Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Draping, The Complete Course

I've been wanting to post this review since September! Life has been crazy with work and the FM competition. (Please VOTE if you haven't yet!)

On September 19th, I attended an event sponsored by Britex and held at Apparel Arts in San Francisco. Karolyn Kiisel was speaking, the author of the just-released book, Draping: The Complete Course.

This sold-out event gave us an opportunity to watch Karolyn drape one of the dresses that Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

I have long been interested in draping, so I looked forward to watching Ms Kiisel at her craft. She started off by showing examples of how fabric behaves on grain, on cross grain, and on the bias. In short order, she was draping the Audrey Hepburn dress on a dress form. Ms. Kiisel has taught fashion design for over 20 years and she clearly knows her stuff. Once the Hepburn dress was completed, she answered questions, and then showed draping of a more free-form design.

Fascinating stuff!

After the talk, photos were taken!

Mary (a blog reader), JillyBe, me, Laura Mae
with Karolyn Kiisel

My copy of the book arrived a few weeks later, during the height of the FM sewing craziness, so I didn't have time to look at it right away.

I have finally been able to sit down and examine this massive tome.

I am quite impressed!

This book has what so many drafting and draping textbooks lack - loads and loads of color pictures! For example, here is an early page that discusses types of muslin that you might use for draping and their relative qualities:

She also discusses other types of fabrics you might want to drape with:

This page shows the difference (in the same fabric) on grain, cross grain, and on the bias:

Another strength of this book is the variety of projects shown. It runs the gamut from historical garments, to dresses from classic movies, to Jacqueline Kennedy, to modern pop stars, to garments straight off the runway.

There is something to appeal to everyone!

There is an entire section on draping bustiers, another on skirts, another on blouses, another on pants, and so on.

(And, yes, you need a dress form for draping. To drape pants, you need a bifurcated dress form.)

Here is a sampling of some of the projects from the book:

Isadora Duncan Grecian-style Dance costume

A cut-on sleeve

A bustier

Hakama - Japanese samurai pants

Katherine Hepburn wide legged pants

She shows how to drape these Nanette Lepore pants

In the Knits section, she shows how to drape the Nanette Lepore halter top

Draping a Trench coat

Kate Middleton's Wedding Gown

An Adrian design worn by Jean Harlowe in the 1933 film, Dinner at Eight

Vivienne Westwood gown

Chanel-style jacket

The book also contains drafting advice. This section, part of the Chanel-style jacket, shows how to draft a 2-pc sleeve

Dolce and Gabbana Tuxedo jacket worn by Rihanna

Red carpet dress worn by Reese Witherspoon

And this is not an exhaustive list! There is much more included in this book.

On the back cover of the book, there is a DVD with 32 video tutorials:

I watched most of these tutorials. Some are brief, but all are very professionally done. You can very clearly watch Karolyn demonstrate various techniques. I particularly enjoyed watching her perfect the fit of the Nanette Lepore pants on a live model in one video and how to put darts into a bias garment in another. You can see some sample videos here.

I highly recommend this book! The current price on Amazon is less than $50.

Here are the links and resources that I found:


  1. I pre-ordered this book off an amazon recommendation and while I haven't tested any of the draping (Jenny, Emily and I are using the Duburg book for draping our own pants blocks) I did go through it and see a few *very few* things I'd like to try.. will put up a review once I've tested out the directions but, but it looks alright at this stage.

    1. You always make me think, perfectnose! :)

      While I can't say that there are many garments I would want to make for myself from this book (not being interesting in wearing gowns or retro style or the like) I think that this book offers a *very* exciting approach to learning draping. Rather than developing a set of boring blocks, it's like learning draping while doing *interesting* designs. If you work through this book (which I haven't, not having a real dressform), you would end up with some mad draping skills, I think, and you would be able to drape most anything. That's where this book seems to shine, at least for me.

      I was most impressed with Karolyn Kiisel, both in person and in her book/video. I would *love* to see her come out with a book specifically on pants, with an accompanying DVD where she puts pants on a wide variety of figure types and shows how to fit them properly. And I would like to see some "older" figures represented with big tummies, flat butts, and some bootilicious butts, too.

      Wouldn't that be cool?!

  2. I'm glad to read that you liked the book. I've enjoyed everything I've seen in it as well, but I trust your experience! I just need to figure out how to make my dress form drape-able... One of these days! Also, I've been voting. I'm rooting for you!!! (And, I seem to have pregnancy insomnia...)

    1. Thanks, Amy! I haven't worked with the book, not having a dressform (or time, lately) but I it seems to be a fabulous approach to learning draping. And, once you get your figure back, I can see some of these amazing designs on you! :)

      Sorry about the insomnia. SIGH. Insomnia is a constant companion for me. I'm so glad that everyone is going well with the baby!!!

  3. Thank you for your review of the book! I may need to check it out. Good luck with the competition -- you've been making some awesome garments!

    1. Thanks, Jean! You've been doing some amazing draped garments! I wish I had thought to bring the book to our last get together for your to peruse it!

  4. I have this in my wish list at Amazon hoping to get it for Hanukkah. Thanks for the great review, and I voted. Good luck with that..

  5. I've never been particularly interested in draping but your review of this book piques my curiosity. The info on characteristics of different muslin fabrics (I like those curls of fabric and can see them as cowl necklines) and how they drape is intriguing. Thank you for this comprehensive review, which amounts to support for a talented artist.

  6. Oh nooooooo! Now I REALLY want that book! I've just looked at the previews on amazon and it looks fascinating. Oh dear, yet another thing to save up for!

  7. Thanks for sharing, Shams. After visiting KK's website I'm smitten with the tunic top in the patterns section. But yikes... it's $$$. On the other hand, if it's an expertly designed pattern, I can't think of a more versatile piece to add to my TNT. I searched for pattern reviews but couldn't find any :S

    1. Hi Unknown! Interesting! I hadn't noticed that she had patterns for sale, so I went back and looked. I have no experience of her patterns, of course, and they may be excellently drafted, but they will need tweaking to your particular figure, like any other pattern.

      I hope someone tries her patterns and posts some pattern reviews!

      And thanks for pointing that out. :)

  8. Thanks for the review, I've been contemplating buying this books for weeks!!! I'm getting it!