Draping and Moulage

Draping and Moulage | The Cutting Class. Progress image of draping on a Hervé L. Leroux garment for couture SS13.

Work in progress on a dress for the label Hervé L. Leroux from the Spring-Summer 2013 couture collection.

While many designers design garments that can be created using flat pattern making techniques, other garments are created by working directly on a mannequin using techniques often referred to as “draping” or “moulage”. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when working in this way if you are using draping techniques to develop your own designs.

If you are unfamiliar with how draping is different to pattern cutting there is a basic outline of the differences between flat pattern making and draping in the post Drape at Lanvin» This also covers a basic overview of how draping can be used as part of a process that will eventually arrive at a finished garment pattern.

Note that draping can be carried out in calico or muslin, or you can drape directly with the final fabric. This will depend entirely on whether you are creating a one off creation, such as a custom or couture garment, or if you need to end up with a pattern so that the drape details can be duplicated for production. 

There are an increasing number of images circulating online of designers and students who are using draping techniques, and this allows us to have an insight into different ways that garments are created. Some examples of draped experiments are shown below.

Draping and Moulage | The Cutting Class. Details of draping and moulage found on Pinterest, image 1.

Draping and Moulage | The Cutting Class. Details of draping and moulage found on Pinterest, image 2.

Please note that the images above have been collected through Pinterest and have been credited where possible. Experiments with bands of fabric via Un Peu Du Sucre», draped single piece of fabric via La Petite Salope», draped chiffon bodice via Burda Style», angular folded drape via Design de Moda Uniritter»

Record Experiments

One of the advantages of using draping as a technique is that you can very quickly mock up different ideas “on the stand” (on a mannequin) to experiment with different silhouettes before committing to the construction of a single idea. In the process of working quickly you may find yourself moving and repositioning the fabric without keeping track of the changes.

It is important to take photographs, draw sketches and take notes as you work through these experimental stages just in case you want to return to an idea later on. This includes taking notes of details and helpful construction elements that aren’t clear from photos. For example, it may be helpful to take note of the position of grain lines on rough sketches as this may affect the way that the fabric moulds or stretches.

Be Aware of Gravity

The process of draping also gives you a chance to see the effect that gravity will have on the fabric, and to see how the fabric will shape and mould when the grain of the fabric is placed in different directions. This is an advantage of using draping over flat pattern making techniques where it can be harder to picture how a fabric will fall or hang on a section of the garment.

However, be aware of the way that you treat gravity at this stage since it is very tempting to constantly pin the fabric directly onto the mannequin in an attempt to foil gravity entirely. This is completely fine to a point, and is essential when you are first positioning the fabric onto the mannequin, but ultimately if you are going to create the garment then you will need to work out how you can get the fabric to hold the shape that you need.

A good solution to this problem can be to drape the fabric as desired, and then as one of your final steps, readjust the position of the pins to see if the fabric can hang on the body as a garment, and without additional pins as support. For example, this would be a good final test of a dress to check that the straps will not simply fall off the shoulders of the mannequin. This obviously will not work if you are only draping a garment on half of the body and still need to mirror the design for the other half of the body.

In the event that the garment cannot hold itself on the body, then you may need to consider whether you will need a specially shaped internal structure to hold the garment in place, discussed in more detail below. 

Limitations of Draping on a Mannequin

One point to be aware of when draping on the mannequin is that designing “on the stand” will tend to encourage you to create very bodycon garments. In terms of design this may lead you down a path where your end design looks a bit generic, or a bit “done”.

Consider if you would achieve a more interesting result if you created a base structure first and draped over that. Or position objects and shapes on the mannequin, only to remove them later to leave the excess fabric volume hanging off the body. Or you could pin, manipulate or alter the shape of the fabric first before you even begin to start shaping it on the mannequin. Basically, it is much easier to come across “happy accidents” when draping if you just mix up your process.

Body Movement and Ease

You also need to think about how the wearer’s body will move in the finished garment, remembering that a garment that is absolutely skin tight to the body allows no space for “wearing ease”, and the wearer may not be able to move their arms or sit down.

One way to avoid this problem is to create a fitted corset first, including the necessary ease for movement, and then drape your more complex fabric details on top of the corset. In effect this will essentially be a process of building the garment from the inside out, whereas with flat pattern making you will often design the shell first and then develop the lining pattern later. This process also makes it easier to take the garment on and off the mannequin if needed.

Consider Openings and Fastenings

When draping, it can also be very tempting to get caught up in the sculptural elements of what you are creating, leading you to forget about more practical concerns such as the fact that you’ve draped part of your garment completely across the armhole, or left the wearer no way of getting into the garment.

While the garment is still on the stand it is a great chance to consider how one piece of the pattern blends into another, or to develop innovative ways to hide or position fastenings and closures so that they become more fully integrated into the design.

Draping and Moulage | The Cutting Class. Progress image of draping on a Hervé L. Leroux garment for couture SS13 with layers of fabric to support pleated top layer.

Draping and Moulage | The Cutting Class. Progress image of draping on a Hervé L. Leroux garment for couture SS13 with pins used to hold pleating across the bust.

Herve L. Leroux, SS13, see more images and an interview at  The Kinsky»

Internal Structure

The images above show some examples of work from Hervé Léger as designed under the new label name of Herve L. Leroux for the Spring-Summer 13 couture collection. These appear to be created using jersey, which has been carefully draped over the curves of the body. You can see in one of the images how the fabric is being draped over the top of a supportive lining. The lining appears to have been left larger so that it can be shaped to match the finished draping.

There are a number of different construction devices that you can use to help to support the shape of your draped garment. Depending on the shape of your garment you may simply need a lining which mimics the shape of the silhouette on the body. The lining pattern may be similar to the shape of the garment, but without any of the pleating, fullness or draped volume that is on the outer layer of the garment.

Otherwise you may need a more structured under layer such as a corset or corselette, which you may need to fit and construct first before draping, or you may need to develop it at the same time as any draped fabric embellishment. You could also research less structured details to control the fabric such as hidden fastenings, tapes or body harnesses that can anchor the garment at strategic points on the body, without the need for a corset.

Draping and Moulage | The Cutting Class. Detail images of Madame Gres garments.

For more inspiration, here are a few examples from Madame Gres, or you can view more examples of draping with pleats on Pinterest»

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