Draping III – New Skills Up My Sleeves

To reCAP, (get it…cuz sleeve cap…eh?) I signed up for a series of draping classes this spring through the Seattle-based New York Fashion Academy. I have been sewing clothes and costumes for seven years, and all the while draping remained a mystery. Sure I could pin fabrics to my dress form and approximate a garment, but I always struggled to translate that moment of inspiration into a usable template to make something from it.

The New York Fashion Academy offers a full certificate program in fashion design and gives people the option to take individual classes. I’m very likely going to formally enroll in the full program, but for now I’m focusing on a few skillsets.

I believed that by taking these classes, I would better understand garment construction and be better at creating costumes on the form. Already I’ve been able to put what I’ve learned to work in my sewing room. Just this last weekend I cut out a muslin of a skirt and sleeveless top and used my draping skills to play around with the fit of the garment in order to create a dress out of a limited fabric length.

The last segment of my class has focused on sleeves.

Set-in sleeve with elbow dart

Raglan Sleeve

Dolmen Sleeve

Sleeves were less fun than the other parts of the draping coursework. I’m still glad I learned it though. I learned draping sleeves from scratch is inferior to pattern making or pattern drafting. There are exceptions, when you want to experiment with some new kind of sleeve or create. However, given the amount of time I had to spend balancing, especially the dolman sleeve, I agree I would be better off making a muslin from a pattern and then adjusting it as necessary on the form.

Sleeves introduced the need to balance a pattern. My previous draped muslins did not need balancing because I only draped half of the bodice/skirt/collars, which are cut on the fold or two at a time. The sleeves, and a later bias drape that I’ll show you tomorrow, need to be balanced because I draped the whole thing at once and not all of my lines are even.


I didn’t take enough photos of this part. The above is an example of balancing (splitting the difference) between the sleeve side seams so that that seam in centered on the inside of the arm. There are probably design reasons to create an unbalanced sleeve, but even then the lines would need to be smoothed out.

I have also come to understand some of my existing purchased patterns (like the Akita blouse from Seamwork) and how they were created. This gives me more confidence to edit these patterns to make them fit better.

There are two more draping classes in the series, but I am going to hold off on taking them for now. I want to dive into Fashion Illustration next to reconnect with my drawing skills and learn about drawing fabrics and garments.

I just love learning. It makes my brain feel active. What sewing-related classes do you want to take in the future?


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