Friday, January 27, 2012

Textile Friday: Tailoring vs. Draping

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." ~Mark Twain

                This week's post is a little esoteric. The purpose is to help people understand how to select well-made clothing. Good clothes don't just make you feel great, they also make you look great. They often make a person look 30 lbs lighter and several inches taller. There are two specific types: tailored and draped. If you can, you should always buy tailored. At it's most basic level tailored clothing is clothing that is made by a needle and thread stitching fabric together and is found more in Northern Climates. Draping is fabric that is often one piece that is draped over a figure to create a look and is more common in Southern Climates. If you would like to understand this better, I suggest you read this blog post by Whereing that has great pictures of the differences between the two. I have reprinted a picture here for clarification ease, but it's worth reading the entire post if you get a chance.
                Draping in general relies on the natural folds and figure of a person to create a look from a person's best features while tailoring often seeks to bring out the best in a person by imposing a perceived ideal. Tailoring often relies on set rules often called pattern, slopers, or basics as a starting point. The best designers use BOTH methods, but generally tailor or design first. They often create a pattern then test it by draping it on a model (live or form) to do a reality check.
                 Back to draping. Unlike tailored clothes which in general form outfits by being paired with other pieces, draped fabric can be manipulated on the body to create different looks. Especially in Asian, Indian, and Japanese culture, it may have specific cultural significance. This is great when you have a limited budget or are in a culture where ideally you wear one thing every day: your best. Draping brings out a person's inner beauty. However, tailored clothing has one specific advantage over draped fabric. It does not rely on the body's natural form to create the finished look. 
                   Everyone has flaws. Man, woman, and child. It is the nature of being human. Tailored clothing creates the perception of perfection with optical illusions. This hard truth makes it one of the most powerful weapons of the mature and wealthy who look to present a stylized ideal. Tailored clothing will take years off your appearance, pounds off your frame, and present you in your best possible light. This structure is often hidden through interfacing and lining so that few people understand the gift a designer has gone to make them look their best. Bulges are flattened or added to shift problems such as a sagging waistline or small cups. A cheap, knock off pair of pants may have less than a dozen pieces to it, sometimes as few as 4-6. A recent middle of the road Tommy Hilfiger pair of pants I took apart for fun had almost 100. The number often climbs even more for bespoke and haute culture.
                 One of the more dramatic examples most brides remember is the second layered dress that they put on before putting on their wedding dress. These are created by designers as a realized ideal to make women beautiful. Any time you put on a piece of clothing, you should realize a designer somewhere loved you enough to make something just for you with your flaws and strengths in mind. So find a designer that loves your flaws and strengths and your clothes will fit you much better. Look at them, their spouse, or family to get an idea of what this love is.
              In a down economy or on more modest means, people often stick to the basics and skimp on this extra help. Alan Greenspan used to follow the "underwear index." Here's a pic of Hanes S and P ratings during the 2009 recession you can see the DIP. Thankfully it's getting better just like our job outlook. As the economy improves or wallets, you have more time for this extra help.
              The average tailored garment is 4 inches smaller around than it's ready to wear alternate and that's a very real perception in size. So next time you're at the store, turn your garment inside out. If it has lots of extra details on the inside or is lined, it probably was created especially to make you look better and those little tricks and tips add up to a more lovely you. A well-made piece may not cost you more, but it often has more attention to detail which is worthwhile. That's the extra fabric and time you're paying for in a garment that may look very like a cheaper version and well worth the extra cash. So thank the tailor or dressmaker, even if you never meet them. 

Have a great weekend everyone.

PS- I feel I should note there is one exception to this, in that tailored clothes are more practical for work so very high upswings by societies may have a resurgence of draped clothing simply as a way to say...I don't do work, I spend all my time preening in a mirror. The reverse is often true during war or revolution when people are very busy. Practicality tends to trump fashion on a limited budget. All photos are from public places, I do not have the rights to nor claim ownership of the photos.


  1. Interesting post, I really like the timeline silhouettes.