There are thousands of fabrics available today, but only those that are thin, lightweight, and have texture will work well as attire for your subject. Some of the most effective fabrics for draping over and around the human form are gauze, tulle, muslin, silk, crepe, stretch velvet, and chiffon. In the past, the color selection available for each of these fabric types was rather limited. Today, muslin is not just available in the traditional beige but in numerous colors too. For unique colors and textures in fabrics, look beyond the fabric stores and investigate upholstery shops. With the wide variety of fabrics avail able, your options are limited only by your imagination.
Gauze. In the right-hand image on the facing page, the mom was wrapped in moss green gauze, which harmonized beautifully with the background and flowers. The fabric was wrapped tightly around her to show off her small figure and the perfect shape of her midriff.
Tulle. If you plan to invest in only one type of fabric, tulle would be your best bet. Tulle is a soft, net-like material that is traditionally used for making wedding veils and dresses. It is also incredibly inexpensive and comes in a wide array of colors.
Because it is lightweight and thin, tulle is perfect for wrapping around the body. It can also be used to add dimension on the set. Randomly spread the tulle in uneven horizontal lines from the camera view. The tulle should create an undulating line to enhance the sense of depth in the image, as is shown in the left-hand image below.
Tulle can be used to drape the subject's body, but don't overlook the option of using it to add dimension in the overall image. The left image shows the effect of covering a bed in mounds of swirling fabrics. The right image shows how draping the fabric across the subject added interest and created a leading line that draws the viewer's gaze to the subject's face.
The poses selected for these subjects were identical, but the different fabrics used in the images create two very different moods in the portraits.
Tulle can also be used to cover or create transition points in an image. Placing tulle at the point where the background and floor meet, for example, can give a finished look to the image. Dark tulle can be used to form a natural vignette around the edges of the image area. With the subject lying down, use the tulle along all the image edges to draw the viewer's eye directly to the subject.
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