Post 424 – by Gautam Shah



A drape is a way of hanging or placing an unstitched piece of fabric. The word drape derives from Proto-Germanic drapiz and drepiz (=a strike, hit, blow), (=intended for striking, to be beaten), it also relates to English drub (=to beat) and Swedish dräpa (=to slay). In ancient periods a drape-able fabric was heavily (beaten) washed, and so soft and pliable. A heavily washed fabric is dull or of unbleached natural colour. At places a dull cloth is described to be greyish to yellowish or light olive brown in colour. The loss of crispiness perhaps indicates use of Linen, which became soft after several washes.

The word drapery is of 14th C origin, but drape or equivalent usages must be very ancient. Unstitched pieces of fabrics were used for covering own self by ordinary people as well as priests and rulers. The draped fabric, if soft, hangs loosely. The fabric, if stiff or of heavier weave remains fluffy, and does not ‘fall’ gracefully. The fabric worn as dress usually has vertical folds, which change with body movements. On a performance stage, it creates an impression of ‘larger than life movement’, perceptible to the spectators in the last tier of the Amphi theatre.




Drapery refers to composition of fabric used for decorative purposes, around internal or external gaps or openings. It also means any arrangement of fabric used as clothing, backdrop, accompaniment or adornment for a work of art in the form of painting or sculpture. Each artist and each era shows unique techniques of rendering the drapery curves and form. The quality of fabric material never shown as actual, it only enhanced the form of drapery. The colour of the drapery as shown was the artists’ pallet requirement and may not be realistic. The transparency of fabric and body revelations were according to the artists daring and perhaps client’s dictates.

Gandharv Buddha 1-2nd C BC

Sarcophagus of the brothers 250 AD > Wikipedia Image > Farnese collection

Leonardo studies for draping

In interior Design all types of fabrics are used for draping the furniture, openings, gaps, parapets, railings, columns, brackets, steps and stairs. These are covered with many different grades of fabrics ranging from sheer silk, flimsy organza, sateen, damask, linen, velvet, starched cotton, and later rayon and polyesters. Drapery colour and pattern schemes were coordinated with wall papers, curtains, carpets and other tapestries. Fabrics have been hung with formation of gathers or unstitched pleats, of vertical, dropped or sagged curves and twisted horizontals. Tapestry like one-sided fabrics are also draped over architectural elements of buildings.

Portrait of Mrs Abington British Actress 1737-1815 ART by Joshua Reynolds

Draperies were inevitable part of beds and bedrooms. Bed was the most important chamber for the lady of the house, almost like a female drawing room. Beds were separated by draperies from the room space, and beds structures were covered with drapes. Back side of the bed had hung piece of tapestry fabric or some form of drape composition. Paintings and portraits were edged with draperies.

Reconstructed Royal Bed at Warsaw Castle Wikipedia Image by Giorgiomonteforti

Draped fabrics were great collectors of dust and soot. The shaped drapes if too articulated, fluffy and against the gravity, have a tendency to collapse. The drapes are generally static arrangement, but during the early part of 19th C began to be replaced by simpler curtains. The curtain required pelmets or open hanging rods, both of which began to be covered with scallops. Scallops are articulated drapes, with ropes and tassels. Word Draper is used to denote an expert tailor or an establishment that stocks various types of fabrics and paraphernalia items.

Scallops over curtain

In art forms draperies have been treated both casually and formally, with neatly delineated lines or free-flowing curves. This has depended on the person to be presented like, an angel, Lord, saints, or commoners. Hellenistic period art draping was white or light coloured translucent body touching, but form emphasizing fabric. Gothic period showed the restrained flow of lines. Post renaissances, the drapery presentation was theatrical. Drapery presentation in painting was such an important issue that it was first discussed with the sponsors. Specialist painters were hired to touch-up the drapery work.


ART by Frans Hals 1625

Unstitched Appearals




Post 252 ⇒   by Gautam Shah  →


A sheer fabric is very thin material, which makes it very translucent face and enlivens the light that to filters through. A sheer fabric has a graceful and natural fall. The translucency and soft bearing of sheer or similar fabrics have been preferred in all ages for dresses and draperies. The most desired of sheer fabrics, is the silk, The oldest is Linen and, Cotton has been most widely-used fabric. Polyesters are emerging as multi-use fabrics that can be formed to desired textures, effects and strength.

Banana Silk Sheer fabric for Barong Tagalog

Sheer effect in a fabric comes through due to natural fineness of the yarn itself fine spinning and weaving. Many synthetic yarns (polyesters, Aramid) are formed of very long staples or filaments, so are used alone or as co-spinning material to achieve similar effects. Some of the most used sheer like fabrics are made from cotton. Some of the lattices like airy or net woven fabrics are so pliable, flimsy and semi-transparent that they behave like a sheer fabric.


LAWN of Linen

Linen fabrics are made from fibres of Flax plant. Linen is a Bast fiber or skin fiber collected from the inner bark (phloem) surrounding the stem of certain plants. Linen fabric manufacturing is very ancient (nearly 35000 BC) but a labourious process. The linen fabrics were woven from hand-spun yarns, and considered very fine for their times (in comparison to wool, etc. and absence easy availability of cotton), but were actually fairly coarse compared to modern fabrics. Flax fibre is both, long and short staple fibres. It is not elastic, and so difficult to spin and weave without frequent breaking in dry state.

Linen fabrics are smooth, absorbent, lint-free, cool to touch, initially little hard but frequent wash-beating makes it softer but brittle. Linen fabrics do not stretch, and acquire a near-permanent crease on sharp folding, a desired quality for curtain making. Linen fabrics show resistant to damage from abrasion, so were preferred rubbing-polishing fabrics for cutlery and jewellery. Linens resist dirt and stains, and have no piling tendency (forming of small spherical bundles of loosened fibres formed due to frequent washing and wearing of fabric).

Lawn fabrics of Linen are very thin, with characteristic presence of slubs which are considered defects, or aesthetic surface characteristic. The fabrics after several washing cycles became soft, pliable and had beautiful fall. The fall of curtain fabric was further enhanced by storing fabric under weight or ironing. Original linen fabrics were non dyed that is of natural cream (grey cloth) or washed white shades.


LAWN of Cotton

The term Lawn derives from Laon, a city in France, which produced large quantities of linen lawn. Linen is a plain weave textile, originally of flex, then chiefly of Cotton, but now in 80:20 mix version of cotton:polyester. Cotton lawns have high count yarns providing a silky smooth or un-textured feel. The fabric is made, using either combed or carded yarns. When lawn is made of such shorter staple cotton, it has a softer feel and dull lustre.

The fine count yarn and close weave create sheer like feel in the fabric. Lawn is a lightweight cloth, crisper than voile but not as crisp as organdy. After weaving, lawn fabrics are processed further to endow different finishes, to alter the feel and behaviour of the fabric. The finishes create lawns ‘from soft to semi-crisp to crisp, but the fabric is never completely stiff’. Lawn is valued for its lightness and translucency, which ranges from gauzy or sheer to an almost opaque effect. Lawn can be white, dyed, and printed, but newer with in-woven patterns. Loans are, though produced with micro slubs to imitate antique linen fabrics, or woven with ‘wire fillets’ or long lines patterns.

Sheer Fabrics


Muslin is loosely woven plain weave cotton fabric. Muslin is usually made with slightly irregular yarns, but an even weave. It can be woven with tighter or looser warp areas to produce striped patterns. Most muslin is white or cream, but can also be seen in a wide range of dyed colours.

Marie Antoinette in Muslin dress


Organdy was made of cotton and Organza was made of silk, but both have synthetic versions. The fabrics are extremely sheer and crisp. Like lawn, they are plain weave fabrics with fine and even yarns. The yarns are of combed material than of carded variety. The yarns-fabrics are treated with acid to achieve the sheers and crisp qualities. Batiste is a soft and opaque fabric, produced in same manners as organdy-organza, but without the acid process.

Linen Batiste

Gauze: a fine, soft fabric with a plain, very open weave. Very open muslin fabrics are also called gauzes. Gauze fabrics have good fall but ‘fall down’ or gather at bottom with own weight and shifting of weft yarn. The fabrics form backside reinforcements layer, if stabilized with adhesive like materials.

Gauze fabric -loose weave

Net: Net or Netting fabrics are of three types, knitted, woven and fused. These are soft in feel due to their open and usually light formation. The fabrics are valued for their light filtering qualities. The fabrics often have alternating mass of opaque and net zones in warp direction. The opaque sections provide reinforcement to the fabric in hanging, and form an edge line of a pleat in the curtain.

.Synthetic sheer fabric with Net base