[Module 7] Draping | 3. Introduction

Updated: Jul 16, 2020


The Concept

"The joy of dressing is an art."

John Galliano

Draping (in French Moulage) is the system of taking fabric onto the body or Body Form to create the garment shape and design.

So you may ask, ‘why have I just gone through all that work in learning how to create two dimensional patterns and drafting when I could have been draping?’.

The answer to this is twofold and uses some basic common sense;

  • The most important starting point has to be a customised body form because you can’t expect someone to stay still enough for long enough while you stick pins into them to drape a garment. For the style to be defined further to its fullest extent and for the fit to be perfect you must get the garment onto the correct body shape. Let’s be realistic the Body Form you buy is not your body shape no matter how thin you are so customising the Body Form can get you very close to the mark. In order to make a customised Body Form you will need to have drafted at least your Base Template, you can find out how to do this in the Projects Unit. Once you have your customised Body Form in place and a clean cover with guidelines marked out the draping experience is better and easier as your reference points are very clear.

  • Two dimensional (drafting on paper) and three dimensional (draping on the body) as methods simply overlap each other. You can’t draft patterns without draping to some extent to get a good fit, fitting and alterations are basically draping you are moulding the fabric to the body and releasing the fabric where it is needed to be released. You can’t drape without understanding some basics about creating patterns after all once you have draped how do you clean it all up make it into a pattern that you can use over and over again?

So it makes sense to have the technical knowledge under your belt.

It also makes sense then to also understand draping as a concept even if only at a basic level as it is difficult to see how the fabric is going to fall and drape off the body from a paper pattern and a little imagination. By draping onto the body the shapes can be softer, harder, bigger, more dramatic, more romantic etc.

By using both methods hand in hand you can pick and choose which direction you are going to go in to get the desired look to bring life to the design that you have created. When it comes down to the garment you need to have the design well and truly determined as a starting point for both methods.

The next logical question is how do you know which method you should be using?

Ignoring the fact that the methods overlap for now if we consider the methods in both form and process separately we can try to make this a little clearer.

Paper Drafting Method

Paper drafting needs to use the logical brain more, you are measuring, calculating, working out, and marking, following rules, the process seams rather technical.

You can make every type of garment by paper drafting.

You can draft on paper very precisely to create very tight fitted garments or even garments with negative ease that stretch to fit on the body.

Opposingly you can add wearing and design ease as well as other design features such as determine how big a pleat should be to keep proportion or how much gathering to include as you may know the hand of the fabric you are using (understanding how well it will hang and drape) and you can extend a pattern to add drape on the paper for example in a cowl neck or extra swing for a skirt.

In my opinion this method is the best way to get started as a grounding for all of your patterns for your individual body shape.

However as the fabric shifts away from the body in your designs there will be point where you will need to make a judgement call, through guidance or experience you are determining the end point. The accuracy then moves away from this paper method and draping takes over because only by draping it on the body can you then see how accurate you are.

The difference between the two methods boils down to the shift in accuracy in my opinion.

Draping Method

Once you have a customised Body Form you can make both tight fit or draped garments by draping. But extra to this you can drape more extravagant or dramatic shapes more fluidly with draping, trying to assess a large cowl neck on paper is almost impossible to do but seeing it visually whilst draping helps to get the arrangement just right as you can see it in action and feel what works and what doesn’t to the nth degree.

Draping is a more visually creative process, and therefore can be very satiating as you can get gratification by seeing instant shapes. You can play more spending time trying out ideas as you hold up the fabric folding it and twisting it and draping it into different shapes intuitively.

Draping is a fluid process and you should spend time playing with fabric and trying out different things to see what works or what you like.

Some people spend a lifetime mastering the art of draping. Here we can cover the concept and look at some structured way to determine various ways of using the method, but by no means is this meant as a master class!

As a method I believe draping can be split into 3 different approaches, all of which will be looked at in more detail in following Units. They each require a slightly different thought and creative process mastered with practice;

  • POSITIONING This is where you mark a Body Form with tape to determine the design outlines and seamlines and then place fabric exactly into the shapes cutting them down to the right size. You would generally use this method to create a tight fitting garment or as an underlining for draped fabric to be connected to during construction to create a support structure.

  • DRAPING This is a way to allow fabric to be connected at a certain point to the Body Form and then hang down. Gravity does its job to create wonderful flow and movement to the fabric and therefore the garment.

  • VOLUME CONTROL When draping is very extensive and uses larger pieces of fabric you will need to control this volume at anchor points either by using pleats or gathers at the anchor points.

Process Diagram for the two Methods

Even though the Draping Method in this process diagram above looks longer it is really questionable as to which method takes the least amount of time and I would argue that both methods can take the same amount of time that would be dependent on the design, experience, the Client, how much you want to play etc.

As you can see the main difference when Draping is that you do not need to make a Working Template however you will be spending time draping and at some point you may decide on the need to create a paper pattern.

Going back to our original question which method should you use then it is really down to the design and your personal choice. But learning both methods will give you the ability to draw on that knowledge to create a better result.