How to make a line sheet

If you recall from last week’s How to issue style numbers pt. 127 and pt. 128, we’d been troubleshooting Danielle’s style numbers. In this post, I’ve put together the comments from the forum regarding the makeover of her line sheets. Before I start discussing the problems with these line sheets, you should know that Danielle’s line sheets are some of the best I’ve seen -and she’s a student. Many of the designers I know have line sheets that are much worse, if they have them at all. Below is the first sample of Danielle’s line sheet (the full size jpeg can be found here, about three quarters of the way down the page):

First, what is a line sheet? A line sheet is a document designed to assist buyers in the placement of their orders. It’s a sales tool which is not to be confused with a marketing tool. As such, line sheets depict styles in flat, black and white sketches. Line sheets are not to be confused with “look books”. On look books, Miracle says

First things first, your color sketches are what would be considered part of a “look book”. Look books usually have photographs and style numbers. They are visual tools to give buyers (and publication editors, etc.) a view of your line. Sometimes look books have product information, but usually they do not. Your line sheet is similar to a sketched look book and not a line sheet at all. A line sheet has all of the product information a buyer needs to order. ALL of it. Of course, it may not have your minimum order info (but it sometimes does).

So according to our resident retail buyer cum blogger Miracle Wanzo, Danielle needs to revamp her line sheets to include product information (you may want to reread Miracle’s post What is a Line Sheet). Miracle continues

I strongly suggest that you put separate categories of merchandise in separate documents. Accessories together, outerwear together and so on. If you need to merchandise items together, this is what a look book is for. But a line sheet should be categorized because it makes it easier for buyers to sort out their merchandising. This also makes it easier as your line grows, so it’s good to start now. You might think that you don’t have enough items to do that, but you will use more space on your line sheet if you incorporate my other suggestions, so don’t worry about it.

1. Put your company contact information on every single page. EVERY SINGLE PAGE. Or your sales rep’s contact info. Every single page because when you have multiple pages, sometimes buyers will unstaple the pages they don’t need.
2. Put your delivery dates and order cut off dates on every single page.
3. It’s a good idea to put your minimum order amount on the page as well. For example:

The Last Collection
Delivery 3/15 – 3/30
Order by 2/15
Minimum 4 pcs per style, per color

4. For each ITEM, you should have the following information: Style number, style description, fabric composition, wholesale price, color and sizing. For example:

a. Style #15001 Wide leg Capri
b. 100% linen (If you are grouping your items by fabric, which many companies do on their line sheets, then you can put it on the page once)
c. S,M,L,XL (if all your sizing is the same for every item on the page, then you can put it on the page once)
d. Available in white, cream, taupe and black (if all your colors are the same, then you can put it on the page once)
e. $60

Lastly, a line sheet needs to be functional more than it needs to be artistically pleasing. Your look book and photographs generate interest, your line sheets are a tool for the buyer to order. What you have to think of when laying out a line sheet is how easy it is to write an order based on the information you have presented and the layout.

Miracle revamped Danielle’s line sheet as shown below (here is the full size version). Miracle also qualifies her submission with “for what it’s worth, I do not believe this is the type of line sheet that an instructor would want to see”. While we all know there’s a big disconnect from what you’re taught in school vs what’s done in real life, follow the conventions of your environment. If your teachers don’t like technical data, don’t put it in there. In real life however, you’re going to have to have it.

Then Danielle wrote:

Okay, so I haven’t learned about line sheets yet. I thought they were just a sheet that showed the entire line. Thanks for taking the time Miracle! Do line sheets have technical drawing or photographs on them? Back views? Or are they presented in conjunction with a look book for visual reference? Are there swatches?

Line sheets do not have photographs. Sometimes they will have back views. I think that depends on how much room you have on your sheet and whether your sketches are clean enough to depict details (Danielle’s are nice and clean). Line sheets are a ubiquitous working document. It’s best to assume that a buyer will only see your line sheets without having seen the look book or any press materials. Your line sheets should contain sufficient information that any buyer could order your products without an order form.

About swatches, I’ve seen those done one of two ways. Either a company will make up separate swatch cards that are independent of the line sheets and pass those out in conjunction with line sheets or just as often, I’ve seen swatches glued to line sheets.

If you are producing a line or would hope to, you really need to read The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing because this entry (or this blog) cannot begin to teach you all you need to know. After all, if you didn’t know you needed line sheets, what else don’t you know? You can read sample chapters free online.

Why American Apparel has the best line sheets
What is a line sheet?
How to make a line sheet pt.2
Line sheet cover letters
Line sheets revisited

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  1. Lauren says:

    I am also a fashion student, and I just wanted to say that I find it very suprising that apparently other students are not taught about line sheets. My very first fashion class focused mostly on learning to draw flats correctly, and our final project was producing a line sheet for a full line of sportswear, it was very technical and there was nothing creative about it. “This is how it is in industry!” my Japanese professor drilled into us the whole time. And I go to a fine arts school! Are other schools just not teaching this stuff?

  2. Danielle says:

    I think it’s just that different professors have different experiences and priorities. For instance, my line presentation class had to be bumped at the last minute to an academic with a fashion history background, so obviously we can’t get that kind of drill. A professor can only do the best she can with the experience she has… that’s kind of the nature of school. I also have the same professor for fashion history and it’s an amazingly insightful class. I’m sure in your school you have the same “right prof wrong class, wrong prof wrong class” sort of roulette game, and only rarely (in my 4 years, about 3 times) you get lucky and get the right prof for the right class. It’s frustrating that as a student that I don’t have much control over this stuff. But there it is… school isn’t perfect, and it’s just too exhausting to expect it to be.

    That said, you can always go out into the world and find the answers when you can find the right person to ask, like Miracle and Kathleen.

  3. christy fisher says:

    Your are so correct, Danielle..unfortunately , there aren’t enough qualified teachers to do it all.
    Line sheets are usually presented in a “merchandising” or “selling/presentation” part of a design program.. and many schools do not have that in their curriculum (!)
    Many schools will have an emphasis on construction and/or and emphasis on sketching..but the designer winds up being “on their own” when they get out and it comes to actually selling their lines.
    I would like to see ALL design schools require at LEAST a 6 week program in marketing and presentation to their students.
    Art schools have the same problem.. they may teach a student how to paint, but then the student is under the illusion that there are “Patrons and backers and reps” who magically come out of the woodwork and take them under their wings..
    Line sheets are as important as the samples themselves.
    It is shocking that schools aren’t teaching this.
    Anna Sui’s samples were stolen after the last show and the only thing that kept her going in sales were some photos from the show..and her LINE SHEETS.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Every school is heavier in certain subjects. For example, at the school I went to, I don’t ever remember making a line sheet. My school was heavy into pattern making and IMO, between the two, I’d consider patterns to be the more important -as would any employer. If you go to work for someone, you’d use their template so big deal if you don’t know how to make a line sheet, you only need to know how to make one if you manufacture for yourself.

    The pattern making portion is another story. I know there’s a lot of schools out there who don’t have much in the way of pattern instruction, their students aren’t even taught to use tag board so they don’t even know what a real pattern looks like. I don’t see the failure to teach “real” line sheets to be a big problem. You can pick that up anywhere (if nothing, from copying someone else’s); and you can’t pick up patterns or pattern making in the same way.

  5. Danielle says:

    I’ve had a terrific grading prof, a terrific construction prof, and a firecracker of a cold war history prof, and a very thoughtful, patient fashion illustration prof. I think my school is fairly good at covering most things considered when I talk to people from other schools. Like anything there is something of value, and much of the rest is crap. I choose to be amused rather than outraged most of the time – but then I’m used to learning on my own, with or without help. If I concentrate on being curious and figuring out the content myself, the marks take care of themselves and I am the eye of the fashion school hurricane.

  6. Josh says:

    …but then I’m used to learning on my own, with or without help…

    Danielle, Good plan! Guerilla academics Kathleen calls it in her book. The ones that are more out to make it in this business, make it their business to learn more than their degreed counterparts. Although I think she may be speaking of people who don’t have fashion degrees etc. I think anyone, even those in college or out could become a guerilla academic. The part of the book I’m talking about is on page 209 “Emergence of the “Guerilla Academic”. I remember reading this for the first time at around 4 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep because I started reading on the book before I went to bed and this hit me like a fire. To me it was one of the most important parts in the book.

  7. Mike says:

    I was invited to this site by Andrea Baker from another forum. I am finding the information given by Danielle pertaining to line sheets very useful already. I have not gone to design school but from reading what Danielle said I am on the right track. My line is called Street Dunker, which started as a sports line and evolved into urban, golf and casual.

    How can I attach an example of my line sheets so that Danielle can give me further pointers?


  8. Carol Kimball says:

    Mike, have you checked out the Discussion Forum? The link is at the top left of the page immediately under the photo of Kathleen’s book (strongly recommend the investment).
    E me privately on how to post graphics – I just learned and the info is fresh in my mind. You can set up your own area in “If I were to produce a line” (no one’s going to care that you already have) and soon will have more suggestions and advice than you could possibly imagine.

  9. KB Young says:

    I went to college for graphic design but I design clothes for big and tall men and I’m in the process of designing womans wear. I have a patent on a collar and also a registered trademark. I’m in the position now with getting into stores by exhibiting at AmericasMart in Ga. in October. My preparation to have in my booth I was told is brochures, order forms, swipe card machine, samples and information about each item which is a line sheet. I also have to have specs of each sample for production not so much of the pattern. What is the format, template for line sheets then I’ll be ready. So could someone assist me with that. Thanks

  10. julia says:

    After reading the entry,”How to start a clothing line”, I was wondering how the time frame works?
    For example, is it possible to get your line into a few stores, ask for a rep. reference, send line sheets to showrooms all in on buying season? If not then by the time you go to market have you already produced several seasonal lines?

    Also, a question on the proper etiquette for presenting a line card; Is it acceptable to mail line cards to stores and showrooms or do you need to call first and ask if you can send them? I find it hard to imagine that orders are placed by just veiwing line cards and not seeing the samples in person.

  11. Kathleen says:

    Hi Julia
    An explanation of the operative conditions of the “time frame” you describe is all in the book. Since you just ordered it last friday, you haven’t had time to read those details -and more- iow, the questions you didn’t know you needed to ask.

    By “line cards” do you mean line sheets? I’m just asking because you may be talking about something else altogether, and it sounds like something expensive. Line sheets are simple b&w instruments on regular paper.

    I find it hard to imagine that orders are placed by just veiwing line cards and not seeing the samples in person.

    It happens every day. Whether that will be true of your line since it is new and untried, remains to be seen. This is why you need to show the line around, either yourself or a sales rep with actual product samples. Again, all of this (and a whole lot more) is in the book. Miracle has also written a post on using full color postcards which you may find an option.

  12. Michele Griffin says:

    I’m sorry to be a pain but I can’t seem to find “Specifically how to draw a technical drawing with specifications for a dress? When I draw the technical drawing, do I add the specifications on the same page? When I do the specifications, should I include all of the measurements? I read industrial sewing chapter in your book but It still isn’t clear to me? Sorry, Thanks

  13. Kathleen says:

    Hi Michele
    You can do one style per page. See pages 138-139. Pg. 139 is the blank form, 138 is filled out for you. If you look in the columns, there’s a place for seam class and seam specs aka seam allowance. The explanation for seam classes, as you know, was written in the chapter on industrial sewing. There’s a link in the sidebar to seam classes online.

    When I do the specifications, should I include all of the measurements?
    That depends. Are you spec’ing this for a contractor or a pattern maker? Better yet, is there anyone you can lasso into doing it for you (pattern maker). Is it required? What kind of product is it? I think people have gone too nutso over this and some products really don’t need it. Now, if you were making something like baby slings or something easily measured via FIXED reference points (“waist” “bust” and “hip” can be nebulous regions) then yeah, do it. I’d need specs to make a bag or a baby sling. If it’s at the pre-patterning stage and it’s a garment, you may be boxing in the range of interpretive effect a pattern maker would put into it based on the flow and weight of the fabric. I’d do whatever your service provider wanted.

  14. Sara says:

    Can anyone tell me what promgran they are using to create Lines sheets in such a way as shown above? I’ve been trying excel, powerpoint, and word, and am just looking for a more simple template..

    Any ideas would be appreciated.

  15. portia says:

    Sara, I realize this response to your email is coming months after the fact but I felt it was worth adding here. Simply put, I use Adobe Illustrator the same as I use for my sketches in general. A basic template can be mad from Excel or word but sketch placement and any other design element is what Illustrator is excellent for. Good luck.

  16. Avery says:

    Hi there everybody,

    I have been putting together my first propper line sheet. However we print our clothes, and i’m wondering whether to include the prints in the line sheets as well as shapes of the garments.

    Thanks for your feedback, I love this site!

  17. kevin says:

    my name is kevin and im currently in the process of presenting my line sheet to stores. but after reading these post i cant find anyone who has comments on how to verbally present their line sheet. any help?

  18. Kathleen says:

    Hi Kevin. Line sheets are designed to be self-explanatory, you shouldn’t need to present them (explain) verbally. If you’re mentioning them as part of a package presentation of your line, you should just say “and here’s the line sheets”. Maybe you mean something else, this seems to obvious so I suspect I’m missing something.

  19. Linda says:

    This site has been very helpful to me in creating my line sheets. But now I need to know what is the standard for a Open to Buy for dept stores? What month should I present my line sheet for Spring 2011 delivery. Is there a formula for this or does every dept. store have their own Open to Buy time frame?

  20. kathleen says:

    This is a very simple question but the answer is so complex it defies a one or two sentence response -which is what one would expect if they’re just getting into it. Truth be told, any answer we could give wouldn’t be of service because we don’t have enough information from you in which to frame the response. Among them, are you *sure* you want to sell to department stores and are you ready to play on that level?

    All of the nuances and influences bearing on your question have been discussed at length in my book. Specific time lines developed around your particular niche can be explained in our forum if they have not been already.

  21. Candace says:

    Such great info… I am wondering, what if the products are one-of-a-kind looks. I am a novice costume designer. I don’t make the same costume twice. I have been invited to have a table/booth at a fashion event and I’m wondering what is the best thing for me to present? My future costume looks depend on what I am hired for. What would be best to present at an open forum- similar to an expo? A look book, porfolio, a line sheet, or all three? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  22. Kathleen says:

    Both look books and line sheets represent a product line -so neither would apply to you since you’re not representing one. That leaves a portfolio to represent your past work.

  23. Oriole says:

    As a side note, having read this way after the fact. I didn’t see mention that dresses are not sold to the same buyer as the group would be, so the one dress doesn’t really belong in this group/line sheet in the same way that accessories don’t belong.

    It would be better to have a line of dresses that could be presented to the dress buyer.

  24. Dane says:

    I typically produce one of a kind pieces that are not normally replicated… Often I showcase these at events or minor fashion shows… How should I present these items? Should I still use a line sheet? or Should I start producing a small run of each dress? Any suggestions?

  25. Kathleen says:

    As I explained to Candace above, line sheets represent a product line so it wouldn’t apply to you.

    Deciding to produce a small run of each dress is a separate matter, a departure from what you’re doing so with all that goes into it (line sheets being the least of it) I would worry more about coming to that decision and focusing on making that happen for you. I suggest reading my book.

  26. Eric Ni says:

    Hi Kathleen. We have a free line sheet creator for your users, that automatically creates line sheets for you based on the products you select. Once products are uploaded, it only takes minutes to start creating line sheets and custom line sheets. Please check it out.

  27. Alexandra says:

    Hi there,
    How many of the line sheets to I need to bring to a trade show? So far I have two copies which I plan to have on the table. Is the line sheet something that the buyer takes with them? I’m going to the Magic show in Las Vegas and this is my first show. I don’t know if I only need an example of my line and then can email the pdf or if this is something that you give to the buyers? Please advise.
    Thank you!

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