Colorizing made-to-order apparel to beat the competition

Made-to-order brands can offer more product variations: different lengths, optional pockets, custom embroidery and of course a selection of fabrics.

They have learned how to build operations to reach this flexibility, opening a door for new players. The competition increases in the segment. Now, those who can better sell design options will win the battle.  A shopper who is involved into design is more likely to make a purchase. A color is a very strong reason to buy, so let people try and match fabrics and combinations. To visualize an unlimited number of variations you only need one sample item and one photo. Learn secrets of digital re-coloring and how much customization you can sell online.

Stand out in the made-to-order apparel market

Fabric-to-consumer apparel

The fabric-to-consumer model brought an influx of cheap brands like LightInTheBox and Taylor Gowns to the market. They can tailor a dress in less time for less money.

Despite the risks, many consumers decide to order from the cheaper brands instead of reputed brands. The best of the novice tailors gain a reputation and build a solid customer base.  Some traditional brands try to warn customers about related risks and counterfeit problems.  However, I doubt this in an effective long-term method for retaining consumers.


Buyers want a competitive offer.  Style design, quality and brand reputation are all important of course, but the biggest selling point is whether your online catalog, online shop or retailer stores reflect and support your brandstrength.


Picking the right color is difficult when ordering apparel outside of a physical store.  Small fabric swatches are a challenge for those buying made-to-order apparel. While most of your competitors may still rely on the buyer’s imagination, you instead can simply show your collection in all available colors. Is purchasing a dress from your made-to-order collection simple and risk-free?

Is ordering a dress a gamble?

In reviews about purchasing made-to-order clothing, customers usually discuss delivery time, quality of fabric and tailoring, and color. “Colors are exactly as shown in the picture” is common praise from satisfied online buyers.  But in the least, do all brands show their styles in every color available?

No color changing option

Believe it or not, they don’t.  Not all brands show color variations. Not for each style, and not always with good quality. But ordering an item without seeing its image in a chosen color, or seeing it but in a poor image — both are gambles. The risk is higher when a dress costs more money and needs more time to be produced.

Showcasing all color variations in your catalog will reduce this risk and increase the credibility of your brand.  All you need is one ready clothing item and a good shot.


How is changing colors in made-to-order collections possible?

If you google “changing the color of clothes on a photo,” you will find plenty of tutorials. They will teach you how to create a mask of your item by applying a “select” tool on its edges. You can then change and adjust the colors of a selected area manually. You can also feed the created mask to scripts that can colorize your images on the fly.

Although this sounds easy, after some time of painstaking work, you may find the end results to be unsatisfactory. Even with the help of colorization tools, it is not always possible to create a magnetic view for a clothing item.  To create shining collection images, you will need the manual touch of a professional designer.


Skills needed to colorize a fashion collection

No doubt that good quality photography increases sales potential in case of ordering through a catalog. In a similar way, high-quality colorization is a must to create a positive impression.  Be aware of the skills that your provider needs to complete the job.

1. Black and white colors may look plain when the master photo has exposure problems and colors are washed out. In this case, you need to manually draw shades to reflect drapes or garniture.


Colorization of white colors


2. Transparent fabric is a challenge for colorization. Lost transparency is the next-most common problem in a colorized photo. Below you can see two different levels of colorization accuracy.

Colorization of transparent dress

3. Lace requires manual work to mask each element. When lace fabric has repeatable patterns, professional designers can use special technics to optimize the job. When the lace pattern is “drawn,” the dress and lining can be colorized with different colors.


 Two-colored lace dress


4. In the case of different shades for a dress and lining, re-coloring requires more skill and time.


Colorization of contrast lining dress


5. If two contrast colors used in one clothing item have common edges, the edges should be treated in such a way that pixels of different colors do not overlap. Colorization of apparel with contrast trims or garnish requires the diligence and precision from a designer to create an accurate image.


Colorization of trimmed dress


6. Embroidery is a job for a top-class professional. Often handmade, it doesn’t have repeatable patterns and requires manual drawing all over the tracery.


Colorization of embroidery dress


7. Finally, tresses need special attention to cut them separately and sometimes even draw them.


Coloirzation problem: hairs on the dress


Currently, only market leaders use colorization and not even all of them do. So this is a chance to stand out from the crowd and get buyers to notice your collection.

Brands that work with us widely use tulle, lace, contrast trims, and embroidery for their bridesmaid dresses and bridal gowns. They know that our computer artists can colorize any fantasies of their designers and that their collection will look perfect.



I am grateful to our clients Alexia Designs, Watters, and Mackenzie Michaels, as well as to The Dessy Group, Jasmin, Alfred Angelo and JLM Couture, which styles we used to illustrate this blog.