-waterfall drapery

Please note this is a tutorial, the pieces may scale up well but they are not a one size fits all pattern.

First published in 2005
The waterfall is an extremely graceful type of drapery used in costumes depicting the mid-late Victorian era. They can be seen in many costumes in the stage production of The Phantom of The Opera and in movies such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Mina’s green silk dress when she first meets Dracula in London). They are even used in non Victorian costuming such as Star Wars (one of Padme’s night dresses in Episode III.)


The question of how to make these has come up many times recently (please note, and while I was happy with how I created the drapery for my first Blue dress and Hannibal drapery, it was trial and error. There must be an easy way to work out how your drapery is going to look.

And there is.

In my trial and error I had noticed that the top edge that is pleated and the curve of the free edge work to create the flare and curve of the base shape. So I decided to test with graph paper to show how this worked. I used this new method to drape my Australian version Wishing Dress from Phantom of the Opera.

Since creating this page, I have refined the method. Still, this is a good start especially to see just how much fabric actually is required for the very flared pieces.

plotting the drapery


1) I first of all started by drawing what the final drapery would look like laid flat. If you have a photo of what you are aiming for this can help greatly as you can work with your measurements in place of the original, or adjust to what is most flattering to your figure type if you are not a physical match to the original.
I started by drawing the flat edge to the finished length I wanted then the final width of the top of the pleats. I then divided the vertical edge by the number of folds (usually twice the number of pleats) and measured out at the second to bottom one how wide the bottom of the drapery would be. The I used a ruler to create the diagonal edge. I then made a curved zig zag up the inside of the shape making sure to hit the marks indicating where the curved edge would hit the sides on each fold.
2) I then traced this onto plain paper and cut it out. Both sides were marked with the zigzag and each section numbered from the bottom up. Each number corresponds to a fold in the fabric. The even numbers indicating where the lining would show.
3)I then laid the cut paper on my graph paper and marked the graph paper at each corner of the cut out.



4)-9) I then flipped the paper over along the diagonal edge, so that the edges were aligned. This then matched up the next section which was also marked on the graph paper. I repeated this until the last section was marked. I was then left with a connect the dots outline of the fabric to be folded. Which I then connected with a smooth curve top and bottom.

The upper curve for a flat set of drapery winds up as part of the circumference of a circle, if this curve is altered the drapery may not lay flat, this can be useful in some cases.


This basic method can work for any style of waterfall drapery you want. The method is the same but the repeating shape will be different depending on whether you want a greater or lesser number of folds and how flared or straight you want the shape to be. The following two show how the drapery can be made to have few, shallow folds or many flared folds.

One can cut the striped fabric on the diagonal or across for different effects as well, these are simply examples to show how the different shapes can create different effects. I hope to show how I created the drapery for my first Blue Dress which is cut from a narrow rectangle in the centre and triangular pieces down at the sides, cut on the bias. I also hope to show how to cut the apron and pannier drapery as well.

dr04      dr10 dr11 dr12

dr14 dr13  dr16    dr15