Draping vs. Speedy McSpeedster Draping

Alright, I admit it. I skip some steps when it comes to draping. It’s not that I’m lazy, but I just don’t need to do every single step for a costume that’s my own. Do I regret skipping some steps? Well, not always. Usually, I’m ok with it. However, if you’re just starting out making a dress or really creating your own design I think I own it to you to explain real draping vs. speedy McSpeedster draping method, which I employ.

Real Draping

First off, what in the world is draping anyway? When you think of draping, you usually think of a blanket or satin silk folded ever so carefully and flowing over an armchair or from a window sill. Yes, that is a piece of fabric draping over something. However, the method of draping for fashion design is a very different thing. Before I continue with my abridged version, I wanted to recommend this book: The Art of Fashion Draping. For thorough instructions on how to drape properly, there is no substitute to a good reference text. Before I continue, I have to warn you that this is an abridged version of a pretty thorough and developed process. It is also tailored (pun totally intended) to dance costume projects. Draping, in short, is the process of creating your own design by laying fabric in a specific way over a dress form. Let’s start with supplies:


  • Dress Form: Adjustable or Static
    • The static form is a beautiful Wolf Dress form. It’s my dream to own one
    • The adjustable cheapie is good for day to day use. I would love to have a form with detachable arms and legs (one that hangs, kind of like a hangman.) However, those are a bit out of my reach, price-wise right now.
  • Muslin: A thin cotton linen cloth, for each project I like having a decent amount like 3-6 yards (depending on whether it’s a Latin or Standard dress.)
    • This stuff is super cheap and almost any fabric store carries it
    • If they’re telling you it costs more than $3/ yard, you don’t want it and they’re trying to sell you on something you don’t need. This should be SUPER CHEAP.
  • Pins lots and lots of Pins
  • Cheap thread that’s a contrasting color to the muslin
  • Fabric Marking Pencil
  • Dressmaker’s shears
  • Your sewing machine
    • this isn’t necessary for draping, but it’s useful


  1. Set up all of your supplies as well as a few sketches of your ideas for a dress.
  2. Prep your muslin on the floor by rolling it out.
  3. Draw the desired shape of what you believe the pattern may be on the muslin. Use a pre-existing pattern, or draw a generic shape that you believe would work best for your purposes.
  4. Cut your shapes out of the muslin.
  5. Arrange and pin the shapes on your dress form.
  6. If you are satisfied with the position of two pieces of fabric together, use a loose stich with your machine to stich them together.
  7. Make corrections with fabric pen.
  8. Cut new shapes if the previous ones did not suit your design, and do this until you have the shape of dress you desire.
  9. Once you have achieved your desired design, with your fabric pen mark where pieces come together. I like using letters: so, side A matches with side A, etc.
  10. Take the thing apart and either transfer your design onto pattern paper or just use this as your “pattern” for your new dress.

Speedy McSpeedster Draping

For this, I take the above steps and skip those that I’m comfortable skipping. Most regretful step to skip: drawing letters on parts that go together. If you cut pieces out and you forget which piece goes where, your life will be miserable. Least regretful step to skip: Making corrections with a fabric pen. I’m pretty confident with my shears and so when I’m experimenting with muslin, I just cut away leisurely since I’m fleshing out an idea.


Filed under General Thoughts

Draping Fabric

Ah, the time has come to come up with a pattern. Since every costume is unique, every pattern is unique and draping fabric becomes your best friend. One might think I just go at it and start sewing things together just like that. Well, most of the time I do… Just kidding! I do a good amount of draping and cutting of patterns before moving onto the actual costume. Most of the time I use muslin for this step. However, I happened to have some four-way stretch shiny slinky around, so I used that. That way, along with my pattern, I get a useable prototype that I can use to practice in.

To start off, I take my black slinky and throw it over my dress form. My dress form isn’t anything fancy. It just helps me visualize the final product in the early stages of design. It also helps later on retain the shape of the garment during the stoning process.



As you can see there isn’t much there to this step aside from throwing fabric over the dress form and not throwing it on top of the dog. I cut out a basic shape from the slinky just so that it wasn’t bunching up everywhere.






After draping the fabric, I drew out the shape of the dress using some chalk. I love using chalk to draw on fabric. It comes off easily, draws easily, and can really bring something as useless-looking as this to life. This is what it looked like after some chalking:






After chalking, it was time to do some cutting and pinning. In this step, I cut out the shape I drew on the dress form. Using pins, I connected the parts of the dress together. I left room for hems on this pattern so when I cut, I could just trace the pattern. At this point, I actually tried the “dress” on myself to check for fit and for any issues that might come up. It’s good to have someone help you get in and out of it since it’s held together by pins. I realized I needed to correct a few parts and so I made notes for myself on where to leave more slack and where to make a tighter cut. As a general rule of thumb, I leave slack just so I don’t have to cut an entirely new piece of fabric. Also, notice that the sleeve is missing. Sleeves are fairly generic, especially in this project, so the need to create a pattern for the sleeves was nonexistent.

Finally, I take my cut pieces and I lay them out on the final fabric to get cut. I position them in such a way that I get the most out of the pattern of my final fabric. I like to pin them to the fabric before I begin cutting. I also like to use a dark chalk to draw out any corrections (which I may have done during the fitting.) Then, I proceed to cutting. This dress is coming together quite nicely, methinks. pattern-out

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Filed under Dance Costumes, Dresses, How To