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Dress form vs. Muslin

mame1616 | Posted in Fitting on

Hi – hope this doesn’t sound too dumb – I have a duct tape dress form of myself. Do I still need to make a muslin mock-up first? Thanks!


  1. kbalinski | | #1

    Every pattern differs with fit, especially from pattern company to pattern company.  Muslins will help you perfect fit if you... 1) are working with a fitted garment  and 2) if your body produces fitting issues (full busted, short waisted, etc.).  It also depends on how important the garment you're making is.  If you've spent a lot on the fabric, or plan on wearing it often, a muslin is worth the time and effort.


    1. Ceeayche | | #2

      I agree with your recommendation! 

  2. woodruff | | #3

    Uh-huh, for all the reasons the ladies mentioned--plus the fact that sometimes the garment you've planned to make turns out to be world-class unflattering or unsuitable when it's made up. The muslin tells you that before you waste your good fabric!

  3. jjgg | | #4

    Having a dress form whether it is of yourself or a commercial one has nothing to do with fitting a pattern! Unless you have some other full proof method of fitting a pattern to you,you need to make the muslin, try it on and fit the garment. Like someone else said, sometimes you realise the style is not to your liking.Now, you could pin fit the paper pattern on the dress form since it is a duct tape double, but I have never like fitting paper patterns. Paper doesn't have the same drape as fabric.Also, you can pin fit the muslin on the dress form since it is 'you' This is easier than trying to pin on yourself.

    Edited 1/7/2009 9:21 am ET by jjgg

  4. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #5

    Mame, a muslin is more than just a fitting tool.  It is the dry run, or practise garment made to see if all the pattern pieces fit together, if the pattern assembly order works, to try any new techniques, to check lengths and details against YOUR body, to double check any pattern fitting changes or potential problems that you may not have forseen.  By making a muslin in a similar weight or kind of fabric as your good fabric, you will already have practised working out pressing and handling techniques.  It is the warm up garment to the real marathon.   By being able to try on a Real Mockup Garment, you do not have to guess wether the style and fit will work in an expensive fabric.  You KNOW.  Cathy

    1. HollandtownGirl | | #6

      I just don't understand about muslins.  When I sew a garment, I cut one size for the neck area and bust and then zip off the chart for my waist, change the slope, lengthen the waist and on and on.  After being inspired by a blogger talking about the necessity of a muslin, I decided I would make one for a jacket pattern.  So, after much indecisiveness, I decided to sew a straight size 18 with no changes at all.  My question is, do you make the alterations that you know of before the muslin or do you do as I did and make the muslin and then attempt the changes?  Fitting is such a challenge.  Deb

      1. jjgg | | #7

        That depends.! (How's that for a decisive answer?)If you absolutely know you need to make certain alterations to the paper pattern, then go ahead and make them first. If you know from long standing use that making those alterations will make the pattern fit you perfectly, then go ahead, make the changes and go straight to fabric. If it's a new style, new pattern company I would make the paper changes and then make a muslin to check the fit. You do have to keep in mind that the muslin fabric and fashion fabric will not behave the same way, they don't have the same weight and drape, but it will give you a much better idea of fit, often there will be enough extra in the seam allowances of the fashion fabric for minor alterations after fitting a muslin.a "muslin" (otherwise called a 'Toile') does not have to be made up of muslin fabric. just use cheap fabric that is as close as you can get to the fashion fabric. I'm making a silk charmeuse dress for a client, I'm draping it for the pattern on my manikin. So I'm using a poly silk for my 'muslin' this doesn't have quite the same drape as the silk, but it's close. I will have to do a lot of fitting on the client when I get to the silk, (my manikin is close but not her) so I will leave large seam allowances on the dress when I make it.(it's a bias cut dress anyway, so you really do need large seam allowances).Often Wall mart, Joann or Hancock fabrics will have a variety of fabrics on the clearance table for $1.00/yd or so, make your selection from that. use a knit fabric for a knit garment. I like to use a (woven)stripe fabric on things that grain really matters such as pants. or if I'm doing something bias so I can see how the bias changes. Try to stay away from really busy prints because it makes it much more difficult to look at the fit and style lines when all your eyes are focusing on is the print.That's why I never liked the idea of using the big gingham checks that some books recommend for use in fitting garments, it drives my eyes insane!On plain fabric, I mark the horizontal lines (hip line, shoulder line) in ink so I can see if it hangs straight. - also mark vertical lines - center front/back etc. These lines all shows you figure defects that throw off the grain lines.Well, I think this was much more than you asked for. I'll finish my coffee now

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #9

          Thank you Jigg for jogging my foggy memory! I forgot to mention in my post to draw on lines for reference! Bust points, waist and hip, and other key fitting lines, such as center front, center back, future tentative button placement, grainlines, and any other things that you will find helpful in fitting the garment. You gave some good points in your post. Cathy

          1. jjgg | | #10

            Yes, well, I forgot the part about practicing certain different techniques!
            Together all of us tend to get all the points across.

          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #11

            That is what is good about this place, with everyone contributing, all bases are covered. Cathy

        2. WandaJ | | #15

          This information was really helpful. I too am one that has always had questions about muslins and patterns and where the first change comes from...the pattern or the muslin...

      2. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #8

        You can do it both ways. If you know you must make some changes to all your garments, such as bust fullness changes, you can do them first on the pattern, then cut them out in muslin. It is easier to make these changes on paper first. Use the muslin to refine the fit from there. You can cut into the fabric of the muslin to make fitting changes, inserting fabric just as you would tissue on the pattern. Sew and resew the muslin until you have refined the fit. Mark the lines of the sewing with marker, undo the sewing and use the muslin as the pattern, or measure and redraw the lines on the tissue to cut the good fabric out.
        The point of doing the muslin is to practice the fit and style of the garment before going on to the good fabric. Any similar weight fabric, or even broadcloth or muslin fabric will do to help you refine the fit.
        So the answer is to do both. Do the changes as you would normally do to the pattern, cut out the muslin, sew it and fit it to refine the fit and practice the garment construction, then use what you have learned to go back to the pattern and make those adjustments again before cutting the good fabric. Once you have refined your pattern to where you are happy with it, you can make a permanent pattern that you can use again and again.
        I hope this makes it a little clearer for you. If you have any more questions, ask away. Cathy

  5. Ocrafty1 | | #12


    I've been sewing for years, and had always fit just the paper pattern. I'd heard about doing a muslin, but had always thought it was a waste of time...especially when my daughters had a dance coming up and I had days to make their gowns, or their friends'. I once did a taffeta 'southen bell' style gown, complete with matching cumberbun and bow tie for her date, in 18 hrs. I was lucky, the gowns always turned out.  As I began to sew for paying clients, I wanted to ensure that the clothing fit perfectly.  Some of the fabric their garments were made of was expensive, and I didn't want to have to try to replace it if I ruined it....sometimes the fabric is something they've purchased in the past, or it may no longer be available...sold out and can't find it in any other store.

    I made a muslin for the first time about 3 yrs. ago.  I'll never do another garment without doing one first!  Tissue pattens don't have the drape and there is an advantage to having a complete set of pattern pieces. Sometimes there isn't quite enough yardage to place the pieces per the instructions...which I don't normally use anyway. Be sure to leave at least an inch for seams. The wider seams lay so much nicer on the finished garment.

    One mistake I learned from....I had a perfect 2nd muslin, (you may have to make more than one, to have things perfect) made from really nice batiste. (I'd bought it on sale, so no thought to saving it for something else.)  The dress was supposed to be the only one that she'd want from that pattern.  I used the muslin for the underlining.  Saving the client $$ and myself some time, and storage space; I thought.  While it worked perfectly, the client later decided that she wanted another gown from the same pattern.  I had to make another. 

    I also buy fabrics that are on sale or remnants for my muslins. DH can't understand why I have such ugly fabric in my stash. Some of them are really disgusting, LOL.  But they have a similar hand to expensive or interesting fashion fabric. It makes such a difference in the final garment. I think if you try it once, as I did, you'll never go back.


    1. starzoe | | #13

      I agree that pinfitting the pattern is not ideal. I have often wondered how someone came up with this "brilliant" idea! You get better information just by matching body measurements to pattern measurements.

    2. [email protected] | | #14

      Several of my daughters have been perfect or very nearly perfect pattern sizes. The garment will always look just like the envelope picture on them. I don't know anyone my age that's a perfect anything.

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