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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Draping: But What *Is* It? (pattern altering and design)

A flared skirt I draped in
Fashion Lab
You're right, that hem wasn't
yet even!
Before people sewed they draped. 
And we continue to drape today. 

Most of my buddies, both sewists and non-sewists, understand what I'm talking about when I say I bought a pattern, altered it to fit a little better, and sewed it up. But when I say I'm studying draping, they give me the funny look. When I explain what draping is, I get another look.

Draping is the most historic way of creating clothing. Long before people applied the first ancient bone needles and early threads to join pieces of fur or fabric together, they hung or draped clothing on themselves and others and found ways to fix those materials onto the body. 

You may have tied or wrapped stuff around your own or a dolls body at one point in your life, and achieved a serviceable garment. Ever tossed a hole-embellished sheet over your head, and been a ghost for Halloween? I know I achieved a lovely Roman goddess effect with a large blue sheet and a little twisting around my self and over one shoulder, back in sixth grade.

In most cases of early draping, the fabric was draped directly onto the body the piece of clothing was intended for. Eventually pins were added to hold things in place (If you can knap stone or bone to create an arrowhead, why not a pin?). By the time the Romans dominated the western world, many civilizations were using something along the lines of the Roman fibula, a kind of forerunner to the modern safety pin to hold longer clothes on. They were also pretty savvy about tying fitted workmanlike garments onto their bodies.

Stitching things in place came rather later in history. It was the tying, draping and arranging of fold and fabric that counted. 

Skipping forward quickly (did you know I'm an inveterate time traveller?) we find that though modern folks have invented the flat pattern method of clothing construction, clothing designers and sewists continue to use draping as either an alternate method of creating a pattern, or as a way of testing, altering or polishing the fit of a garment created with a flat pattern. 

I'm taking a draping class in order to develop skills I can use with my custom dress form. (You may also choose to buy dress forms that you can adjust to reflect your measurements.) That means I'll be better able to alter commercial patterns to fit me, in addition to beginning my journey into creating my own patterns. I also hope that someday I'll be bold enough to create a garment from scratch right on my custom form, just like the couture houses do for their high-end clients!

As I learn to drape, I'm learning more about this ancient art form, increasing my appreciation for historic garments, and developing a sense of why the lines of different pieces of clothing fall the way they do. 

Learning to drape, and studying the history of draping is the kind of thing that keeps me...
Enchanted by Sewing!

~ ~ ~

The profession known as a "draper", has an historical significance that goes back to medieval trade guilds. http://www.ask.com/wiki/Draper

You can drape on a person or on a dress form. When creating for ourselves, it's easiest to use the dress form approach!

In the September Enchanted by Sewing Audio Podcast Dress Forms Episode, I described my experiences creating two different dress forms. You can listen to this talk either online on the web, or you can download the show to your mobile device (like an iPhone, Android, etc.)

I'm just beginning to learn the historic and modern art of draping. It's a very artistic experience !  I've begun to develop my skill set in a class taught through the Cañada College Fashion Department. I'll be continuing my draping journey by continuing to follow the richly illustrated draping tutorials and examples in our class textbook, The Art of Fashion Draping. This excellent, and highly regarded book, by Connie Amaden-Crawford has been in use for decades. both within the industry, and by home sewists. 

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