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May 27, 2016

Draping Class -- Week 1 Wrap-up!

Yesterday I completed the first week of my intensive Draping I class (4 nights a week for 5 weeks) at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).  It was thrilling -- and intense.

Just showing up four nights in a row is a lot for me: every other class I've taken at FIT so far (this is my fourth) has met just once a week for roughly 4 months.  This class moves fast and, naturally, you're expected to keep up.  Our professor, a full-time faculty member, is demanding but clear.

We started draping the very first day.  Similar to my patternmaking class, we chose a dress form from the dozens in our classroom; we'll be working with that particular form for the duration of the class.

First we learned how to "block" a piece of muslin so that it was on grain, stretching the corners till the piece formed a perfect rectangle, and marking various points like center front, as well a grain guideline which will need to be kept vertical as we start draping (you can see mine in the pic below, intersecting the horizontal hip line).  We draped the muslin piece on our dress form, pinched out two darts in front (and later, two darts in back), marked the side seam, and learned how to transfer the various markings and measurements from the muslin onto a piece of pattern paper.

After making front and back straight skirt pattern pieces, we then used these to create skirt slopers on oaktag (heavy paper similar to poster board).

Later in the week we traced our skirt slopers to make a fresh pattern, which we then manipulated to create a new design.  Our assignment was to design a hip yoke with attached dirndl skirt.  Using style tape, we worked out our yoke design on our dress forms.  It could be any shape we desired.  It would have an attached dirndl skirt (which is gathered where it attaches to the yoke, as opposed to flared).  The skirt could be as voluminous as we wanted provided we could gather it into the yoke.  I made mine three times as wide as the original straight skirt sloper.  I did this by cutting the original sloper into even strips (8 in all), numbering them and then lining them up on a piece of pattern paper (matching the hip line) and leaving two inches distance between each strip.

We trued the top curved edge and then, using carbon paper and a pattern wheel, traced our new pattern onto muslin (with seam allowances), which we then pinned on our dress form.  A lot of steps, right?

The yoke was made by drawing the yoke style line (i.e. shape) onto our traced skirt pattern, cutting each (front and back) out, closing the original waist darts, and cutting and spreading the pattern paper so it lay flat.  We traced this onto fresh pattern paper and added seam allowances (below).

Yesterday, we cut the pattern out in muslin and attached the pieces with pins.  (We used the sewing machine to add gathering stitches to the skirt.)  BTW, we drape only on the right side of the dress form; right now our designs are all symmetrical.

Here's what I made:

So far, I find this process to be much more creative than flat patternmaking, though of course I draw a lot on what I learned in my patternmaking class.  So glad I took that class; otherwise I'd be a little lost.

I'm already considering signing up for Draping II in the fall.  I would also like to take Ladies Tailoring II -- it's being offered but there have to be enough students signed up for it to actually happen.  (Men's tailoring seems to suffer from insufficient enrollment these days.)  Not sure I'm ready for two classes at a time but some of these kids are taking as many as six!

My draping adventures continue next week (after the Memorial Day holiday); I'm very excited to see what's next.  I'll keep you posted.

Have a great day everybody, and a safe holiday weekend for you Americans!


  1. Wow, beautiful! I am deeply envious of your educational opportunities.

  2. Omg, you're bringing back the memories. Plus 20 years though ;-) Oh the smell of pressed muslin. Have fun, it's a blast!

  3. Lots of envy here, too. It does seem like a lot of steps, but the results look great!

  4. This looks very challenging and rewarding. I've always read that flat pattern -> draping is the best way to learn patternmaking and I'm interested to read your take on the advantages of both. And I'm of course interested in what you'll be designing!

  5. Peter -- you are doing a fantastic job and I am most envious. I am looking forward to other post about this class!

  6. It looks wonderful!
    I love how you keep improving your sewing skills. You're an inspiration.

  7. Beautiful job Peter! You will go through a ton of pattern paper - good thing it is provided in class!

    1. It isn't -- for this class we have to bring our own (everything).

  8. This is so exciting Peter, even vicariously. I am of course green with envy!

  9. Wow. The instagram photos do not begin to tell the story you're in the midst of.
    Could we start a fund raiser to keep you in classes and writing about them?

  10. Really intrigued to see how this compares to your experience of flat cutting. Looking forward to the next installment.

  11. So fun!!! Have I told you 20 times already that I'm jealous? Well, I am. So neat that you are able to take these classes.

  12. It's good to know the venerable FIT teaches draping the same way we learned 40 years ago at a much less venerable institution ( the apparel design program was eliminated a few years after I graduated). Note that Peter is learning that draping also requires flat pattern skills. Learning draping techniques really taught me how to fit the female figure, and how to work with bias cut designs. Given the draping course content and about 10,000 hours of practice, Peter you too will drape like Vionnet!

  13. How I loved draping class. I took I and II with a wonderful master draper, Hector Lopez at College of Alameda in CA. He was the same, demanding, and kind at the same time. Have fun and, for sure, take draping II.

  14. So cool! I took Draping 1 last fall at FIT and the class was quite different - we draped everything and only made a pattern for the last garment. I love what you are doing - I really wish we'd done more of that. Good luck (I'm in Sewing II at FIT right now at 3 nights a week and am totally exhausted - I can't even imagine being there 4 nights LOL).


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