Institute of Draped Clothes

Newsletter 9 , July 2000


1. news
3. Web site on belted plaids (the ancient kilt)
4. more Celtic drapes...
5. IDCWeb
6. on Roman drapes: researching drapes
7. draping, from "Small is Beautiful"
8. a personal note from Chantal

1. News:

*** We have a new web site: IDCWeb! For the moment, it's just a mirror of the previous one, but with unlimited space we will be able to put our "magazine" pages. See § 5

*** If you know or participate in an event, web site, etc. connected with draping, please let us know. This "news" feature is yours!


Not much to report this month. I'm learning a lot about the procedures, requirements, etc., of incorporation. Computer files are up and organized. I will have a new e-mail address for IDC-USA next month.

If any of our members knows how to contact celebrities and persons in the performing arts, please send your suggestions to <>. Several celebrities have been identified by various members as being interested in Indian culture, but how to go about reaching them is not yet known to us. All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Thank you! -- Pauline Pavon

3. Web site on belted plaids (the ancient kilt).

Dominic Eckersley is currently working on his site about belted plaids:
(It will be fully ready around the middle of July) (NOT AVAILABLE ANYMORE)

It is already well worth a visit. I was totally amazed at the pictures shown on the last page, especially that of MacDonnald, which shows an amazingly sophisticated drape. Following is an exchange of Email between myself (Chantal) and Dominic:

"This (the web site) should act only as a fore taste as it is in an extremely raw and very unfinished state. I am expecting to have 33 plates and maybe some photos too. It should, at least, let you have some idea of the look and feel of the final product, which I expect to be able to complete sometime in the first week of July, or before"

"Very interesting pictures... I didn't realise that the Belted Plaid was such a complex and interesting drape. From the picture of MacDonnald, I would think that the technique of the bottom part is similar to that of a "kosu" (the little pleats falling back over the stretched outer layer - which is lifted up and backwards on the hip - are typical). I would say that with an 8 yard cloth, you could make at least 4 yards of pleats and arrange them all around the body, coming on top of another stretched layer which is then tucked up and anyway pulled up by the "mundanai". Look at some of the Dravidian saris to see some similar techniques..."

"I have numerous other drapes scanned awaiting being put onto the page. I will look into your ideas on MacDonnald's drape this week.
It was my intention to demonstrate drapes using photos of myself, but that may not be possible before the end of June.
The pleats at the front of the belted plaids seem to have been done BEFORE throwing the Mundanai over the shoulder, and held in place by the right arm while the belt was passed around the body. In some examples, which you will see in due course, the pleats are all on top of each other, much as in India. There are three or more paintings of Rob Roy showing this. Sometimes, however, they are spread across the waist and even right around the whole front (if not the back too) of the body.

I have some, but only few, examples of plaids from behind. With MacDonnald, the tops of the pleats can be seen hanging over the belt and protruding beneath his waistcoat. Unlike the sari, the fabric is very thick and doubled in its thickness. Seven pleats of double tartan, with the initial wrapping around the waist, gives you 32 layers of worsted wool. (You will see an example of this kind of drape soon too). This forces the pleats to be folded over the belt to hang in front of the garment instead of tucked inside the garment. I consider that the length of the plaid may have been seven yards, seven being so important a number in both India and European mythology. I read once that old fashioned Indian women pleat their seven yard saris seven times in the front and re-do the drape seven times a day on each of seven days a week. I use a length of seven yards of double tartan and form seven pleats in the font. Sometimes these are all together~Rob Roy style~and sometimes spread out~MacDonnald style. (Bear in mind that 32 layers of wool spread around the waist in much more convenient than placed all together when a waistcoat is to be worn over the top.) If you look at the photo of the guy above MacDonald you will see how the Mundanai comes up over the shoulder. This drape is often found reversed (i.e. clockwise). MacDonnald has probably opened up the folded tartan mundanai to its double width (some 63 inches) to cover the back. I have photos of Celts in Germany doing this in the early 1600's. You will also see drapes in which the Mundanai comes over the left shoulder and hangs down to beneath the waist-line in front."

4. More Celtic drapes...
Jacqueline Gannuscio submitted the following:

Years ago a fellow costumer, who I have since lost track of, researched and constructed a ancient garment worn in Britain and/or Ireland (perhaps it was Roman?) called a "cabhail." I am unsure if this is the correct spelling. If I recall, the garment was worn as a covering for the torso during hot weather, or possibly under other garments or drapes. It wrapped between the legs and tied or was pinned at the shoulders, and resembled a child's playsuit or a bathing costume. Please, someone tell me I am not dreaming, and that they have heard of this garment! It sounds like a perfect garment for a child or an emergency swim suit. --

5. IDCWeb!!! We have a new web site:

We have a new Email:

With more space, we will be able to put many pages. Each member can now have a free Email ( and put web pages about draped clothes. For more details look at:

For web pages, please send an email to: and ask for intructions.

6. On Roman drapes: researching drapes
--submitted by Chantal Boulanger

When you deal with people trying to recreate drapes, the common assumption is:
1. It is easy, anyone knows how to drape.
2. There are no specific draping techniques.
3. if cloth has a funny shape, it's probably cut to it.

My research has proved all these assumptions false. There are extremely sophisticated draping techniques that are known only to the few people who wear them, and you can create any shape with the proper draping of a rectangular cloth. Unless draping techniques are studied and taught, people who try to recreate drape without good background knowledge in draping techniques will be mislead.

Some scholars have suggested that Roman togas were semi-circular in shape. I personally don't think that the cloth of togas was cut in a semi-circle. It implies that you would have had to stitch a rather elaborate hem or have the cloth become frayed within days. In my experience, cutting cloth is something that comes with stitching. You cut to stitch, that is why almost every Western scholar researching drapes imagines that the cloth is cut to fit the shape. In all the drapes that I have researched or learned of, I have not seen one example of a drape that was cut round. To achieve something that LOOKS round, most drapes use a fold in diagonal. This produces a round-looking shape and lots of pleats without the problems of having to stitch an extremely tricky hem.

When I began to research drapes, I assumed it would be simple. But draping techniques are far more sophisticated than even stitching techniques, and you can achieve virtually anything with a rectangular piece of cloth (like a cascade of pleats falling in front of a tight-fitting trouser-like costume). There are some guidelines which I have found very useful:
- Wear the drape in normal conditions for a period of time of several days (if something is awkward, it will soon come out).
- Learn from as many different people as possible, or, for a drape that no longer exists, try as many techniques as possible.
- Keep an open mind. Draping techniques are amazing, and keep on amazing me!
- Enquire about other existing draping techniques. Before painting, you have to learn the techniques of painting. If you take a brush and some oil painting and go right ahead with no prior knowledge, you are not going to be able to copy Mona Lisa. Before researching draping, and especially drapes that no longer exist, a good knowledge of draping technique is essential. That is precisely the point of IDC. Existing draping techniques have to be researched and taught, in order to rediscover ancient drapes and hopefully created new ones.

7. From "Small is Beautiful":
Here's a bit for the newsletter from a very influential book, submitted by Brandon Stone:

"...if the purpose of clothing is a certain amount of temperature comfort
and an attractive appearance, the task is to attain this purpose with the smallest possible effort...The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. It would be highly uneconomic, for instance, to go in for complicated tailoring, like the modern west, when a much more beautiful effect can be achieved by the skillful draping of uncut material."

E.F. Schumacher, from "Small is Beautiful," 1973, p. 54

8. A personal note from Chantal:

I am happy to send you this letter with a lot of interesting contributions. It shows the universality of drape and stresses the need to study draping techniques. The world of draped clothes keeps on surprising me: so many interesting costumes and so many sophisticated techniques most people have no idea of!
I will take the relative quiet of summer to start the "magazine", with already quite a lot of documents on plaids and saris.
From September we will start a campaign for new members and to reach out to institutions which SHOULD be interested in draping techniques.

Best wishes!

Please do not hesitate to send any question, suggestion, criticism.
If you have some links to suggest, please let us know!
If you wish to write something for the newsletter, please do so and Email it to <>.



Institute of Draped Clothes


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