Draping on the stand is a highly regarded skill with a creative approach to design, balance, flare and fit in order to create three-dimensional designs. Creativity bounced around in our home right from the outset where I was taught freestyle cutting fabric and draping by my mother who was a seamstress.

Freestyle cutting is great for creating one-off pieces but in the fashion industry draped designs are always translated into 2D patterns or digitised for production and future reference. I fell in love with fashion draping on the stand when I was in my early teens 🙂 I use to sit in my local library just looking through books with Hollywood film stars and their beautiful dresses and costumes.

Fashion draping

A confident pattern cutter needs to be able to draft a pattern from scratch to create a block pattern as a starting point and drape onto a garment stand (also known as a dress form or mannequin) or the human body with fabric.

In the fashion industry, the designer would sometimes drape fabric on the garment stand to get design ideas, before discussing the options with the pattern cutter or the designer talks the pattern cutter through the sketch and she then interprets the design into 3D shape and translate this into a 2D pattern.

I teach my students several methods of draping on the stand, one of them is to use a narrow styling tape (available in black & white also colour, below) and mark out style lines onto the stand like the dress stands seen on The Great British Sewing Bee below. This approach allows you to stand away from the garment stand, use your creative eye and look at the proportions, characteristics of the fabric and design; adjust if necessary before going any further.

Fashion draping

It also helps to have styling tape positioned on the three horizontal reference points: bust, waist, and hips.
Fashion draping
If your design is asymmetrical, you’ll need to drape a full garment on the garment stand, make a full toile and pattern. If it’s symmetrical you can drape one side of the garment stand and make up half a toile for the fit and proportion.

The silk organza red dress below was draped on the stand with similar weight fabric to the silk organza. A fine sheer, transparent crisp and springy woven fabric suitable for evening wear. Silk organza is also used as an interlining in couture.

Fashion draping

The silk satin silver dress below was draped on the stand with similar weight fabric to silk satin. A very smooth light satin weave with a shiny and matte surface option. Suitable for evening wear and often referred to as the queen of all fabrics.

Fashion draping

Like Madeleine Vionnet, who was a master at draping fabric on the bias, I work directly on a small scale garment stand (below) in the actual fashion fabric if I’m working with a designer or fashion house and creating collections or when I’m teaching students. This enables you to see the characteristics of the fabric, proportions for the body and design before recreating into a full-size garment.

I also use full-scale garment stands and the human body to drape my ideas and then I would draw a rough sketch. I love draping fabric on the stand and cutting on the bias to create garments that move with the contours of the body. The design possibilities are absolutely endless.

Madeline Vionnet

Designer Madeleine Vionnet – queen of the bias cut.

Were you inspired to start sewing your own clothes, learn fashion design and make your own patterns?