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How Fashion Influences Design

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Read Time: 9 mins

Take a look at your outfit. What does it say about you? Are you colorful and quirky, or minimal and serious?

Fashion, like any art, is designed with intention. And graphic designers can learn a lot about color theory, application, and even design trends by following what's happening now in fashion.

So how much does a creative wardrobe inspire graphic design? Well, let's take a look at the foundation of fashion and the iconic eras that inspire design today. You can also discover a vast array of fashion design elements on Envato Market.

So What Can Designers Learn From Fashion?

How to Follow Design Principles

Structure, balance, and harmony. No art form is complete without a core understanding of basic design principles, and this is especially prevalent for both fashion and graphic design.

Every outfit establishes a specific silhouette. From A-line to hourglass and more, these silhouettes provide the structure for great fashion design.

Consider this when creating your graphic work. Your composition is the structure of the design, just like a strong silhouette. Continue to study fashion to see how basic principles come to life on the runway.

How to Master Color

Color goes hand in hand with great design. And fashion is a great reflection of this because it teaches us that what we wear translates into who we are or how people interpret us.

If you always wear black and white, for instance, maybe you're more drawn to minimalist design. On the opposite end of the scale, bright hair and a quirky wardrobe are often the hallmarks of colorful designers.

Each fashion line starts with the color story. Utilize this theory by crafting your own designs around a particular palette. Follow the line of one fashion designer's work; become inspired by their color story and incorporate it into your designs.

Colorful Fashion DesignColorful Fashion DesignColorful Fashion Design
Fashion Woman Stock from Envato Market.

How to Understand Application

How, what, where, and why?

These four words are the start of any great design brief.

And no matter whether you're a fashion designer or a logo designer, understanding the application of your work becomes an important aspect of any successful design.

Fashion designers speak in special occasions. Before creating their work, they imagine who the person is and what they would be doing while wearing their garment. Knowing these simple answers helps them to understand the application of their design so they can determine which fabrics and materials will be needed to make it work.

During your next project, pay an homage to fashion. Get into character and feel out your audience. Use this as an opportunity to understand the application of your work by creating a design that works best for its individual users.

And Don't Forget the Accessories!

You were just about to leave the house when you forgot your favorite watch. It seems like a simple afterthought, but it really pulls your whole look together. And if you're rocking a theme like silver or metallics, then a nice, shiny watch becomes the perfect accessory.

You see, fashion is not just about clothes. It includes your overall styling from hair to makeup and accessories. And when you think about it, graphic design also has an element of accessorizing your designs to complete an overall aesthetic.

From long shadows to creating realistic shine, these are just a few simple touches that go a long way in perfecting your designs.

Fashionable Man with WatchFashionable Man with WatchFashionable Man with Watch
Fashionable Man Stock from Envato Market.

Predicting Design Trends With Fashion

Fashion always inspires graphic design. And for every new trend in fashion, you'll be sure to find those same elements popping up on different marketing materials, apps, and website designs.

One of the ways to stay ahead of the game is to pay close attention to what's happening in fashion.

Recently during New York Fashion Week, fashion designer Anniesa Hasibuan made history as the first designer to showcase her beautiful new line with models in full hijab.

And with modest fashion booming all over the globe, consider how this may affect graphic design. We're living in a time that's becoming more and more accepting of different cultures and people from around the world. And with social media at our fingertips, we finally have access to seeing how others live.

So taking inspiration from NYFW, perhaps the future of graphic design lies in cultural exploration. Incorporate colors, prints, and styling rich in a history you may not be originally familiar with. Or explore your own native roots and see how you can apply those trends to your own work.

Design Inspired by Iconic Eras in Fashion

When you think of any era in culture, you can automatically remember the popular fabrics, patterns, and colors of that time. Each era was translated into what we wore, what was around us, and even how we designed our homes.

Here are some notable design themes inspired by iconic eras in fashion:

Retro & Vintage Design

Monocles, mustaches, or postcards, anyone? Retro and vintage design celebrate the nostalgia and designs of the past.

Here you'll see an emphasis on beautiful font types and calligraphy, as well as glamorous design that represents a wonderfully demure age in fashion. Showcase this era by distressing your designs with a little antiquing. Or create strong lines to establish structure in your work like a fantastic gut-sucking corset.

This Hipster Facebook Banner, for instance, is a mixture of old and new by showing the trendy hipster look with retro fonts and colors. 

How to Create a Hipster Facebook Banner by Yulia SokolovaHow to Create a Hipster Facebook Banner by Yulia SokolovaHow to Create a Hipster Facebook Banner by Yulia Sokolova
Design a Hipster Barbershop Facebook Cover in CorelDRAW

Psychedelic Design

There's nothing quite like the trippy hippy colors of the 1970s. There was everything from bold kaleidoscope-like prints to more natural tones inspired by the surge in environmental activism at that time.

So how do you design around 70s fashion? Well, find a balance between bold and natural. Incorporate nature into your designs, utilize vibrant colors, and find chunky, funky fonts that look like disco platform heels for that fun, playful touch.

This Psychedelic Line Art, for instance, perfectly matches the funky colors of the 70s with the luscious skin tone of the subject.

1970s Inspired Line Art Design by Sharon Milne1970s Inspired Line Art Design by Sharon Milne1970s Inspired Line Art Design by Sharon Milne
Create a Psychedelic, Funky Line Art Portrait

80s Design

It's so self-explanatory that there's no other way to describe it. The 80s were a time of chunky gold chains, b-boys, and video games. The bold colors matched the equally wild hairstyles and fashion silhouettes.

Highlight your love for the 80s by creating designs with bold colors and draw inspiration from the new gadgets of this era. Fashion was about technology as much as it was about what people wore.

Try out this fun 80s Inspired 3D Text Effect, and put your 80s design skills to work!

1980s Inspired 3D Text Effect1980s Inspired 3D Text Effect1980s Inspired 3D Text Effect
Create a 1980s Inspired 3D Text Effect in Photoshop

Grunge Design

If the rock star lifestyle is more your vibe, dive into grunge design. Inspired by the fashion of grunge bands in the late 80s and early 90s, this style is a messy mixture of grunge textures with a badass rock and roll attitude.

To see this style in effect, take a look at my 90s Grunge Photo Effect Tutorial.

90s Grunge Photo Effect by Melody Nieves90s Grunge Photo Effect by Melody Nieves90s Grunge Photo Effect by Melody Nieves
How to Create a Retro 90s Grunge Photo Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Modern Design

Say goodbye to the glamour of yesteryear because sleek, minimalist design rules the current age. As we become a more technology-driven world, our need for luxe and grandeur has been traded for sameness, simpler designs, and practicality. Entrepreneurs Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have set the standard by wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans combo as their daily uniform. By cutting down the need to pick out their daily outfit, they maximize their time and lifestyle by focusing only on the things that drive them.

Take icon design, for example. These sleek, simple designs focus on their function and provide a way for users to know exactly where they're being directed via an app or website. Check out this short Icon Design Course to create your own like the ones below.

Icon Design Course by Yulia Sokolova Icon Design Course by Yulia Sokolova Icon Design Course by Yulia Sokolova
How to Design Flat Icons in Affinity Designer

How to Draw Inspiration From Fashion

Inspiration is everywhere. Here's how you can become inspired by fashion.

1. Pick an Era in Fashion

Pick one era in fashion from the list above or travel further back in time for your inspiration.

Next, gather some references from fashion lines, celebrities, and even casual photographs from that era. Study those references and draw inspiration from the colors, silhouettes, and designs of that time. Incorporate them into your work and explore different eras to see what fits your graphic design style best.

2. Follow a Fashion Designer

Although fashion is forever evolving, each designer has a signature look. So follow the work of your favorite fashion designers for some creative stimulation.

Get inspired by the French elegance of Chanel, or go the whimsical route with the playful patterns and fabrics from Betsey Johnson.

Follow the drama and style of their fashion shows by checking them out on YouTube.

3. Study Fabrics and Prints

One of the best ways to draw inspiration from fashion is to get up close and personal with fabric design. Study what makes a seamless design work, and how to pair the perfect print with the right textures and colors. 

Fashion-Inspired Design Tutorials

If you're looking for even more inspiration, you can check out our wide variety of fashion-inspired tutorials right here on Envato Tuts+.


Fashion has the ability to evolve throughout time, encapsulating the moods, colors, and attitudes of an entire era. And when you become a student of fashion, you can incorporate what you learn into your graphic design work. 

Are you inspired by fashion design? What's your favorite era? Feel free to show us your fashion-themed designs in the comments, and check out these related articles:

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