I used a homemade dress form for years before upgrading to a professional one. It was an amazing way to experiment with drafting and alterations, and I remember it fondly. If you're ever considering an upgrade, check out The Shop Company or The Fabulous Fit.
You've most certainly seen a dress form before; a three-dimensional model of a torso used by designers to fit or create garments. Whether they're lurking in the back of vintage clothing shops or sprinkled between designers on Project Runway, dress forms have been iconic symbols of the fashion world since the 1900's.
But why would you ever need or want to make your own dress form? It's often frustrating or downright impossible to properly fit a garment on your own body, let alone dream up new designs. A dress form is a body double that allows you to drape and pin fabric directly against a second figure, making adjustments, alterations, and brainstorming immeasurably easier. Whether you're a beginner who feels paper patterns never quite fit right, or an advanced sewer ready to design your own pieces, a dress form could be your new best friend.
If you're a casual hobbyist, a professional dress form might be hundreds of dollars out of your budget. Furthermore, classic dress forms are stuck in standard size boxes and must be padded to better fit their designers. A DIY dress form is a great solution to both issues. With a few supplies from the hobby store, you could have a cheap, exact replica in a matter of hours.
- 2-3 rolls of duct tape
- Old, long shirt (or garbage bag, cut with neck and arm holes)
- Cotton stuffing (2-3 32oz bags)
- A friend (for a proper fit, this is a two-man job)
- Cardboard for base
- Optional cling wrap for neck
Finished Dress Form
- Cover fabric
- Basic sewing supplies
- Have a friend help - it will be impossible to get an accurate figure if you're taping yourself
- Practice good, natural posture while taping
- Pull the duct tape taut enough to be a true measurement, but not so tight that it becomes hard to breathe
- Do not make the duct tape too thick, as it skews the accurate measurements and is tough to pin through later
Making the Dress Form
1. Collect your supplies and a buddy To get a smooth duct tape shell, you'll need to stand relatively still, which is just not possible if you're bending and twisting to tape yourself. A friend will help not only get the form on, but get the darned thing off as well.
2. Slip into the old t-shirt or garbage bag You'll be cutting up the t-shirt, so make sure it's one you're prepared to say so-long to. A fitted shirt that goes at least to your hips makes the best final figure, as does wearing a good bra. Consider protecting your chest and neck by adding cling wrap up to your chin.
3. Tape horizontally at the lowest point and under your bust Have your friend tape right below your bust, and at or below your widest hip measurement (mid-thigh is best if you can stretch your tee that far).
4. Preserve the chest shape and add strength Add strips at a diagonal between the breasts, over the shoulder, and down the back. Anchor the pieces at the horizontal strip in front and back. This will keep the check area from becoming flattened.
5. Form the upper torso Continue adding strips at diagonals, following the natural curves of the body, until the whole upper torso is covered to the shoulder joint. Add similar diagonal strips along the lower half of the body to add structure, being careful not to pull so tight as to create any bulges.
6. Finish taping the neck and lower torso Work down from the rib cage and up from the hips, covering the rest of the torso. Add a couple horizontal strips from the collarbone slightly up the neck. Again, be careful not to pull uncomfortably tight! Save some duct tape to close the open holes of the form.
7. Cut the back along the center Cut straight up the back, through both the duct tape and the shirt. Use bandage scissors if you have them, or move very carefully with regular scissors. Remind your helper to avoid cutting your bra. Carefully remove the shell.
8. Tape the back, arms, and neck closed Carefully line up the back cut edge and tape it back together. Use one hand to preserve the shape of the neck opening, and tape it closed horizontally with the other. Similarly tape the arm openings closed.
9. Stuff the form Pack the stuffing in as tight as possible, to help it keep it shape while you're using it. Keep an eye out for any weak points in the form and reinforce them with a patch of duct tape.
10. Insert a cardboard base Holding the stuffing in as good as you can, put the form on a piece of cardboard and trace around the base. Cut out the piece and make a small slit cross in the center for the stand to go through. Tape the form to the cardboard base around the edges, adding any remaining stuffing that will fit before sealing.
11. Add a stand Insert the pole of the stand through the cross in the cardboard. If the form is filled with enough stuffing, you should be able to insert the stand to your desired height.