Draping on the stand 10.0 The Asymmetric draped skirt

posted in: Designing | 11

Have you ever made a draped, asymmetric skirt? Here are some vintage images. It’s a nice look, isn’t it? And very flattering with the drape, perhaps if you have a little tummy.

These patterns were very popular indeed in the 1940s, and are often incorporated into a dress with an asymmetric or draped bodice. Worn with a dear little cocktail hat, or your best jewellery, it is a feminine look for a summer party or occasion.

I also found a later 1950s/early 1960s version that I will be working from. The skirt is more structural and I like the more modern bodice with cap sleeves and interesting neckline. I will probably only do the skirt at this point. As you can see the skirt wraps around with the upper portion creating a rather beautiful flounce. There are some similarities with the pegged skirt – can you see what I mean?


Anyway my experiments to date have been unsatisfactory. I missed a couple of my evening classes, due to being ill and then entertaining friends from afar. My tutor, Lynda Kinne, had handed me the instructions for the skirt and I had a go at home. The first time I used calico. The big pin is at CF waist. The pencil line is on the grain. You can see how the grain goes off the side (as it should). Nevertheless I was looking for a sort of drape across the tummy, and a lovely neat side seam on the Camilla’s right, but it the fairly stiff calico would not bend.

Draping an asymmetric wrapped skirt (first attempt)
Draping an asymmetric wrapped skirt (first attempt)

I tried again with my fake (but nicely drapey) Chinese 120s wool. It looks like I am trying to drape an entire dress at this point. For some reason the instructions require the fabric to be excessively generous (length of skirt plus 60cm). This time I was working hard on the drape radiating out from Camilla’s left side waist. The CF crease kicks to the right of the photograph which I think you can see. Again this is what we want. I then pinned the waist and marked it with a felt pen.

Draped, asymmetric skirt (second attempt)
Draped, asymmetric skirt (second attempt)

I mentioned this fabric was rather shoddy. As I opened out the remaining piece I found it had a hole along the fold line – I am not sure it had that when I bought it, or if it is moths (I don’t think so as there is not enough wool in the fabric to interest them), but it did restrict its use. So I was by now willing to use it for a toile rather than expecting to make yet another garment with it. (Have you noticed how some of your least favourite fabrics go on and on?).

Then I did what the instructions said which was to cut off the fabric above the waist. I felt very reckless doing this – in my mind this is what Dior, and YSL and all the others do and I do not have the experience or ability to do this. Even though I was only practising with some shoddy fabric it did seem incredibly wasteful. You can tell I am a bit worried about what I am doing.

cutting on the stand
Cutting on the stand

I am showing you this as it is not right. Definitely not right. Nothing like the effect we want. I am sharing it so that you can see how hard this can be – people seem to think draping is for people who struggle with flat pattern cutting. Maybe that is how it works for some people but my flat pattern cutting is quite good. I am being so challenged by learning how to drape! I am learning (as predicted by Mrs Mole and Mary Funt) so much about grain and fabric – it is astonishing.

I decided to stop here and seek help at my Morley class which can’t come round soon enough.

Draped front asymmetrical skirt (second attempt)
Draped front asymmetrical skirt (second attempt)



Mary Funt of Cloning Couture took pity on me and has now written the definitive post on draping this type of skirt. Do please visit her blog if you want to do this properly. Thank you Mary. The power of friendship over the internet knocks my socks off.


11 Responses

  1. Linde

    I find it easier with soft draping to use butter muslin when making a toile. It is a looser weave so you have to treat it gently but it drapes well. Also it is cheap to buy.

  2. Anne

    No I don’t find draping easy! You’re learning so much as you say about grain and fabric – I’m glad I’m following along but I should also be experimenting. I like the top on Butterick 5739. Is the bust of 36 there high bust (rather than full bust), as it used to be, as I see it’s a size 18? Good luck with your next class.

  3. mrsmole

    It does get scary up above the waistline and makes you wonder what do top designers do at that point. What does one do with all that bulk? Will the pleats ever behave and lie flat? Draping is a whole different language than flat patterning and certainly IMHO not easier or faster. Normally you still have to transfer all your markings back unto paper and make another sample before even thinking about cutting into nice fabrics or making future duplicate garments. But you do get a real appreciation for grainlines and like Dorothy, they will lead you along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City…well almost!

  4. Stephanie

    Yes, I second the thanks from Maggie re. sharing your experience, K. It’s way beyond my level at this point and so helpful. S

    • Stephanie

      PS Forgot to add a thanks for pointing out those vintage patterns. I love that style – something to put on the list for spring, as I’d love a dress like those in silk.

  5. erin

    It’s definitely scary to cut fabric like that! Even when it’s toile! Ahhh I totally feel that about my least fave fabrics, I can’t seem to get rid of them fast enough 🙁

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