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How to Select the Perfect Dress Form

Professional dress forms are extremely durable and ideal for draping.
If you want a dress form solely for displaying garments, consider buying one of these more affordable options.
Adjustable dress forms are designed with dials that adjust to fit your bodys measurements.
Professional dress forms are extremely durable and ideal for draping.

Professional dress forms are extremely durable and ideal for draping.

Photo: The Shop Company

A dress form is a useful addition to just about any sewing room, regardless of your skill level. The key to selecting the right one, however, is to determine its intended use. Below, I'll describe a few options to consider before selecting your ideal dress form.

Dress forms vs. mannequins

Dress form Mannequin
Dress form Mannequin

What's the difference? I get this question all of the time, so I figured I'd start here. Dress forms are most often made to represent a body's torso and are usually constructed with a hard interior and a foam or fabric exterior, which is helpful for pinning. A mannequin, on the other hand, is what you'll usually come across in a retail store. It generally has a hard outer shell and often represents an entire body. For the remainder of this post, however, we will focus solely on dress forms.

Types of dress forms

1. Display dress form

Display form

  The first thing to consider when buying a dress form is to identify its desired purpose.
The Shop Company    

If you only plan to use your dress form to display garments, then you may want to go with a cheaper option, such as the standard display version (shown above). Display forms usually cost less than $100 and can be found on the following websites: The Shop Company, Mannequin Maven, and eBay. While the proportions of these forms tend to be unrealistic for fitting and draping, display forms usually have an adjustable height and are easily pinnable.

2. Professional dress form

Dress form   If you are looking for a form that can assist you throughout the construction process with draping, pinning, fitting, and more, a professional dress form is worth the investment.
The Shop Company    

While these forms generally have a much higher price tag (usually between $150 and $1,000), their features and longevity significantly outweigh those of the standard display versions. For one, professional dress forms feature more accurate proportions and are available in a variety of sizes.

They also come on wheels for easy mobility, have a cage-like bottom to help with hemming, collapsible shoulders so garments can be easily put on and removed, and an adjustable height. Here are recommended sources for professional dress forms: The Shop Company, PGM, Mood, and Fashion Supplies Inc. Just remember that since these forms might not match your measurements exactly, choose a size based on your smallest measurement(s) so you can pad the rest of the form later. That being said, if you're willing to spend even more money on a dress form, consider these custom-made services: Fabulous Fit and Wolf Form.

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Comments (5)

user-2335596 user-2335596 writes: I have an adjustable dress form, it's not perfect, but it is useful, as it is very difficult to fit yourself. The one frustration I have with it is that I am short-waisted, and that is one adjustment that can't be made on the form. And I really need to add a bit more padding to the hips now !
Posted: 7:26 pm on November 24th

dfinkle dfinkle writes: Thanks for your input, ClaireOKC!
Posted: 10:21 am on November 24th

Betty_VH Betty_VH writes: None of these show large sizes. Are they not available for heavy women?
Posted: 6:58 pm on November 18th

SWoerner SWoerner writes: I love this article, I just wish I had read it before I purchased my dressforms. I originally purchased a Dritz Twinfit and lost weight, so I never used it. Then I purchased a professional one from the Shop Company,(fantastic quality and reasonably priced) unfortunately for me it was delivered to a neighbor over a block away and she opened it. Needless to say it was too large and the option to return was not available so I'm stuck with 2 dressforms that I can't use and have never been used. I just wish I lived in an area that sewing was more utilized so I could sale them because I really need one that has the correct measurements.

Posted: 9:59 am on November 18th

ClaireOKC ClaireOKC writes: I love the Uniquely You dress form. It's about as workable a form as possible for the money, and taking the cover off and readjusting it then putting it back on the foam form (in my case I've had to add some batting through the years), can make it usable for decades. It's really a great value.
Posted: 8:45 pm on November 12th

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