[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.

Mark the Neckline and trim to the Princess line in the Back Top, the rest of the Back Top can be marked in once you have decided on the Side Seam position.

Next I think is the hardest part of the draping, there is no hard science to this, but it is where the creativity takes over. You need to access how much flare you want to have in both Front and Back which is a combination of design and wearing ease. Everything will be led by this decision and you may need to go back and change things like amount of ease in the side and the dart size and position, so take the time to play a little until you get this how you like it.

Start by trimming and clipping the Back armhole to ensure that everything is settling into place.

Join the Front to the Back in the sides at the armhole base, you will need to unpin any pins in the side seam to get the pieces joined together on the outside. Consider wearing ease while you do this for the top section of the Side Seam.

Holding the Front and Back pieces together at the base pull them away from the Body Form to get the flare that you want and then pin the rest of the Side Seam.

Then repeat on the other side.

This could take a little experimental time to get it perfect. You could have a play with the amount of ease to see what this looks like before you start to excessively trim fabric off.

Trim off most of the excess in the Side Seam but only when you are sure that you have enough flare and that it is even on both sides.

Then down to the Base allowing around 1” of flare in the Base at least. Trim off any excess.

When you have done this on each side mark of the rest of the armhole for the Back.

Then unpin the Centre Front/Back to let the top hang, this will relax all the fabric that has any tension that we saw earlier.

Step back and check the shape, ensure that it is not pushing out in the Front or the Back.

Alter the sides if necessary, the seam should still hang centrally between Front and Back and be vertical and straight and not leaning into the Front or the Back.

When you are happy with the amount of flare mark out the Side Seams for the Front and the Back on both sides, mark out the darts. Trim down the seam allowances to about 1” and then fold over the Front Side seam onto the Back and stand back and look at the shape for a final check.

Mark a point for the base in Centre Front/Back and the Side Seams.

Unpin the Front and the Back (but don’t remove your tape yet).

The patterns look a little rough at this point but not to worry everything will be made perfect when the paper pattern is made. I do prefer to make a paper pattern it helps tidy things up a little.

The pattern is then transferred to paper as before. Before you start fold the Front down the Centre Front to pattern half of the Front and when you trace the pattern off, you should be able to see the markings you made on both sides of the Front and they will not be even. When tracing the lines I feel the best way is to split the difference between any discrepancies between the two sides.

Trace off, firm up the lines (the side seams have no shaping they are straight), true up the side seams, define the dart shape and true it up, mark a Grainline. I also add a hem and ½” seam allowance all the way around the sides, armhole and neckline.

As stated before in this sample the main pattern pieces are low in neckline and armhole as the binding for this pattern sits on top of the main pattern pieces they will need to be patterned out, it will not work if you tried to use a binding the pieces are two wide and need shaping to be tailored to fit. Obviously if you had made your Neckline/Armhole higher and planned for a simple bias binding then miss out the following steps to create a patterned binding.

To pattern these small pieces out you can draft them directly to paper but this method causes a slight issue with working out the length of the strap to the Shoulder. You could drape the pieces but then when you come to true them up you may find that they need a little work to fit the pattern pieces.

In this example they were draped first.

Starting with the Front and Back Neckline bindings (in the sample the Front Binding was not used as pieces of lace were added and seamed in Centre Front instead).

A scrap of muslin is used and marked with a Grainline and the start point is pinned to the Body Form and smoothed, across the Front (and Back) along the top of the Front piece, any excess is trimmed away to help it settle into place.

The top line of the main Back piece (along the tape) is marked along with the Centre Back, and then the Side is marked in line with the end of the main pattern piece. Mark off a line 1” from the base of this new pattern piece to create the binding shape.

The pieces are removed, folded on the Centre Front/Back line cut out and then repositioned on the Body Form.

Although not used for the sample the same was done to create a binding pattern for the Front.

Here is the finished binding for the Front.

To create the Armhole binding a larger scrap piece is added with a selvage down Centre Front to keep the grainline straight, ensuring that there is enough fabric to go up past the shoulder and around the armhole to the side seam.

It is positioned and pinned along the Princess Seam from Neckline to Shoulder.

It is smoothed around the figure trimming until it all settles into place and the Princess line is marked – the binding strap will sit on the outside of the Princess line.

The Side Seam and the shoulder area are smoothed into place and then pinned down.

The Side seam is extended up 1” and this is marked out along the whole of the binding along the Armhole up the Princess line to the Shoulder.

The piece can be removed trimmed back and replaced.

This process is then repeated for the Back.

The Back Armhole binding is draped in the same way.

Here are the initial markings for the Princess line.

The rest is marked out.

Then the piece is trimmed.

When removed the binding pieces look something like this. Ensure that you are very clear with your labels as these pieces can easily be flipped or swapped about.

They can then be trued to the paper pattern and seam allowances added.

Initially they are traced off, clearly identifying where the Shoulder or Side seams are to keep track.

Here you can see how far out the angle of the Back binding is out from the paper pattern. These little adjustments need to be made.

Draping a pattern will give you a good understanding of size shape and position but it will not give you a correctly trued pattern. Can you see how far out things are in this corner on the Front where the pen is pointing. You will need to decide if you change the main pattern piece, the binding or split the difference. I changed the binding (which made for less of a smooth curve for the binding).

The Back Armhole binding piece was really different to the Back main pattern piece when truing, although it is not so obvious in the photo. So I decided to draft this piece from the main pattern piece and discard the draped binding pattern and recreate it and extend the strap up in line with the draped binding to get an accurate angle.

These bindings can get very fiddly.

It will all come out with the Test Garment. Yes quite often I will make a garment as a Test Garment and wear it warts and all, waste not want not!

In construction for this sample the Side Seams were French Seamed and the Top Front was double hemmed before the lace was added (this was cut to the length of the Front Binding pattern with seam allowances). For the armhole binding each piece was cut 4 times to accommodate both armholes and facings, fiddly!. The pieces were seamed at Base Armhole and Shoulder to create a loop and the binding facing was added to the binding on the outside edge then attached to the garment as one big loop, very fiddly!. Lastly the top was hemmed.

Everyday A - Line Flared Skirt

This skirt is a simple A – Line Skirt with 4 panels and knee length with a wide waistband. A really great addition to a capsule wardrobe and you could change it up to make it a really flexible pattern, adding more or less panels, adding pockets, belt hooks, etc. On my design I intend the Zip to go all the way up the skirt and through the Waistband, no waistband extension or buttons are going to be used, this is a design option that I would like to try out.

The process of draping this skirt is very similar to the skirt exercise in the previous Unit, in fact the only differences are in the fullness of the skirt and that this is a stand alone skirt and not joined to a bodice and a Waistband is used.

In some respects this is a very simple drape combining what you have learned in the previous Unit and draping the Camisole above the complexity I feel is in the definition of the amount of flare you want to achieve.

My current body shape is a little square so I find that adding in some volume into a skirt at the base gives some shape to the body so that I don’t just look straight up and down. With that in mind I do like a fabric that is not too flimsy that can hold its own and keep the shape of the A – Line without collapsing down too much. I may even underline this skirt with silk organza and line this skirt, which may mean that I will just dry clean.

As this skirt has more flare than the straight skirt I think it is beneficial to drape a full Front/Back to enable you to see how everything drapes all the way around, I think you get a better idea of how the fullness falls over the centre areas of the skirt.

I decided to slightly fit the skirt from Waist to Lower Hip Line and then flare out in an A-Line shape from there. This can cause a slight skew in the Side Seam from the Lower Hip line as the fabric shifts further into the bias. So to get the best drape you will need to experiment to get the result you want. Also keep in mind the fashion fabric that you are using and consider how it may fall as it drapes.

Another option is to create lots of flare and to not go so fitted down from the Waist to Lower Hip line. Maybe even straighten the line from Waist to Base when transferring the pattern.


Determine the length of the fabric required (Waist to Base) then add on 4” for a little extra (27” in total to mid knee for this sample for me) and tear and press the muslin, we are not going to worry about the width as we are using a full width piece of fabric. I cut two pieces the same width one each for the Front and the Back.

Mark the fabric with a line down the Centre Front and mark on a Guideline a couple of inches down from the top perpendicular to the Centre Front line, across the width of the fabric. Measure where the Lower Hip line is from the Waist and mark that Guideline on also in the same way, it does not have to be perfect but will help you keep the fabric straight as you drape. The other option is not to mark the Waist just to mark about 9” down and use that as the Lower Hip Guideline.

Repeat this process for the Back muslin piece.

Once the muslin is ready we can start straight away as we are not going to tape out the Body Form we are just going to use the Guidelines on the Body Form cover. When you are pinning through your muslin you can feel the Guidelines underneath and you can always peak under if you are not sure. If you prefer to mark with tape then go ahead and use it.

Pin the Front piece down the Centre Front with the Waist Guideline in position and pin out to the Princess line on the Front on the Waist and the Lower Hip Line. You will have to pin back the other side to keep it out of the way for now.

Now if you were to smooth out to the side as we did with the straight skirt you would have absolutely no ease in the skirt. We need some breathing and sitting space and this skirt is not meant to be a tight skirt.

At the Princess Line on the Lower Hip Line pinch out some of the fabric for wearing ease. As this is an A-Line skirt you can add a good amount in the pinch here.

In this photo I am pinching between ¾” and 1” in total which will be duplicated on the other side of the Front when it is all patterned out, also we use wearing ease in the Back too so you could be adding anything up to 4” of wearing ease into the skirt at the Lower Hip Level, the amount of wearing ease is personal choice.

If you pin on the other side of the pinched ease you will secure that amount and keep it in place here for now. Later when determining where the side seam is going you could release or add in more ease if you want to.

Jumping over the fabric pinched out continue pinning out to the Side Seam for the Lower Hip line and then smooth up the Side Seam and pin, it will then be obvious how much fabric will go into the Dart at the Waist. It is looking a little like a baggy mess at the moment, just go with it for now.

Pin out the Dart into the Princess Line.