What garment measurements go into an apparel tech pack?

Once the factory finishes the 1st sample and you agree to place the order, the factory will do what is called grading. Grading is the process of getting all the measurements from size medium down to XXS and up to XXL. The process of grading produces the measurements for all sizes.

Using the graded measurements, the factory will make a full size set of samples so you can check the fit across all sizes.

Grading is not a simple task. You do not just add 5 mm to each measurement. Grading requires technical knowledge and experience.

Once all the grading is approved, the final measurements are listed on the measurements page and used for quality control checks.

The Spec Manual by Michele Wesen Bryant and Diane DeMers provides fashion professionals and start-ups with a comprehensive guide for measuring garments using standard industry practices.

The measurement page is accompanied by an illustration that shows where to measure distances in accordance with the measurement chart. Double headed arrows are named with letters that correspond to letters on the measurement chart. In cases where the end of an arrow is not clear then describe in words where to measure from. Often it is necessary to have both a front and back view.

Diep has made hundreds of tech packs for her clients. She includes the following in her tech packs: 1 size-medium measurement chart with measuring instruction, 1 sample request measurement chart and 1 grading size set measurement. For an extra fee she can do a full size sample measurement chart, pre-production sample checking measurement chart and 1 measurement chart for QA/ QC checking.

I can introduce you to tech pack services in Vietnam.

Should I include a sample request in my apparel tech pack?

The first order of business after getting a reasonable price quote is to get a sample made. Have your sample request ready in the tech pack to present to the factory. Include the measurements for the sample size which is usually medium. Include the allowable tolerances so the factory can anticipate your quality control standard.

Leave empty space to record the measurements of the first sample and make notes. You can even leave room to record the results of a second sample as illustrated below.

Including the sample request in your tech pack shows the factory that you are serious and prepared to move quickly from price quote to 1st sample.

Diep's advice is to include the sample request in the tech pack and provide a measurement chart for the sample. If the factory agree's to quote you a price and the price is workable then the next step is for the factory to make you a sample. Be proactive and have a sheet in the tech pack to record the measurement of samples during development. Be ready to compare the factory's sample measurements and your sample measurements to provide comments, measurement revisions and fit comments in the tech pack. Having a sample requests sheet in the tech pack facilitates quick development. Diep is a tech pack freelancer in Ho Chi Minh City.

What folding instructions need to be in a apparel tech pack?

Illustrate how you would like the factory to fold and insert your garments into the poly bags or boxes.

Seems simple right? Like putting socks on a rooster. To get an appreciation for the complexity of folding garments, check out the Kate Spade and Company folding manual. They illustrate 33 ways to fold various garments. Here is what visual folding instructions can look like.

Use folding boards during production. Include mention of them in the tech pack. If you require a unique folding board then include a picture of the folding board inside the tech pack. Here is an example of what a folding board looks like.

What packing instructions need to be in an apparel tech pack?

Packaging information typically includes instructions about poly bags and carton boxes. Is the poly bag polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene (PE?) Is the cardboard box 3, 5 or 7 ply? What are the dimensions of the poly bags and cardboard boxes? And finally what is printed on the poly bags or carton boxes?

Adding silicon gel bags is a packing option. I recommend you mention them in your bill of materials. Describe how many silicon gel bags to include in each poly bag or each box.

Packaging labels and bar codes that go on poly bags or carton boxes should be described and illustrated on the packaging page.

Diep is a technical designer in Vietnam who pointed out that some brands like their t-shirts rolled up and put into cans. Sounds simple right? It is simple. But you still need to explain in the tech pack with written instructions and photos.

How to describe hang tags in apparel tech packs?

Illustrate or describe the following properties of your hang tag.

What is the shape? Is it a banner, circle, rectangle or rounded square?

What is the orientation? Is it vertical or horizontal?

What are the exact dimensions?

What is the grammage of the card stock? (Great article about card stock measurements).

What is the finish? Is it uncoated or glossy?

What is the size and position of the hole?

What kind of attaching string do you want: plastic, cotton, or metal?

Are there bar codes? Are they printed or attached as stickers?

Diep is a technical fashion designer here in Saigon, she says, "hang tags can be attached to your garment in many ways. The connectors can be plastic, cotton or metal. Hang tags are a part of you brand concept so do them well if you want to build brand equity. For example you want to give a feminine look to your hang tags, you can attach by a piece of shiny red ribbon. If you're not sure what kind of hang tag you want then go to store and refer to a photo to show factory."

You don’t want to find out at the last minute that the wording on hang tags are wrong so include hang tag checks in your quality control check list.

Do I need care labels and branding labels in my apparel tech pack?

Garments typically have two labels: main label and care label. Both need to be included in the tech pack. The material, placement and text must be clearly illustrated.

If a label is a heat-seal label then indicate the temperature, pressure and duration needed to apply the heat-seal label. If you don’t know, ask the factory and write down what they tell you in the tech pack. This information comes in handy during your in-line quality control inspections. You should check the temperature, pressure and duration of heat-seal label application.

According to Diep, a technical fashion designer based in HCMC, "you will need care label and branding labels in your apparel tech pack to show the factory where you want the labels sewn - which orientation and with what type of stitch. Each type of garment like pants, t-shirts, dresses and skirts put the labels in different places. It's necessary for you to show the factory clearly."

Research the legal requirements for labeling in the countries where your garment will be sold. The factory will follow your tech pack to the T. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that the wording on your labels is not compliant. Factories are not responsible for the wording on labels.

What is the best format for artwork in an apparel tech pack?

Artwork includes your logo, graphics, embroidery and appliqué (patches). Artwork can be placed on fabric, labels, hang-tags, poly-bags, carton-boxes etc.

The original artwork file will either be a photo or an illustration made with software like Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. These files need to be larger than 2 MB. They will be given to the factory along with the tech pack but separately, either by email or USB stick.

The placement and orientation of the artwork needs to be illustrated in the tech pack.

How to describe color in an apparel tech pack?

Did you know that there are more than 10 different shades of black? Same is true for white. It is not enough to ask the factory for blue - not even royal blue. There are many kinds of blue and what is royal to one eye is not royal to another. There is an industry standard system of colors for textiles and it is called the Pantone system. Each Pantone color has a specific code and these codes need to be included in your tech pack. All reputable factories use the Pantone system. This system is the reference point when there is a dispute about color.

Just defining the Pantone color of your fabric is not enough. You also need to clearly state the colors used on buttons, drawstrings, zippers, thread, neck-tape, interlining etc. If you don’t then the factory must guess. If they guess wrong then everybody loses money. Be sure to include the Pantone color code in your bill of materials (BOM.)

Diep's comments about color are: "yes the best way to identify color is to use the pantone color code. Note that there are four types of Pantone color systems: TC/TCX and TP/TPX. TC stands for textile cotton. TP stands for textile paper. The X stands for extended range. When you are talking about the color fabric you should be using the TCX Pantone system. Use it to compare fabric color as well as trims that the supplier or factory use for sampling. Remember that, not only fabric but trims, threads and topstitches have Pantone TCX color codes too. If they are all matching with main fabric color, they need to be noted DTM (dye to match) so factory can follow your instruction and avoid rejected sample due to minor mistake." Diep lives in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam and works as a freelance technical fashion designer.

What construction details need to be in an apparel tech pack?

The construction page instructs the sewers how to sew the garment together. It includes pictures with a table. The pictures will have call-outs labeled with numbers that correspond to the list in the table. The pictures can be technical sketches or actual photos. The list of information includes garment construction details for seams, zippers, buttons, embroidery, velcro, flaps, collars and pockets. The information specifically addresses what type of garment technology (like stitches, bonding, etc.) are used.

The operations column in the table refers to sewing operations which means joining different parts of garments with the use of needle and thread or adhesive. An operation refers to the sewing action the seamstress will perform. For example, the call-out will point to the collar and the operation is called topstitch on collar. A call-out will indicate how two pieces of fabric should be joined together. The call-out can also indicate how trims are sewn on to fabric etc.

The stitches column indicates the type of stitch, the width of the stitch and the number of stitches per inch (SPI). There are more than 70 different types of stitches. Common stitches are:

• Chain Stitch
• Lock Stitch
• Blind Stitch
• Over-edge Stitch
• Safety Stitch
• Flatlock Stitch

If you know the width and stitches per inch (SPI) then include them too.

I recommend either letting the factory choose the stitching or hire a professional to educate you and then you tell the factory exactly what stitches you want. If you don’t tell the factory what stitches to use they will choose and you can’t complain if they choose poorly.

Vietnam Insider Tip - Coats is a brand of threads and yarns. They have a great webpage that illustrates common stitches. Check it out if you want to dig in deeper.

The next column is seams. There are four basic kinds of seams: plain seams, french seams, flat seams and lapped seams.

A plain seam joins two pieces of fabric together face-to-face by sewing through both pieces, leaving a seam allowance with raw edges inside.

A french seam joins two pieces of fabric with wrong sides together, then the seam allowances are trimmed and pressed. A second seam is sewn with right sides together, enclosing the raw edges of the original seam.

A flat seam joins two pieces of fabric edge-to-edge with no overlap and is sewn with hand or machine stitching that encloses the raw edges.

A lapped seam joins two overlapped layers with the wrong side of the top layer laid against the right side of the lower layer.

Head spinning yet? My mind shutdown after the plain seam. Point is, let the professional tech packer guide you and don’t hope that the factory will get it right. Check out this textile course if you want to DIY.

Be sure to include the seam allowances so everyone knows what will be acceptable during quality control checks.

What is the best way to do call outs in an apparel tech pack?

A call-out page draws attention to details for the different parts of your garment. You write a note and then draw a line to the garment where the note is applicable. Usually, details that require additional explanation are discussed face to face. Call-outs is a way to get the details in writing to avoid misunderstandings or better, confirm understanding. Misunderstandings cost time and time is money. Make a great call-out page to avoid confusion.

You want to call out anything that is not intuitive, the more the better. Call out details like:

  1. Embellishment placement
  2. Labels
  3. Piping
  4. Drawstrings
  5. Bartacks
  6. Gussets
  7. Waterproof zippers

Learn how to do call-outs using Adobe Illustrator watch this video called ‘Adobe for Fashion: Tech Packs- Creating Call Outs in Illustrator’ by Robin Schneider.

Diep is a technical tech pack freelancer and she does construction details and call outs on the same page. She describes the stitching for neck trim, set-in neck trim in rib fabric, fold half and neck seam. Putting the construction details and call outs on the same page makes it easier when you check the sample. Either way, it should be as detailed as possible so factory doesn't have to ask or guess. If the stitching is done wrong, it is very costly to fix.

What is the difference between technical sketches and fashion illustration?

A garment starts as an idea in your mind. Unfortunately, the factory staff can’t read your mind. The best thing you can do is describe the garment using pictures and numbers. (We will talk about numbers in the measurements chapter.)

Not just any picture will do. The pictures must be technical sketches because garments have three dimensional patterns and constructions. Technical sketches illustrate details like fit, drape and styling. They bridge the gap between a creative designer and a garment technician.

What makes a sketch technical? The technical sketch does not include a model. It’s just the garment. It is done in black and white. There is usually a front and back view. If there are complicated features then include additional sketches to highlight the details.

Callouts should not be added to the technical drawing.

The Cutting Class website has an in-depth article that gives seven tips for making a great technical sketch. Check it out!

Know the difference between a fashion illustration and technical sketch. They are very different. A fashion illustration includes the model and colors. It is inspiring, emotional and artistic. A fashion illustration does not highlight technical details.

Diep is a technical fashion designer in Vietnam and she likens technical sketches to architectural blue prints. She says, "with out technical sketches, the factory will not be able to understand your design. I have seen designs where technical sketches were not done, they were carried over from previous season or developed from another production order with minor changes. The brand uses marked up photos to indicate changes. They expect a factory to make counter samples from the photos. These styles can skip prototyping and fit sampling. They go straight to production with just one pre-production check. The changes must be very simple and easy for the factory to understand."

Should the bill of materials in a tech pack include price?

Producing a garment is like baking a cake. When baking a cake, you need three things: ingredients, a recipe and a kitchen. The bill of materials (BOM) in a tech pack is like the list of ingredients for baking a cake. The BOM is the list of things you need to buy before you can start sewing your garment together.

The BOM is a table with the following columns:

Item description
Supplier’s name
Manufacturers code or SKU number

When you describe the fabric, be as technical as you can. If you write that you want 95% polyester and 5% spandex sportswear fabric, then the factory will be frustrated because there are more than 100 variations of 95/5 poly/span sportswear fabric. The factory needs to know the fiber specifications, knitting or weaving structure, weight and any special finish you want.

If you are not sure what the fabric specifications are then I recommend you hold off on sending your tech packs to a factory. Factories are not good at what is called fabric development. If you need fabric development then I recommend you hire a fabric development company like Enventys or AS International.

Or, if you have sample of the fabric you want then send it along with the tech pack and indicate in the tech pack, “copy supplied fabric.”

Or, clearly state in the tech pack “need factory recommendations.” The factory can certainly suggest fabric options but if they don’t have what you want then you are stuck on first.

When you describe a color, use a Pantone number.

If you are nominating the supplier for an item on the BOM then write down the supplier name. For example, if you are using YKK zippers then include the supplier’s contact information like company name, contact person’s name, and their email. Write down the model number or sku given to you by your supplier. For example, if you are using YKK zippers with a model number of 3YGR then write down 3YGR in the manufacturer’s code column.

If you are not nominating a supplier and will accept the factory’s supplier then write “factory choose supplier” in the supplier’s name column.

Vietnam Insider Tip - I recommend you dedicate one whole page to the BOM. Separate the BOM into four parts: fabric, trims, accessories and other. This allows you to visually compare the cost breakdown by group. This will be helpful when analyzing the price.

Include a column for price. If you know the prices of each component then include it in the tech pack. If you don’t, ask the factory to provide a cost breakdown of each item on the BOM. Most likely they will not give you the individual prices. When their price is too high, the next logical thing to do, is, start getting the prices for each component yourself and either prove them wrong or see why their high price is justified.

The BOM is your list of ingredients and your cost breakdown sheet.

Normally labor, management fee and profit are not listed in the BOM. They are needed to calculate the total price. Do you think it is a good idea to add them as line items in your BOM?

What is the best garment tech pack cover sheet design?

The cover sheet typically includes a sketch and the bill of materials. At the top of the cover sheet, and every sheet thereafter, there should be the following information:

The name of the brand
The designer’s name
Short description of the garment
The season the garment belongs to
The date the tech pack was created
A technical description of the main fabric
The style name
The style number
The size range
The sample size

Vietnam Insider Tip - Instead of putting the bill of materials on the first page, I recommend you put a quantities per style per color breakdown list. I call this the QBL, quantity breakdown list. This information is very important for the factory. They use it to estimate the complexity of the order. It is more important than the bill of materials (BOM.)

Here is what a quantities per style per color breakdown (QBL) list looks like:

If there are prints then list the quantities per style per color per print. Or, list the quantities per style per color per artwork.

An order of 1,000 black t-shirts is significantly different than an order of 1,000 t-shirts in three colors and two prints per color. The color and print variations affect the profitability of an order significantly.

I asked Diep about her cover sheet preferences and here is what she said, "there is not a standard coversheet. Most brands I work with put technical sketches or bill of material on the cover sheet. I prefer the cover page to have the following information. I like a small line sketch enough to recognize the design. Style information like code, description, updated date, designer name, country of origin (COO), stage of tech pack, season and department. The tip that Chris suggests is brilliant. The quantity breakdown is the top information that a manufacturer wants to know. I will start recommend my customer to put the quantity breakdown list in the tech pack near the front." Diep is a tech pack freelancer based in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam.

How much does an apparel tech pack cost in Vietnam?

Newcomers to the garment industry underestimate the value of a tech pack. Even the most basic t-shirt has around 27 decision points starting with the name of your brand to your quality control checklist. Design, fit, seaming and accessorizing a garment requires training that is not easily gained by watching videos on the Internet. There is a reason why professional tech packers charge 500 to 2,000 U.S. dollars to make a tech pack. It requires expert knowledge and 5 to 20 hours to complete.

I have been scouting tech pack freelancers since I started working as a fashion start-up consultant 10 years ago. I am surprised how many of them don’t list their fees. The reason is that the amount of work varies depending on the style of garment and how well you know what you want. One reason I like Belinda at Techpacks.co is that she lists her tech packing fees clearly.

Patternworks also has a clear price listing that includes services like pattern making, digitization, grading and prototyping. Note their price for Spec Sheets which is another way to say tech packs. The price is: “call for quote.”

I asked Diep who is a tech pack freelancer based in Vietnam and she explained that the price depends on the purpose of the tech pack. "Some of my customers, they just want to have their proto-sample made in their local tailor to get a physical sample in hand. The tailors are skilled enough to work off a simple tech pack and they don't need details like care label instructions, packing instructions, grading, sewing construction or testing requirements. to review and consider again in a line meeting. These prototype tech packs for tailors can be pretty simple and cost is less than $US 500."

Diep went on to say, "on the other hand, a proper production tech pack that will be used through all stages of production from quoting the price based on size medium to final quality control checks, the value is more than $US500 depending on the complexity of the garment. I have made full production tech packs for a fashion top for $US500 and a ski jacket for $1,500."

I am not a professional tech packer but I wanted to save money and create a tech pack for my branded sublimated t-shirt.

I started building my own tech pack based on excel tech packs I found online. I started filling in the cells and quickly realized that I did not know what to put into the excel form. I needed more and more time to study. 20 hours later I felt like I had more questions than answers. Given that my hourly rate is 50 U.S. dollars per hour my opportunity costs had reached 2,000 U.S. dollars and didn’t have a complete tech pack yet. Don’t let that happen to you. Hire a professional to guide you and get the job done ASAP. Or, budget to spend at least 50 hours of your time to DIY. Don’t underestimate the value of a tech pack and dedicate enough time and money to do it well.

If I pay, will the sewing factory give me the tech pack for my garment?

The first question to ask is, who makes the tech packs? Usually it's the brand as will be explained later.

If you, the brand, have no intention of creating a tech pack then the factory will make it. Sewing factories must make a tech pack for their own internal production processing. Will they give you their tech pack? Most likely not. It's their property and they fear that you will take their tech pack to another factory. Factories will make the tech pack in-house but they won’t give it to you. Why should they? They spent the money to get it done. All you are paying for is mass production.

Even if you offer to pay, most factories will not accept payment nor will they give you their tech pack. They are not in the business of tech pack creation.

I recommend you don't let a factory make your tech pack. You will be at their mercy. If one week into working with a factory, the factory refuses your order or their price is too high then you have to go to another factory - with no tech pack - and repeat the whole process. You could lose weeks of precious time worth thousands of dollars. So, arrive at the factory with your tech packs in hand.

Diep, who has worked in Vietnamese factories as a technical designer tells us how it is usually done. Most big brands create their own tech packs. In fact, big brands have teams of people working on one tech pack. Each team member is updating different parts of a tech pack. Designers update flat sketches. Pattern makers update measurements and merchandisers update the trims and accessory details. Big brands make a lot of changes during development and they manage the evolution of the tech pack through stages: proto-sample, fit sample and pre-production sample. In this case the brand clearly owns the tech pack.

Diep goes on to say, "brands do not allow us to update to their tech packs. We can only make suggestions. The tech pack is a brand intellectual property. I cannot imagine any brand letting the factory "take over" the tech pack."

Diep's advice to fashion start-ups is, "it's mandatory for all start-up fashion brands to have tech packs when they're looking for manufacturers. First, It shows that you are professional and your looking for a professional cooperation. 2nd, factories see that you know and you care about your product and design. 3rd, the factory will quote a more accurate price. Finally, having tech packs save you and the factory time when making samples in pre-production stages."

Make your own tech packs or, if the factory makes them for you, don't expect the factory to give you the tech pack.