16 Dec 2013 • • by Heather Lou

Book Club: Draping (The Complete Course)

Christmas is juuuuust around the corner and I suspect this would be a very welcome gift to find under the tree this year for any sewing nerd.

It was basically like Christmas came early when Laurence King sent over a copy of Draping: The Complete Course for me to review.  It was exactly like that scene from A Christmas Story when Ralph unwraps the Red Ryder BB Gun, but no one shot their eye out.

My eyes did FALL out of my head, but it was because of the staggering and welcome amount of information in this tome (and it is a tome - very satisfyingly thick and weighty, and has the heft of a text book, something a book nerd like myself finds extremely satisfying). This book explains the art of draping in tremendous detail, and presented a topic I viewed with some level of mysticism ("Draping? That's when you prey to Shiva, do a rain dance and call on the ancient spirits to make clothes, right?") with clarity and approachability.

Maybe my confusion about what draping entails can be blamed on Project Runway. Whenever a contestant was described as a "draper", it generally meant they were ripping off Madame Grès with fluid, jersey dresses that they made by wrapping and hand sewing on the spot. While this more free-form type of clothing design is certainly part of draping, I had no idea that you could (quite easily) design traditional patterns using draping techniques.

Traditional flat pattern making is much more technical and mathy, and I think requires a bit of education and practice to wrap your mind around. I come from a technical design background so teaching myself this method when I released the Bombshell wasn't a crazy jump in logic, but the techniques outlined in this Draping book would have made the process infinitely more intuitive and fun. It is inherently a more creative approach to pattern making since you are manipulating the fabric on a dress form in real time. You can visualize the design since it is right in front of you, and don't have to do the mental gymnastics to visualize a 2D pattern in 3D (or make numerous muslins, since the first step is actually making the muslin).

The book explains the basics of draping fundamentals (grain lines, tucks, dart placement etc) and provides a number of projects where those techniques are applied to different garments in a step by step, beautifully photographed way you could easily follow along with.

What's kind of fun about this book is the projects they use to teach the techniques. It's a mix of beautiful designer pieces (who hasn't wanted to knock off things they've seen on the runway?!) along with iconic ensembles from films and the red carpet.

The breadth of draping projects is impressive - dresses, gowns, skirts, blouses, jackets. Obviously, you would need a dressform to apply the techniques, but I've never been more inspired to save up and finally buy  a real dressmaking dummy instead of the cheap plastic collapsible model I have now.

Some of the projects are topical and may not age well, like Rihanna's crazy tuxedo. The choice to include Gwyenth Paltrows' pink Oscar dress made me laugh, since it is kind of famous for fitting her really poorly:

My favourite project is a Jean Harlow 30's gown. No surprise really - the 30's is my all time fantasy period for evening wear and nothing makes my heart beat faster than a bias cut slinky gown.


Finally, there is a chapter on more improvisiational draping, which is what we generally think of when we think of draping in the first place. This may be a good place to start having fun with these methods:

I couldn't be more excited to try out some of these ideas, particularly as I find myself more inspired to design my own makes from scratch as my sewing skills grow and improve. It feels liberating to be handed a key to limitless clothing possibilities, and especially nice that the key is a book you can buy on Amazon.

This would be a great last minute gift idea! It is definitely the prize of my sewing library at the moment.

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