At the Intersection of Draping and Flat Pattern Making

garment district

I’ve read through many books on pattern drafting. The body measurements are taken and the draft is begun but what, I’ve wondered, is the basis for those little nuances in the instructions, to add an 1/8 of an inch here or 3/8 of an inch there, at specific points of the draft? I believe the explanation may be that flat pattern drafting evolved from the system of draping on a form. I discovered a rare book, available online courtesy of Cornell University in New York, that may help explain this.

The name of the book is Applied Pattern Designing, illustrated; based on the patternmaking methods of Abram Mayer. Developed and written by Herbert Mayer; technical assistance in compiling the text by Allyne Bane. Illustrated by Eleanor Harrington and Eve Stockhold. It was published by the Mayer Publishing Company, New York, in 1950.

Although I am just starting out, my understanding of what I’ve read in this book so far is that a basic pattern of a bodice or skirt is made by draping a form in a specific way. That pattern is then modified in order to achieve a predetermined design based on a drawing or an actual garment. Ease is allowed at some point and a finished pattern piece is the result. Throughout the text are many helpful notes about pattern lay-out, many that discuss differences in custom and industry methods. The sleeve does appear to be drafted using measurements rather than by draping. However, the treatment of the sleeve is quite extensive and far surpasses what I’ve read in other pattern making and draping books.

Abram (or Abraham as his name is often spelled) was the father of Herbert Mayer. Abraham was born in 1879 and emigrated from Germany in the early 1890’s. The Mayer family lived in Manhattan during the early years of the garment industry in New York City. In the 1915 Manhattan city directory Abraham Mayer was 36 and already a Custom Tailor. In the 1920 census his occupation or trade was Ladies’ Tailoring; in 1930, he was a Designer of Womens’ clothing ; and in 1940, a Dress Designer in Dress Manufacturing. All of his many years of experience are apparent in this book about his patternmaking methods, a loving tribute from his son.

In 1942 Abraham Mayer was 63 and the Director of the Chic School of Pattern Designing near the Garment District in New York City. He was interviewed for a Career Quiz and Answers column–Send Your Questions–Experts Answer Them.

Question–What are the requirements to become a pattern maker and pattern grader?
Answer–By Abraham Mayer, Director Chic School of Pattern Designing, 55 W. 35th St., Manhattan.

There are no specific requirements necessary. It takes, first of all, good common sense, neatness, and an open mind. While pattern making is an art, yet it has been mastered by hundreds of men and women who have made a success in this profession.
Abraham Mayer, Chic School of Pattern Design

Career column: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Sun, Oct 4, 1942, page 30

Full view of the Mayer book:





One thought on “At the Intersection of Draping and Flat Pattern Making

  1. Great book review, Carol. In the 1960s there were three schools in New York City that taught pattern drafting, draping and clothing construction. The Mayer School was located in mid-town. Their focus was teaching the method used by manufacturers. I think the Chic School of Pattern Design was the predecessor of Mayer.

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