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Creating a Dress Form

birdlady1 | Posted in Patterns on

I am going to my mom’s who lives out-of town next week so she and I can work on a dress form for me.

I have been reviewing the instructions on how to create dress forms on the internet.  I was going to try creating one by using the plaster bandages but I am not sure how much rolls I should buy.  Apparently where I can get them if you don’t use the rest of the rolls up, you cannot get your money back and they are very expensive.  Also, someone from the medical supply store wondered how I could possibly cut out the plaster form with only scissors.  She said that the hospitals use a small saw.  If know that the hospital makes a heavy duty cast but do you have to do so in creating a dress form?  If did not create it as hard as the hospitals do, would it be very stable if you were able to cut it with scissors?

If I was going to do it by duct tape, I would really want it as stable as the dress forms you can buy for the design schools.  Therefore, what would I have to put inside the duct tape form in order to have a sturdy form?  To me just adding batten or newspaper would not hold it as sturdy as I would like it.

If anyone has done both, I would really appreciate some help with respect to same.  How many rolls of plaster bandages would I need if I went the plaster cast route.  Also, what size of bandges would I get?  My bust size is 40, waist 37 and hips 43 1/2.

If I do go the duct tape route, how could I get the form to be really sturdy? 




  1. Sancin | | #1

    I don't know about dress forms made with plaster, but I have worked a lot with plaster casts over the years. The plaster is not all that strong in and of itself. It is cheese cloth bandaging coated with plaster of Paris which only gets hard when mixed with water - and very warm in the process due to a chemical reaction. You would need quite a few layers to get it as firm as you seem to want to. I would go with the duct tape. You could then plaster over the duct tape with a few layers if you want a firm surface. But I would stuff the duct form first to ensure it maintains your shape. You need to consider how exact the plaster of Paris form would be to your body.

    One of the reason's plaster saws are used is the fact that there are a lot of layers and there is padding underneath. The saws are not really saws but vibrators that break up the mesh that the plaster coats. In an ideal situation there is mesh embedded with fibreglass available which is very expensive and very hard. It is intended for people who will have casts on for a long time and supposedly can bathe in one. My mother had one on her foot for about 6 months but as there is no padding underneath she developed sores underneath. I helped her to bath with it on, after a neighbour scared her. I think she may have developed the sores as the fibreglass doesn't breath and her skin was kept moist, if not from bathing, from normal skin moisture. In my community the plasters do not make plain fibreglass casts but put a layer over the plaster of Paris mesh to make it stronger. You would not believe the shape of the casts of young people who do not care for their casts. They came in with them in threads!! I believe the fibreglass casts are cut of with shears of some sort. You could cover a duct tape (or brown wrap tape) form with fibreglass tape but it would almost be cheaper to buy a ready made dress form!

    Let us know what you go with. We love to learn from others experiences.

    1. birdlady1 | | #2


      Thank you for your input.  I may have been incorrect in naming the material I was thinking of using.  It is the bandages that you use creating casts.  I was not sure how much I would need as I explained before, if you have left over bandages (still packaged) you cannot return them.  I will use the duct tape as you suggested and then for an added bonus, buy a few of the plaster wraps later and use it to firm the dress form up.  When you say I can use the fiberglass tape over the duct tape, do you mean the plaster cast tape used when you break your arm, etc?  Also, what would you suggest I use to stuff the duct tape form?  I want it a sturdy as it can get.  I was thinking before of buying a dress form but I would have to send away for in in New York and by the time you pay the exchange, delivery charges and I would also have to pay my taxes in Toronto, it would add up considerably. 

      I hope to hear from you soon. 


      1. Sancin | | #12

        I think the suggestions from the other ladies are the best route to go, either duct tape and the expanding foam or the paper tape. I knew what you meant when talking about plaster bandages and I wouldn't bother trying to find some or use it. I really think it is an unnecessary step. Having said all that, I have not made a dress form. I would not be able to stand long enough to have someone wrap me plus I am quite claustrophobic. I have heard that some people find the process a little claustrophobic. I purchased an old dress form from someone on an other discussion list that is moldable wire mesh. I plan to pad where I need to and cover it with some sort of fabric. On the other hand, I have been sewing for many years and find I can make pattern adjustments without a form. I simply thought one may be fun should I decide to get into draping. Good luck.

        1. birdlady1 | | #13

          I wanted to create my dess form by doing it with plaster bandages but when I went to the store who deal with making masks, etc., it would have cost roughly $180.00 so I decided to go the cheapest route. 

          My figure turned out not too bad.  My son helped me with the wrapping.  Boy, did my legs get tired by spinning around and around, etc.  After breaking for a few minutes I would walk over to the mirror to inspect the work.  Boy did I look like a somo wrestler.  My son did a pretty good job.  My husband is now working on the stand for me.  I am now debating whether or not to use the polyuathene foam (the one used for cocking windows).  The man at Home Depot said that using the window foam will not expand the duct tape very much as opposed to the other one that builders use.  He said that it might expand the duct tape far to much and may distort my shape on the duct tape form.  My husband suggested stuffing it with foam that is used to stuff pillows, etc.  I want it to be firm and when I cover the duct tape with material so I can then pin it if needed, I want it not to be too hard to use.  Any suggestions? 

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #14

            I see what you mean. There are two types of expanding foam in a spray can. One expands to maximum size right after being released from the can, and is used around windows and doors. It does not put pressure on them that will move them or crack them. The other continues to expand for a while after it sprays, and is used to fill cracks and holes. I would stay away from that one also. No matter what you fill your form with, you are still going to have to double check that you have not distorted the shape when filling it. The foam filling will expand up and out the bottom as you fill it, and out the arm holes a bit, and can be trimmed after curing. I do not think it will be much of a problem, and has been used very successfully many times by others. Pillow stuffing may not give you enough support. It does not firm up like the foam does. Cathy

  2. woodruff | | #3

    Not to hype another discussion board just for its own sake, but there have been many detailed discussions of dressform construction (all types) at sewing.patternreview.com

    I don't know if you have to be a member to view some of these, but here is a link:


    1. byf | | #4

      You might check out making a dress form using brown paper tape (it is not duct tape and needs to be moistened). The resultant form is stiff and holds its shape, but is very light.

    2. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #5

      I think quite a few read and follow both forums. There is good info on there. :) Cathy

  3. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #6

    Hi Birdlady! There have been several good discussions on this subject fairly recently. If you go to the search feature, you should be able to find some really good suggestions already in there.
    The discussion has covered things from brown paper tape, duct tape and the plaster bandages, to stuffings used to keep them firm, like expanding foam. Different types of coverings have also been discussed.
    If you look in the Magazine Tab, under the magazine Index, Threads has had several articles as well. There is an online article as well if my swiss cheese memory is working properly. I think you are going to have fun with this project! Cathy

    1. birdlady1 | | #7


      I think I am going to have fun with it.  My mom just called to say that next week is no good for her.  I think it works out just as well as I can do more research and she and I can then do it in two weeks.  May be I will have a better idea have how to do it where I am going to be able to use it for years.  I am going to do the duct tape first then the plaster bandages.  I need to find out how much plaster bandages I am going to need.  I don't want any left over as it will be no good for me and I can't take them back.  I will let you know what happens. 


      1. starzoe | | #8

        Keep in mind that when you apply the plaster bandages over the duct tape form you are adding depth to the form and therefore making it larger on the outside. Your real form will be on the inside of the duct tape form.The above is one consideration that is hardly mentioned (if at all) when home-made dress forms are mentioned. I would keep away from anything containing fibreglass - the mesh is extremely itchy to work with and the goop used is very toxic, it is basically used for repair work on boats or cars and not meant to be used indoors. It is not something for the untrained to use. The medical application for casts would be a special use but again, probably used by experts.

        1. birdlady1 | | #9

          Thank you for the advice.  If I was just to use the duct tape what could I put into the dress form in order to have it sturdy where it does not collapse when putting clothes to see how it has turned out?

          1. starzoe | | #10

            I would suggest you use the search on this site to find the long and informative postings about filling the form.

      2. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #11

        I am thinking I would pass on the plaster myself. The paper tape or duct tape would be much easier and less messy to use. For roughly the same cost, I would fill the form with expanding foam to stabilize it. Plaster will crumble when it is dropped, and is less stable. Just my thought on the process. Have you checked out the craft plaster and gauze instead of the medical? I have bought it for craft purposes, but it was a few years ago. It was fairly expensive, but I imagine it might be a bit less expensive than the medical stuff. Paper mache with tissue paper or newsprint and white glue might be an equally messy, but more fun, and less expensive approach. Just some fun thoughts on the subject. Cathy

  4. woodruff | | #15

    Here's a link to Threads Magazine's online articles on making various types of dressforms. There's a lot of information here:


  5. gypsylady | | #16

    I've done the duct take form and the plaster form. I think the plaster with expandable foam is much better. Get the tape from a medical supply shop, the have different widths, also. Cutting the tape into strips about 16 inches long is easy with regular scissors. Making the tape thinner and cutting the form off while still damp helps with cutting through the form. Easing it off and then re taping for more strength as needed. An electric sander is great for smoothing if off.

  6. platexas | | #17

    The plaster cast dress forms are great, IMHO. After the cast is removed from body, and stitched back up, it is filled with one of several "fillers": I like the spray in foam insulation because it sets up nicely and is easy to use. Another type of filler is the spray foam used for sealing around light switches, etc. It takes lots of cans but is easy to use. Just be sure to use enough because it will expand into every nook and cranny. You'll need to first use dry cleaner bags on the inside of the cast so that you can get the cast off the foam!

    After the foam has set up, you remove the cast. It's best to take a "bastard file" (wood working tool) to smooth out the setup foam. Then apply a slick cover -- like a rayon or lycra stretch cover so your fabrics will slip over the form easily.

    MyTwinFit.com carries a video etc. and it's pretty easy but you definitely need an assistant to plaster you.

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