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What Does a Draper Do?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

A draper, also sometimes known as a cutter, is an individual who works in the field of clothing design. His primary job is translating a designer’s ideas into patterns from which garments can be made. He often also acts as a designer’s representative, overseeing stitchers’ work and attending fittings to ensure that the designer’s vision is realized. As this job requires an in-depth understanding of sewing and design, many employers prefer to hire individuals with a degree in fashion.

Whether he is part of a glamorous fashion house, a theatrical costume design team, or a uniform manufacturing company, the general role of the draper is essentially the same: he is in charge of transforming a garment designer’s visions into reality. In practical terms, this usually means that he uses the designer’s ideas and sketches to create patterns from which actual garments can be made. Once he has created a pattern, he then cuts the pieces which will comprise the garment using fabrics chosen by the designer. Usually, the cut garment pieces are then passed along to stitchers, who assemble the garment using sewing machines or hand-stitching techniques.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In addition to cutting patterns, a draper often acts as a designer’s representative during the garment construction process. This means that he supervises his stitchers’ work to ensure that all construction is technically correct and that garments remain true to the designer’s original conception as they become a physical reality. He may also be required to attend model or client fittings. During these sessions, he analyzes the fit of a garment-in-progress on the body of the person for whom it is being designed and instructs his stitchers or tailors as to how any necessary alterations should proceed.

Working as a draper requires an in-depth understanding of the design process and excellent pattern-making and sewing skills. Thus, individuals with a degree in fashion design may have an advantage over those without a fashion degree when applying for draper jobs. It may also be possible to work one’s way up to a draper position by showing distinction in lower-level design jobs. Finally, it should be noted that even the most gifted drapers generally must defer to their designer, and in many cases they may be allowed little or no creative input. Therefore, those who have difficulty taking directions from others and those who want to design their own garments may not be suited to the position.

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