Choosing the right fabric drape for a dress pattern can make or break the finished article. The way a fabric drapes or lies when it is made up can make all the difference to an outfit. A soft-flowing look may well suit a particular pattern, and a stiff, controlled look suits another. An identical sewing pattern made up of different fabrics may give very different results.
What is Fabric Drape?
Drape simply refers to how the fabric hangs. Fabrics with drape will fall gracefully to the floor, adding very little volume to your body. Stiffer fabrics will add volume but will also give support and structure to hemlines.
It is important to understand this concept in dressmaking as it affects whether the garment skims over your body or hangs away from it, giving a more boxy look.
There are 3 different types of fabric drape:
- Low drape fabric - These are stiffer fabrics with a voluminous drape that doesn't hug the body. They stick out and add volume. Also called a voluminous drape.
- Moderate drape fabric - This fabric has a medium amount of drape and is suitable for a wide range of projects. It has the most versatile type of drape and is suitable for dresses, blouses, trousers, and much more.
- High drape fabric - This type of fabric conforms to the body as the fabric is soft and flowing. Suitable for gathers and details such as pleats. Also called fluid drape.
Check the Pattern Suggestions
Before you start, always check the pattern suggestions for fabric choices in regards to fabric drape. This should give you some indication of where to start.
Many of the Treasurie patterns will specifically state whether the fabric should have a drape and give multiple fabric suggestions to steer you in the right direction.
Choosing Fabric Drape That Flatters
Choosing a fabric drape that will flatter your body is all about the effect you wish to create.
1. Low Drape, Stiff Fabrics
Heavier kinds of cotton or denim fabrics have a stiffness about them that encourages a fuller look. As a general rule, collars, cuffs,
In addition, stiff fabrics are great for articles that are tighter on the body, such as
Examples of low drape: Canvas, denim, leather, suede, twill, curtain fabric, home decor fabrics.
2. Moderate Drape Fabrics
These fabrics fall in the middle of high drape and low drape. This encompasses most fabrics that are suitable for sewing gathers, pleats, and other details.
Examples of moderate drape: Wool blends, linen, cotton including quilting cotton, french terry, cotton knits, and cotton lawn.
3. Fabrics with High Drape
A softer, flowing look is achieved with fabrics like rayon that have more drape to them and follow your body lines and contours closely.
Using a soft rayon fabric for a dress with tucks or gathers is going to create a flowing effect. A rayon used on an A-line dress will softly drape at the sides, while a cotton fabric will hold the A-line shape and stand out more than the draped fabric.
Examples of high drape: Silk, bamboo, rayon, crepe de chine, lighter fabrics.
Fabric Drape Vs Weight
It is important to note that the drape of your fabric has nothing to do with weight. A fabric can be thick but still soft enough to drape over your body. Conversely, a fabric can be quite thin but still stiff.
Heavy-weight fabric often has a low drape, but this is not always the case. Lightweight fabric often has a high drape, but once again, you will need to check the individual fabric.
Testing Fabric Drape
Here is how to assess the drape characteristics of your fabric:
- Prior to cutting your fabric, the overall effect of the garment can be assessed by draping the fabric over your arm.
- Let the fabric fall down to the floor and see how softly it drapes. Here you can see the degree of drape.
In contrast, rayon drapes well, and the softness created by this fabric will suit flowing dresses and tops. A loose, drapey dress in summer is both cool and classy.
Examples of Fabric Drape
Here are some examples of the different types of drape.
Example 1 - Identical Dress Pattern
These were made with exactly the same dress pattern. The blue sample was sewn in a cotton chambray fabric, which, while soft to the touch, had some stiffness and weight. The red sample was sewn in a lightweight rayon fabric.
Look how the dress fits differently around the armholes and over the hips. The blue one stands away from the body, while the red dress has a good drape shape and skims the body.
Example 2 - Identical Skirt Pattern
These two skirts were made with the same pattern but in differing lengths and sizes. See how the darker blue sample in rayon shows the gathers and drapes over the hips. The chambray skirt was made with the pattern option to reduce ease (this is the excess of fabric around the body).
Example 3 - Dress Patterns
These 2 dresses were not made with the exact same pattern. However, they were similar in hem styles. See how the cotton hem is stiffer and stands out more than the soft polyester.
Fabric Drape Chart
Here is a chart showing you the drape in various fabrics:
Fabric Drape - In Conclusion
Fabric drape has a large impact on the success and wearability of your sewing projects. Take the time to look through your wardrobe and work out which types of fabrics are most flattering to your body shape.
LEARN HOW TO SEW WITH MORE FABRICS
Now you know all about fabric drape, check out these other fabrics listed alphabetically.
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool