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Playing With Fabric: Draping on a Dress Form

Fashion designers sometimes use a technique called draping when designing and sewing garments. Basically, it involves draping fabric around a dress form and pinning it into the desired shape.

Fitting on a Dress Form

Today, we’ll share the 7 basic steps for draping on a dress form.

To really master draping and other dressmaking basics, enroll in the Bluprint courses Fashion Draping and Fashion Draping: Bias Design, taught by designer Paul Gallo.

1. Prep your dress form.

Measuring a Dress Form

Make sure the measurements are accurate. If you haven’t already, mark the center line of the dress form with tape. This will help you keep your draping even across the body. If you already have an idea of the lines of your garment, such as the shape of the neckline, you can add those with tape, as well. This helps keep your draping on track.

Haven’t yet bought your dress form? See these tips for purchasing a dress form.

2. Work from a sketch or photograph.

You should have a design idea in mind when you get to the dress form. A sketch or reference photograph will give you an idea of how you need to manipulate the fabric. Of course, you can also just play with the fabric and use its behavior as the basis of your design, but less experienced designers will be less frustrated when they have something to work off of.

3. Start with muslin.

You might want to start with fitting muslin to avoid wasting good fabric, but keep in mind that different types and weights of fabric behave very differently when draped, so choose a muslin weight that is close to the weight of your fabric.

Wrapping Fabric on Dress Form

4. Create your foundation piece and pin it to your dress form.

Most fabrics will require a foundation piece of some sort to support the weight of the fabric. You can skip this step if you’re working with a very sturdy fabric. If your main fabric is sheer, be sure to choose a fabric that’s close to your skin tone or one that matches the main fabric if you don’t want to see the foundation fabric when the garment is worn.

The foundation piece should be fitted to the dress form. (If you’ve constructed a bodice sloper based on your measurements, that’s an excellent place to start!) If you have a basic idea of the design details you want to include (such as a sweetheart neckline or off-the-shoulder sleeves), be sure the foundation piece reflects that, since it will make Step 5 much easier.

5. Start pinning!

Make sure you have enough fabric to cover the area. You can always cut the extra off later. Draping is usually done in sections: front bodice, back bodice, front skirt, back skirt. Choose a spot where the folds are most prevalent and begin there. Your sketch or photograph will come in handy at this point.

Trial and error coupled with patience is the name of the game. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a step back and walk away for a bit. Use chalk to mark any additional seam lines or darts.

6. Baste the fabric to the foundation piece.

Once you’re satisfied with the draping, use a contrasting color thread to baste the fabric to the foundation piece (or to itself if you’re not using a foundation piece). Go slowly so you won’t miss any folds in the process. This will allow you to remove the pins without undoing all of your hard work.

7. Trim off any excess fabric and continue constructing your garment.

The raw edges of your draping should be hidden in the seams. At this point, you can remove your basting stitches.

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Very interesting! Lately, we have gotten a huge amount of questions about whether our professional dressforms ( can be used for ‘draping’ and we honestly had no idea what that meant (they work perfectly for draping, by the way)


I don’t understand Step 4. Is the foundation piece fitted to the dress form or a replica of the completed muslin? Doesn’t it get in the way of draping the style you are attempting to create?


The foundation piece is fitted to the dress form. It’s basically just an under-layer to support the weight of the fabric you are draping on top.

Debbie Ericson

When I was in couture sewing classes, draping was my favorite form of designing because the creative process kept growing the more I patiently stayed with the process. Best to use stretch fabric in your favorite colored non-matching print, like a floral, to not become discouraged. I luv my dress form.


Hi Debbie,

this might be a really ###### question, but it’s bugging me already for a long time, so now I dare to ask. 😉
I have discovered “draping” only a few months ago on Pinterest and find it magical! There are so many beautiful examples of draped dresses, especially, when you search for haute couture draping. However, when I look at the pictures (e.g. this one: ), I wonder how this is sewn together in the end? What comes after the draping process? 🙂 Thank you in advance for your answer!


I’m curious of the same

Jewel Frankenbery

I have heard you can make your own dress form. Where can I find this information? Jewel


I made one a few weeks ago using a pattern from . I’m usually very hands-on, DIY with things but after reading many articles about making a dress form for my own shape I didn’t know where to start. Rather than spending months getting it right on my own I read lots of reviews and paid for the boot strap fashion custom printable pattern. I’m really happy with the result – it is a million times better than the expensive, standard, adjustable form I was trying to use before. My sad old, momma body just does not match any standard dress form – no matter how ‘adjustable’ it is. The first thing I did was experiment with draping and I was amazed that it was all so easy.

Jewel Frankenbery

I have heard you can make your own dress form. Where can I find this information? Jewel


Check out pintrest. They have many great tutorials. For a more professional look,I’d suggest staying away from the duck tape ones.

Kathi James

Great article! Pictures would have been very helpful though. 🙂


Exactly , im only a beginner in sewing because im only 12, so pictuers would have realy helped.?


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