Fabric Drape – Fabrics that Flatter for Sewing

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Choosing the right fabric drape for a dress pattern can make or break the finished article.  The way a fabric drapes or lies when it is made up can make all the difference to an outfit.  A soft flowing look may well suit a particular pattern and a stiff controlled look suits another.  An identical sewing pattern made up in different fabrics may give very different results.

Fabric Drape in Dressmaking and SewingPinFabric Drape in Dressmaking and Sewing


What is fabric Drape?Check the Pattern SuggestionsChoosing Fabric Drape That FlattersStiff FabricsFabrics that DrapeFabric Drape Vs Weight Testing Fabric DrapeExamples of Fabric DrapeExample 1 – Identical Dress PatternExample 2 – Skirt PatternExample 3 – Dress PatternsFabric Drape ChartFabric Drape – In ConclusionLEARN HOW TO SEW WITH MORE FABRICS

What is fabric Drape?

Drape simply refers to how to how the fabric hangs. Fabrics with drape will fall gracefully to the floor adding very little volume to your body. Stiffer fabrics will add volume but will also give support and structure to hemlines.

It is important to understand this concept in dressmaking as it affects whether the garment skims over your body, or hangs away from it giving a more boxy look.

Check the Pattern Suggestions

Before you start, always check the pattern suggestions for fabric choices in regards to fabric drape. This should give you some indication of where to start.

Many of the Treasurie patterns will specifically state whether the fabric should have drape and give multiple fabric suggestions to steer you in the right direction.

Choosing Fabric Drape That Flatters

Choosing a fabric drape that will flatter your body is all about the effect you wish to create.

Stiff Fabrics

Heavier kinds of cotton or denim fabrics have a stiffness about them that encourages a fuller look. As a general rule, collars, cuffs, and details will look smarter and more crisp in stiff cotton. In addition, stiff fabrics are great for articles that are tighter on the body such as a-line skirts or dresses with a tight bodice. Using a stiff fabric that doesn`t drape is a good choice for garments when used correctly. All these skirts were made with medium-weight, semi-stiff fabrics.

Fabric Drape - Skirts made with Stiffer FabricsFabric Drape - Skirts made with Stiffer FabricsPinFabric Drape – Skirts made with Stiffer Fabrics

Fabrics that Drape

A softer, flowing look is achieved with fabrics like rayon that have more drape to them and follow your body lines and contours closely. 

Using a soft rayon fabric for a dress with tucks or gathers is going to create a flowing effect. A rayon used on an A-line dress will softly drape at the sides while a cotton fabric will hold the A-line shape and stand out more than the draped fabric.

Examples of Fabric DrapeExamples of Fabric DrapePinExamples of Fabric Drape

Fabric Drape Vs Weight

It is important to note that the drape of your fabric has nothing to do with weight. A fabric can be thick but still soft enough to drape over your body. Conversely, a fabric can be quite thin but still stiff.

Testing Fabric Drape

Prior to cutting your fabric, the overall effect of the garment can be assessed by draping the fabric over your arm. Let the fabric fall down to the floor and see how softly it drapes.

Generally a cotton will have more stiffening and weight in the fabric so it will not flow but rather stand out creating a stiffer look. 

In contrast, rayon drapes well and the softness created by this fabric will suit flowing dresses and tops.  A loose, drapey dress in summer is both cool and classy.

Examples of Fabric Drape

Example 1 – Identical Dress Pattern

These were made with exactly the same dress pattern. The blue sample was sewn in a cotton chambray fabric which while soft to touch, had some stiffness and weight. The red sample was sewn in a lightweight rayon fabric.

Look how the dress fits differently around the armholes and over the hips. The blue one stands away from the body, while the red dress skims the body.

Fabric Drape in DressesFabric Drape in DressesPinFabric Drape in Dresses

Example 2 – Skirt Pattern

These two skirts were made with the same pattern but in differing lengths and sizes. See how the darker blue sample in rayon shows the gathers and drapes over the hips. The chambray skirt was made with the pattern option to reduce ease (this is the excess of fabric around the body).

Fabric Drape in SkirtsFabric Drape in SkirtsPinFabric Drape in Skirts

Example 3 – Dress Patterns

These 2 dresses were not made with the exact same pattern, however, they were similar in the hem styles. See how the cotton hem is stiffer and stands out more than the soft polyester.

Fabric Drape - Stiff vs Draped FabricFabric Drape - Stiff vs Draped FabricPinFabric Drape – Stiff vs Draped Fabric

Fabric Drape Chart

Canvas x
Charmeuse x
Chiffon x
Cotton x
Crepe x
Faux Fur x
Georgette x
Jacquard x
Jersey Knits x
Polyester x
Rayon x
Satin x
Scuba Knit x
Silk x
Taffeta x
Wool (Suiting) x
Wool (Thick) x
Wool Crepe x

Fabric Drape Chart

Fabric Drape – In Conclusion

Fabric drape has a large impact on the success and wearability of your sewing projects. Take the time to look through your wardrobe and work out which types of fabrics are most flattering to your body shape.


Now you know all about fabric drape, check out these other fabrics listed alphabetically.

CHIFFON – Sewing ChiffonBATIK – What is BatikCANVAS – Sewing CanvasCOTTON – Sewing CottonDENIM – Sewing DenimFELT – Sewing FeltFUR – Sewing FurKNITS – How to Sew Stretch FabricINTERFACING – Types of InterfacingLACE – How to Sew LaceLEATHER – Sewing LeatherRAYON – Sewing RayonSHEER – Sewing Sheer FabricsSILK – How to Sew SilkTHICK – Sewing Thick FabricsVELVET Sewing VelvetWOOL – Sewing Wool

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