In Fashion, What Is a Drape?

Draping usually begins by taking a basic garment and placing it over a dressmaking dummy.
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  • Written By: Katie Kelley
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  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2015
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Drape is the way that fabric hangs. The process of draping involves sewing loosely hanging material to a garment to create a flowing look. Though it can make for a very dramatic effect when done properly, it does take skill and practice. Many designers choose to experiment with the way fabric hangs, but there are also objective ways to measure drape. This technique is commonly used in making dresses, but can also be used to make blouses, skirts, and pants.

The Process of Draping

Draping usually begins with a designer taking a basic garment and putting it on a dressmaker's model. The garment is generally already sewn into its core shape — for instance, a bias-cut dress would start out as a bias tube on the model. Next, the designer takes pieces of fabric and pins them to the garment where the drape is desired, which will give the final garment its shape. Most of the time the pinned fabric is not the same as the fabric that will be used for the final garment, but rather a similar cheaper fabric. This is because the fabric that's pinned on the dress will often be cut or marked on during the design process, which can be expensive with fine cloths.


Once the designer has the garment looking the way he or she wants it, he or she will make final marks on the fabric to show where it should be cut or sewn on the final garment, and will then remove all the fabric pieces. The designer will then take the pieces and trace them on paper to make a pattern for the final garment. This will be used when the designer cuts the fabric for the final garment and as a guide for constructing the garment, so it's important for the designer to make detailed marks on the practice fabric.

Components of Draping

Designers have to take a lot of factors into consideration when it comes to draping fabric. The type and weight of a fabric can considerably change the way it drapes on a garment, as can the shape of the garment itself. Chiffons, satins and silks are quite frequently used in draped clothing, but many other fabrics can be used as well. More rigid fabrics are often unsuitable for this effect.

Objective and Subjective Measurements

Though many designers prefer to experiment with fabrics to see how they hang, there are objective ways to test a fabric's drape. This can be done either by determining the stiffness of a fabric sample, or by using a device called a drape meter to determine a drape coefficient. This is written as a number from zero to 100. For instance, twill fabric usually has a much smaller drape coefficient than fabrics like sateen, which has a larger coefficient. Practically speaking, fabrics with a higher drape coefficient usually hang in a puffier manner than those with lower coefficients.



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Post 3

I’m not a professional designer or anything but I still prefer draping to working with patterns. I feel like I can express my creativity a lot more when I’m not bogged down in measurements and pattern making techniques. Unfortunately most clothes are produced and manufactured overseas by sending the designs electronically to factories, so you need to have flat pattern making skills in order to succeed commercially, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of making one off designs anyway I still think it’s a valuable skill.

Post 2

@Engelbert - Working from a basic pattern - sometimes called a block - or altering it to make new patterns is called pattern drafting. This is what you were doing in your course. With draping, although you’re still working with patterns, it’s slightly different.

First you make the design on a dress form or mannequin in a cheap fabric like muslin, then you mark it, fit it, and transfer it to paper as a pattern. Clothing construction is the process of actually making the garment, meaning the sewing and hands on stuff which results in a finished product.

Skilled designers might prefer draping because if they’re experienced enough they can skip using the muslin sample and go straight to using the actual fabric.

Post 1

I took an Introduction to Fashion Design course at school and it was mostly learning about how to take measurements and make patterns. Now I understand what a drape is but I’m kind of confused on how it’s done and the difference between draping and clothing construction. Is draping when you you pin the clothes to a mannequin and then sew?

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