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

In this second part to the Unit let’s think a little summery as a theme to the next two garments which both cover slightly different aspects to intermediate draping.

Bias Flirty Dress

A simple above the knee bias flirty swing dress with a high neckline. Although there are many options you could use for a neckline for this dress.

This is a quick to drape dress with little shaping after the bust. This one is a great choice to show off a larger print, think 1960’s vintage! Here is a quick sketch to get an idea of silhouette.

There are no waist darts (the lines in the sketch just indicate how the fabric drapes and flows) and you can see the effect of this release of fabric over the bust which falls down to add to the flare in the front. The amount of flare you add to the skirt is personal choice and to some extent is determined during draping and is positively affected by the size of the bust in the front. The complexity is getting the right amount of flare in the Back to balance the Front especially if the Bust is on the larger size.

The armholes are cut in a little to emulate a jewel neckline and the shape is slightly razor back in the Back as the armholes come in a little. The length of this sample is above the knee but you could go higher even to a mini if you dare as the neckline is high it’s going to look sexy with a shorter skirt.

As this is a fit and flare it will skim over any belly area so it is comfortable to wear and also forgiving to wear so great for a summers day. As there are minimal darts and seams with a flowy skirt this dress would be ideal to show off a beautiful printed fabric. Think smaller print from a smaller person go bigger with the print the larger the person, it is all about proportion.

The Neckline in this example is high as per the Base Template and you can make it into a more Flexible Pattern by adding collars to it, Auxiliary Reference Information - Draping – Collars gives you half a dozen collar options to draft that will go with this dress so it is worth working through this mini class in conjunction with looking at draping this little dress.

Other design options would be to design a neck and spaghetti straps or a high round neck and wider shoulder seams, or boat neckline or halter neckline. You could create a full Flexible Pattern pack here by swapping in all of these different necklines if this is the type of dress you love to wear.

Prepare the Muslin

Measure the desired length of the dress from neckline to base in the back and add on another 12” and tear off the piece using full fabric width.

We are draping the fabric on the Bias Grainline which means that when you turn your muslin 45 degrees onto the bias it will be something like a diamond shape so you do loose width at the top. It is important then that you will need to ensure that you have enough width at the top to cover you shoulder area when you hold the fabric up especially if you are draping the fabric as one piece across the full Front of the Body Form. It might be worth a quick check to ensure that you have enough fabric before you make your cut.

Tear off the selvage edge if you need to (sometimes the selvage pulls the fabric tight) and press and square the fabric. Initially mark on a Straight Grainline from the selvage edge, then mark your Bias line 45 degrees off this line. To differentiate between the two Grainlines mark a double line for Bias Grainline and mark it as long as you can on the muslin.

Repeat this process so that you have another piece for the Back.

Solely in the interests of saving tape and less waste we are not going to use tape to mark seamlines and Style Lines we are simply going to rely on the Guideline on the Body Form to guide us. If you prefer to use tape mark on your Centre Front, the Neckline Front and Back, Bust Line Front and Back and Armholes, Shoulder Line, and a couple of inches for the start of the side seam.

Ensuring you have enough fabric in width at the base for when you mark the hemline, you may not have enough fabric at the sides in the base to come down to the same level but don’t worry we will resolve this during patterning, or you can pin on fabric if you prefer.


Lifting the fabric to give you enough for the shoulders pin at the Neckline Centre Front. In this example the Neckline for the Base Template is used as a guide to create a high neckline because we will be looking at draping collars for this demonstration.

Feel though to the Body Form and determine where the Bust line is mark in pen at the centre Front at this point and remove the fabric.

Extend this mark perpendicular to the bias line across the fabric. This is going to help keep the grain straight as you drape the fabric.

Re pin the fabric onto the Body Form at the Bust Line/Centre Front and pin back up to the Neckline at Centre Front.

Choose a side to pin out and smooth the fabric out to the side pinning along the Bust Line Guideline you have drawn ensuring it is level to the Guideline on the Body Form.

Smooth from Centre Front across the top bust area to the Armhole and start pining this out moving down as you go if you did not use tape you will need to feel for the edge of the armhole on the current Base Template outline. Go down as far as you can smoothing as you go and a Dart will naturally start to form.

Pin up the side seam and pinch out the Dart and pin it in place. If you are using a knit fabric to do your draping you can tug a little here and manipulate the fabric to stretch over the bust and eradicating the need for a dart in the armhole but again this depends on the size of the bust. Trim and snip into the armhole to relax the fabric.

Smooth, trim across the Shoulder from the Armhole and you will see that tension in the fabric starts to build up in the Neckline.

Start smoothing across to the Neckline and start trimming and snipping into it. Hold up the Neckline so that you don’t trim down too far.

Here it is with a little more trimming and snipping, I always under trim to start with letting everything settle each time.

Eventually getting everything under control.

Now you will notice that although we have fabric covering the full front we have only pinned half of the body form. When draping fabric on the bias it will stretch and we don’t want it to stretch out too much while we are working with it. So it is helpful to keep the fabric across the full front body to support the bias stretch for the side that is being pinned. It can be cut away later. Or just cut it off if you don’t feel you need it.

Mark all of the seamlines pinned out so far, Neckline, Shoulder, Centre Front and Side Seam pinned so far down to the Bust Line.

The red line shows the new position of the Armhole, around 1” down from the current position of the Base Template and 1” in at the Shoulder. The Armhole is redrawn.

Re pin, trim and clip to any new seam positions. Also mark out the Dart.

The skirt portion has some volume so it is difficult to define the side seam for the front at this stage without having a back piece to pin to so before defining the side seam we drape the Back in the same way as the Front.

As with the Front mark the Bust Line and pin in place up to the Back Neckline on the Centre Back. Smooth across the Back along the Bust Line and pin in place across to the Armhole, pin the side from the Bust Line upwards to the Armhole. Smooth up to the Neckline and out to the Armhole and pin and pin the shoulder in place trimming and snipping as you go. You may need to unpin some of the Front to get accurate pinning on the shared seamlines.

When everything is pinned, trimmed and snipped then mark out the Armhole leading through from the Front in Base Armhole and Shoulder Seam.

Fold over the Front Shoulder Seam on top of the Back Shoulder Seam to tidy it up a little in that area.

Trim the sides on both Front and Back from Base Armhole down to the Bust Line and pin together the Back and Front Side Seam to the outside. It’s looking a little abnormal at this stage but just go with it for now. The dress is fitted somewhat to the Bust Line then the flare will start.

Next comes the creative but tricky part of assessing the drape of the skirt in Front and Back and joining the Side Seam.

With a large bust you are going to end up with lots of volume in the front as the fabric is released and falls over the Bust, but this volume will not be matched in the Back. On a very large bust this can be a proportional issue causing the front to look so much bigger than the Back. One way to deal with this is to create a jump pleat or two in the Back to draw up and release a little extra fabric and release it into the skirt, when creating the A-Line Skirt above we looked at pinching out a little extra fabric to create more volume, so have a play with how much you would need to pinch out to balance things in the side. If you want to do this pin the Centre Back to hold it in position and pinch out some fabric at the Waist as you would with a Waist dart and pin it upwards going to nothing around or just under the Bust Line. This will take a certain amount of experimentation and standing back and looking at the proportion until you are happy with the result.

How much flare to add for the skirt? Well it really comes down to personal choice and a little experimentation.

If you pin down what you have in total then you are going to create perhaps too much volume in the sides can you see how this creates a diamond shape in the side.

If you have too much fabric you will not be able to clearly see the shape you want to achieve so it is a matter of trimming fabric down a little until you get closer to the desired look. But do this a little at a time don’t trim away too much.

So pin trim and stand back and view from all angles.

Here you can see how the Back has been pinned to create extra volume in an attempt to balance volume in the Front and the Back. This could be sewn as a dart or Tuck or just left to hang freely.

If you place the fabric for the back under the front fabric at the side and just let everything fall down you will start to see the volume that is being created, actually this dress has a little more volume than these photos suggest.

If you wish to check the straightness of the seam create a little plumb line.

Lastly make a mark a line to indicate the length of the desired dress at the Base in Centre Front and Centre Back, this line will be firmed up when transferring the pattern.

It’s not going to look pretty at this stage but everything will be copied to a paper pattern to firm up all lines and then a Test Garment should be made to iron out any issues, which will be fitted to the body not the Body Form.

Before taking everything off the body form and if you would now like to practice draping collars then please go to this link Auxiliary Reference Information – Draping Collars. This is a great way to use up some of your off cuts of muslin fabric and lots of fun.

Transferring the pattern to paper.

When making the pattern on paper consider creating a full piece pattern rather than half a front if you are cutting on the bias as one large pattern is easier cut fabric on the bias it is not easy to cut a piece on the fold of bias fabric.

Working on the Front, press your muslin and lay it out on your paper (ensure that you have enough space in the side to add extra fabric for the length). Add paper weights and trace off the outline and dart shape as far as you can for the half Front pattern.

Now firm up the lines.

You may find that the traced off Centre Front is not straight, don’t lose any sleep over this, draping does not create straight lines, and we have been working on a bias piece. Pick a line that fits the best down the Centre Front along the traced out line and firm it up, you may have a few lines drawn after this trying to find the best line as this is a very long line to draw.

Firm up the Front Neckline, Shoulder and Armhole, the dart is marked and trued.

In the side you can either follow the curved traced line down to the base which will be curving in for the waist to create a more fitted garment or take advantage of this swing dress and add a little extra ease by drawing a straight line all the way down to the base area.

Mark the Base line for the front, ensure it is squared off from the front a couple of inches and then take the curve out to the side in a slight curve.

If you are going to add a collar and facing on the Neckline and Armholes then add notches in the Neckline, Armholes and a couple in the side as this is a very long seam to match up. Add the Grainlines.

Also seam allowances have been added at this point as this is a very simple dress. If you prefer not to add measured seam allowances until you have created the Test Garment and fitted and altered the pattern then this would be wise! A 1 ½” hem has also been added and trued.

The same thing is done for the Back pattern.

The muslin is pressed and laid out and the outline as far as you can is traced off.

Starting with the Shoulder seam firm up the line and then true it to the front, checking that there is a smooth flow from the Front Neckline into the Back. If you added the seam allowance in the Shoulder on the Front you will need to fold this back out of the way.

Firm up the Armhole and the Neckline and the Centre Back line.

To mark off the Side Seam lay the Front pattern next to the Back at the side lining up the armhole and the position of the fabric somewhere in the base at Centre Back on the traced out line and check that there is a smooth transition between the Armholes. If you added the seam allowance in the side on the Front you will need to fold this back out of the way.

Draw along the Front Side Seam onto the Back pattern, marking notches and the Hem and Seam allowance if you have one.

Complete the Base on the Back by squaring the baseline off from the Side and take it straight along to the Centre Back.

Then redraw the line with a slight as a curve if you like a softer Hem.

I chose to drop the back a little for purely design reasons but you may wish to lift the Centre Back a little (1/4”) as this is where the bias stretch is. A Test Garment will show if you made the right decision here. It’s always good to try something different that you don’t usually do for a Test Garment, you never know you may like your choices and by doing this you change things up a bit.

The Neckline for this garment is very high so a fastening will be required to allow access to get into the garment. I choose to add a zip for access so this has been patterned onto the paper. Which means that the Back will be cut x 2. So to balance out things in Front I decided to cut 2 pieces also to give a Centre Front Seam which will be balanced out again by the Collar. These are all design choices.

I decided to finish the garment with Facings and these were traced off the main pattern pieces.

You could also add pockets to this dress, patch or in the Side Seams which are a nice feature and could colour co-ordinate with any lining used on the collar, and binding if you are using it.

Lastly if you did draft a collar, true the pieces up to the Front/Back and Shoulder Seam. You can miss this off the Test Garment if you prefer, or mock it up to check its shape and proportions.

I created the Test Garment to check for proportion, fit and design.

After creating the Test Garment I did change a couple of things on the Master Pattern, I increased the Seam Allowance to ½” on the Shoulder (mistake! Caught it in time!). I reduced the zip to 5 ½” at Centre Back as I could get the garment on very easy with a smaller zip. The collar was also coming up short so after truing to the garment I extended the collar at the Centre Back and also added a ¼” seam allowance at Centre Back on the collar.

A Collective Kaftan

Kaftan shapes are all about the sleeves. The base of the sleeve comes out to the arm from somewhere on the torso lower than the Base Armhole and the sleeve can be as wide or long as you design it to be. To balance out the size of the sleeve it helps to open up the centre of the body with a V-Neckline which could change into a wrap over design to take the garment more into a wrap dress or dressing gown or jacket design.

The volume is mostly in the sleeve which can affect the volume that the torso seems to hold and is can be controlled back into the main body of the garment in one way or another usually by a little gathering or pleating, excess fabric control is covered in more detail in the next Unit.

The sample made here has the sleeve coming into the body of the garment at the waist. The design above shows what the same Kaftan style top would look like with different length skirts as either a top, short dress or maxi/full length, which would make the pattern more flexible. You could then create a number of belt designs to switch between the outfits.

In fact from a Kimono style pattern you could make a complete capsule wardrobe if you added a wrap-over style as you would then get your jacket/wrap option for more layering and could also use the patterns for evening wear and night wear or wear on the beach. This is an extremely flexible design to have in your pattern stash that you could change up for a full break away!

This sample demonstrated will be more like the central design a mini skirt kimono and the upper section will be draped in two pieces to the waist, one for the Back and one for the Front. The skirt is draped separately in two pieces also.

An optional version of this would be to create a more Batwing effect where the top is fitted to the Body from Hip to Empire Line and the sleeve starts at that point out to the arm. A Batwing is sort of a smaller version of a Kimono sleeve I think and the overall effect is usually a little more tailored it is not quite as casual as the Kimono. Rather than draping with only two pieces for this Batwing effect you could use 4 pieces and from Empire Line downwards fit the Front and Back with a little wearing ease and then drape the upper pieces including the sleeve in one piece for the Back and one for the Front.


As we are focusing in on the sleeve it is worth talking about how we do this on the Body Form. Now you can buy sleeve attachments for Body Forms or you can go to the trouble of making one, a long tube with the same dimensions as your arm stuffed that you can attach to your Body Form.

I do neither of these things at the moment as I really don’t make that many sleeves for the environment I live in . I have in my arsenal a pressing ham as long as my arm, I use it for pressing long seams and especially sleeve seams. I made this by measuring the diameter and length of my arm at intervals and the length of the arm and using a tube of fabric to those dimensions I stuffed it with saw dust provided by a local carpenter (I actually made it around 4” shorter than my arm as I really did not want to store something so long.

So my long pressing ham doubles up to become an arm during draping, I attach it to the Body Form using safety pins and offcuts of muslin. It’s not pretty or perfect, it is rather clumsy actually but it holds a shape enough for me to work on.

The muslin pieces for the skirt will be the length of High Shoulder to Waist + 5” and the width includes the full body width measurement along the Bust Line from Centre Front to Side + the length of the Sleeve (so decide how long you require the Sleeve to be, this sample is around ¾ length) + 5”. So total measurements are 22” long (i.e. 17” + 5”) and this just happens to be half a width of fabric and 33” wide (i.e. 10”+18”+5”).

For ease I cut both the Front and the Back the same size.

Press the pieces and mark on a Grainline down the length 1” from the edge and label Front and Back.

Draping the Top Pattern Pieces

Ensuring you have enough fabric for the shoulder pin the muslin down the Centre Front.

Smooth across the chest and up to the Shoulder and trim and snip into the neckline to release the tension around the Neck, you can then smooth and pin in the Neckline.

Now the Neckline for this garment is going to be a low V –Neckline and you could now mark this shape onto the muslin, keep marking in the shape until you are happy with it.

Smooth across the bust and secure the Bust Line at the side seam and then pin at the Waist.

There will now be excess fabric in the Front that you can now make into a Dart or gather it up and share the load across the Waist Seam or gather to a smaller area. Have a play with the excess and decide how to deal with it, this is a design decision.

You can then trim off excess below the Waist up to the Side Seam from Centre Front and snip a little to relax the fabric some more.

Working on the Sleeve, hold out the Arm and allow the Fabric to drape across it.

Pin at a point where you want the Base of the Sleeve to be, you could measure this if you want to be more accurate.

Then Mark the Seam line centrally down the arm.

Now create the shape for the Sleeve, here you can see a few options drawn in with different colour pens to get an idea of what you may want to do with this.

Decide on your shape and trim off some of the excess. The pin can now come out at the Bust line in the Side.

Trim the excess of the Neckline and re-pin the muslin.

Now we need to work on the Back piece in the same way.

Pin the muslin in place down Centre Back.

Clip off some excess in the Neckline, smooth along and pin in the shoulder and let the fabric drape across the Back with the grain straight, pin at the end of the Shoulder. Now you can mark off the Back Neckline. In the Back I am going for a Round Neckline starting around 1” lower than the Base Template and going flat out from Centre Back gradually curving back up to join the Neckline in the Front and mark the Shoulder seam and clip the excess off the Neckline.

Holding the arm up and smoothing the fabric down the arm pin the end of the sleeve.

As with the Front smooth out to the Side and pin on the Bust Line and Waist at the Side Seam.

You will have a little excess fabric in the Back at the Waist to Deal with so decide how you are going to do this as you did in Front.

For now I have pinned this as a little pleat but I may release this yet a decision I may make when fitting the Test Garment.

Trim off the excess fabric from the Waist to the Side and snip the seam a little to get the fabric to settle down.

Next mark off the Arm seam and the shape of the Sleeve in the Back Sleeve if it helps pin the Front to the Back and then trim off the excess.

There will be a little dragging and when wearing this sleeve you may find it difficult lifting the arm all the way up, it depends on how much ease you added into the design. With a little finessing the sleeves will start to take shape, ensure you pin the side at the Waist and around the curve into the sleeve and trim down the excess in the Back.

It is a good idea to firm up by marking all the lines prior to draping the skirt.

Here is the Back lower seam lines marked out at the waist and curving up to the sleeve, the dart has been marked too.

The Darts in Front have been marked, the start point and end position of the darts is marked on, I have measured the finished width between these points and have determined that I would like 4 equal with pleats in this area. I will mark this out better on the pattern.

Here is the top so far in the Front

The Back so far looks like this. I am not liking how the back tuck is curving across the back to Centre Back. If you look at the Cross Shoulder Blade area you can see the drag lines emanate from here so there may be bit of a fit issue in here worth looking at on the Test Garment. At this stage I won’t worry about this as I know that this arm is not exact and I really need to get this on the body to correctly assess the fit.

Draping the Skirt Pattern Pieces

Draping a skirt with a slight flare has already been covered in the previous unit so you can follow that in more detail there is no need to cover this again in the same detail here.

Prepare the muslin.

The pieces are measured at the measurement of the Lower Hip + amount of Flare + 5” and the Length is the length of the skirt from the Waist + 5”.

So in this case I have cut pieces 17” wide (i.e. 10” + 2” + 5”) and 23” long (i.e. 18@ + 5”).

In fact I went with 17” x 22” as I know my fabric is 44” wide so I just need to cut a 17” length then cut my width in half, sometimes just go for what is easy there is plenty of excess allowed.

The Centre Front was pinned and then a little wearing ease in the Lower Hip Line was pinched out.

Smoothing over to the Side Seam and pinning back up to the Waist.

The Waist is Pinned working towards the Princess Seam on both sides and the excess taken into a Dart and the excess trimmed and snipped to allow the fabric to relax.

The same was done for the Back and then the Side Seams were joined and the position of the Seam was established.

All seams were then marked out.

Here is the Front.

Transferring the Pattern

As we have done before check that each piece of muslin has been fully marked before you remove it from the Body Form and one by one trace off each piece and firm up the lines.

There are two main areas that will need to be dealt with on the Upper Front and Back pattern pieces, the shape of the sleeve and the pleats position/size.

It makes sense to define the shape of the sleeve first and then if we have any excess/less volume this will determine what to do with the pleats.

To true up the sleeve shape place the Front Upper onto the Back lining up the Neckline and the top seam of the sleeve, you can then mark off the base position and trace down the Base and along the bottom seam to the Waistline.

You can see in this photo how the traced off Front sleeve is very much wider than the Back.

The top will drape so much better if the sleeves are the same shape in curve so it would be good to keep the Front shape for the Back. However that will give a substantial amount of extra fabric in the Back.

So if you do not want this excess fabric you should go with the Back shape and try to ease in the excess fabric in the Back into the seam as you sew it and see how it drapes in the Test Garment.

I particularly did not like in the draped garment how the one back pleat pulled towards the Centre Back and so I think a little extra volume would look nice in the Back. I could split the difference but I don’t want to bring the Front down anymore as I liked the fullness in the Front. So I am going to change the design a little here and make life easier. I actually think a little extra volume in the Back will look really nice with the fitted skirt part drawing this fullness back in to give a blouson feel and the extra fabric will help with movement in this garment.

But that does mean that now I have to deal with the extra volume which will simply be taken into the pleats.

The total length of this seam is 11 1/8” and I need it to be 7 1/8” and very nicely that gives me 4” of excess exactly and that is 1” per pleat as I want 4 pleats (that was not planned by the way!).

Each pleat has a visible part that travels the ‘distance’ across the seam and the invisible part that folds underneath that is the ‘pleat’. For more information of Pleats refer to Auxiliary Reference Information - Draft – Pleating.

For the Distance I am going to allow 3/8”.

You can see here on the Front how this would look, the arrow shows which way the pleats are to be folded.

One other thing I considered was lining up the first pleat with the skirt dart but decided against doing this for the Test Garment because I was toying with the idea of gathering this excess instead of pleating, so was just going to see what this looks like in the Test Garment.

Here is the Front Upper.

And the skirt Front.

The Back follows along the same lines.

A Test Garment will let you see the overall look and feel and proportions of the piece, although it can look very different with the fashion fabric. This cotton is rather stiff and holds its shape, whereas a finer cotton may drape down a little more and be more relaxed.

You can see here what this looks like on the body, the hems on the sleeve and base are just roughly pinned.

I like the shapes, the neckline is very sexy without being too much and the mid thigh length skirt adds to this, the volume in the top half is brought into control in the waist and everything fits very nicely. The photo looks like the waist is a little high but perhaps this is because I am sitting when taking this photo and it actually looks fine on the body.

Here is the pattern made up in a softer and more drapey fabric.

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