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Dress forms

Rita_Bilbrey | Posted in The Archives on

I am considering either purchasing a dress form or making a duct tape dress form. I’ve seen that some dress forms commercially sold do not have arms–the forms stop at the shoulder. But I’ve also seen some forms with upper arm extensions. Can anyone tell me why this is so? My personal thoughts (as a relatively inexperienced sewer) would be that an upper arm extension is necessary to tell whether a sleeve is set in correctly (whether some adjustment to the easing is needed) and whether the sleeve hangs nicely. What I would like to know is whether the same thing can be accomplished with an “armless” dress form.

I’d appreciate any advice you experienced sewers can give me.


  1. Kathy_Williamson | | #1

    Hi Rita. I think that the arms would be good if you wanted to make something formfitting, and also to make sure the shoulder seams and pads fall on the right spot. I have made the duct tape dress form from Threads (no arms though) and I like it. If you do it, have your helper tape you nice and tight... my companion was afraid to squeeze me too hard, and I don't think my form is totally accurate. For my stand, I used a cardboard tube from a carpet, and a Christmas tree stand. My dummy wanted to slide down so I poked a hole through the carpet tube and inserted the handle from an old wooden bath scrub brush all the way through. A wooden paint stirrer would also be the right size.

    1. Rita_Bilbrey | | #2

      *Hi, Kathy. I tried posting a message to you here earlier today, but for some reason it never went through. I'll try again.Thanks so much for sharing your duct tape experience and tips with me. My husband is willing to give it a try, so I'm ready whenever he can find the time. I'm going to try to incorporate at least a few inches of the upper arm on my form. From what you said I think it would be very helpful. It's so hard for me to look in the mirror, straining in all different directions to see if my sleeves are set in correctly and look good, if the shoulder line is right, etc.I'll make sure my husband wraps me nice and tight!Rita

      1. Kathy_Williamson | | #3

        *Hi Rita I guess using the "reply" button doesn't work. I'll try it this way instead. When we made the mannequin, Steve would have me hold onto the end of the duct tape while he pulled it out to the length he wanted each time. That was rough on my fingertips so I used bandaids and that was quite a relief. I hope you have as much fun as we did! I am posting a pic of the result. His mum sent me some old feedsack material and the bundle included a hand-sewn apron, which "Monica" sometimes wears, along with a few hats and my magnifying clip-ons. My cats do occasionally try to climb her for a better look out the window.

        1. Rita_Bilbrey | | #4

          *Kathy, I'm still laughing! Monica the Second is quite a babe, with her gorgeous red hair--dressed to the nines and ready impress the heck out of anyone catching a glimpse of her! Seriously, that's something to consider. I don't know if I'll want my naked duct tape form on display when it's done, so dressing it seems like a very good idea. After all, nobody needs to know what I really look like and dressing the form is a much better idea than covering it with a sheet (too easy for curious eyes to lift a corner of the sheet, you know). :)Rita

          1. Kathy_Williamson | | #5

            *Glad you enjoyed that, Rita! The dressing was quite gradual, just a way to make Steve laugh becuase she used to live in his library. Every week or so she would be sporting something new. For a while she had metal curlicues sticking up instead of the wig. It's an extra step to undress her when I want to use her, but it keeps her out in the open. My mom had an expensive dress form back in the sixties and it became forgotten in a corner of the basement.

          2. linda_linda | | #6

            *Rita, Just a quick note to help you understand why dress forms are made without arms. Because there are no joints in the shoulders and elbows it would be impossible the dress and undress the dress form. All forms with arm extensions are removable arms. Some of the better dress forms also come with collapsable shoulders, the only reason for this is so that they will be easier to dress/undress.

          3. Rita_Bilbrey | | #7

            *Hi, Linda. Of course! Thanks so much for pointing that out to me. It makes sense, but I would never have thought of it myself.Rita

          4. JackieF | | #8

            *I second the motion about making sure the duct tape is tight.(have your helper hurry) Mine was too large in the waist, partly because I wore a largish t-shirt. But worse than that, the bust is very squashed. I may do it over, but any suggestions as to how I can get the bust not to mash down?JackieF

          5. Kathy_Williamson | | #9

            *Hi Jackie. What if you added more stuffing? (Shades of 8th grade??? ;P) In the magazine they recommended shoulder pads in there. I was unhappy with the slope from the bottom of the breasts to the waist, so I added another strip of tape horizontally, then pulled it tight to define that area better.

          6. Jillian | | #10

            *I recently went to a Sewing Expo and attended a class by Jan Bones. She showed us how to make personal dress forms using PAPER TAPE rather than Duct Tape. The paper tape stays firm and becomes very hard. Jan brought some of her forms to class. They were hollow and could be hung up by a hanger if you didn't want to put them on a stand. I have been doing a lot of research of dress forms for myself but have not made one yet. Now that I've seen these from Jan Bones I do want one.Jan has written a book which shows how-to info. I do not know if she is available on line, if I find out I will write back here.

          7. Jillian | | #11

            *Please go to http://www.sewinglingerie.com/dressforms.html.The book costs $8.00 in USA.

          8. Doris_ | | #12

            *Here's another site! She's got a video series on how to do it. She claims duct tape is better cause you can pin your patterns onto it.http://www.Classact.bigstep.com Took her class at Vogue Fabrics....she's going to have a newsletter too. NAYY...just a happy customer.Doris

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