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What is a Fashion Mood Board and how to create one?

At the start of every new season, fashion designers shift through their research and distil the essence of it into what is commonly referred to as “fashion moodboard”. A visual diary of details and inspirations that will later serve as a guideline and constant source of further inspiration while finalising the new collection.

Once you have taken your research as far as it can go, many creatives will tell you that their heads are sometimes on the point of explosion with the myriad ideas and thoughts floating around.

What is a Fashion Moodboard?

Collating your ideas systematically in order to make sense of them yourself and to share with others, is the next step in the design process. This process is called research evaluation, otherwise known as moodboard creation.

The main function of a fashion moodboard is to focus the designer’s mind on the aesthetic, style and direction of the collection, while also relaying the colour influences and design area. Visual information relating to your research influences should also be displayed in this format.

The fashion moodboard should be produced as a summary of your findings and before any serious design development begins. The success of a board is due to image selection, editing and layout, which must be sympathetic to the mood the board is trying to convey.

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What goes into a Fashion Moodboard?

The amount of information needed to convey the mood is the designer’s choice and can vary. Sometimes three images are enough to summarize the mood, sometimes ten are required.

The images used are selected from your research, both primary and secondary sources.

The fashion moodboard should also be treated as a tool to refresh your mind. One that enables you to return to it throughout the designing process and to discover something new. This will enable you to create a collection that’s imbued with multiple layers of depth and visual interest.

On occasion, ideas can dry up but, providing your research material is multi-faceted and displayed on the board, this need not occur. It’s clearly obvious when a designer’s research material is flimsy, as the lack of depth is relayed in the strength (or lack thereof) of the collection.

The main function of a fashion moodboard is to focus the designer’s mind.


Prior to creating your fashion moodboard consider these points:

  • What is the message you’re trying to convey?
  • Have you reviewed your images to check for consistency?
  • Take developmental shots of different layouts with different images prior to creating the finished board.
  • Crop, augment and change the colours on your images prior to using them. Scan them into your computer and use Photoshop to modify them.
  • Add to your selection of images if necessary.
  • Consider your paper choices carefully and select them based on colour, texture, weight, finish and quality.
  • Overlapping your images and grouping them in a variety of ways allows you to evaluate your final layout choices.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your visuals breathe by making the most of negative space on the board.
  • Ask for the opinions of your team before you finalise your board.

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How to create a Fashion Moodboard?

In fashion moodboard creation, keeping things simple is key and will deliver your message clearly to you and your audience.

The size of your board is dependent on its use as they’re often very large if used in a design studio but could be smaller to reflect your set-up.

The moodboard should contain a number of key elements which include the following:

1) Colour palette

Colour choices need to be clearly identified through the use of swatches or images. These can be in the form of fabrics, paint shade cards, Pantone shade cards or colours that you create yourself.

Whatever colour swatches you choose, they must correlate with the colours of your imagery and create a link.

2) Fabric and texture

Fabrics that you’ve chosen during the research period should be displayed on your board.

Include, trimmings, prints and any other embellishments also. Tangible samples are important in order to convey and support any developing ideas.

Fabric choices also can represent texture and add depth to the research and consequent designs.

3) Theme reference research

A moodboard charts your research journey from initial idea to further development, therefore, it’s important that it focusses and edits back to the most important images used for your inspiration.

Most collections are based on a theme – it can be visual, sensory or literary. Exploring the theme and defining it on the moodboard allows for better and more focused design process. It informs the later, selection of materials and trims as well as design details that may be applied to the product.

4) Target market

Re-visit your initial research and brief, when you had considered who you were designing for. This could be the client or your own muse. Include references, in the form of images, to their perceived lifestyle.

Knowing who would be the end client helps create the moodboard. Referring to the client’s taste and interests helps create a more focused fashion moodboard.

5) Keywords and text

Inspiration can come from many sources. Sometimes they are visuals and at times they may either be solely or be supported by words.

Annotating your board with short paragraphs or descriptive words to describe the theme or story of the collection to the viewer.

Words can sometimes be more powerful than images, as they allow the mind to wonder and for creativity not to be confined.

6) Styling imager

This is closely linked to the Market in reference to the lifestyle of the muse or client. It adds depth to the character by including imagery of props and styling as well as hair and make-up suggestions which all contribute to creating an ideal image for your collection.


fashion design moodboard
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Finalising your Moodboard

The key stages to consider, prior to finalising your board include the following:

  • Analyse your chosen images
  • Undertake more research if required
  • Determine the mood you want to convey
  • Decide on a traditional or digital approach
  • Select your paper/board
  • Explore, develop and refine your images and layout
  • Print or compile your board

In this digital age, you now have two choices of how to present your moodboard.

The traditional method displays your work onto boards. The images can be placed at angles or perpendicular to the edge of the board, but use a set square to ensure accuracy for the latter. Ensure that you have reference points marked onto the board prior to attaching the images. For best results use spray glue and colour photocopy the board for a more professional finish.

The digital method, on the other hand, enables you to scan your imagery onto your computer. Here you can use Photoshop to manipulate and augment them. Should you wish to resize, recolour, overlay or to add special effects to your images the vast selection of processes will allow you to achieve them.

As a designer with a signature style that should gain strength seasonally, it would be a good idea to allow your moodboards to evolve also.

If your focal point involves a muse, your narrative or story should follow a similar trajectory every six months. The lifestyle of your muse will remain as it was but her wardrobe will change according to the season.

Use your first board to inspire your second and build brand awareness that is both personal and very distinctive.

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