Draping Dior

The Draping Dior lecture, presented by faculty member, Kevin Kissell, at the Avenir museum at Colorado State University was a great learning opportunity; not only for those interested in Christian Dior, but especially for those interested in fashion design.

The lecture was an hour, in conjunction with a powerpoint lecture and Q&A, centering around the life of Christian Dior, the history of haute couture and an assignment given to students of the design school-that assignment being to create a couture-level dress/ensemble inspired by Christian Dior and the “Grand Ball”.

Three Dior-inspired dresses were on display during the lecture and each student discussed their work. Audience members were encouraged to take closer looks at the garments.

I’m fascinated by the inner workings of couture garments-and in making my own couture-inspired garments and in teaching others I want to learn as much about what goes into the outside of the garments just as much as I am interesting in the inner workings and appearance of couture garments; which is essential to couture.

Students had three weeks to complete the garments. The fabric of the black dress featured a beautiful gold leaf pattern designed and made by the student.

I’m fascinated by muslins because they’re the essence of couture sewing. Hundreds of hours can be placed into one muslin to get a garment to reach complete perfection before working the garment up in its final fashion fabric.

Muslins are also a requirement of fashion houses seeking haute couture designation through the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. 

They’re very important to couture, if not the most important element of couture.

The Dior exhibition coming to the Denver Art Museum in November 2019, is said to be bringing muslins and sketches, along with hundreds of completed Dior garments.

During the Avenir lecture, while there wasn’t a draping demonstration or any muslins present during the presentation/lecture, there was an excellent process sample in the powerpoint slide show through the works of design student, Gio Carter.

That process (in a nutshell) being: the muslin, the pattern and the final garment.

Slide Photos: Kevin Kissell, Colorado State University.

During the question and answer session, someone asked a question I often hear during my workshops—How do I make it in my size? Or are those dresses going to fit you (meaning the students)?


Students are learning a process. Not making personal clothing for themselves. You work with the particular forms that are available in the workroom.

The most economical workrooms use size 0 dress forms because less resources are used in designing and mocking up garments. Less money is spent.

Another question came from a member of the audience concerning zippers. Kissell expressed the importance of applying zippers by hand in couture garments, which is something I greatly enjoy demonstrating at Center Studio 518 and was glad that he expressed the relevance of hand sewing to couture.

Another question I found interesting was when someone in the audience asked about the white lab coats workers in the House of Dior wore during the slide presentation. She wanted to know if the coats were worn only by certain members of the hierarchy within the couture house’s structure.

The answer was no—they’re just worn.

While this is true, it is good to know that the white cotton lab coats (called smocks or chemises) actually have a very specific place and meaning in haute couture fashion houses.

The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture sets out specific rules and regulations that must be met in order to be considered an haute couture house. The House of Dior and House of Chanel are among about 10 houses given the coveted designation.

The craftsmanship associated with those working in such houses, for example, petite mains, wear the chemises as symbols of the craftsmanship and skilled scientific precision of the craftspersons bringing the couture garments to life, in addition to the recognizing the pristine environment of the ateliers themselves and its importance in constructing the garments.

In that sense, the chemises matter, and are a symbol of status and skill.

Calandra CooperComment