What is a tech pack?

I’m in the process of planning a series of articles on technical specification packages, in part to explain some of the features of the new PDM Style File software from Patternworks but it should apply across the board. Using the example of Style File makes it easy to do this because of the many different types of reports it will generate -depending on the phase of planning, testing and production. I don’t have another PDM package so I’d be stuck cobbling spreadsheets together. Since spec or tech packs can be so complex, I’d like to break it up into easier to digest chunks. Likewise, every company has different needs. I’m trying to get a cross section of ideas to determine what some/many/most users would or could use for any given phase. Here is an example from the design phase (only), your process may vary.


  • What sort of documentation should be generated at the outset?
  • What would you give a pattern maker?
  • What does the pattern maker give the sample maker?
  • What is returned to you?

If my two cents as a pattern maker would help your thinking, I’d want:

  • Either a sample garment to work from (pull measures) or your basic measurements be they actual measures or the measures of your fit model or profile customer.
  • A clean, line drawing of the style.
  • If you knew you wanted a particular seam, I’d want the name, number, description or jpeg of it (Style File will have a database of all known seam classes you can drag and drop into your sketch).
  • A complete set of target specs for details like pocket sizes, etc
  • Preferred seam allowances.
  • Sample fabric.
  • The results of any shrink testing you’d done. If not, I’d want to do it myself before making anything. Does it go without saying that this includes fabrics for production -all of them- contrasts, trims, any kind of fabric component?

By way of further illustration as to how a product like Style File facilitates this, you can use the software to:

  • Itemize sizes, measurements, grades (if known) per size.
  • Create a sketch sheet (drag and drop your line drawing)
  • List specifications for seams (again, drag and drop seam graphics from the Style File database)
  • Track the testing process to quantify shrink percentages or other dimensional changes -of all goods used in the product.

Now, assuming I’d made the pattern and done all my portion of the work, I’d add documentation with the software that would integrate with my CAD system to automatically load all the points of measure (POM) into the technical package. POM isn’t something I’ve done in the past because few have asked for it or expected it and also, I’m usually working off of known quantities. Is that something you do or would like to do (or have done)?

With the seam specs, creating the sewing instructions are as easy as drag and drop. With fabric information and size specs, we get allocation and costing. All of these details (“values”) are automatically loaded into a given report as soon as you select its creation. You never have to re-enter or copy and paste information from one report into another -being a relational database. Changes are handled the same way. If you change the zipper size or sewing process in any given form, it automatically propagates across all files for that style number. One possible downside though. If you haven’t been issuing good style numbers, you will definitely be forced to start.

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday (Jeff, a pattern maker in CO). We both agreed that doing tech packs has always been a hassle, cutting and pasting from different spreadsheets, and trying to make CAD reports resemble something discernible for literate people has always been too much trouble to the extent that we won’t do them. I’d always thought that the biggest value of a tech designer is that it’s their job to do all of this stuff. With this software, it really makes it seamless with just a tiny bit more work (that one arguably should be doing anyway) and it could end up becoming another revenue stream. Either that or bonus service we can offer to the customer that our colleagues don’t. Speaking as a service provider that is.

Anyway, I’m looking for some feed back with which to structure the future entries. Can you give me some hints as to how the structure of technical packages work in your business across all processes? If you can. I know that’s a lot to ask for. Whatever ideas you have are great, no matter how demanding. Case study anyone?

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  1. Trish says:

    I am so happy that you are opening this blopic (blog topic, LOL!!!) I know that my students and I are going to enjoy this one.

    I hope Edith or Vanessa take the time to make comments. Both of them work with tech paks daily.

    When I retire (it WILL happen) I hope I still have enough steam to start a service business. I love this end of things… well, I frankly love the whole manufacturing end of the industry.

  2. Esther says:

    As a pattern maker/tech designer I created a collection of spreadsheets/workbooks for a couple of companies that had little other data management system in place. It is exactly as you described – cutting and pasting, updating changes, etc. The work flow is not too different either. Years ago I used a PDM program from Gerber and it worked the same way but was slooow. I imagine it is much better today. I look forward to improving upon the system I already have in place and be able to transition to something like Style File (hope its reasonably priced!).

    I have found POM’s to be invaluable when doing QA’s from the factory floor.

  3. Dana says:

    In my opinion, a tech pack has multiple functions at various stages of the process and it’s a document that is built in stages.

    From a design/development standpoint a tech pack has to communicate the designers aesthetic intent so that a pattern maker can get as close visually to the designers look and so that the garment will stay within company fit requirements. The designer may not know what seam types she wants but must know where she wants topstitching for example. She also needs to be able to communicate dimensions. Not necessarily exact numbers but enough to illustrate design intent. Roughly how full is the sweep? Where will the skirt fall on the leg?This is done through a flat sketch and a set of initial measurements or by referencing a block or previous season style. Any placement issues of pockets, trim details, any finishing details that would be important to design, so that initial sampling can be as close as possible.

    Once the design/development/fit process is underway, then a tech pack serves as documentation of the agreed upon construction methods, seam types, significant points of measure, and can be used in the costing process. In my opinion it’s a document that is built by everyone involved. If the designer doesn’t have experience with seam types, the pattern maker or production person will and this is part of the discussion during development.

    My tech packs are used in the fitting stage to document what I got in my sample vs what I asked for and what changes might have been made as the designer/tech designer review fit samples. At this point I would also document labeling and packaging expectations if not already completed.

    At the point at which fit is finalized, grading requirements are added to the pack. Once production is ready to start, the tech pack becomes the reference document, the contract by which all parties operate. When product is finished, the pack is used as reference to verify you got what you asked for and if you didn’t, it’s the tool for proving what the standards were. Very important when producing overseas. Points of measurement are used again to verify sizing quality, labeling is checked, anything the would be/should be part of the routine QA process. The tech pack becomes the bible.

    I have lots of info on this Kathleen. Heading off for spring break tomorrow so not near the phone but feel free to email me.


  4. Esther says:

    I agree that a tech pack becomes a de facto contract between you and your manufacturer. I don’t know how many times an overseas contractor decided to switch materials or trims. I included actual swatches of everything – fabric, buttons, ribbons, etc – plus an actual sample. A complete tech pack (aka product package) gives you support in case of problems.

  5. mack says:

    In my business tech packs have a wide range of uses and preformed different functions for different people throughout the process.

    I really agree that the TP is the “contract” its the “bible” of that garment. It tracks everything from design decisions to fit changes to lab dips.

    We would start by building a design development pack; This includes flat sketches, fabric swatches and info, embellishments, artwork and placement, trim info, and later; strike offs, lab dips etc.
    This pack gets handed to the pattern maker and resurfaces again later in production when it comes time to order trims, resource trims, do pricing etc.

    After the pattern maker has made the 1st pattern (they add the cutters must and info to the TP) and a first sample has been made, a tech person will take measurements and add it into their part of the TP. Each next prototype and fitting is recorded here as a record. These changes are also made on the master pattern and the design pack as well. The package acts as a master (or gospel as i say) whatever is in there is what has gone to sewers/manufactuers etc. You can always check back to your TP in responce to something coming back incorrect to see if it was your instruction or their mistake.

    All of the files were standard templates that we built in excel. Its simple to drop in sketches and make changes. The files are small so quick to work on/send.

    Later on when we went into the juniors market our designers built TPs all on illustrator, these files became HUGE once you dropped in graphics etc, We would send pysical TPs to Asian factories so it didnt really matter what size the files became, although they could get clunky to work on.

    In the end the TP does take a lot of time to put together, but really saves time in production and anytime anyone has a question its quick and easy to answer. In the end you have a great reference to refer back to if you ever want to remake part of a style.

  6. Big Irv says:

    Is it possible to highlight how many users this new system can support ? I know in many cases, several people can be involved in the creation of tech pack and this can sometimes lead to problems if one simple change or instruction is not acknowledged.
    Could a technical designer working from home have access to all the info while the tech pack is being created or finalized ? Could a contractor have online access ? If several people are working on making a new tech pack using Style File, is everyone given authorization to make changes ?

  7. Jennifer E. says:

    Tech packs to me are process as much as a document. In the early stages they are an illustration and a materials list that follows the samples through pattern amking, sample making fit meetings etc.. Then it grows as information is determined to become a complete document containing all:

    illustrations of the details including hangtag and label placement diagrams
    folding directions
    packaging requirements
    how to measure guide
    finish measurements with tolerances
    material list for all colors ways

    plus a cover sheet listing amendments to the specification pack after it was released to production.

  8. Bennett says:

    Now I know what a tech pack is, but i know a lot of companies have adapted the concept to fit their needs of the business. my question is does anyone have an example of a T.p. they can provide. I am attempting to start a small business and can use the help. THank you very much

  9. Kathleen says:

    What are some online companies that I could contact to evaluate their technical Package service? I know about WFX or World Fashion Exchange. Any others you could suggest?
    Thank you for your help.

  10. Kathleen says:

    What are some online companies that I could contact to evaluate their technical Package service?

    There’s tons of companies producing PLM/PDM packages. For the big players, download the Software Scorecard from Apparel.

    I know about WFX or World Fashion Exchange.
    This is the same company, same product, just a different landing site.

    Any others you could suggest?
    Yes, StyleFile by Patternworks Inc. It is too new to be included in the scorecard. It was developed by a pattern making firm for (originally) in house use to manage their customers tech, pdm and plm packages. Then they created a login so their customers could use the web interface to use the software to manage their own product lines. After customers clamored for a couple of years that they wanted to run the software on their own systems, Patternworks developed their software as a stand alone product. I’ve been beta-testing it and have no reservations about it; it’s a phenomenal product. If it has a downside, I’d have to say it’s the cost. Because it is so inexpensive, people think it’s not any good. They’re used to paying $100,000 for a product that isn’t as comprehensive and configurable. This program has some really exciting features. I’ve been waiting for years for a product that would be useful and affordable for individuals and small companies.

    The other thing about pdm/plm packages is, that because they’re so expensive, most small companies and individuals have to lease software by the month (WFX etc). Other than that you’re required to an annual commitment with no money back guaranteed, what they promise you for $85 a month is read only; what you’d have to pay for a contractor (for example) to access it to get the cut sheets. To actually USE it to input data to generate reports, is another service level, depending on what you want to do, usually $250-$500 a month. They put the $85 a month up there to snag you but like I said, that’s what it costs for a user you designate to print out orders, data or reports you’ve created at the higher service level. What’s really great about it is that pattern makers and tech designers putting together packages can afford it. Most are using things they’ve cobbled together. It’s allowing me to offer services to my clients I couldn’t before. Not being able to afford the big bucks, I’d left this potential revenue source on the table. I couldn’t take the work.

    Style File is actually ready to go, ready for purchase now but because they’re still compiling documentation, they haven’t made an official announcement. I’d get a demo of that before I’d look at anything else. This program costs $2,000. and I think they’re also developing a monthly rental program too. Check that out before you buy anything else.

  11. Seema says:

    Hi ! I am a garment professional. Can you advise how much does a freelancer charge for creating a tech pack with all details, if only a hand-drawn rough sketch is provided by the customer ?

  12. Jennifer says:

    I want to learn how to make tech packs. Can anyone suggest the best college course etc. that I could start with? I already graduated from Sheridan College with Fashion Design, but I want to add this skill set. Any suggestions? Thank you

  13. Shikha says:

    Tech pack is a document where you acn come to know about the complete inforation of the product i.e. a season; content of the product; size of the product; how to do the labelling and where to place it.
    illustrations of the details including hangtag and label placement diagrams
    folding directions
    packaging requirements
    finish measurements with tolerances

  14. Jill Homiak says:

    AMAZING POST! One of my favorites because it neatly outlines what the DE needs to give that pattern maker for the tech specs.

  15. Zayra says:

    Hi Kathleen!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful information! It is helping me a lot with my class project!
    Also, I want to congratulate you for your book! you did a great job! I love It!

  16. Eddie says:

    Hi all,
    I’m business process consultant. Now I’m working on global retailer. They said to me, “Tech pack layout is very different by countries. I found tech pack sample layout from Google image search.

    For example;




    Does anyone know why tech pack layout is very different each country? Any reason?

  17. joe says:

    does anyone have a example of a mens woven dress shirt techpack it has to have english and chinese translation of point of measurements.

    i’m searching for the measurement terminology not your actual measurements

    please help

  18. Cindy Ingram says:

    I have been a pattern maker for 20 years in all areas of the industry from Coutoure fashions, bridal to sportswear. Tech packs are not helpful. (waste of time and money) After pattern is created, size specs established and sent to grader it is definitely easier and quicker to use an exel spreadsheet for specs to accomany patterns. Graders that use Gerber or Tukatec can help with those. I make the first pattern cut the sample, take it to one of our sample makers to sew the prototype just to make sure pattern is correct and fit is correct and then on to the grader it goes. JUST THAT SIMPLE. Make pattern, cut out sample and make sample in less that 48 hours it is ready for grading and into production in less than a week.

  19. Kathleen says:

    Cindy & Andrea: if you’re working in a plant where they do their own production, I completely agree. It could likewise be true if the operation has close ties and an ongoing history with a stable contractor. What you’re saying has been my experience the first half of my career -and is also my preference.

    However, things change. With outsourced production, many contractors won’t take work unless you provide this documentation so it’s not up to the designer, pattern maker etc. You do it if your contractor won’t take the job otherwise. Similarly, if the company sells to large retailers, this documentation is sometimes required by the buyer before the company can be vetted during the vendor compliance process (I suspect this aspect as it relates to sizing will become very prevalent, the writing is on the wall so to speak). So while you may be right, the conditions of sale and production have changed so the producer doesn’t have the option of not “wasting the time and money” of tech pack creation.

    Even so, I completely agree that many specs the pattern maker may get from a client are insane or impossible so you either refuse the job or help them -for a fee- to develop something workable. It’s just how things are now.

  20. Lucia says:

    I am a beginning freelance fashion designer looking to get contracted for outsource design work. Most clients require tech/spec packs and since I am illiterate in this area I was wandering whether anyone would be so kind as to please familiarize me with the basics of doing them. I am at the stage when I just hand draw my designs, no illustration, just hand drawn technical drawings. I would like to progress to using some kind of CAD and be able to do proper spec packs. So as I said, could someone help me out with any advise or possibly direct me to a forum suited for beginners? (- I am having a hard time understanding the technical side of this discussion) Thanks in advance.

  21. Kathleen says:

    Lucia, there are links in this thread to discussions related to tech packs, I’ve written about them a lot.

    There are two ways to get things done, free or fast. Fast usually isn’t free and free usually isn’t fast. I’m guessing you’re on a budget which means you’ll have to invest the time of following all the links in this post and those left in comments. For example, the link to “best technical software for small companies” has a list of entries at the end of the article that is just what you need. And each of those posts also contain useful links and content. There are also book reviews of spec books so you might consider buying one. There is a forum where we discuss all this and could be more direct with assistance to include samples etc but you would have to join because it is not public.

    Good luck on your new path!

  22. Emily Sifrit says:

    I have found the information here extremely helpful so far. I am a designer, that currently does all aspects ( pattern making, constructing, etc) mainly because my focus is couture, one of a kind. However, I have been designing seasonal collections for local shows, and would like to research for future plans. If I do not plan to outsource overseas, is there a reason investing in a program for flats would be necessary?

  23. Kathleen says:

    You don’t need to invest in software if all you want is to render flats. There is no reason you couldn’t draw them by hand. If you prefer software, many people like Inkscape (inkscape.org) and it is free.

  24. Lizette Tejada says:

    I have worked in the industry as a patternmaker, marker maker, design assistant and now as quality assurance/fit tech. Tech packs are an essential record of a garment’s history and developments. I absolutely couldn’t do my job without them!

  25. Elizabeth Hoye says:

    Is there any updates to where StyleFile might be found? Are they still operating? I tried to go to their website and the link doesn’t work.

  26. bitania desta says:

    i’m 4th year garment engineering student in bahirdar university in ethiopia. i love this department but it’s new even in east Africa. every body doesn’t know about it,we don’t have enough soft ware,training center … I need your advise how can i deal with this department.specially in developing country like ethiopia&what books do i have to read to withstand those challenges.thx for reading!
    if u have any advise& assignment here it’s my email aynzeni21@gmail
    thx again

  27. tricia says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    I am a technical designer living in CO. who just started a service company where my main service is technical design and tech packs. I have worked in the larger company active industry for many years as a fit technician, assistant designer, product development manager, etc.

    I actually find it really surprising now that I have started working almost all domestically that so many vendors are off put by the technical package, in many cases telling designers they do not need them at all!

    In my experience (especially outdoor clothing) the technical package is used in every part of making clothing and accessories, and serves as the document to hold all information for each style…. helping w/ sales materials, costing, fabric and trim database and ordering, fitting and block pattern development, and even funnels into Q&A. When you take your production overseas you are usually in a full package arrangement with your vendor, so a tech pack serves as top priority- even above patterns (which some big companies do not ever receive from the factory.) It serves as documentation to what you are asking your vendor for and really helps to dial in the product.

    The benefits are immense… and I would think it would be a great benefit for a designer to come to a pattern drafter/sewing vendor equipped w/ a technical package. It at least would save time…
    Unfortunately some of my clients are being advised other wise after they have used my services by the vendors that follow me in the process.

    Can you tell me why vendors who have been working in the industry for years are put off by tech packs? Is it too “new” school? I would love to chat with you and share some information on tech packs and hear your thoughts as a service provider…

  28. Kathleen says:

    Can you tell me why vendors who have been working in the industry for years are put off by tech packs? Is it too “new” school? I would love to chat with you and share some information on tech packs and hear your thoughts as a service provider…

    I cannot speak for anyone else but I have some ideas.

    First, you must have a tech pack if going overseas; that’s how they draft (to measure, point A to B, to C etc because they don’t have bodies to use for comparison). It’s also a way of covering their butts contractually. Lastly, it is, essentially, the only communication tool they have.

    With domestic providers… we’ve seen tech packs being oversold. A lot of people want to do the right thing, but being new, don’t have the skills to discriminate between technical designers. So, we often end up with tech packs (made by well meaning recent grads) that create more confusion than clarity. Many of these tech designers don’t know how to make patterns or know much about industrial construction so were products constructed as per the tech package, they would cost more with no compensatory quality trade off.

    I think that most experienced sewing contractors have the expectation that customers come in with a production ready pattern, since few contractors of that caliber have pattern makers on staff. This is why it can be critical to have a pattern maker to make referrals if you want to get in with the best providers. Here’s a post I wrote about that.

    Even domestically, as a pattern maker, tech packs can be useful in cases where the designer is struggling to articulate their wishes. Going to a tech designer first, can reduce a lot of time for me so I can see it both ways.

  29. May says:

    This may differ from company to company but generally speaking, who or what team is responsible for making the tech packs? Is it just one team/position or is it a contribution of the designers, tech desig, and creative tech if there is such a team?

  30. Jen says:

    Hi Kathleen, thank you so much for posting on this topic. I don’t have experience in this area but was looking for information on what is needed in a tech pack and what tools are used. Found this very informative!

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