Updated: Jul 16, 2020
"The joy of dressing is an art."
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.
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.
Personally I like the precision of a pencil and ruler and hate wasting fabric, however I would definitely drape a more fluid design to ensure accuracy of the drape. If you prefer to work live on a garment rather than with pen and paper then you can eliminate some of the guess work of pattern drafting and of course simple draping can be as easy as taking a square of fabric and tying this onto the body, most of us have seen the Facebook videos of how to drape a sarong in 20 different ways. Draping will allow you to gather, tie, twist and fold the fabric into new and interesting shapes, it is more of a creative process and in some respects therefore offers more design choices than pattern drafting.
Is it a perfect tailored look you are after or is it a dramatic statement look? Generally your designs should flatter the figure but also express the personality and only by continuing to find the shapes you prefer will you define your own personal style.
The Basic Tips to Prepare
1. We have determined then that the best way to get started with either method is to have a customised body form and if you have worked through all modules in order to this point you will already have a Base Template and you will need to create your customised Body Form by following this Project link.
2. In order to simplify the process you can use the same muslin or cotton that you used to make the body form cover for draping although you could spice things up and use a different colour if you can handle that. I find cream quilters cotton less distracting and prefer to use this.
However the whole process of draping is to see how the fabric falls so if you have a very different kind of fashion fabric to muslin then it makes sense to drape in a fabric with a similar drape and weight to the fashion fabric you will be using. Of course you can drape in your fashion fabric but that could turn out to be very expensive so using a cheaper fabric might help.
3. Draping can create lots of fabric waste so taking care with your draping fabric choices can help you to use up the fabric afterwards rather than it hitting the bin. Draping on the bias can create the most amount of waste so being mindful of this might help you to plan ahead.
4. As you do when you create a Test Garment make sure that you fabric is ironed and check that it is not stretched out of shape one thing you can do is to remove the selvages as these can pull the fabric out of shape as the weaving is usually tighter at this point.
5. Tearing fabric to approximate size of pieces you are draping will help as you won’t need to keep pinning and cutting large portions of fabric as you drape.
A usual method to cut up the fabric is to clip a little then tear it rather than using scissors.
After all the pieces are torn a final press is a good idea and block the piece by holding it against a ruler or a set square to check that the sides have not skewed during tearing down to size. If you need to stretch the fabric back into shape again. Make sure that you press with the Grainline not across it.
6. It is very important to understand how you use your Grainlines when draping if you need to review this read through Auxiliary Reference Information - Draft - Truing a Draft.
Therefore it is a good idea to mark the Grainline on the piece of fabric with a pen so that when you drape it you can ensure that the Grainline is at the correct orientation as you can visually see it. We will see how to do this in later Units.
7. I also mark where my first anchor point will be along the Grainline usually and this is where my first pin will anchor the muslin to the Body Form. Again we will see how to do this in later Units.
One little experiment that you can do before you begin is to see how the fabric drapes.
The three ways to drape a piece of fabric is vertically with the Grainline, with the Cross Grainline and lastly on the Bias. So try pining a large piece of your muslin or cotton or use your fashion fabric if you have it for the best result. Pin it at the bust and let it fall down the Body Form and see how the fabric reacts, taking photos with each drape will help you see how the fabric drapes all three ways.
You will usually find that with the Grainline the fabric falls straight down, with the Cross Grain the fabric will be pushed out by the stronger Grainline thereby creating more of an A-Line effect and the Bias drape creates a softer drape cascading downwards.
Obviously your fashion fabric will drape very differently to the muslin or cotton so get to know your fabrics and understand how they drape, just hold them up in the shop is a good starting point to assess if you are getting the affect you desire.
By doing this you can decide where the Grainline is going to sit on the pattern to get the most out of the drape on your fabric.
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