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dress form or no?

thimbles1260 | Posted in General Discussion on

Most of my sewing has consisted of quilting and a few Halloween costumes for the grandsons.  I’d like to get into a bit of sewing for myself.  The question is, how important/useful is a dress form and should the purchase of one be high on the agenda for a beginner garment seamstress?

How many of you have a dress form?  Do you use it as much as you thought you would?


  1. HeartFire2 | | #1

    I have 2 dress forms, one is a 'professional' (non adjustable but the shoulders collapse) and I have one I got at Hancocks - you can dial in the measurements. Yes, I use them both, but probably not in the way you are thinking - I don't think of them as my 'twin' if I want to make sure something is hanging right, or draping right, I put it on the form. its just sometimes easier to work on something when its on a human shape, I can see if I like the drape and shape of a collar etc.
    hope this helps

  2. jatman | | #2

    I use my dress form the same way as the previous poster.  My form is not exactly the same size as me but it's close enough and therefore extremely helpful in allowing me to see how something drapes or hangs from the form as opposed to a hanger.



  3. user-51823 | | #3

    i have 3; all bought at thrift stores (or i wouldnt have 3), all a bit wonky in various ways, and none my exact twin, but one is close enough to do for semi-fitted pieces. one is about a size2-4, which is great for when i make costumes for a girls' school's plays.
    i don't stick to directions, and the form helps me with the creative part- like previous posters, you can drape the fabric to see how it hangs. it helps me draft patterns and visualize. also, having a dress up on the form helps remind me to finifh it!

    1. Alexandra | | #4

      A dress form is very nice to have but not essential, especially for a beginner level.  What is important is getting a good fit.  If you can find a fitting class and learn what about your body needs to be changed  on every pattern, that information will serve you well in your sewing.  For instance, my adjustment is across the upper back, across the shoulder, I make this adjustment to every bodice I make.  I discovered this in a muslin making class decades ago and would have never figured this out myself because it looks like the back neck is where the fault is.

      1. thimbles1260 | | #5

        Sadly, the only sewing classes around here seem to be quilting classes.  I have enjoyed them in the past, but I'm ready to move on to something else now.  Is there a sewing university similar to Quilt University,  where you can take classes on line?  I took some of their quilting classes and they were fantastic!

        Hmmm!  Now there's an idea for Threads!  Offer online sewing lessons!

        1. Alexandra | | #6

          I think Patternreview.com may have some sewing classes, I'm not sure.  I've only visited the site briefly but thought there might be something of that kind over there.  I think the quilting explosion fills the need for many women who want to sew but don't know how to get a good clothing fit so have abandoned clothing altogether.  If nothing is available in your area, make it happen.  Get a group together and invite a teacher, or put up a notice in a fabric store for a sewing fitting buddy or group.  The machine stores and fabric stores here have classes.  Read the notices in your fabric and sewing machine stores, maybe stuff is going on you didn't know about.  Also, visit the library or book store and read everybody's books on fitting and sewing techniques.

          Good luck

          1. thimbles1260 | | #7

            Good morning Alexandra.  (At least it's morning here. LOL)  I think you're right about the quilting explosions filling the need to sew.  It was frustration with trying to get clothing to fit that brought me to quilting.  I've enjoyed the creativity and many of the multitude of techniques in quilting for about 10 years now.  I've begun to feel that my sewing skills and accuracy have advanced to the point that I'm trying garments again.

            I live in a small town and JoAnn Fabrics and Ben Franklin are about it for fabric stores.  We have two lovely quilt shops as well, but JoAnn's is about the only place where I might find fabric suitable for clothing locally.  Your idea of forming a sewing group is a good one.  I have two friends who are interested in garment sewing.  One has a bridal shop and I helped her with alterations last summer.  The other is a co-worker.  Both are possibilities.  Thanks for the idea.

          2. woodruff | | #9

            http://www.patternreview.com does have a very lively online class program. They offer everything from beginner to tailoring, with special stuff inbetween. There seem to be lots of satisfied customers.

  4. wlric | | #8

    My opinion is that a beginner garment sewer can do without a dress form, but having one will relieve a lot of headaches. Being able to pin a hem on a garment that is on a dress form makes life much easier.
    I have two dress forms. One is tiny for the dancers I costume. It can be adjusted a couple of sizes. The torso can be shortened or elongated which is helpful for my work.
    The other is a size 10, it has legs, and hangs from a heavy metal stand. I got it at a yard sale. If I need to, I pad the area that is too small, and can get a very good fit for most sizes above a 10. I have even padded the chest and shoulder area to make jackets for men.
    Sometimes you can post a notice at a quilt shop looking for a used dress form. Many quilters have one stashed away and might be willing to sell it.

    1. user-51823 | | #10

      wow- i've never seen one with legs.
      interesting point, that a beginner doesn't need a dress form. no, but it would certainly expedidite the learning process. now that i'm 50 and looking back at my life, thinking i had to earn the right to have good tools and supplies for art, sewing, woodworking, etc, i think i would have been better much sooner at all these, and saved lots of time too, if i'd just had some of these things much earlier.
      live and learn!

      1. sewknitcro | | #30


        I could not find the original question about whether or not dress forms are helpful. So I hope this gets out OK. I am new to the message board.

         I recently purchased a dress form. I am 58 and have been trying to alter flat patterns  for years with many tears and pulled out hair.  I am one of those that is aslo extremely math defecient. I don't know how many times I have added 5/8 + 5/8 and cannot remember the answer :-)

        I got a form that allows you to fit pants as well. It took me a while to figure out a way to get the form to my shape. I have a computerized pattern making program and I used the sloper in sheet fabric to go over the form. I fiddled with the dials and stuffed it until I got the (my) shape right.

        What a difference in altering a pattern. I pin it on the form and BINGO, I see exactly where I need to add or subtract and in no time I have an altered pattern and I have not shed a tear in the process. You just have to remeber to make alterations on all the facings, ect.

        I still have a lot of trial and error to do to figure how to make terrific pattern alterations but the alterations I have made so far have been far better than trying to figure the alterations on a flat pattern.

        Someone else posted a note that talked about having the right tools to work with. As far as my sewing experience goes, I wish someone had told me years (decades) ago that a dress from should be the very first sewing tool you should buy. Like she said you cannot wear something that does not fit.!!!!

        I got the booklet about how to make a duct tape double. I am sure that system would work very well if you don't want to incur the expense of a dress form. However, I could never find anyone to tape me up.

        Happy dress from pattern altering to you all.



        1. User avater
          LizKelley | | #31

          I just got a fabulous fit dress form.  It was a humbling experience to add enough padding to duplicate my figure, but i agree that this is the only way to achieve fitting success.  I put an old jacket on "Suzy Q" and she looks quite jaunty.  I think we'll be friends.  My advice to a new sewer is this:  Good sewers are not born, they are just well equipped.

          1. sewknitcro | | #32

            Very well said!

    2. WandaJ | | #18

      What type or, brand is this dress form, "...The torso can be shortened or elongated which is helpful for my work."?

      1. wlric | | #21

        The dressform that I was referring to is a TwinFit. It works well for me. It took a while for me to figure out the dials, and one did break. Overall it is fine.
        I prefer the weight and stability of my Wolf form which hangs from a heavy frame.

      2. wlric | | #22

        I thought I had posted a reply, but apparently it didn't post. The adjustable torso form that I have is TwinFit. It also adjusts for bust, waist and hip with dials. I prefer my Wolf form because it is heavier and on a heavy stand. But the TwinFit works well when I need an adjustable form.

        1. WandaJ | | #23

          Thanks for your response.

  5. Jumala | | #11

    Hi, I don't use a dress form either. There are not too many avail for a guy. I do use software from WildGinger which makes it easier to make patterns with. I do have dress form for the American Girl Doll. Someone recently asked me to make some clothes for her GDs AG doll. An AG is quite expensive compared to the form, so hope the form is close enough for fitting purposes.



    1. thimbles1260 | | #12

      Hi Dennis,  You mentioned that there are not too many dress forms available for a guy.  I hadn't thought about that, but why is that so?  Certainly men wear clothing (BG), many of the women on this list are sewing for men  and some of the biggest names in design are men.....why no dress forms for men?  It's strange isn't it.

      1. user-238988 | | #13

        My question is - does anyone have a male sewing form they'd recommend?  My husband would like one as he's always wanting to design the ultimate jacket.  I have checked online and its much easier to buy a display mannequin than a sewing form.  Any suggestions appreciated



        1. user-51823 | | #14

          i do not, but possibly a theatrical supply house online?
          or make one for him using the duct tape method outlined in an older Threads issue (can't recall which issue but you could search here)

        2. thehat | | #16

          just a thought some times you can turn a form around and it depends an how big you are because for the perfect fit you have to pad any way and the forms are not well stacked eithher

        3. NovaSkills | | #17

          Wolf dress forms can be made for anyone, any sex, but they cost alot. Threads had a review on them. The duct tape version is lots cheaper.

        4. myca99 | | #24

          I recommend Fabulous Fit dress forms.   I got mine on clearance last Christmas and I love it.  If my house ever caught fire, you would see four of us fleeing it -- my husband, my son, and me carrying my dress form!  It was such a good bargain that I could probably never replace it. 

          They have mens forms - the personal line seem to be the most affordable (around $250).  They are especially nice for women because they come with a set of pads for padding out the form.  It's great if your weight fluctuates. 



          1. user-238988 | | #25

            Thank you for the suggestion - it sounds like the best idea yet! I love the image of you in your negligee clutching your dress-form! Happy holidays, Christine

      2. Jumala | | #15

        Hi, I've seen two of them. One for $450 from a recent seamstress catalog and and another for < $200 (Mr. something?) from a magazine. Both sized 42. I'm a 52 or so. Would need to pad them up. Perhaps a used mannequin would do. Have seen several men at work wearing "home-made" clothes but none of the women at work are seamstresses, some are quilters. Hope I got seamstress spelled right. Wonder what the tailor at the town's clothier uses? Have one of those in town within walking distance. See there is also a flat? clothing design class in town also. Do not know if they used some type of cad program or use paper, pencil and ruler.


    2. solosmocker | | #26

      Dennis, may I ask where you obtained your AG dressform? Did you make it yourself? I will be getting into sewing a lot of AG outfits soon and this would be a great addition to my tool box. Thanks.

      1. paulette | | #27

        I just got My Double Deluxe which is made by Adjustoform and I found it pretty easy to adjust the dials to get a good approximation of my measurements. I would like to fill in the spaces however with some padding and I'm wondering what would work best and also the best way of fastening it to the form. Next I suppose I should make some type of stretch bodysuit to hold everything together. I went onto the website of the above mentioned fabulous forms and I noticed that they seem to have some type of padding kit. I was thinking of using  fleece perhaps. Any suggestions. 

      2. Jumala | | #28

        The dress form came directly from AG doll company. Bought it from them a few months ago for $8 as a closeout special. Unfortunately they are no longer available. I have seen similar dress forms elsewhere, but don't remember where. Sorry. I'll look around and try to remember.


        1. solosmocker | | #29

          Thanks, Dennis. I will see what I can google out too. Appreciate your prompt response.

  6. jennylake | | #19


    You asked about a dress form and if it was necessary.  Well I am a new sewer and my husband bought me a dress from and I just love it.  Sometimes since I am new at this just putting the garment on the form and looking at it gives me a sence of accomplishment.  It also helps me to stay at it no matter how hard it is for me right now.  I do have one that has dials that form the shape and it does help me to see if the neck and bust areas are going to fit me right.  Those are two of the areas that give me the most problems.  I guess I would say that having a dress form has been a lot of fun and I would buy another one in a minute.  I would like to get one that would help me fit pants but I have not done that yet. 



  7. janlorraine | | #20

    I think a dress form is indispensible since a good fit is one of the best reasons for making your own clothing (besides a choice of style, fabric, color and embellishment!). I made (with my daughter's help) a paper tape dressform a few years ago and I am amazed at how it has helped me assess my fitting problems. This is fairly easy to do and doesn't even take much tape. It is cheap although you can expect to spend a couple of hours at the task. It is better to prep-cut the tape, including some narrow strips for better shaping. The form will be a little bit bigger than you are, but I do not find this a big problem; I just eliminate some ease from my patterns. I have to say that the process is a bit unpleasant. In fact, I hated it so much that I insisted on being cut out before the tape was completely dry. Some people use a hair dryer to speed up this process, but I don't have one and I found a fan too cold. Anyway, I got back into the thing the next day and had myself re-taped with cellophane packing tape which held everything together rather nicely. I use pushpins to hold fabric onto it since it is quite stiff. I put it right over a old Wolf form that I bought in NYC years ago that is now, alas, too small for me. Do try this. Making clothing that does not fit you properly is a waste in my opinion.

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