Dressmaker’s Library: “Draping Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design”

“Draping Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design” by Annette Duburg and Rixt van der Tol is a superb book to own if you want to take your draping skills to a whole new level. I have had this book since Christmas 2014 and have learned so much just reading it and studying the photos of the garments in all stages of the draping process.

Each step of the draping process is accompanied by photos which have very clearly marked grain lines and seam lines. The technical drawings are very clear, as well. Even so, it is a book that beginners may find a little difficult to learn from since there are certain details that are very sophisticated. Although I had two years of draping instruction in a classroom, the technique we learned came right out of “Draping for Fashion Design” by Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Relis. Jaffe and Relis’ book would be easier for a sewista to learn from because the construction details used are familiar to anyone who drafts their own patterns or uses commercial patterns.

Duburg and van der Tol create basic bodices and skirts that are used in slightly different ways. For example, the basic bodice does not end at the waist but is extended to the hipline.

Using this longer basic, fitted bodice as the basis of a two piece dress results in a different approach. It seems that the longer basic bodice is used as a support over which the other components of a design are attached. In the photo above for an empire waist dress, the higher waistline is marked off on the basic fitted bodice. The skirt portion is draped on top of that with the bodice remaining in one piece. There are no instructions given to cut the bodice along the higher waistline. The same is true for a two piece dress using a pencil skirt for the lower half. The longer fitted bodice is left as shown in the photo above. I’m not sure what the construction would be like in such a dress in terms of closures. I would think zippers could be slightly bulkier.

A strapless bodice is created from the same fitted bodice extended to the hipline. The entire bodice is draped and then style tape is used to mark the style lines of the strapless design. Jaffe and Relis do not drape their version of a strapless bodice like this. Instead they mark the strapless design onto the dress form and the muslin is then draped to follow the style lines.

A key area of difficulty for me would be draping the set-in sleeves shown for some of the styles created in the book. There is the assumption that the reader knows what a good armhole depth would be and no specific measurement is given. In Nurie and Relis’ book instructions are always more detailed instructing the draper to lower the armhole so many inches down.

These differences, though, do not detract from the value this book adds to the Dressmaker’s Library. By studying the styles and following the photographs one can get ideas of how to simplify the designs and adapt their own techniques to create them.

Two Christian Dior New Look designs from the early 1950s are included in the book with complete instructions for creating the draped pattern. The only drawback is that no construction details are given for things like closures, underlining and interfacing.

There is great value in the study of the designs such as these. The photos showing how the dress form was prepared for draping the style reveal what types of petticoats and shaping are needed if you want to create an exact replica of the look. Tulle and hip padding are two important elements of each design.

The other design element are higher armholes and a slightly sloping shoulder line.

After serious consideration of these silhouettes I do not think many women today would want to wear an exact replica since the hip padding has the effect of making the woman look slightly heavy in the mid-section. For a woman of average height (5’4″ to 5’6″) this could end of making her look dumpy and frumpy. If, however, these styles are used as catalysts to get your own imagination working then the study and outlay for the book will prove worthwhile. The silhouettes can be updated to work in a manner that would be much more flattering to the modern woman. Personally I do not care at all for the hip padding and unusual shapes around the abdomen some of the Dior suits of this era used.

I plan at some point to return to draping using the technique I learned at school using Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Relis’ technique. I do plan to take the ideas in “Draping Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design” by Annette Duburg and Rixt van der Tol into consideration and use them as a starting point. I’m very excited to see how things will develop.