Learn To Sew – Draping 101

Do you love making clothes but are not sure how to make them fit? When you see a pattern you love, but want to tweek it just a bit to fit better, do you have the skills in your tool box? I am going to help you take a commercial pattern and make it fit your body! You will love the freedom that comes with draping garments — you can create beautiful clothes inspired by the latest trends! Let’s get started with Learn to Sew – Draping 101.

It has been said that nothing in is new in fashion, it’s just updated. I love fashion magazines and trendy clothes, I also love high-end design, clothes that fit appropriately, work for my height, and age. I prefer to calculate my own garment ease, set garment lengths, and add (or delete) design lines. You will discover the creative side of sewing garments — you will love it!

Draping fabric seems like such a daunting procedure. It really just takes a few simple techniques and when practiced over time you can successfully create a great fitting garment.

You will be sewing your own beautiful custom garments!

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You Don’t Need A Dress Form

Learn To Sew - Draping 101

Do I have a dress form? Yes, I do, I have three. One I bought, one was given to me, and one is an antique a friend found on the side of the road. I love using my dress forms, however, I don’t use them for fitting. There is nothing more accurate than fitting a garment on the body the garment is made for.

Your dress form is a good place to start the process, help you get seams lined up, and perfect for taking pictures. It is not the best place to get a good body fit. If you want to have a dress form in your tool box, this adjustable dress form is a good option. However, it is not necessary to get a great fit on your garments.

All you need is a pattern that has details you like, then you can add or subtract to create your own custom pattern.

Drape Your Favorite Patterns

Learn To Sew - Draping 101

When you find a pattern you love, but it doesn’t quite fit correctly, draping is the answer.

The first step is to make a practice garment, muslin or toile — they are all the same thing — a garment that is made specifically for checking fit. You will not wear it.

To make a practice garment, select an inexpensive fabric that mimics the fashion fabric you are planning on using for your finished garment.

Choose only the pattern pieces that are required to construct the shell of the garment.

Pattern pieces to include:

  • Front
  • Back
  • Sleeve
  • Side Front and Back for Princess Seams
  • Collar
  • Pockets if they are critical in the garment construction
  • Any other details that you need to see

Pattern pieces you do not need in your practice garment:

  • Zippers
  • Buttons
  • Facings
  • Patch Pockets
  • Any other details that you don’t need to see

Once you sew (baste) the essential garment pieces together, you can begin the draping process.

Sewing Your Practice Garment

You don’t need to follow the sewing pattern instructions. You simply need to sew the side seams, shoulder seams, sleeves, and other details required to put your muslin together. Pay particular attention to the recommended seam allowance. Sewing a too big seam allowance will make your garment smaller, too small of a seam allowance will increase the size of your finished garment. Check you pattern notes for specific seam allowance instructions.

Advanced Sewing Techniques Listed

Draping does require a fair amount of sewing skills and techniques. Video tutorials and instructional posts will help you hone your skills — I have listed a few below. When you are ready, private sewing and draping class can help you turn your practice garment into a form fitting masterpiece.

Here are a few sewing techniques listed in posts and videos that can help you along the way.

Muslin Basics

Learn To Sew - Draping 101

The muslin fabric you choose should have the same hand and drape as your fashion fabric.

If you sew a pattern with a cotton fabric for your practice garment, then sew the finished garment with a wool fashion fabric, you will not get the results you are seeking.

Do not sew lining, facings, zippers, buttons, and other extraneous design details. This is not a complete garment. It is created only to test fit and style.

To make a muslin, you need to hone your basic stitches skills and techniques. You need to understand how a garment goes together or be able to read a pattern.

The basic stitches you need for draping is a simple basting stitch. The longest stitch on your sewing machine.

Draping Order

Learn To Sew - Draping 101

Body draping techniques have a distinct orderly process. Length first, then circumference, and finally depth. You don’t want to let out the waist if you haven’t checked the length first.

Pin the seam closed where the zipper, button, or at the other required closure to evaluate your garment’s fit.

Draping Length

You want to explore the length of the garment first. Does the waist fall at the correct spot? Are the bust darts within a three inch radius of the center bust? Do the hips fall at your natural hipline? Is the crotch length long enough or too long? How is the finished garment length overall? I’m short, I always need to shorten the run from the shoulders to the waist and the waist to the hem.

Balance and proportion are key. You can wear any style, it just needs to fit your body length.

Draping Circumference

Once you have balance and proportion, it is time to add or subtract around the circumference. Is the waist to small or too big? Hip? Bust? Arm? Leg? this is where you can let out or take in the seam.

Pin out seams where the garment is too big, let out seams and repin if the garment is too small. If it is too big or small all over – remake the garment in a small/larger size and start again.

Remember to leave some garment movement ease – you want to be able to sit down — or breath!

Draping Depth

Depth is tricky. This is where you need to take one dimensional fabric and turn it into a three dimensional garment that fits over our curves and bumps.

When choosing a size to make your practice garment from remember

With Tops The Bust Always Wins — With Bottoms The Hips Always Win

Select a pattern for your practice garment that is based on your bust or hip measurments. You will have less draping to do, the muslin will fit better, and you will be able to make simple changes to get the fit you want. It is much easier to take a waist seam in than to do a full bust adjustment. Don’t even go there!

Essential Tools

You will need basic sewing tools supplemented with a few extra specialized tools to get your well on your way to draping like a pro.

French Curve

A French Curve is perfect for creating and refining curves. Think necklines, hiplines, bustlines — you get the idea — anything with a curve.


You will want good silk pins to hold your draped fabrics. Clips are not a good option for draping. They slip and don’t hold the fabric in place. When in doubt – buy extra pins and forgo the clips.

Create Original Designs

Once you know how to drape a practice garment from a commercial pattern you will be creating clothes you love to wear! You will have clothes that fit and flatter your figure. As a happy bonus, you will be able to channel your creativity and add design elements that are important to you.

Pattern Transfer

Once you have a practice garment that fits, you need to record your draping changes.

You have two options:

  1. You can take apart your practice garment with all your changes made, and use the disassembled pieces as your new pattern.
  2. Alternatively, you can transfer the changes from your draping to the pattern tissue.

Either way, once you drape your practice garment, you have a pattern to create a great fitting garment. Keep in mind, as you practice your new drafting techniques, your garments may go through several iterations. For instance, once your make up your fashion fabric, you may find you took the waist in too much or not enough. A simple tweak to your personal fitting pattern will send your scurrying into pattern drafting mode.

Fashion Designer Collection Inspiration To Create Your Own Patterns

Learn To Sew - Draping 101

Photo fashion mags

Fashion designer wardrobe inspiration is the best way to create trendy clothes that look like they were fashion design creations. Sometimes we just want a piece to be a closet staple and fit great, sometimes we want to wear garment art and stomp it out.

However you love to wear your clothes, keeping up with what’s in style, hip, trendy, or even classic is ultimately inspired by our favorite fashion designer. Creating garments that fit and reflect your fashion design is like creating your own collection — and that’s cool.

My Draping Series YouTube Videos

Draping Bust Darts

Waist Draping

Hip Draping

Draping Circumferance

Draping Depth

Draping 101 Is Fun And Creative

Get out there and have some fun. Find a pattern you love, make a practice garment, and practice getting it to fit correctly.

We have more in depth pattern drafting posts and video tutorials to come your way. We will take Learn to Sew – Draping 101 to the next level. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter and/or follow us on Facebook at Sewing #MeMade Clothes With Sandi to keep up-to-date on the latest posts, videos, and everything sewing.

Happy sewing,


11 thoughts on “Learn To Sew – Draping 101

  1. What a gift to be able to create clothing like this! I’ve always struggled to sew, but gave my daughter lessons and she is incredible at it, and loves to sew to relax. I’ll let her know about your blog.

  2. I’ve heard of draping but didn’t realize just how important it is to the finished garment. Thanks for explaining that so well. You really do make me want to sew again.

  3. Wow! You always make your lessons seem so simple. I love it. And such a wonderful way to get custom fitting clothing. I want to learn how to drape now!

  4. You have excellent tips and suggestions for draping. Lisa said this article took her back to those treasured memories of learning to sew with her grammy. Thank you for sharing.

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