they are often referred to as related colour schemes.

A combination of yellow, yellow orange, orange and red orange combine to make warm adjacent colour scheme. A combination of blue purple, blue, blue green and green provides a cool adjacent colour scheme. At the same time, a combination of both warm and cool colour scheme is also possible in an adjacent colour scheme. When the adjacent colours of blue green, green, yellow green and yellow or blue purple, purple, red purple and red are combined, they provide a colour scheme which has both warm and cool colours.

I. A. iii)  Neutral Colour Scheme

The neutrals are black, white and grey. A neutral colour such as beige or brown with an accent colour for breaking the monotony can be used in this colour scheme. Colour schemes built entirely around neutrals are very restful, but texture and patterns must be used to prevent the design from becoming dull, boring or monotonous. Therefore, this colour scheme should be used in limited areas or for limited periods in any dress. Black-and-white schemes are highly dramatic because of their strong contrast.

I. B   Harmony of Contrasting Colours

Contrasting colour schemes are based on opposing hues and tend to be stimulating and balanced because they include both warm and cool hues. They are grouped as Complementary, Double Complementary and Triad. Two colours, which are placed extremely opposite on the colour wheel, one might be cool, and the other warm, are chosen for the colour scheme. Examples; Red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple. (Figure 6.25)

I. B. i)  Complementary Colour Scheme

It is based on two colours found opposite to each other in the colour wheel. These colours need not necessarily be used in their pure form and they can be used in many values or intensities to have variety. A complementary colour scheme can be developed from a monochromatic colour scheme accentuated with a complementary colour or an even balance of two colours.

On a Prang the complementary colours are

·               Yellow and Purple

·               Red and Green

·               Blue and Orange

·               Yellow Green and Red Purple

·               Blue Green and Red Orange

·               Blue Purple and Yellow Orange

Thus, in all, they make six complementary colour schemes.

A complementary colour scheme is a stimulating, vivid and bright colour scheme. It provides a combination of both a warm and a cool colour. Their tints such as the pink and light green lack character when placed together.

I. B. ii)  Double Complementary Colour Scheme or Tetrad

Four in a double complementary is called a tetrad. If a narrow ‘X’ is superimposed on the colour wheel, then there will be two sets of complementary colours with which to work. Two adjacent colours and their complements when used together form double complementary harmonies like the combination of – purple and red purple with yellow and yellow-green. In using a double complementary harmony, there should be an outstanding hue which should be in largest amount and be the dullest of all colour. For example, as in the case of the above example, purple can be considered to the line having these qualities. Use a brilliant form of one, like yellow, in a small area as an accent on a garment say collar or yoke. The remaining two colours i.e., red purple and yellow green can be used in the remaining area of the garment like top and bottom.

This colour scheme is exciting, lively and sophisticated. It also provides more variety than a simple complementary colour scheme. Since this colour scheme provides a combination of both warm and cool colours, they can be successfully used in a garment whether for a stout or thin figure. Some of the examples of a double complementary colour scheme are :

·               Yellow and yellow orange with purple and blue purple

·               Yellow orange and orange with blue and blue purple

·               Orange and red orange with blue and blue green

·               Red and red purple with green and yellow green.

I. B. iii)  Split Complementary Harmony

In this colour scheme, one colour is combined with the two colours on each side of its complement. One might select a hue and combine it with the colours that are on either side of its complement as though placing a narrow-angled “Y” on the colour wheel. As the term implies, one “splits” or divides the complement of a hue into its component parts, and while using these parts the complement is omitted. A true split complementary scheme is a harmony of similar colours with a note of a contrasting colour. The amounts of the different values and intensities should be adjusted as in any other contrasting colour harmony.

This provides three colours to work with an odd number of colours combined together always yield a good effect as a colour scheme in a garment. By varying their intensities and values some interesting combinations can be worked out. Following combinations can also be worked out to prepare split complementary colour schemes.

·               Yellow with blue purple and red purple

·               Yellow green with purple and red

·               Green with red purple and red orange

·               Blue green with red and orange.

The warm hues in combination with the cool hues need careful handling because of their strong and advancing effects. When executed properly, this colour harmony would produce a pleasing effect.

I. B. iv)  Triads

An equilateral triangle placed on the Prang colour wheel will point to three equi-distant colours that form the triad. Turning the triangle will point out different combinations. In the Prang Chart, there is a Primary triad – when the three primary colours fall at the tips of the triangle (red, blue and yellow) and a binary or secondary triad (green, orange and purple). There are two intermediate triads – yellow-orange, blue -green and red-purple while the other is yellow-green, blue-purple and red-orange.

II.  Non-Mechanical

The non mechanical colours ae readymade or nature based ones. The nature based colours are of two types namely Landscape-Based Colour Scheme and Nature Object-Based Colour Scheme.

II A)  Landscape-Based Colour Scheme

The colour of sea, sky, clouds, mountains, land covered with plants, trees, earth or barren land. We find that they do not have sharp colours and are large in area. The sky occupying the largest area is light blue; water in the sea / river / canal also has the reflection of the same light blue ; mountains are generally covered with either snow or light brown ; trees and plants covered with green leaves. Earth is of dull brown or ochre and trees are green.

II B)  Natural Object-Based Colour Scheme

We observe a butterfly, or a fish, or a flower that give the hue to a colour scheme. A butterfly might give a colour scheme of lemon / golden yellow, brown, black and white. Or a flower might lead to a colour scheme of lilac and white accentuated with violet and green.


2. Proportion

The word “proportion” means one part in relation to another. Proportion is defined as the relation between parts of the same thing or between different things of the same kind. The principle of proportion is sometimes called the “law of relationship”. It deals with relationship in size, shape, colour, texture and pattern. Greeks, after centuries of striving for beauty, arrived at a point where nearly everything they made exhibited good spacing. The oblong which they used as a basis of their space divisions is called the “golden oblong” and is a recognized standard for space relationships. This Greek oblong measured approximately two units on the short side and three on the long. While the ratio of about 2:3 or 3:5 is the relationships used by the Greeks for their flat surfaces, their standard for solids is a ratio of about 5:7:11.

Division of Space

One of the most important problems faced by the designer is that of organizing the total areas into five space relations. (Figure 6.26)

Creating Optical Illusions

A change in appearance of an area by means of proportion might involve the lengthening or broadening effects of vertical and horizontal lines. Lines running in a vertical direction tend to slenderize and make an object appear taller, whereas lines running in a horizontal direction would make an object appear shorter and broader. (Figure 6.27)


The third aspect of proportions is called scale. It is the capacity to select designs and arrange them so that they look well together. The design principles of scale is related to proportion. Both proportion and scale deal with the relative’s sizes of things. Proportion pertains to the relationship between the parts of a composition and scale refers specially to the size of something, relative to some known standard or recognized constant. Scale, in this sense means, that the size of all the elements making up the structure have a consistent, pleasing relationship to the structure and to each other, and that the size of the structure is in good proportion to the different objects combined with it.

A very small object will never look so small as when it is placed near a very large one. That is because the two sizes are not consistent. In a consistent scale, it is possible to create illusion that causes astonishment when the actual sizes of objects are realized.

Proportion in Colour

This principle applies to colour as much as to sizes. Colour combinations are more beautiful when the amounts are varied, than when they are equal. Proportion holds good here but if the colours are very different in their forcefulness, they should be arranged according to the “Law of Areas”, and the brighter colours used in smaller amounts.


3. Rhythm

Rhythm is a very important art principle. According to Beitler and Lockhart,’a sense of order, a quality of gracefulness, a feeling of easy movement’ – all lead to a principle of design; which is called as “rhythm”.

Rhythm is related movement or the sense of leading the eye from one part of a design to another in an easy, flowing manner. Rhythm is organized movement in continuity. It occurs in regular, repeated movement and also in variable transitional movement.

Rhythm may be defined as a form of movement. But not all movement in design is rhythmic. Rhythm means an easy, connected path, along which the eye may travel in any arrangement of lines, forms or colours. Rhythmic movements can be achieved through repetition of shapes, progression of sizes, continuous line movement, radiation and gradation


3a. Rhythm through Repetition

A feeling of rhythm may be expressed by repetition of lines, colours and shapes. When a shape is regularly repeated at proper intervals, a movement is created which carries the eye from one unit to the next in such a way that one is not conscious of separate units, but of a rhythmic advancement making it easy for the eye to pass along the entire length of the space. While doing so one must also keep in mind the principles of proportion that deal with the same spacing between each, would give us an example of repetition so to avoid monotony in spacing, good proportion is a necessary accompaniment. Stitching rows of braids, or pleats or tucks on a dress, placing groups of buttons, repeating dots, circles, squares or any shape of spot in embroidery brings a nice rhythm in a garment (Figure 6.28).


3b. Rhythm through Progression of Sizes and Gradation

Rhythm is brought through a progression of sizes. A regular progression of sizes may be satisfying enough for scallops on lace and embroidery; one enjoys a more varied, progression when large objects are involved. Progressing sizes create a rapid movement of the eye, and they are often badly used. A gradual change in the length or thickness of lines may give variety says Beitler. Change in amounts overlapped in a composition, change in texture from smooth to rough, shiny to dull etc. (Figure 6.29).


3c. Rhythm through Continuous Line Movement

This enlargement of the spiral of a spell brings out the beauty in the sequence of its line movement and in the rhythmical gradations of its spaces. In some designs it is not evident that any element is repeated or that there is a progressive change from one part of the design to another and yet we have a sense of easy movement throughout the design. The related movement may be literally having breaks in the line but spaces that are small enough so the eye still moves over to the next section of the line in the rhythmical manner.


3d. Rhythmthrough Radiation

Radiation is a method of obtaining organized movement. It is a type of movement that grows out of a central point or axis. Radiation means lines or parts of a design growing out of or an extending from a line or a point. The designs should be kept or arranged in such a way that the eye travels from one corner to the other corner of that particular area of a dress easily or rhythmically. Restful effect can be gained through proper placing of all these decorative things. Rhythm plays an important role in window display, and advertising too. (Figure 6.31).


3e.  Rhythm through Alternation

Rhythm is brought through alternation of shape, line, form or texture. The eye is taken in a direction through alternation of the motifs in a design. (Figure 6.32).


3f. Rhythm in colour

In colour, rhythm and balance through crossing or repetition implies an arrangement of colours along which the eye can move easily from one colour to another. Rhythmic colour results for the use of gradations in hue, value or intensity. Gradation is a sequence in which the contrasting extremes are bridged by a series of similar or harmonious steps. Gradation therefore, is a particular combination of contrast and harmony. Gradation is clearly illustrated by the value scale; in which black and white, the contrasting extremes, are connected by a continuous sequence in which the adjoining grays are similar or harmonious. The word ‘scale’ derives from the Latin word ‘Scala’ which means steps, stairs or a ladder. Gradation of hue, value and chroma that progresses from the pale, warm-green horizon haze to the dark, cold blue.


4. Emphasis

The dictionary meaning of the word “Emphasis” is to stress, to give importance or significance. Emphasis is the art principle by which the eye is carried first to the most important thing in any arrangement and from that point to every other detail in order of its importance. While doing emphasis in a dress one should understand the following aspects.

·               What to emphasize?

·               How to emphasize?

·               How much to emphasize?

·               Where to place emphasize?


4a. What to emphasize?

We need to be aware of the many possibilities of what to emphasize. Backgrounds should be less conspicuous than the objects to be seen against them.


4b.  How to emphasize?

On deciding what to emphasize the next step is how to give emphasis to that particular portion in a garment. How it should be done? How to place an emphasis? There are several ways by which one may create emphasis by grouping or placing of objects, using contrast colour, using decoration, having sufficient plain background space around objects and by using unusual lines, shapes or sizes.

Grouping or placing of objects

Grouping or placing of objects can be achieved by grouping objects which are similar in usage, materials, idea, size, etc. while arranging a particular area. In a garment, grouping may be done for decoration at one particular area. For example in a single piece garment, a bow and decoration using beads may be done.

Emphasis through contrast of colour

An eye is quickly attracted by strong contrasts of light and dark or by contrasting colour. A striking contrast of light and dark are to be used in any decorative scheme of a considerable size. This application on garment emphasizes and makes the garment more attractive.

Emphasis through the use of decoration

Structural as well as decorative design should be so beautiful that it will enhance the beauty. A surface pattern that is good for a background has two main characteristics, first the design covers the surface rather closely, and second there is very little contrast between the lights and the dark. The garment may be decorated with embroidery, sequins, beads or lace.

By unusual lines, shapes or sizes

Emphasis can be gained by means of contrasts or unusual lines and colours. In garment designing and decoration, while making use of different lines like straight or curve, unusual lines are used to create emphasis. This is brought through princess lines, yoke designs etc.


4c. How much to Emphasize?

Emphasis may be regarded as a graded scale, and the greatest amount of force that can be used with good taste for each of these types will come at a different point on these imaginary scales. Levels of emphasis may be Emphatic, Dominance, Sub dominance and Subordinate The emphasis on garment should be made in such a way that it doesn’t dominate too much. It should emphasize the whole garment but should not spoil the effects through its domination. (Figure 6.33).


4d.  Where to emphasis?

Emphasis should be done at the reqiured points in the garment. Example: Waist line, sleeve edge etc.


4e. Emphasis in Colour

It can be achieved by contrast of hue, light and dark and brightness, the effect of every other colour used. In the arrangement, the emphasizing colour should be subordinated to the main colour to prevent confusion.


5. Balance

Balance in design is so natural that one is not even aware of it when it is present, but when it is violated there is a sense of discomfort or annoyance. (Figure 6.34).


5a. Formal balance

If objects are alike or are equally forceful in appearance they will attract the same amount of attention, therefore should be equidistant from the centre.


5b.  Informal balance

If, however, objects do not attract the same amount of attention, they must be placed at different distances from the centre. This second type of balance is called informal, or occult, or asymmetric balance. Informal balance is more subtle than formal balance and affords greater opportunity for variety in arrangements. Its success depends upon training the eye to recognize a restful composition.

Whether one uses formal or informal balance depends largely upon the following conditions.

·               The spirit of the age in which one lives

·               The use to which the garment is to be put

·               The type of people for whom the dress is planned

·               One’s own personality

Balance in Colour

Balance or the feeling of rest underlines the well known “Law of Areas”. The law of areas is also known as “The law of backgrounds”. This law states large areas of colour should be quite in effect, while small amounts may show strong contrast; the larger the areas quieter the colour and smaller the area the more striking the contrasts may become. This contrast may be done due to a decided difference in hue, in value or in intensity.

A small quantity of light value will balance a large amount of a dark value or small amounts of dark can balance large areas of light.

The hues which are directly opposite to each other in the chart form a natural balance because they complement each other in the eye. Balance of colours can also be achieved by selecting the varied amounts of bright and dull colours and by arrangement of these colours. By repeating some of the colours, colours or values can be balanced, in various parts of an arrangement this is also called a ‘crossing’ which has tendency to give a feeling of rest.

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