How to write garment & product descriptions

russel_garment_descriptionFirst I want to thank Russell for allowing me to use his sample (right) for this entry. This sketch and description is from his cutter’s must (pattern card). I neglected to ask if I should link to him so that oversight is mine. Second, this is not an invitation to weigh in with unwarranted criticisms, we should be grateful he was willing to be an example we could all learn from.

There are three types (levels) of garment or product descriptions:

  • Technical
  • Marketing
  • Legal

I am writing about technical descriptions which are the basis of all of these. Technical descriptions are useful to production and pattern people. They’re also helpful if you keep a database of styles and want to find one later by keywords. Technical descriptions are later massaged into consumer friendly marketing descriptions by copywriters (or yourself as the case often is). Legal ones are the last level of descriptions required if you import products under the Hamonized Tariff Schedule. The latter I won’t discuss at all but you can find a lot of information here under Section XI. All documents are available for download as needed. This site reprints HTS rulings which is also educational because product attributes are corrected.

Technical descriptions should include:

  1. Intended consumer if not obvious
  2. Product type (skirt, jacket, bag)
  3. Product styling (A-line, pea coat, hobo)
  4. *Fiber content
  5. Fabric type or finish if important [jacquard, print/woven (stripes and plaids), velvet etc]
  6. Garment or style attributes (key words)
  7. Closure (zippers, buttons, elastic etc)
  8. Size range
  9. *Nation of origin (construction)

*You are legally required to state the nation of origin and fiber content on web sites, catalogs etc although too few do it. Including these details in the technical description makes it easier for the person who will later write the sales copy. This will prevent errors in communication.

Who writes it and where:
The best person to write the technical description is usually the pattern maker. The description should be written on top or along side the sketch on the pattern card (cutter’s must). Alternatively, the designer can include the description on the sketch sheet but the pattern maker should correct or append it if needed.

Russell’s description was:

Woman’s notch collar jacket, with contrast collar and cuffs.

Here is how I would write the description (I’ve made up the fiber content because I don’t know it and omitted his cutting instructions which go somewhere else on the pattern card):

Ladies handwoven rayon fully lined jacket with contrasting silk/rayon velvet notched collar and cuffs. Side seam pockets with 4-bone button closure and polyester lining. XS-XL. Made in USA.

Here is the analysis of the description according to the list of attributes 1-9 above (3 was not necessary):


In short, there were no wasted words, no superfluous language.

If you have questions, feel free to submit a sketch and existing garment description so we will have more examples. I actually intended to write more about this but I’m running short of time today. I can amend if there’s sufficient interest.

If you’re really interested in what matters to consumers in product descriptions, see Apparel Descriptions in Catalogs and Perceived Risk Associated with Catalog Purchases which you can likely get through inter-library loan. Perhaps the abstract would be sufficient.

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  1. Dawn B says:

    Thank you. Very helpful. What do you do if you have purchased from a 3rd party supplier who doesn’t know or won’t tell you the country of origin of fabric. Can you still say Made in USA?

  2. Barb Taylorr says:

    I love your use of the word “massaged” in describing how marketing revises the technical description for sales purposes. What a positive and accurate way to sum up the relationship between production and marketing teams. Thanks.

  3. In this example, it seems that a new description would be formulated for each variation of fabric. Is that true? If this is true and there are 10 fabric variations for the same style# how would they be differentiated – new style number for each?

  4. Kathleen says:

    Note: I didn’t know if this jacket had pockets but I included them as an example attribute because it matters to many people. For example, I won’t buy jackets or pants without pockets, many women won’t buy pants with them. You might vacillate back and forth as to whether to include or conceal the information, trying to decide if it’s a plus or a minus but it’s best to be honest either way rather than risk returns or consumer annoyance. In my opinion, whether or not to include pockets should be made in the design phase; the description should dispassionately reflect what the product is.

    Dawn B wrote:

    What do you do if you have purchased from a 3rd party supplier who doesn’t know or won’t tell you the country of origin of fabric. Can you still say Made in USA?

    Technically, you’re supposed to list the fabric’s nation of origin too. Russell is a weaver who produces his own fabric with his own hands in the US. If he bought imported fabric, the last line of my example should instead read: “Made in USA of imported fabrics”. If the nation of import is prestigious, include that, ex: “Made in USA of Italian/Korean fabrics” (Korean fabric is prestigious among those in the know).

    If the supplier can’t or won’t tell you, it’s safe to assume the fabric is imported since most fabric is. If it were me, I’d omit fabric nation of origin if I didn’t know for sure. Otherwise you’re stuck admitting your supply chain is loose and have to write something like “Made in USA of mystery fabric”. The consumer may then wonder if you’re certain of fiber content which you could certainly verify with burn tests but…

    In sum, you could limit the last line to country of origin for the construction and it wouldn’t be a major crime but omitting the latter is misleading. I’m not the only consumer who reads “Made in USA” and mentally adds 25%+ to my budget of what I’m willing to spend to acquire it. Plenty of people won’t care, they’re shopping on price but you do want to snag those who are willing to pay a bit more for it.

    Russell wrote:

    Amazing, Just amazing! BTW – how did you know those were bone buttons? (don’t answer)

    Why wouldn’t I answer this when it speaks to your design integrity? People consistently underestimate what I can perceive in product lines based on photographs. You do many things well, one such thing is the quality continuity of your inputs. The gamut of button materials are plastic, mother of pearl, wood or bone. Plastic I could eliminate off the top; it is incongruous that you’d put a plastic button on goods you wove by your own hand. It’d be like a five star restaurant putting velvetta on pasta primavera. Wood was a possibility but typically, light colored woods are too soft (and inexpensive) for these price points. Tagua (technically a nut) was a possibility but it’s darker than these. The only remaining possibilities were mother of pearl and bone. The buttons weren’t shiny enough to be M of P so that left bone. Or horn, essentially the same thing.

    Ari wrote:

    Are fiber content/nation of origin the only two that one is legally required to include?

    Yes. No. Yes and no. Products regulated by the FTC (certain products like furnishings etc) must be labeled as what they are (product type). Kidswear being listed as the intended consumer falls in a grey area but I would think it is required altho not specifically stated in FTC regs because if you don’t, this could be seen as an attempt to mislead consumers under CPSIA and we really don’t want to go there right now.

    Russell then wrote:

    In this example, it seems that a new description would be formulated for each variation of fabric. Is that true? If this is true and there are 10 fabric variations for the same style#, how would they be differentiated -new style number for each?

    If it were the same exact style (used the same exact pattern) and the only difference was fiber content, you’d make the appropriate substitutions in each description. It’s not hard to do this because -of course- you’re using a different style number because the fabric has changed from one style to the other and each are listed separately. Yet another reason to use good style numbers :). You wouldn’t want a contractor to pull silk instead of rayon because you used the same style number.

    For consumers, you can make this seamless. Let’s say you have the one style, same pattern, in three different fibers. If you wanted to sell it as one group, you set up the order page in such a way that they could select the color/fiber content from a drop down list, after which the description for that item (and style number that applies to it) would load on screen.

    On wholesale order forms, you’d show the sketch and a description w/o fiber content. Below it you’d list the style number and each color/fiber content alongside. This also helps because there might be a slight price variation for each (but again, you might decide to average the costs and sell them at the same price). Ex:
    #1001 Blue silk $250 ($225 for avg group price)
    #1002 Red Rayon $225 ($225 ” “)
    #1003 Green Cotton/Rayon $200 ($225 ” “)

    If it is the same fabric content for the style (the “same” fabric), the only difference being colorways, you could use the same style number for all colorways. You’d control production with color codes and inventory with skus.

  5. KarenL says:

    Your description, while it’s very informative, left me expecting that the side seam pockets would be closed by the bone buttons. (I know, the picture clarifies, but…) It’s that danged punctuation and the “with” hanging in there.
    How’s about: “Ladies handwoven rayon fully lined jacket with contrasting silk/rayon velvet notched collar and cuffs, Side seam pockets, 4 bone-button closure and polyester lining. XS-XL. Made in USA.”

    I know, I know, it’s just way too obsessive, but anyway…

  6. Annik Van Steen says:

    Intended consumer if not obvious
    I keep seeing “Woman’s skirts”, and always look for the “Man’s skirts” section; and very seldom find one.

    I’m waiting for the first time I encounter a “Woman’s bra”, because I’ll look what they did for men.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I’m waiting for the first time I encounter a “Woman’s bra”, because I’ll look what they did for men.

    I’ll save you time searching and leave the link. hahaha

  8. Deana says:


    I was wondering what I can charge per description to a company that wishes for me to write their catalog descriptions for them? In other words, what is the going rate for that type of work?


  9. ruby says:

    you forgot to include number 3 (product styling) in your description. But, how would you word it in the description?

  10. Kathleen says:

    #3 overlapped with other attributes that were included and I would have had to create other highlight colors for just those elements (for example, 3+1, 3+2, 3+4 etc). Stripping the description to just #3 (so you can see that it was in there, the description would be

    … lined jacket with contrasting ….notched collar and cuffs. Side seam pockets with … button closure…

  11. Lori Freeman says:

    Hello. This article was extremely helpful! Prepping for a copywriter interview and your example of appropriate copy for the women’s jacket was BOSS! Thanks again!

  12. Anna says:

    I am a german tailor by profession. We do our technical product descriptions very differently – much more detailed. It would include the position of the items (like “in hip area”), the size and length of details (like “broad”, “slim” or “from … to …” etc.) and the type as well as location of respective decorative details like “topstitching along … and …”. We would first provide a list in bullets including:
    1.Intended consumer: …
    2.Product type: …
    3.Product style: …
    4.Silhouette: …
    5.Length of product: …
    6.Outer fabric: Name: … Material: …
    7.Lining: Name: … Material: …
    Then the detailed description follows, in short statements describing first the front from top to bottom, then the back. It covers for instance the form of collar or neckline, sleeve type, functional elements, decoration elements, fastenings…
    Technical things are taken to seriously in germany ;)
    Interesting how different countries handle this :)

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