[Module 7] Draping | 5. Draping Intermediate - Draping Approach, Part One

So far in the previous Unit Draping Basics – Positioning Approach we have looked at how to create patterns through positioning fabric into defined shapes on the body form, defined style and seam lines marked with tape and then positioned fabric onto the shapes using fabric draped with the straight Grainline going down the garment therefore creating garments that are more fitted. Of course only as long as you have customised your Body Form!

The kind of clothing you could make by a Positioning style of draping are mainly around the bodice and close or tailor fitted. This is very useful if you are making an under layer to support the garment on top, or the tops for formal wear or even corset or bra or swimwear making. Also you can use this approach to fit the upper torso in fit to flare dresses and tops.

As mentioned before you can either drape with your muslin or cotton fabric or use a fabric with a similar drape to your fashion fabric (but cheaper!) when defining your shapes. Sometimes I will hold up and pin the fashion fabric to see how it drapes and then remove it and make the pieces with my muslin and keep in mind how the fashion fabric will drape when the garment is made.

As we are going to look at a little bias draping in this Unit we will be using larger pieces of fabric than those used in the previous Unit with the Positioning approach, obviously you can drape all of the garments shown here using any grain you want to. Draping fabric on the bias can give you a very different result as the fabric will hang in a different way to a garment made on the straight grain. Bias draping wastes lots of fabric and personally I feel that in some fabrics it can feel peculiar on my body pulling in all directions against the weave so in my heart I am not a big fan of bias draping so I tend to leave bias draping for that really extra special garment that needs some draping flare using a lovely draping material such as silks or a nice draped bias cut skirt. I personally tend not to wear bias drape in everyday wear. Of course I am a sucker for a cowl neckline that does drape beautifully on the bias.

So taking draping a step further from the last Unit we will shift the ease in the fabric further away from the body adding extra wearing ease but also adding in design ease to take the garment immediately to the silhouette that is required in the design. This approach of Draping is a little more organic than just positioning fabric onto a defined shape, you will need to experiment, imagine and consider the shapes you are making. It does make sense to have your finished picture in mind or have your design to hand when you are draping to help you compare your draped fabric to ensure you are on track. Of course if you are simply spending time playing with your fabric then just have fun pining new shapes as this is how you are going to learn what works for the body shape you are designing for and what doesn’t.

In order to get the best advantage from your draping from this point onwards it is also useful to have a mirror a little distance away so that you can see the effect of your draping at different angles (even more useful in the next unit).

In the previous unit we drew the Straight Grainline on the fabric and also a line for an anchor point for the first pin. In fact you can draw as many lines as you want to on your fabric, and we will look at adding extra lines to help keep the fabric on grain as you pin (something you could also have done in the first unit when positioning fabric if you feel that you can control the fabric better for the body shape you are designing for).

In this Unit then we are going to look at 4 draped garments.

  • A Cool Camisole – fit to flare with some lace detail and optional bindings. Lovely in a lightweight cotton or lawn fabric, show off your prints!

  • An Everyday A-line Flared skirt – looking at adding wearing ease to give a little more fullness for comfort. Try it in different fabric types, light/mid/heavy for different results.

  • A Flirty Swing Dress, on bias – introducing draping collars to make a Flexible Pattern.

  • A Collective Kaftan – looking at a large draped stylised sleeve, great in a light drapey fabric cotton, satin or silk.

Cool Camisole

Here is a little Camisole in two pieces a full Front and a full Back.

It can be worn as nightwear, underwear or worn as a summer top or layered for casual wear, so it is a very flexible garment to add to a capsule wardrobe.

In this sample I have used a light or lawn weight cotton and chosen a pretty print so that it could be worn with jeans. I have added a wide binding on the armholes which carries up to the shoulder to create a strap and a little piece of lace in Front adds a charming touch. You could even add lace to the Back or the base as well.

Here is the Front.

Here is the Back – looking at the strap in back in this photo I may need to check the width of the strap on my pattern as it seems to get wider as it goes up. No matter how particular you are with you patterns sometimes you spot something you missed. The photo could be making this look worse than it is but I will go back to my pattern and fine tune this so that when I make this next time it’s a better pattern.

This camisole can be made with a soft cotton or even a light weight knit fabric but it is not intended to be tight just relaxed down to Lower Hipline and slightly flared in the base by an inch or so each side for Wearing/Design Ease. It is your choice about how much ease you would like to add. You can see how this differs from the garments made in previous Unit. A garment with even a little amount of Wearing/Design Ease suddenly starts to look less formal and more relaxed and is obviously going to be much more comfortable to wear.

Here is a quick sketch, with a couple of options of a straight neckline or a low V neckline to be used in Front or Back, this makes for a nice quick Flexible Pattern option. You would need to draft both to have the choice which to use in Front or Back when making the garment.

The sample is made using a V Neckline Front and Back.

Unfortunately the wide binding although it looks simple does add a fiddly complexity to this garment, both in drafting and sewing. It has to be shaped, you cant just cut it straight as it will stick out from the garment when sewn on.

So if you want to make this much more of a simple sew, then don’t draft the wide binding. Instead choose a straight Front and Back and then you can use a simple bias binding along the outside edges, then create separate straps from a thing binding to make the straps. Of course this means that the Neckline will be higher in the main pattern pieces than this example, as the wide binding forms the neckline height here.


The Body Form has been marked out using tape to show the Neckline and Armhole positions for the main pattern pieces. The tape has been placed where the main pattern pieces will end, note that this is not the position of the wide bindings, they will sit outside of these lines.

It is recommended to mark off both sides with tape for this example and ensure to mark both sides of the Front the same and repeat in the Back. The reason for this is that as there is a little extra ease in the Base I wanted to see how the top drapes as a whole. Of course you could just drape half a side if you prefer.

Use the Guidelines as anchor points to measure to the tape to, to ensure that things are as symmetrical as possible.

Here is the Front.

Here is the Back.

Preparing the Fabric

As with all draping a little time spent preparing the muslin fabric is worth the effort, this is simply to ensure that your Grainlines are visible to keep the fabric from twisting out of shape and skewing your hard work and effort.

For each pattern piece again we will be measuring the area to ensure we have enough fabric to drape, marking the straight of grain, removing selvage edges, tearing the fabric (to ensure the Grainlines in the woven fabric), pressing and squaring off the fabric and firming up Grainlines, adding other Guidelines if required.

Refer back to the previous unit if you need to review this.

This pattern was made on the straight Grainline but you could use a Bias Grainline (explained more in the Bias Flirty Dress demonstration below).

To determine the size of the muslin pieces you will need, measure the desired length of the Cami from Neckline to Base in Front and tear off the piece using the full fabric width as we are going to drape a full Front and a full Back. Because of the ease in this top it is not easy to just draft half a Front we want to see how the drape hangs all the way around the garment which means we need the Centre Front/Back to hang free. I would drape this way if I was using a bias Grainline (which we will look at later in the Unit).

The length measurement will differ depending on if you chose the V Neck option or have designed a Neckline that goes straight across the Front/Back which will be around 3” shorter therefore using less fabric.

Prepare the muslin for the Back.

For this example I cut 2 x 19” pieces to make things simple.

Mark a Grainline centrally on the fabric pieces and mark off a starting line to help start the pinning. The starting line should be around 3” down from the top and perpendicular to the Centre Front/Back Guidelines. You could extend these lines for the width of the fabric which will help you keep the fabric straight as you drape.

Starting with the Front pin the fabric in position, the starting point is at Centre Front, in this case the lowest point of the Neckline. You may need to pin above the Centre Front to hold the fabric in place while you work on the sides. Then pin down the Centre Front to the Lower Hipline.

The garment is designed to fit across the top of the bust then it flares as it falls down the body so we need to keep this in mind when draping. I am going to fit down to the dart then the ease will come into play.

Working on one side of the Front initially smooth over the bust to the Base Armhole and pin down the Side Seam around 3” initially, ensuring that it is not too tight in the sides see how it is smooth across the upper part of the bust (if I had extended that Bust Guideline I would be sure that everything is perfectly straight.

At the same time as doing this assess if a dart is required and it usually will be if there is a bust you will see it start to form. Pinch out the dart, ensuring you are not fitting too tightly. With the Front pinned down things will be a little crumpled and tensioned in the Front just under the bust but we will come back and deal with this shortly.

Stand back and check that you like the position and size of the dart. More ease will be added in the sides further down shortly so if you wish to change your mind about dart size and position you can alter this later.

On this draped side mark off the top shape of the Neckline.

Trim away any excess, pining the fabric on the Neckline to secure it in place.

In this photo I have cropped the fabric right back to the line and not left any seam allowance (sometimes I don’t want the seam allowance as I want to see the edge of the shape clearly to assess things, it is OK to cut it off).

Repeat what you have done to this point on the other side of the Front.

Everything has to be symmetrical from side to side so measure the width of the Dart and where it is positioned in the side so that you can get this the same for the other side. You could of course try a different size and position to see what you like the best. Everything will be exactly matched side to side when transferring to a paper pattern so don’t get too precious at this point.

Next start draping the Back, even though we have not finished in the Front yet.

Attach the muslin in position and pin down the Centre Back. Smooth to the Base Armhole and pin at the Side Seam.