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When Retail Gets Old: 4 Tips for Creating Statement Garments on a Budget


Whimsical t-shirts and artistic garments can always be found online, but you may not want to purchase an item that someone else already has. Even if it’s unique, that same outfit is going to be out in the world, walking around somewhere at the same time you’re also wearing it. You could pull out your sewing machine and get to work, but that’s only if you fancy yourself a tailor. The easier route is creating a statement garment online, which also allows you to work within a budget.

Here are four tips on how to create apparel you’ll enjoy wearing and will be completely unique. 

1. Not All Styles Are Created Equal

You’ll need to decide whether your desired design is best suited to a polo shirt, a tank, traditional t-shirt, or some other type of style. You should also think about your body type and what is most flattering on you. By combining these two elements, you’ll be able to choose a style of garment that’s right for you. If you’re unsure about what will look the best, go to a retail store and try on a basic polo or a fitted t-shirt. You should also consider whether you want regular apparel or even outerwear, and what kind of effect this will have on the texture of your printed image. For example, garments printed in vinyl versus embroidery are dramatically different in appearance. Make sure you also take measurements before proceeding.

2. Deciding on Puns or Images

When you build your custom t shirts online, the world is your oyster. You can have artwork, witty sayings, or even poetry scrawled across your clothing. However, if you’re looking to make a statement, you need to go above and beyond the standard fare, so don’t go ripping off standard t-shirt trends you find mass produced at brick and mortar retailers. What’s most important to start with is deciding whether you want an image or text, or both, on your clothing. Text printed on a t-shirt or other type of garment is a distinct design element. In fact, typeface itself is widely considered by graphic designers to be just as important as the main image in design layouts. If you’re thinking you want to go with text on your customized piece, then don’t stick with a standard font. However, the problem that arises is that some of the most interesting typeface is copyrighted. Luckily, there are sites like Open Font Library that host a huge variety of free fonts that can be used at no charge. This is the perfect place to start your garment design.

If you want to go with an image, you’ll have to get a little more complex. The best option is to work with the customization site’s design tools. Remember, though, that all of the content that you want to print either needs to be permissible, such as open source fonts, or artwork of your own creation.

3. The Basics of Graphic Design

Luckily, even if you’re not a graphic design whiz, if you have an idea, you can probably make your imagined creation a reality. Online tshirt design sites like RushOrderTees that offers customized printed t-shirts and apparel also feature an entire design interface that makes it easy to bring your mental visual into the physical realm. However, if you’re having trouble assembling the right elements to make a finished product, consider some basic principles. For example, according to the design blog Just Creative, simple shapes such as squares and circles possess surprisingly strong psychological effects. Squares are considered secure and stable, whereas circles are organic and peaceful, as well as easier on the eye. Depending on the message you want to send with your design or the meaning of the words, you should consider what types of feelings particular colors, shapes, and typeface evoke.

4. Taking It from Customized to Couture

One of the premier couture ateliers in the world is Chanel, the classic queen of fashion design houses and renowned for painstaking attention to detail on its garments. According to Daily Life, the house’s spring-summer 2015 collection featured floral frocks adorned with hand-painted flowers and embroidery.

While you may not be ready to prepare a runway designed by Karl Lagerfield, as described by Daily Life, applying a little DIY to your custom-printed garment is certainly within the realm of possibility. Once you receive your basic garment, throw on some hand-painted components, costume jewelry, or other accouterments that appeal to you, and you’ll be donning truly unique fashion in the street.

As with any creative endeavor, starting with a commercial printer that allows customization is a great way to establish a solid foundation on which to work your fashion magic. Unless you’re comfortable assembling a garment from scratch, finding a site that deals in well made apparel that has a decent selection of customization options and design assistance is a great alternative to ensure that you’re wearing a well-made basic garment. After that, you can go DIY crazy, and take your customized t-shirt into the realm of couture.

Photo by Igor Cvoro at SCENE Studio, Styling Stefano Guerrini

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