A Complete Look at the Sample Making Process

sample making process

There are so many steps to building your fashion business. One of the most important of these steps is taking your creative ideas from concept to completion.

It doesn’t matter how many books you read, your first season can be quite confusing. Especially when you are a complete beginner. There’s the tech pack, patterns, protos, pattern revisions, sample making, more revisions, second samples. When does production actually start?

You may think that having a Tech Pack and Patterns are all you need to get your collection produced, and that is most of what you need, but do not underestimate how important garment samples truly are.

 Garment Samples have many stages:

  • 1st proto
  • Fit Sample
  • Sales Sample
  • Size Run
  • Pre-Production

Are they Really Necessary?

We’ve all gone shopping and had some sort of nightmare experience where what was advertised was very different than what you had in front of you (online shopping anyone?). Maybe the arms fit you strange. Maybe the fabric began pilling after 2 washes. Garment samples allow you to minimize issues, as much as possible, before production even begins.

This is the first time that you see your design in a three dimensional light. Rough protos or first protos do not typically include extras such as bags and trims. It is purely to allow you and your designer/pattern maker to focus on construction.

This is your first opportunity to see how the garment comes together and if it is the shape you want.

Fit Samples Vs. Sales Samples

Your fit sample is your chance to see your garment on the body. Sometimes (very rarely) everything is perfect. Sometimes nothing is how it looked on the page. But, more times than not, there are small things that simply need to be fine tuned and adjusted. Fit samples and sales samples are two very different things.

The fit sample is exactly what is sounds like, it is a production of your design specifically for fit. This sample does not have your brand-specific trims, but does use your fabric. This gives you the opportunity to really find the flaws and fix them from the beginning.

The sales sample is a version of your design that includes all brand-approved fabric and trims. This is the version that you would show to buyers, when presenting your collection. This also gives you the chance to test trim and fabric combinations. Another step in the fine-tuning process.

Isn’t One Enough? Why You Need to Make Several

There are many reasons why it is recommended to make more than one sales sample. First being the many partners in development. You have your designer, your pattern maker, each factory that you plan on receiving quotes from, photographers, buyers… and if you only have one, then each of them will have to wait until they receive it from someone else. It slows an already long process down, and if something happens to it, well, you are out of luck!

You don’t have to cut multiple samples at every stage. You may want just one proto while you are working out the design, but get a second sample when you enter the next stages.

Real-life Scenario

Say you have only one sales sample. It fits perfectly; everything is exactly how you want it. Now, your pattern maker needs the sample for pattern revisions, and your manufacturer also needs to use your sample for price quotes and sourcing, and you also have a buyer interested in your collection and needs to take a look at the sample to evaluate. Oh, and you’re working on your website and have a photo shoot scheduled for next week…

With only one sample you have created quite a bit of congestion between these very necessary components of your business and they will all need to wait their turn. This means a much longer turn-over rate because you have now gone to the bottom of their list all over again.


JLD StudiosJLD studios offers Apparel & Textile Design, Technical Design, Patternmaking, Packaging, and Manufacturing Support. We are passionate about seeing designers succeed by providing the tools to help promote growth regardless of company size.

From initial design to your technical package, we work with you and help to guide you through the entire development process.


StartUp FASHION is an online community where independent designers and emerging brands are coming together, helping one another, forming friendships, collaborating, letting off steam, sharing victories, and belonging to a network of people who get it; who are doing it too. We’re a place to access and discover the tools and information you need to build your fashion business. We help you define your path and give you the guidance, encouragement, and resources to follow that path.

  1. Starr K King

    Thank you for being so detailed. This has given me a much better understanding of the sample making process.
    How do I get started picking the fabrics for my samples?

  2. Patricia Kim

    If you’re going to be attending a tradeshow, do you need to make samples in every color that you’re offering for a specific style? I have about 9 different styles and this would mean making almost 27 different samples (3 color ways each). Wasn’t sure what brands do at tradeshows to show different colors/fabrics? Making a sample for each will be so expensive… Thanks!

    • Nicole Giordano

      You don’t. Though keep in mind the samples you do make are usually the ones that sell the most. Meaning, if the buyer sees it they are more likely to order it. If you have any prints at all, they should definitely be sampled. Hope that helps!

  3. Kim S.

    Great article. I remember my first sample making process all too well. Very confusing and daunting to say the least. But once you do it you get the hang of it, you are able to make decisions with more precision going forward. It is definitely a rite of passage!

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