• March 14, 2018

Mastering the most important step in clothing development: sample making

Mastering the most important step in clothing development: sample making

1024 288 Natalie Spira

Creating a fashion line is a dream for many but a reality for few; the process can be long and demanding, especially if you don’t have experience or a helping hand to guide you. However, if you’ve come this far, you’re almost done. From tech packs to pattern making, everything you’ve done up to this point plays a part in the outcome of the final step in clothing line development: sample making.

Sample making is the final, and arguably the most critical step of apparel manufacturing. While the previous stages give you an inside look at your idea, sample making brings your design to life. Using your instructions and materials from the earlier stages of the design process, a sample maker will make multiple samples of your garment, each suited for different applications. Depending on who you ask, there can be anywhere between 4 and 13 different types of samples, but here are the top nine you should know about:

Proto Sample/Muslin

The first stage of sample making actually begins with pattern making. During the patternmaking stage, a muslin or proto sample reflects your design. This rough prototype, made of cloth or another fabric, showcases the measurements, fit, and drape of your design. While most pattern makers provide muslins as part of the pattern making stage, some may not offer them. Any sample maker should have no problem making one for you, but using a full-service production house can help you avoid hiccups like this altogether.

Muslin Fabric

Fit/First Sample

The fit sample is the first iteration of your design that incorporates both your fabric and the fit of your garment. This stage won’t include most trimmings and details, but it uses the same material as the final version. The purpose of this step is to develop a reference for how the garment should fit while smoothing out the necessary construction details. The outcome is a prototype that accurately represents the desired look of the clothing.

Sew By

This stage reflects all of the necessary construction details to produce the final garment. Fabric, sewing, trimming, and all other details are included so factories can estimate the cost of production. If you want to save time and money, your prototype sample could also be considered the sew by, but this is not always necessary with more detailed garments.

Pre-Production Sample

Once you’re happy with the previous iterations, you need to approve your sample. That sample goes on to be called the pre-production sample and sets the standard for future bulk orders from your factory. The pre-production sample allows your producer to test the pattern, cost-effectiveness, and consistency in replicating your design for production, which can help you budget. Ideally, pre-production samples are used as showroom & sales samples, so it’s important to make sure your design feels perfect.

Showroom/Sales Sample

Showroom samples and sales samples are virtually the same things, just with target audiences. When your pre-production sample is approved, you’ll create duplicates that will be sent out to potential buyers and marketing channels. This includes sales agents, fashion buyers for retailers, fashion editors, and more. Your design will undergo a few more small tweaks before it’s finished, but this sample is an accurate representation of what customers will receive.


Now that you’re diving into sample making, download the production checklist we use with all of our clients to see everything you’ll need to get your clothing line started – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too. 


Garment Performance Test

The garment performance test stage is essentially quality control before your design goes into production. The sample will go through physical and chemical testing to ensure it holds up in different conditions and over time. Some of the tests include shrinkage, colorfastness, seam performance, bleeding, and so on.

Sizing Sample

Sizing samples test a factory’s capability to produce your garment in all of your intended sizes. This step is similar to the showroom and sales samples in that it includes all fabrics, details, and trims of your final design, but scaled to smaller and larger sizes for consistency.

Production Sample

The production sample is your garments final approved sample. This sample will be a template for all future productions. The number produced may vary, but this stage acts as a test run that includes all colorways and sizes. Your factory may pull a percentage of your first production run to check consistency and sizing. However, if your sales samples are already accurate, keeping this percentage low can help cut costs.

Final Sample

Ship Sample

The ship sample is the final stage in the sample making process. It is precisely what buyers and customers will receive upon your lines’ release. This stage includes all of the details from each of the previous steps, plus things like additional quality control, folding, labeling, and packaging.

The sample making stage is arguably the most crucial stage of the apparel manufacturing process, and for a good reason. This stage brings together all of your hard work and commitment.  It relies on the previous steps to a create an accurate representation of your final design. It may seem long and repetitive, but sample making requires meticulous attention to detail to ensure that your garment turns out as you intended.

Most sample makers are great at what they do, but everyone has their own way of doing things. It’s smart to weigh your options to give you a better idea of what your sample making process will entail. Independent sample makers should have no problem working with your materials from the previous stages. However, that is not always the case. Full-service production houses provide consistency and convenience, streamlining your operation in a way that isn’t always possible with independent specialists.


Now that you know what goes into sample making, download the production checklist we use with all of our clients to see everything you’ll need to get your clothing line started – and we’ll throw in our costing template, fabric & trim directory, and development cheatsheet too. 

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