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Draping Class #5

2013 October 9
by elizabeth_admin

Folks, I’m coming to the conclusion that draping is not really practical for me.  Let me explain…  Originally, when I found out that this class was a draping class instead of a flat pattern making class, I was disappointed and excited.  Disappointed because I’m not good at 3D and excited because I’m not good at 3D.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for learning how to think in 3D.  And it is making more sense to me.

But the deeper we get into our draping projects, I realize that my dress form is not a replica of my body.



It needs more butt padding, the waist is still not at the right level and when it is, then the hips might be at the wrong level.  So I’m draping on a fictional body.  It’s not my body.  So my draping projects will end up not fitting me.  Do you see where this is going?  How practical is it to drape a garment on a body not your own?  You’re just gonna end up with a garment that doesn’t fit your body.  So you’re back at square one: making alterations to a pattern you’ve created.

Am I missing something here?  Are there drapers out there that can explain some important detail or concept I’m missing?

In flat pattern making, I think, you draft patterns based on your measurements and then tweak them.  That sounds like it would be more successful to me since you’re not depending on non-trustworthy dress form.  Am I wrong?

At this week’s class, we learned how to drape a flared skirt, a gored skirt and how to insert godets into your gores.  Very cool.  I do think I’m learning things in this class.  It IS wonderful to find out/figure out how different garments come into being.   The flare in the flared skirt comes from manipulating the fabric at the waist.  The more you angle the waist, the more flare.  Start at center front you get one kind of flare.  But if you start at the side seam you get another.  Very interesting.  The gored skirt was pretty straight forward.  The godets were very cool, but did not drape well in muslin.

I am definitely learning pattern making so it’s not a bust.  But how practical is draping if your dress form is not an exact replica of your body?  Tell me what you think!

18 Responses leave one →
  1. October 9, 2013

    Interesting post! Lately I’m working on flat pattern drafting – I started with a basic pencil skirt drafted to my measurements and now I’ve converted it into a princess seamed skirt with a high waist. Essentially, the block is my tnt pattern that I can play with. But with flat patterns there are alterations too. For example, event though the skirt fit around my thighs, they are fuller in the front, so I had to adjust the seams to move fabric from the back to the front so the seam would be perpendicular to the floor. And of course, how much ease you like is very subjective. That said, fitting my self drafted skirt was MUCH easier than any commercial pattern since it started with my measurements.

    I haven’t invested in learning to drape (no dress form among other things). However, Kenneth King did do a Threads article last summer on how to customize your dress form. Maybe check it out since you are building your draping skills? It sounds like you are learning a lot, even if how you connect it back to your sewing remains to be seen.

  2. October 9, 2013

    In my opinion unless you have measurements to match the standard dress form draping is pretty much impossible without a custom made dress form. For myself, while I do have a dress form, my body doesnt come close to matching it as my torso is much longer than the derss form is capable of adjusting to. I have done some flat pattern drafting in the past and I believe it’s the way to go for me.

  3. October 9, 2013

    Mostly, I use pattern making. There are times, however, when draping comes in handy. My custom dress form fit me perfectly 15 years ago, but now I am shaped differently. Even though it and I are not exactly the same size, I still can drape on it and get something usable that I alter to fit me. For instance, there is no way that I can think of to get this effect ( using patternmaking. It was pretty easy to drape, though.

    So what I’m saying is, draping is not a waste of time, and can be a nice compliment to patternmaking skills.

  4. October 9, 2013

    Draping has its place and its definitely worthwhile to know about. But you’ve hit the money on the head if you were thinking of draping as a means to get a better fit. Fitting is a complete art in and of itself. Also, just because you flat pattern draft something to your measurements does not mean it will fit you. Seriously. Yeah, there are the easy things like skirts, leggings and t-shirts, but a bodice is a big deal to draft. Sleeves, yuck….. Oh yeah, you can draft these up, but you’ll look at it and your teacher will look at and say, “hmmmmm….something’s not quite right.” Then you’ll start on an endless number of drafting iterations and this is just for flat pattern drafting. Then you have to fit the bodice. Another bunch of endless iterations until the thing fits. To be brutally truthful, drafting the basic sloper sets from scratch is not easy. Drafting in details that you like, like a different neckline, a collar, gathers, pleats, etc – that’s easy. I know this is not what you want to be told, but its actually easier to start with a basic pattern from a pattern line that you’ve not had as much difficulty fitting in the past. One that has potential to be played with. Drafting in new details and style lines is fun when you are working with a pattern that already fits you, but drafting is drafting. Fitting is fitting and awful enough, they go hand in hand, unless you totally dig making stuff that doesn’t fit you. Learning to draft slopers like a boss takes years of practice, research, schooling…..Yuck.

    I’m totally not trying to get you down, but I, like you have learned these things the hard way. I’ve tried so many ways to get a better fit right out of the gate. If that’s what you’re after, pattern making is a worthy pursuit, but it is not a cheater’s way to get a better fit.

    • October 9, 2013

      I hope I didn’t come off as sound rude and negative. I love reading about your draping adventures! It is worthwhile. But I do think that you are after a better fit in the long run (totally tell me if I’m wrong!). You just want to make clothes that fit. We all do and wonder why its so freaking hard!!!!!

  5. October 9, 2013

    I totally understand, I just don’t think I could do draping although it looks fascinating. BTW, I really liked your pants from yesterday.

  6. October 9, 2013

    I feel like draping is important if you are designing clothes, but I don’t know that it is as useful in making clothes that fit a specific person. On Project Runway draping is critical for the designers to get their garments finished in such a short amount of time, play with the design lines, etc. But that doesn’t always translate into a good fit on the model. They do have the advantage of (usually) dressing a body that is very similar to their dress forms though, so the draping usually works pretty well for them. I can see how it wouldn’t be as useful a skill if you are trying to make something to fit a person with a lot of body “oddities.” I know that when I sew for my sister I have to make relatively few pattern alterations regardless of the pattern company, but when I sew for myself I am always doing some serious pattern alterations. I expect it would be much easier to drape for my sister than it would for myself because of this.

    It sounds like you are still learning lots of fun things in your class though – at least it is interesting, even if it isn’t entirely useful?

  7. October 9, 2013

    Sounds like draping is part of the solution for you. In the short term, padding your dress form match your shape will help. I know a costume maker who uses towels and gaffer (duct?) tape to make his dress form match the client.

    It is possible that the next thing you need to do is learn to draft from first principles. The two skills would complement each other into an awesome package. The same costume maker drafts a sloper for the client, makes it up in calico then uses the dress form to generate ideas. He has worked for so long he is really quick and has many slopers in varying sizes & body shapes. And yes, drafting from first principles is hard initially, and time consuming. But it is also kinda fun.

    By the by, I’m learning a lot from your class reports!

  8. Carol G. permalink
    October 9, 2013

    I’m just getting back into sewing and a set of articles that show how to make a custom dress form that confirms to your every measurement and even figure quirk fascinated me. The one I hope to do is located here.

    You’d need someone else to help make it and lots of the paper tape but I think it is doable.

  9. October 9, 2013

    When you posted about getting a dress form, I suspected you might come to this conclusion. As I’ve written about (but not for a long time), I tried to get a form that would be adequately modifiable. I spent a really long time (and a lot of money – though not as much as if I’d got a custom form) and it will NEVER work because I have really narrow shoulders and a narrow upper bust and a narrow underbust – and the form is just too freakin’ wide! Never mind that you cannot approximate body fat and curve with cotton batting or foam. I’ve given it a very good try.

  10. October 9, 2013

    So, I just took a custom dress form class, and the woman who taught it is also the woman who teaches draping. And she was very much “so, now that you have a dress form, you can take draping.” And several people were doing the class in preparation for the draping class a few weeks later. So, I think yes, if you are mostly just sewing for yourself, then draping is not going to be very satisfying without a customized dress form, despite all the general principles you can learn.

    Now, this class used the Uniquely You dress form (I bought mine here: ). However, my instructor was very clear that the company’s instructions to sew a fitted cover and then just cram the form into it didn’t work. Instead, we sewed a fitted cover, and then we took an electric knife to the dress form (please take a moment to imagine 20 women doing this in the same room) and shaped it to our bodies, and added padding where necessary. And she looked at us with her expert eye from having done this hundreds of times, and said “order this size form”, “cut more here to lower your bust point”, “carve here, your back ribcage is pretty narrow”. And I definitely know that I would have ordered a different size form in the first place, and would not have had nearly as good results without her explicit instructions on how and what to measure, what to prioritize, etc.

    I haven’t used my form very much yet because I haven’t finished adding 4 inches of padding to the hips, so I can’t quite attest, but what I’ve seen of others from the class look like quite good body doubles. I spent three Saturdays and about $200.

  11. October 9, 2013

    My dressform is not good for draping either. I did finally get it padded out almost correctly and then I went through so many health problems my weight was not steady from one week to the next. Bleh.

    So one desperate day, I got the bright idea to just drape on my own body. I actually made pants, draped on my body. I generally knew the shape of the crotch curve and went from there. They turned out to fit most excellently. And then within two weeks I had lost too much weight. Well, I thought I’d lost my mind and had major mistakes in the drape. Until a year later, I hit that exact same weight again and bingo, yup, it was a perfect fit.

    So, OK, if you’re weight stable, hang in there and try as hard as you can to pad out your dressform to your measurements. It’s worth it to keep up in class even if the result is not going to fit you at this moment. You will finally get the form done right and then you’ll have the training to do the best work yet. Hang in there!

  12. October 10, 2013

    Te be honest, this is the very reason why I’ve never taken a draping course. I know you can have dress forms custom made to look just like you but that’s really expensive.

    I’ve been drafting my own patterns for years and I love it. In flat pattern making, you start by drafting slopers or blocks based on your measurements (at least pencil skirt, trousers and bodice. Some drafting methods have you make zero-ease blocks others work with some ease. And some methods include extra slopers for things like outerwear). You sew those up, usually in muslin, and check and tweak them for fit. This is a lot easier if you don’t have to do it on your own. In fact, this is where a teacher could save you a lot of time and trouble.
    After that, you can draft anything you want using your slopers as a starting point.

    I don’t want to sound discouraging but I really think a flat pattern making course would probably have served you better than this draping one. It has to be interesting to see designs come to life in fabric though.

  13. October 12, 2013

    I’ve always preferred flat pattern to draping because my brain works that way. However, I think the skills you are learning will be helpful to you, as there will be times when an idea will be difficult to visualize unless you drape it on a dress form. I recently drafted a skirt with a draped, cowl-like piece in front. I ended up draping the cowl-like piece on my dress form because I couldn’t get it right using flat pattern techniques. My dress form is a bit larger than I am, so I just adjusted the sizing after transferring it to paper. Good luck!

  14. October 13, 2013

    I use draping and flat pattern making to develop my patterns. I find it difficult to draft what I want, so I drape it on the standard size mannequin first and then transfer it to the flat pattern. I can think more clearly when I see fabric draped.

  15. October 23, 2013

    Love the story and all the comments. 🙂 I have worked as a designer/pattern maker in the fashion industry for a long time and find it amazing that anyone would start with draping. Yes it is an integral part of pattern making and realising more challenging designs. However a basic understanding of flat pattern making will really help you make sense of anything you might deal with in draping.

    I have met teachers who only teach the draping method and I know of one high profile designer in Sydney that drapes all designs for their range (sleeves only drafted). Go figure. Myself I am very comfortable with flat pattern making for translating the 3D to 2D (design to pattern). Every now and then draping is required for anything that escapes my understanding.

    Hoping you continue to enjoy your training and go on to cut and drape many beautiful patterns. 🙂

    • elizabeth_admin permalink*
      October 23, 2013

      I didn’t intentionally take a draping class. I signed up thinking it was a flat patternmaking class. The first day, I walked in and found out it was a draping class. Live and learn I guess.

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