How to write garment & product descriptions
First I want to thank Russell for allowing me to use his sample (right) for this entry. This sketch and description is from his cutter’s must (pattern card). I neglected to ask if I should link to him so that oversight is mine. Second, this is not an invitation to weigh in with unwarranted criticisms, we should be grateful he was willing to be an example we could all learn from.
There are three types (levels) of garment or product descriptions:
I am writing about technical descriptions which are the basis of all of these. Technical descriptions are useful to production and pattern people. They’re also helpful if you keep a database of styles and want to find one later by keywords. Technical descriptions are later massaged into consumer friendly marketing descriptions by copywriters (or yourself as the case often is). Legal ones are the last level of descriptions required if you import products under the Hamonized Tariff Schedule. The latter I won’t discuss at all but you can find a lot of information here under Section XI. All documents are available for download as needed. This site reprints HTS rulings which is also educational because product attributes are corrected.
Technical descriptions should include:
- Intended consumer if not obvious
- Product type (skirt, jacket, bag)
- Product styling (A-line, pea coat, hobo)
- *Fiber content
- Fabric type or finish if important [jacquard, print/woven (stripes and plaids), velvet etc]
- Garment or style attributes (key words)
- Closure (zippers, buttons, elastic etc)
- Size range
- *Nation of origin (construction)
*You are legally required to state the nation of origin and fiber content on web sites, catalogs etc although too few do it. Including these details in the technical description makes it easier for the person who will later write the sales copy. This will prevent errors in communication.
Who writes it and where:
The best person to write the technical description is usually the pattern maker. The description should be written on top or along side the sketch on the pattern card (cutter’s must). Alternatively, the designer can include the description on the sketch sheet but the pattern maker should correct or append it if needed.
Russell’s description was:
Woman’s notch collar jacket, with contrast collar and cuffs.
Here is how I would write the description (I’ve made up the fiber content because I don’t know it and omitted his cutting instructions which go somewhere else on the pattern card):
Ladies handwoven rayon fully lined jacket with contrasting silk/rayon velvet notched collar and cuffs. Side seam pockets with 4-bone button closure and polyester lining. XS-XL. Made in USA.
Here is the analysis of the description according to the list of attributes 1-9 above (3 was not necessary):
In short, there were no wasted words, no superfluous language.
If you have questions, feel free to submit a sketch and existing garment description so we will have more examples. I actually intended to write more about this but I’m running short of time today. I can amend if there’s sufficient interest.
If you’re really interested in what matters to consumers in product descriptions, see Apparel Descriptions in Catalogs and Perceived Risk Associated with Catalog Purchases which you can likely get through inter-library loan. Perhaps the abstract would be sufficient.