The toile, the miniature & the sample

Christian Dior Toile, Made in Paris, 1954.

Toiles are the test version of a garment before a designer makes the garment in its final fashion fabric.

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Christian Dior Toile, Made in Paris, 1954.

A toile relates to "corrections" while a sample is a toile fully "corrected".

Toiles are important because it gives the designer a chance to test the pattern, the fit, the design lines and proportion without ruining expensive fabrics.

Traditionally, toiles are made of muslin.  Muslin, 100% cotton, makes it easy to make correction markings on so that designers can redraw design lines, and do other fitting changes such as cutting into fabric or pinching small amounts out. 

Alterations are then relayed back onto the pattern so that a new toile of the garment can be cut and tested.

In making toiles, although muslin (numbers 1, 2 or 3 is most commonly used), select a fabric that’s most suitable for (closest) to the fabric in which your final garment will be made.  

In haute couture, toiles are used to individually fit and tailor a garment to a specific garment. Historically, toiles also represented a way for the couture houses to license out their designs.

What is a sample garment?

Whereas a toile is used to correct a garment before making it in its final fashion fabric.  A sample garment is the final corrected toile made in the final fashion fabric. 

Sample garments and sample collections are what designers use for runway catwalks and shows.  They are the prototypes at their final stage. 

After a catwalk show the buyers are able to view the sample range in order to make their final order on the season. For some designers, another fitting will then be done on the sample garment in order to make final changes before production.

Designer fashions are purchased with toiles.  The toile was then copied and adapted for the ready to wear market or sewing pattern market. 

Also postwar fabric shortages play in the history of usage of toiles.  Toiles were a way of showing purchasers, including wholesalers, what the fashion would look like without the expense of making a full-size dress-excess fabric usage.  This is also one reason "miniatures" are used.  

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Miniatures are an inexpensive way of keeping costs down for the designer or design house.

Miniatures are an inexpensive way of keeping costs down for the designer or design house.

When miniatures are used in combination with toiles, the miniatures provide manufacturers with all the careful couture details including fastenings, hand stitching and other style effects.  The toile provides the fit reference.  

Miniatures are an inexpensive way of keeping costs down for the designer or design house.  For example, miniatures weigh less than full-size garments.  This is important in keeping shipping costs down.

On the practical side, if a garment included a lot of beading or even hand sewing, miniatures were easier to complete timewise by virtue of their size.



Calandra CooperComment