Playing With Fabric: Draping on a Dress Form

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Sewing | Comments


Fashion designers sometimes use a technique called draping when designing and sewing garments. Basically, it involves draping fabric around a dress form and pinning it into the desired shape.

Today, we’ll share the 7 basic steps for draping on a dress form.

To really master draping and other dressmaking basics, enroll in the Craftsy courses Fashion Draping and Fashion Draping: Bias Design, taught by designer Paul Gallo.

Dress Form Draped with Striped Skirt in a Sewing Studio

Photo via Craftsy instructor Paul Gallo

1. Prep your dress form.

Make sure the measurements are accurate. If you haven’t already, mark the center line of the dress form with tape. This will help you keep your draping even across the body. If you already have an idea of the lines of your garment, such as the shape of the neckline, you can add those with tape, as well. This helps keep your draping on track.

Haven’t yet bought your dress form? See these tips for purchasing a dress form.

2. Work from a sketch or photograph.

You should have a design idea in mind when you get to the dress form. A sketch or reference photograph will give you an idea of how you need to manipulate the fabric. Of course, you can also just play with the fabric and use its behavior as the basis of your design, but less experienced designers will be less frustrated when they have something to work off of.

3. Start with muslin.

You might want to start with fitting muslin to avoid wasting good fabric, but keep in mind that different types and weights of fabric behave very differently when draped, so choose a muslin weight that is close to the weight of your fabric.

4. Create your foundation piece and pin it to your dress form.

Most fabrics will require a foundation piece of some sort to support the weight of the fabric. You can skip this step if you’re working with a very sturdy fabric. If your main fabric is sheer, be sure to choose a fabric that’s close to your skin tone or one that matches the main fabric if you don’t want to see the foundation fabric when the garment is worn.

The foundation piece should be fitted to the dress form. (If you’ve constructed a bodice sloper based on your measurements, that’s an excellent place to start!) If you have a basic idea of the design details you want to include (such as a sweetheart neckline or off-the-shoulder sleeves), be sure the foundation piece reflects that, since it will make Step 5 much easier.

5. Start pinning!

Make sure you have enough fabric to cover the area. You can always cut the extra off later. Draping is usually done in sections: front bodice, back bodice, front skirt, back skirt. Choose a spot where the folds are most prevalent and begin there. Your sketch or photograph will come in handy at this point.

Trial and error coupled with patience is the name of the game. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a step back and walk away for a bit. Use chalk to mark any additional seam lines or darts.

6. Baste the fabric to the foundation piece.

Once you’re satisfied with the draping, use a contrasting color thread to baste the fabric to the foundation piece (or to itself if you’re not using a foundation piece). Go slowly so you won’t miss any folds in the process. This will allow you to remove the pins without undoing all of your hard work.

7. Trim off any excess fabric and continue constructing your garment.

The raw edges of your draping should be hidden in the seams. At this point, you can remove your basting stitches.

Are you just starting to sew your own clothes? Enroll in the brand new Craftsy class Sew Ready: Garment Basics with Brett Bara, who will teach you how to turn a basic pattern into a stylish pencil skirt!

Do you have any tips for draping fabric? Please share in the comments!

Comments

  1. Yoel says:

    Very interesting! Lately, we have gotten a huge amount of questions about whether our professional dressforms (http://theshopcompany.com/dress-forms/professional.html) can be used for ‘draping’ and we honestly had no idea what that meant (they work perfectly for draping, by the way)

  2. Hunny13 says:

    I don’t understand Step 4. Is the foundation piece fitted to the dress form or a replica of the completed muslin? Doesn’t it get in the way of draping the style you are attempting to create?

    1. Julia says:

      The foundation piece is fitted to the dress form. It’s basically just an under-layer to support the weight of the fabric you are draping on top.

  3. Debbie Ericson says:

    When I was in couture sewing classes, draping was my favorite form of designing because the creative process kept growing the more I patiently stayed with the process. Best to use stretch fabric in your favorite colored non-matching print, like a floral, to not become discouraged. I luv my dress form.

  4. I have heard you can make your own dress form. Where can I find this information? Jewel