We welcome you back for a holiday version of Needles in the Stacks. We’ve designed this post to help you decide which of the many draping manuals out there should be on your holiday wish list.
Here are the books we looked at this fall:
Drape Drape 2,
Drape Drape 3.
All three volumes by Hisako Sato, and kept in the same place:
4th Floor Art Reference TT520 .S286 2012
There are three books in this series, which we’re discussing together. The author wrote and designed all the garments presented in each. Each book in the series contains instructions for making a group of non-traditional garments. Sato distinguishes these by using soft but weighty fabrics draped into many folds (hence the title). The books include pictures of the pattern pieces, detailed written directions, computer-generated “how-to” images, and photographs of petite young women wearing versions of the finished garments. The books also came with pattern pieces, but these have long since disappeared from our library copies. Hence, it is more of a designer “how to” (see our “Couture edition” from 3/21/14) than a draping manual, but we’ve thought a lot about it anyway.
Denise and I agree that the patterns shown here are super interesting. However, the maker needs an intermediate level understanding of both draping and sewing. The garments are clearly illustrated, as you can see. And just as clearly they are not for beginners. The pattern pieces are unusually shaped and often defy conventional construction methods. Computer-generated drawings demonstrate numbered steps for the many tasks involved.
The dress pictured on the right gives some idea of the unconventional draped detailing in these books. This is dress #5 from the first book. The design owes something to couture and movie gowns of the 1930s, but Denise and I agree that this is a great dress. Unlike some garments in this book, this would probably be flattering on women of every shape, from Plus sized down to Model-like.
Many of the garments are asymmetric, and all take advantage of fabrics with both weight and softness, using these characteristics to create garments with inherent movement (hence the titles). Recommended fabrics include cotton, wool, and silk, many of them knits or crepes. These characteristics are clearly shown in this “goddess” dress (book 1, dress 17), illustrated here by a sewing blogger:
The shape of this garment, seen in the pattern pieces below, is characteristic of Sato’s work, using many pleats arranged asymmetrically across the body.
A quick search on the internet shows the international popularity of Sato’s three pattern books. As the author of this blog listed, nearly two dozen bloggers have worked their way through patterns in these books. She’s compiled a list:
By and large, these bloggers have had good results from working with these patterns. That may be that these bloggers are better than average sewers, or it may be that Denise and I are wrong about the difficulty of these patterns.
Regardless, I wonder if these patterns are so popular because of their unconventional (avant-garde, even?) construction and finished appearance? Or is it that western-European seamsters are on the hunt for construction challenges beyond the standard sloper variations of darted bodice + skirt or pants + sleeves? Or is it that these garments reflect an extreme expression of the shifts towards less-formal, increasingly-knit garments that are taking place in western European/American society? I don’t know that it matters, other than to a student of the cultural history of clothing (completely guilty here), but I find the popularity on the internet of Sato’s designs pretty intriguing.
(in a wonderful play on the books we’ve researched, Alabama Chenin, owner of the company of the same name, and author of the two books in our library… interpreted a Sato pattern, then blogged about it here:
We reviewed Chenin’s books in an earlier “Needles in the Stacks” post, which you can (re-)read here:
TT507 .J34 2005
I confess to being fond of this book, because it is an expanded version of the manual I used in Mrs. Sica’s lectures in *my* draping class here (in 1987). But, readers, this book is an even better draping manual. It begins with an explanation of how draping fits into the design industry. It continues, as do many of these books, with a description of the tools needed, as well as some details about human reference points for as they appear on a mannequin.
The bulk of the book illustrates the draping process with careful step-by-step written descriptions, including how to layout the cloth and prepare it, but using all drawings. Overall this book makes an attempt to cover every variation of a basic bodice, skirt or pant, in as concise a way as possible. Denise and I both found the instructions to be easy to follow. While it includes a lot of how-to for some pretty complicated garments, it’s a good book for novices both because of its breadth and it’s clarity. The book has been expanded from the version I used, now including foundation patterns for knits, swimwear and sporting wear, tailored garments, and some basic fitting info. Designwise, fashion illustrations of the garments have been added, making the book a bit more friendly looking, in my opinion. But friendly looking or not, it remains an excellent reference for beginning designers to industry stalwarts. I think I need to update my wish list.
TT520 .D83 2008
The project of reviewing so many how-to manuals from the library’s collection has brought to our attention the changes in book design since the early twentieth century. Technology has increased our expectations to require photos instead of drawings, “modern”- i.e. graphic design using more white space, as many photos as possible, and those in color instead of black and white. As a professor of mine used to say, “We are all children of Modernism.”
That said, this book is attractively laid out using the best of the modern ideas. It uses photographs in the how-to sections, and black mannequins with the white design lines to make the unbleached fitting-muslins especially clear. The avant-garde design continues with a sideways-printed table of contents.
Denise and I were both frustrated at this book’s dependence upon the metric system. However we loved that the step-by-step illustrations are photographed muslins being fit onto a body. This made the book’s lessons very clear. This book provides something for both left-brain and right-brain learners. The how-to is very technically written, and the images are good enough that you don’t need to read it if you don’t want to.
The book begins with basic slopers and womenswear shapes: skirts, bodices, dresses, sleeves, collars, pants, etc. But the second section, after one has learned all the basics, explores the draping of some of fashion designer’s Greatest Hits between 1892 and 1995. Beginning with a Worth day dress, step-by-step muslins are photographed to walk the student through the pieces in these gowns. The Dior dress on the left is carefully worked out in muslin here:
This book would be on my Wish List, if it were still in print. Alas, but the only copies for sale are now going for $$$$.
Draping for Apparel Design, by Helen Joseph-Armstrong.
TT520 .A742 2013
This is probably the most comprehensive draping manual we’ve ever seen. Helen Joseph Armstrong began her writing career in 1985 with her basic patternmaking manual: “Patternmaking for Fashion Design” (TT507 .A74, 5 Main, Art Reference, and Circulation Reserves), and has continued to update this technical title regularly while expanding her writing to the art of draping as well. Here is a bit more about Armstrong and her publishing career:
This book is laid out nearly the same way her patternmaking book is. It begins with discussion of fabric grains and properties, including the bias. It gives instruction on fabric preparation, correct measurement of the body, tools of the trade, and dart manipulation. It presents instructions for draping just about every garment type regularly made in the western world, including bodysuits with cutouts. It has an excellent section on laying out and cutting knit fabrics (which tend to roll), lapel designs, grading and patterning jacket sleeves, with some bonus basic grading techniques. Also bonus is the dictionary of draping terms, techniques, and garment descriptions.
Like Armstong’s patternmaking books, each draping project is laid out with a fashion illustration of possible uses for the technique, then carefully-drawn how-to steps for draping the garment. The illustrations are current-feeling, unlike some of the older draping manuals, which still use drawings from the 1940s. The projects are then laid out from simple to difficult, and from basic bodices to skirts to dress slopers and beyond.
This is the comprehensive book. If our readers plan to work in the industry (especially Special Occasion wear, which requires more draping than Mass Market), or wish to teach themselves the basic techniques of draping *anything*, this is a Must-Have book.
TT520 .C58 1998
As someone who is constantly trying to keep my personal library limited to only the most-useful titles, and taking up the least space, I often wonder in which markets new books think to fill gaps. My desire to have good manuals to hand, but not have shelves and shelves of them duplicating the same information, like the FIT library does, makes me especially picky about the ones which target a small niche, such as Special Occasion, or Shirtmaking (e.g. the books by David Page Coffin we reviewed here:
For Denise and I to be interested in a book that deals with a very small subset of the world of garment design, patternmaking, or construction, it has to offer more detailed information, better presented (e.g. the D. P. Coffin titles), than the manuals (e.g. the Armstrong above) we already own. This book, “Cutting and Draping Special Occasion Clothes” does not make the cut.
This book is an odd one. It has a gorgeous picture on the front, but absolutely no photographs inside. How can one publish a book on eveningwear design without at least a few sumptuous pictures??? Even in 1998? Furthermore, this book attempts to cover the basic patternmaking skills that go into eveningwear construction using crude hand-drawn illustrations and scanty instructions that assume a lot of prior knowledge. Or perhaps they weren’t thought out well. But neither the written nor the illustrated instructions present as much information as any of the previous three books reviewed here.
Finally the pattern shapes and design suggestions lack creativity and range of design skill. Save your pennies and buy the Helen Joseph Armstrong instead!
All righty, everyone! This should help you figure out what to order your favorite FIT student this Christmas! Or, perhaps your favorite student of life. Have terrific holidays and peace to you and yours,
Beth & Denise