Drapes, Folds, & Wrinkles ~ Drawing Fabric!

After my Drawing for Fashion I students finished up a unit on portraiture, we dove right into drawing fabric. Investigating and understanding how fabric drapes, folds, and wrinkles on the body is necessary before designing garments on the figure. I thought I would share my approach to introducing how to render fabric for Drawing for Fashion I students (or any level I drawing class). Bear in mind- my fashion students in this level one class are coming from all different levels. The only prerequisite is Foundations of Art (our intro level class). Therefore, some are coming straight from there, while others have taken several upper level 2-D art classes and in a few cases have already finished AP 2-D. Click HERE to see more images from this exercise.

There are many examples of rendering fabric in the text book that we use for the class. Plus, I provided students with handouts from a great tutorial by Barbara Bradley that I found online, Types of Folds. The text book and the handouts will serve as good references for students once they begin rendering their clothing designs from imagination. In order to really understand the characteristics of fabric though, I felt it very important and necessary for my students to also have studied it from life. Especially since this is a level I class, my less experienced students need more exposure to working from observation…and the practice will never hurt my students with more experience. In order execute this series of studies, I decided to put my wooden manikins to good use (I have several that were ordered for the class- they are very versatile for the fashion classes!). Using scrap fabric that was donated by parents, I draped cloth around the manikins (gown/toga style ;) ), and positioned them in the center of the work stations. This allowed for each student to study at least 3 different figures, and provided a simulation of how fabric appears as it drapes on the human body (just in miniature version!). I placed a spotlight or two on each arrangement to enhance the contrast of highlights and shadows amongst the drapes, folds & wrinkles.

Students started off by doing 5-10 minute studies using vine charcoal in their fashion journals. From there, they completed a series of drawings on brown butcher paper. The first set of butcher paper drawings were done in 25 minutes using vine charcoal and white chalk (black and white). The second set, (after a short review on color) were completed in 35 minute increments, in color, using a chalk pastel.







This exercise, although challenging, was a nice shift in gears after finished up the portraits. It provided a place to review contour line, value, and the overall approach to drawing from life. It also behaved as a pre-assessment before getting into rendering garments because I was able to see who needed re-teaching with rendering fabric and who fully grasped the concept. My students did a good job with these studies, and I believe that doing this will help them design clothing in a more believable way because it got them thinking 3 dimensionally instead of 2 dimensionally. Currently, my students are designing a series of three garment ensembles related to their chosen theme for the semester. The first of the series is being rendered on brown butcher paper – so this warm up also prepared them for the next assignment by getting students familiar with working on a toned paper. Will post pics from the series of three later…


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