What Is Drape and Hang

When we’re fitting a garment, this can be terms that we might not even think about. We’re more interested in hem length, straight hem, cuff length matching, collar front matching. And those are all good goals (some of them are), but there’s more to sewing for your own body than simply working through all the typical fitting woes.

So when we go out looking for things that would fit or work and to help us with hang and drape of a garment, we see the above…..or the below…..

Neither of which really works. They might be great if you want to make a statement or get your photo in the paper, but I’m not sure it would be for a positive style! And these are from “stylish street” looks. And therein lies the problem.

You either have these expose all street looks or the totally baggy look, and neither one is flattering, attractive, professional, and/or legitimate-looking. So what’s a normal, down-to-earth person supposed to do? Where do you go for fashionable, reasonable looks?

Places I like to look at are on reasonable people and usually, that means leaders. They have to look smart, sharp, and with-it (meaning they are up-to-date and aware of the latest news and trends), but not edgy, or over the top. Remember they can’t be too far one way or the other or else they will look old-fashioned or too weird. This is what makes them such perfect examples of styles.

All of these women look like they are hip, modern, responsible, and legitimate. They have to look that way and there’s lots of information here to draw from and the one I like to use most often is the fit – and defining that fit. That fit here means that these clothes are not skin-tight, neither are they dumpy and bag-lady looking. They fit! One clear indication they fit is how the garment drapes or hangs on their bodies. Here are some clear guidelines:

  • They show off only a selected few parts of their bodies
  • They don’t expose everything
  • They don’t cover everything up in a bag.
  • They don’t have any wrinkles that take away from their look. Granted Dr. Deborah Birx has wrinkles in her scarf, and in her skirt, but this is on purpose and adds to the look.
  • They don’t have anything about the garment that takes away from the professional look.
  • They keep most of the attention around their face and not other parts of their body (IOW, they don’t wear low-cut blouses to work).

This not only works for younger people like above, but for the older ones too:

All of these people are of more advanced age (we’re mature really!!!). But every one of them looks modern, up-to-date, responsible, and professional, and yet they don’t look fuddy-duddy or stodgy in any way. Their clothes almost always have to be made for them. I know this is true of Camilla and most sure about Angela Merkel, but I can tell by the quality of the hang that Nancy Pelosi’s clothes are made for her.

Notice the hem of the center front of her jacket and how the closure at the bottom totally cups in. That’s not by accident, and another tell-tale sign is that when she buttons her jacket it pulls slightly. This isn’t the best fit and needs attention. But here’s the thing. Because the jacket hangs so well from her shoulders and neck area, you hardly notice the wrinkles around her waist or underbust area or even think of it as a mistake. It’s only when I pointed it out, that you noticed it.

Here’s what you notice:

  • She has shape – we see the illusion of her waist
  • We see her shoulders and the garment hangs well from her shoulders
  • We see the mid-thigh, knee, and legs area, not a lot but we see them which gives them a smaller silhouette
  • We see her wrists and lower arms, keeping the cuff are from looking baggy and droopy.
  • And she has accessories and bling next to her face to keep attention to her face.

Here’s what we don’t see:

  • We don’t see her exact waist – we see the hint of a waist, and that’s good. In case you haven’t guessed or seen her in something tighter, Nancy does not have a pretty waist – it’s thick.
  • We don’t see her cleavage or any hint of it. We do see her bust, but it is well covered, although she could use a new bra and lift the girls up a little higher.
  • We don’t see the shape or too much of her hips, tummy, and fanny. We see an illusion to the shape of it, but not the exact shape of it.

And these give us the general point to check the hang of this suit, and although she has a few wrinkles in the middle, basically this suit works.

This is about as good as it gets. There’s so much right about all this. For one thing, the shoulders hit correctly. Notice how little ease there is around the sleeve head? This is because the shoulder is extended. How do I know – because it extends out past the bust line. This is one of the characteristics of Nancy’s looks. She likes that broader shoulder. If you don’t, that’s fine, but you will have to add more ease into your upper sleeve header to make sure you have enough ease.

Takeaway: extended shoulder=thinner sleeve header, not broad shoulder=more fabric in sleeve header. Look at the silhouette – starts at a good hand at shoulders, tapers in slightly right below the bust, and gently tapers out from the stance or position of the first jacket button. Sleeves fall and hang well (the wrinkles look like they are because she’s had her arms folded so this would be normal wear). Nice neckline roll line of lapel that is complemented by a symmetrical opening at the bottom of the button.

Most of all, what’s really nice are the lines of this jacket, and if you look closely, you can see that the jacket has a shoulder/bust/waist/hip/hem seam line. This is that seamline that goes through the bust point and makes it very easy to fit the bust point. There are clean, nice lines – silhouette and front seam lines that make this an exceptional garment.

There’s not big secret here about hang and drape, except a few common sense guidelines.

  • First, make sure the garment is seated well. This means that when you move around, getting in and out of a car, picking up a sack of groceries, reaching to open and close a door, or something as simple as getting up and down in a chair, that your garment should return to its original position. If it doesn’t, then the garment isn’t seated well and will always slip around. Usually, this means securing it in key positions. The bodice is the shoulders and waistline points; the bottoms usually around the waist or hip area. If the garment isn’t secured, then it will move around and constantly need readjusting.
  • Second, once the garment is seated, then you stand at a normal position with feet about shoulder length apart, arms and hands relaxed at sides, and holding yourself normally – that may mean you’re a little swayback, but don’t try to correct this. This is about standing in your own relaxed position. No arm waving or rubber-necking – that causes wrinkles that you don’t have to cure.
  • Third, now you’re ready to do a good analysis. That means taking into consideration such things as 1.) uneven-ness in your body – one shoulder higher, one hip higher and dealing with that, 2.) dramatic curved areas, large hips from small waist, large bust to small hips, extreme swayback, and any other area that has a large differential between neighboring measurement.
  • Fourth, realize that no garment fits perfectly! What is perfect anyway?…it’s a word invented to describe a condition that does not exist in the universe – like vacuum, void, absolute zero – none of these actually exist. Still, we humans have to have words to describe it to communicate a little more correctly. Remember that perfection is a state that doesn’t exist. That said, dealing with the first 4 to 5 big issues with your garment will take care of most of the problems. And I’m not above wearing the garment for a few weeks/months to see what I can go back and tweak to make it even better.

Finally, the big battle is simply knowing that hang and drape is something to look at when fitting. It’s not really emphasized that much in classes, but once you know to look for it, and how to deal with it, then you’re well on your way to a very professional, individual and by far superior look than anything you can see on the street or in the stores.

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Claire Kennedy


  1. Cheryll on December 18, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Thank you for your insights. We often see ill-fitted shoulders and bodice, in general, these days because for “normal” people, the RTW market offers what I refer to as big-block fashion. Look at almost any knit top from RTW and it quickly becomes obvious you have a square or a rectangle. There is variance in necklines, often gaping, shoulders dropping off, if there is a bust dart it is usually placed too low for my fit. That is why I sew. Now, there are some high-end retailers who continue to use numerical sizing and the fit is much better. But for my everyday wear, I’ll not be spending $650.00 for a nice little Breton T Top! Thanks again, good to “see” you again!C

    • Claire Kennedy on December 18, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      It’s good to be back and posting again, and have everything here. I don’t have everything populated yet, but I’ll be posting updates to some of my favorite blogs of yore!!!Thanks for your inciteful comment!

  2. Marie Z Johansen on December 18, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    Another wonderful post filled with interesting fit observations! I like the new look here! Stay safe and I wish you the happiest of holidays!

    • Claire Kennedy on December 18, 2020 at 7:34 pm

      Marie Z – thanks – and hope you have a great holiday season as well!

  3. Marianne on December 18, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Clare, have followed you for many years and appreciate your expertise. But, your comments on Pelosi are off the mark as far as I can see. When I first saw the three pictures of Pelosi my eyes immediately go to the waist. The black button plus wrinkles just draw the eyes like a magnet. I completely disagree with you r assessment. Please don’t hold her up as an example of good fit.

    • Claire Kennedy on December 18, 2020 at 7:32 pm

      A good fit past the shouldersMarianne – I can understand what you are saying. Not everything is great, as a matter of fact, there are some things that are bad. But the shoulders and the fit around the neck are right on point. Her shoulders fit and it works and particularly in this photo. But the other photos show how simply fitting around the neck and in particular, the shoulders helps so much. I probably should have made that more clear.

      There are some other comments about Pelosi’s shape, she needs a new bra desperately. This would make her look about 10 years younger without a facelift. She also needs to keep from yanking that button so tightly. She used to not do this, but lately, it’s showing some stress. Camilla is probably the sterling example here cause her before and after her marriage to Prince Charles are remarkably transformative. She looks like a whole other person now. And Camilla does not have anything close to a svelte or even shapely figure.

      Thanks for your comments – I always enjoy hearing what you have to offer.

  4. Marianne on December 19, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Neck and shoulder fit is superb, thanks for the clarity. She truly needs someone to advise her on dressing.

  5. Kathleen on January 4, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Thank you for this insightful post! It was a so helpful to be guided in the WHAT and HOW of these worn garments. I returned to sewing at 60 and of course like many, it’s getting the best fit that has been the challenge and the most rewarding. I really wish I had taken many of my clothes to a professional for fit adjustments over the years! That’s the advice I would give any young woman starting out – shop in used shops, buy extra large and take your garments to a dressmaker for fit adjustments to make those garments your own. You’ll save a pile of money, always look classy and feel comfortable in your clothes.

    • Claire Kennedy on January 5, 2021 at 9:33 am

      Kathleen – Glad you enjoyed it. There are options that are flattering and comfortable and fashionable that work great, and hopefully more people will understand that and search for it in their clothing. As you say it’s a tremendous challenge but so rewarding!

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