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A Guide to Fabric Drape

Fabric drape is one of the most important factors to consider when constructing a garment. Choosing the right fabric drape for a dress pattern can make all the difference to an outfit.

What is fabric drape?

Drape is the term used to describe the way a fabric hangs on the body, under its own weight.

Different fabrics drape differently due to properties of different fibers as well as the fabric’s weave, weight and finishing treatment.

A fabric that drape well (as a good drape or is drapery), is very flowy, it hangs and move in a fluid, body-skimming manner. When placed over a body part or any other object, it clings to it, showing the form of what’s below it. Silk crepe de chine, satin and chiffon are a few of the fabrics which almost always have high drape.

On the other hand, a fabric with low drape is stiff, hangs wider and holds its shape more. It is a fabric that has structure or body, such as heavy cotton and linen, or silk taffeta and organza, which create lightweight volume and expansiveness for dramatic looks.
Stiff fabrics are great for articles that are tighter on the body such as a-line skirts, dresses with a tight bodice or or snugly fitting pants.

Drape vs. Weight

Fabric weight and drape are not dependent on one another but are closely related. Just because a fabric is lightweight doesn’t mean that it will have a good drape (think about organza). And vice versa, not all heavy weight fabric will have low drape, though usually it does.

Choosing the right fabric by its drape

When considering the draping qualities required from a fabric, it is important to bear in mind that its end use, the type and style of garment, fashion, personal preference, etc. all play an important role in what is regarded as a good or desirable drape. Do you want a dress to hug every curve, or skim them? Are you making a flowing evening dress or a sheath dress?

There are mainly three different types of drape:

  • Fluid Drape: a very flowy fabric that hugs and conforms to the body. It holds pleats and gathers well.
  • Moderate Drape: the most versatile type of drape, suitable for a variety of projects.  It skims the body rather than hugging every curve. It still holds pleats or gathers rather well. It is neither crisp, nor flowy.
  • Voluminous Drape (or full-bodied drape): fabric with this type of drape is often stiffer which causes it to stick out from the body. Soft fold and pleats will form, but it might have trouble with gathers. Ideal for special occasion dresses.

Our Fabrics & Their Drape

Fluid Drape

Silk: Chiffon, Georgette, Crepe de Chine, Crepe the Chine Stretch, Crepe Satin, Crepon, Satin Stretch.
Lightweight Wool: Wool Crepe.
Polyester: Lightweight Microfiber, Smooth Microfiber.

Moderate Drape

Silk: Cady.
Cotton: Lightweight cotton sateen, Lightweight cotton sateen stretch, Poplin.
Linen: Linen Canvas.
Wool: Wool Double Crêpe, Stretch Wool, Tartan.
Polyester: Crêpe Microfiber, Heavy Microfiber.

Voluminous Drape

Silk: Dogaressa, Duchesse Satin, Double Shantung, Faille, Mikado, Radzemire, Shantung Satin, Taffeta.
Cotton: Cotton sateen stretch, Pique Stretch.
Linen: Linen Blend.
Wool: Coating wool, Stretch Gabardine, Tweed and Bouclé.

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