Draping and the Invention of Stitched Clothing

ETL's first collection passes on the experience of "draping" clothing to ... you. Formerly the domain of ancient peoples and fashion designers, such as Madame Gres (AKA Alix Barton) was known as Queen of the Drape, ETL's spring/summer collection includes many opportunities to "manipulate fabric" and create your own "sculpture" in cloth, like the Athena.

But thousands of years before ETL, draping wasn't just artistic -- it was a necessary alternative to sewing . . .

"Ancient" peoples used draping in clothes for thousands of years despite the availability of stitching during that time. I'm researching the Sari for ETL's winter collection (photos of my sketchbook below). Although people in (what we now know as) India stitched as early as 2700-1700 B.C., the sari, known as the national dress of Indian women, was a draped garment without stitching for thousands of years thereafter.


Stitched garments were likely in demand in Indian society by the 1st century B.C. In the famous Ramayana, King Ravana's brother wears a "kanchuka", a long tunic with sleeves (i.e. stitching). Yet, a traveler Ibn Battuta describes the non-sewn dress of women in the southern district of Karnataka in the fourteenth century:

"The women of this town and all the coastal districts wear nothing but loose, unsewn garments, one end of which they gird round their waists and drape over their head and shoulders."

Of course, regardless of the availability of stitched clothes, not just anyone could wear them. Through the fifteenth century, Indian persons who were not of noble birth were not allowed to wear stitched clothing (among other prohibitions in dress). 

So then what happened to draping? The invention of machine sewing ensured that stitched clothing is more available than ever today. Draping is still taught at fashion schools but rarely used other than by ateliers at the highest price points. Draping is not ideal for mass-produced clothing, and draping = more fabric = more expense. 

Luckily, I'm not making mass-produced clothing. I'm draping. You are too. Try the Athena for starters.

Happy Mother's Day and a thank you to my mother, my mother's mother, and those that came before and wore draped clothing,