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affordable dress forms?

schoonerchick | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

hello everyone, i will take a moment to introduce myself this time! i am a young proffesional sailor and costume/ sewing/ fashion history fanatic. i am looking forward to taking a break from the schooner bum life before too long and start realizing some of my ideas for clothes, etc.

unfortunately being a sailor pays almost nothing, so i’m searching for an affordable dress form source… does anyone have any ideas? i would love to be able to design and create by draping! madeline vionnet is one of my idols…

anyway, if anyone has any info let me know! thanks,



  1. carolfresia | | #1

    Ahoy, Schoonergrrl! If you have a friend who's handy with duct tape, you can make your own dress form, customized to your very own shape. Check out "Clone yourself a fitting assistant," at http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00002.asp. Have fun!


    1. schoonerchick | | #2

      oh yeah, i remember reading that article. it seems that duct tape would be sticky to pin, maybe i'll try paper tape, if i can find it somewhere!

      thanks for the reminder. :)  perhaps making a tape one would inspire me to improve on that by making a seamed canvas one, that would be cool!

      1. KBWINSON | | #3


        I made a paper tape one over christmas.  Very easy, very quick--about 1.5 hours including drying time. I did cheat and only used two layers of tape-I put on a third layer after it was off of myself and dried.  I used a dry cleaning bag instead of a t-shirt underneath.  Quick tip: Make sure the first layer is very accurately fitted, maybe even slightly tight (if you can stand it) as this affects the accuracy of your double.  My first layer was a bit loose in the front and it makes a difference when I'm making pattern adjustments.  Also, mark ALL important lines: bustline, waistline, shoulder seam line, hipline, and even side seam lines before you take the thing off.  Trying to guesstimate where they are afterwards is time consuming!

        Good luck,


        1. schoonerchick | | #4

          excellent! thank you for the advice! i think i will have time to actually make one this winter, when i'm done sailing for the year and just madly studying for my captian's license! i'll just keep telling myself that...

          :) schoonergrrl

          1. SewerDMcG | | #5

            I made a paper tape one too! It works great and it's me. I tried the duct tape but it gets to hot in the desert....it came apart...but my paper tape one has stood up to the heat. I decoupaged it with napkins, I highly recommend it.

  2. CHEFMJM | | #6

    I don't have any information for you, although I am thinking of making a paper tape form too.  I really wanted to say hello from a former schooner cook who has since swallowed the anchor.  I live on land now and work as a baker, but luckily my brother is still driving schooners locally so I can sail whenever I want (in the summer), without the woodstove burns!  What tonnage license are you sitting for, 100 ton?  The first few years I was sailing I dragged my sewing machine along, until finally I put it in storage, but now it's out, cleaned and oiled, and I'm sewing clothes again, instead of hatch covers.

    Good luck with your test and study, study, study!


    1. schoonerchick | | #7

      ahoy martha! i was not expecting many folks to even know what a schooner is, let alone be intimately aquainted with them! where did you cook? aboard the maine fleet? i was over there this summer for a few weeks, sailing on the "Bowdoin" and there are SO many schooners! i'm used to seeing one other schooner once in a while, here in puget sound, for the "Adventuress" is pretty much the only act in town.

      i will be sitting for my 100 ton ticket, tho i'm not yet sure whether it will be inland or near coastal. that depends on my sailing abaord the "Ernestina" out of new bedford mass. or not.

      i bet you will get your self duplicated in tape before i do, let me know how it turns out. also i am curious as to which boats you have sailed on.

      sofi  :)

      1. CHEFMJM | | #8

        I started in Camden, Maine (actually on a ketch) on Angelique, worked on a couple of yachts in the Virgins and New England, then on Providence out of Newport RI.  Took two years off to go to culinary school in Vermont and worked on the Homer W. Dixon (now named Manitou) out of Burlington, which is now in MI where I live and my brother drives her.  Off to Seattle to work for a few years with some time on converted minesweepers in Southeast Alaska (out of Poulsbo).  I cooked on boats on and off for about 10 years.  I'm familiar with Adventuress, Ernestina, and the Bowdoin.  We probably know some of the same people, as the traditional sailing world is a pretty small one.  Did you work on Adventuress?  Do you know someone named Heidi (don't like to use last names on message boards)?  We worked together in Alaska one summer and I know she's worked on Adventuress but it may have been before your time.  Good luck with your ticket, study and you'll do fine.  Are you taking a study course?  I still get to sail on Manitou and I also do some catering on her for private charters.  I miss the sailing life though, but land has it's perks!  We'll see you gets a dressform done first, I can procastinate with the best of 'em!

        Again, best of luck with your test,

        Martha :)

        1. sewphaedra | | #9

          Martha, you didn't happen to sail and cook on a private boat last year sailing up from Key West to Richmond??

          1. CHEFMJM | | #10

            No, I haven't done any deliveries in a few years.  Why do you ask?

            Fair winds and following seas,


          2. sewphaedra | | #13

            I know a Martha who was on that trip, she was working as cook on the boat.

        2. schoonerchick | | #11

          i've crewed on the adventuress for three years, and have met several heidis over the years. one of them could very well be the one you know! the schooner world is certainly a small one! angelique is a cool boat, tho it really bothers me that she is an honorary schooner! what is so wrong with being a ketch!! i know a guy named steve who sailed on her some years ago, maybe after your time.

          i'm not sure how i'm going to go about getting my ticket... i'll probably end up taking a local course , it depends on how much i can get done studying on by own.

          here's to beating procrastination!

          :) sofi (by the way, i sail with my middle name: indu, i'm just seeing how it feels to be a sofi again!)

          1. CHEFMJM | | #12

            Angelique is a great boat and I never got the what the big deal was with her being ketch rigged either.  Apparently her other sin is that she has a steel rather than a wooden hull.  I liked working on her and having the galley on deck with actual fresh air and windows was wonderful!

  3. thirdnorn | | #14

    Hi Schoonergrrl!

     I've made the Duct tape form, and I LOVE mine. I lucked out and found a battered old dressmakers dummy on an iron stand, so I battered off the old form and added my duct tape one. Works like a charm.

    But this is only for individual fitting. You might want to see about finding a few folks with various sized dressmaker forms who will let you make duct tape forms from their standard-sized forms.

    Then just used them as patterns to cut out and sew some varied sized canvas "dummies" with heavy duty zippers up the back. That way, everytime you want to sew for a different size you can just slip a new one on whatever armature you're using to hold it up and stuff it with fiber fill 'til firm.

    1. schoonerchick | | #15

      thanks for the ideas! i almost got my grandmother's old dressform, which would have been ideal, she was just about my size in the 50's ! i forget what happened to it instead, but i was pretty bummed. luckily my dad is a blacksmith/carpenter who can make anything, so he can help me with some sort of stand.

      1. thirdnorn | | #16

        Hi Schoonergrrl!

        Glad to be of some help! 

        Wow! You're dad's a Blacksmith? That's PERFECT!!

         Actually, if you have a place with a strong overhead beam or if your dad can make you a sort of reinforced coat rack, maybe you'd like a dress form that you could hang.

        I worked summers at Disneyland in Costuming, and the ladies in the workshops there have forms that hang from the beams by as if on a clothes hanger.

        It's WAY much easier to get garments on and off, and if you want to make specially fitted pants or have a dress form that goes to mid-thigh, that situation is ideal.

        Good luck! And please post pictures of what you come up with- I'd love to see what you do!

        best of luck-


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