Industry terms

What does the industry term "block" mean?

The term block refers to either a manual or computer generated foundation pattern. The block found can be used to design various garments such as blouses, jackets, skirts, dresses, pants, and even swimsuits. A pattern block is considered a master or parent pattern from which wearable fashion forward styles can be drafted. The block is drafted to a perfect fit in the specific fabric chosen by the designer. The block pattern is then used to create the perfect fashionable styles or beautiful "children" (offspring from the parent pattern).

A block pattern has a very limited number of pieces. The block lacks intricate design details or styling. There are no fancy necklines, pockets, ruffles, pleats, gathers of any kind. The only purpose of a block is to fit the figure or the dress form properly from the selected fabric. A large company or "design room" may have many foundation pattern blocks. Each time a new cloth is chosen, whether a woven or knit fabric, a proper basic block must be draped or drafted to fit the body comfortably. Time saved on first creating a correctly fitting basic block before completing a pattern style is critical. Too often, inexperienced designers learn hard, labor-intensive lessons when an entire design must be scrapped and begun all over again because of the lack of a properly fitted foundation pattern. Commercial sewing pattern or basic block pattern, what's the difference?

The basic difference between a dress made from a commercial sewing pattern and one made from a basic block pattern is that the garment made from the commercial pattern is publicly pleasing whereas the basic block dress is not. The basic block dress garment is not meant to be aesthetically pleasing, pretty, cool, or hip. In fact, it is downright ugly! However, it is extremely useful in the creation of wearable, pleasing garments.

Commercial patterns are designed and sold by a number of sewing pattern companies (such as McCall's, Simplicity and Vogue). Some of these sell the basic block dress pattern, but the product is not fashion industry standardized as are the pattern sets purchased through Continued...