Posted in Practice

Drapery Sculpture

As part of my time in Elbigenalp I’ve been looking at Drapery this week. The first part of the exercise was to look at Drapery historically, which is the subject of another blog post. The next part of the task was to take a study cast and to place a dress on it with (reasonably) realistic clothing folds. This is somewhat more complex than it might seem at first. The Drapery Research blog post gives an idea of the way that the rules of drapery work. 

Lady in a red dress


IMG_3335 (Edited)The first task was some sketches of the form of a dress and placing the major folds. This is a good place to mention that my previous posts missed an important use of drapery in drawing and sculpture: To build the composition. The use of Drapery can both block composition in place, and can be used to lead the eye as the artist wishes. This is important in this exercise, as is the way that folds form and compress from different support points.

The sketches didn’t need to be stunning. This was my favourite, as it shows the basic form of the dress that I intended along with the major folds.  The point was to be thinking through the form of the clothes and the folds that would result for the pose. The pose was, in this case, fixed by the study cast. Note that in thinking through the dress I was also making choices around the properties of the material I was looking to simulate and thus how concealing the dress should be.


With some idea of the major folds and form, the next step was to add the modelling clay to the model following the basic concept:

In some places I have deliberately allowed the model underneath to show though. These are the high point, where the material would be flat to the skin and so (effectively) zero thickness at this scale.


Table cloth

The rest of the week was spent in an exercise that seemed strange at first, but made more sense as it went along. I’ll let the images tell the story in this case:

So, what did I learn?

The ways of drapery are complex, but in essence:

  • Look for the “sweeps” and “breaks”.
  • A sweep will start at the highest supported point and go down from there.
  • Where there a two supported points the highest will have the longer sweep.
  • Where drapery breaks carve the “eye” as the highest point, following the main direction of the break. Then look for triangles around that to carve.
  • One break will beget another – some dramatic and some more subtle. Some cloths wont take on much of a sweep at all without breaking – and so look for subtle breaks.
  • When carving make the angles more dramatic than they are in reality. The later smoothing will loose some of the effect – and it will be easier for the observer to follow.
  • Drawing out drapery would be worthwhile practice, and is quite a common exercise to be found in master drawings.

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