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Conversational Threads

Dress forms

katewestin | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Hi all,

I’m a returning sewer… it’s been many years… and I’m considering purchasing a dress form. Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions regarding what I should be looking for? What’s the best deal at the best price point? I also purchased “My Label” pattern design program and will be learning more about pattern design and fit. Would love to hear from the experts out there on tools you’ve found to be essential when it comes to fit and design! Thanks! Katiew   


  1. Consuelo | | #1

    Hi, Katiew!  Welcome back to sewing. 

    I don't own a dress form but I know it would be a great tool.  I've done some research and I think it's nearly impossible to get a good representation of your body unless you have a pretty standard shape.  I'm a 2X and have recently been reading about making a form out of paper tape.  I think there's been some discussion on this forum about it.  It sounds like the best alternative to me.  The cost is less than $10 and if you body change, you simply make another one.  Here's a Threads article on it  http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00002_p5.asp?

    There's also a duct tape version which is a bit more complicated to make but here's a link to instrucitons:  http://www.leanna.com/DuctTapeDouble/


    1. katewestin | | #2

      Hi Consuelo,

      Thanks for your ideas. I looked at the paper and duct tape dress form ideas... not sure if I know of anyone well enough to wrap me in duct tape! I do think it's a good option though. I did find an article in the March 06 Threads magazine, "Dress Form Review," It's good. You might want to take a look. In the meantime I found the name of a tailor here in town who may also have some good ideas. I'll pass along what I learn from her.



      1. User avater
        dayenu | | #10

        I advertised on craigslist for an experience sewing woman to help me. we met before i took off my clothes and we ending up wrapping each other.

    2. cloetzu | | #9

      Does anyone have a lead on the 'paper tape' required? the article 'source' (uline) only sells the tape in boxes of 12 with a cost of about $4.95 each - so it would cost $60 just to buy the tape.  I have searched around for a source for individual rolls but have not found any that have paper tape that is the same as the uline brand (self adhesive and reinforced).  I don't think plain paper tape would work as it is flimsier then duct tape.  I tried the duct tape version but it is not firm enough and after countless layers still distorts when you take it off.  The key is to take it off you and have it retain it's shape if not when you stuff it you may make it wider and thinner then your are or fatter and less wide - if you know what I mean.  The paper tape version seems to hold it's shape when cut off with no distortion.  Any leads on the tape (in individual rolls) would be greatly appreciated (in Canada).

      1. Brine | | #11

        You may be in luck. I bought some individual rolls of paper tape from Jan Bones at a sewing expo a few years ago. Jan is in Winnipeg and her web site, http://www.sewinglingerie.com, has information on making paper tape dress forms.

      2. Gloriasews | | #13

        The brown paper tape I used is called "butcher's tape".  It is about 1" wide & comes in good-size rolls - you should have 2 to be on the safe side, in the event that one isn't enough.  It wasn't self-adhesive, but you tear off lengths of it & run it over a wet sponge, then tape it on.  I think you can get it at Staples or other office supply stores, probably in the mailing products section.  Yes, it dries hard, but takes a day to do so.  You can hasten it with a blow dryer - dry enough to cut the back & ease yourself out of it.  Then tape up the back & set the form out of the way to dry completely.  When I built my stand to hang the form on, I also filled it at that time with the spray foam (for weatherstipping or crack filling) & let that dry completely hard.


      3. Slippers | | #19

        I met Coni Crawford at the Sew Expo in Puyallup, WA, last year and she says you can get the tape for her form from Staples.  I don't have a Staples here but am going to check Office Maxx and Office Depot.  You might try that.  And just buy one roll and do some test taping to see if you think it will work (put on a garbage bage and tape your tummy where you can easily reach).  Be sure to do 5 layers, alternating direction (horizontal, vertical, horizontal, etc).  From the pictures in Coni's directions it looks like the 5 layers of her tape are stiffer than 3-5 layers of duct tape would be. 

        The My Twin directions say to fill their plaster form with a (polyurethane?) foam that you mix up but I'm wondering if I can use a canned foam like you use in your house to fill in cracks.  Anybody have any opinions on substituting foams?


        1. scrubble4 | | #26

          Hi Slippers:  I am not sure how dense the foam you are talking about is?  My Twin foam is really dense.  Although someone said you don't need to be able to pin onto the form, I find the third hand pinning allows quite wonderful.  I think if you ask at one of the big hardware stores where the personnel in each department seem really knoweldgeable, they could tell you about foam density. 

          If you able to use the spray foam care needs to taken not to have any holes or bubbles especially near the outside of the form.  This will be cavities on the dress form. 

          Hope this helps.  Scrubble4

  2. fiberfan | | #3

    I bought a dress form smaller than I am.  I made a cover for the form my making a tight fitting sleeveless princess line hip-length top with a front separating zipper.  I put a bra that fits me on the form under the top and used a combination of batting and stuffing to make the cover fit the dress form like it fits me.  I still do final fitting on me but the dress form is a great help.

    Joanne - so many ideas, so much fiber, so little time

    1. user-216215 | | #15

      I am also looking to purchase a dressform, reading how you designed yours to fit, I have a couple of questions,

      Does the dressform have to be pinable for the batting and stuffing to adhere?

      If not pinable, how do you adhere the batting and stuffing to stay on the dressform, for the proper fit?

      1. Tangent | | #16

        Lots of questions...

        Wouldn't it be better, meaning less wrinkles, to use a close-fitting T-shirt or turtleneck?  Get one from the thrift shop, and you won't feel so bad when you cut it off the victim...   :-)

        Has anyone used the plaster/gauze tapes (as used for making a cast over an injured limb) to make a dress-form shell?  I don't mean using it to make a mold for a shell. Does it hold its shape well enough?

        If you cut a paper-tape or masking-tape shell up the back and ease out of it, it has to bend somewhere to open it wide enough.  Doesn't this cause distortion in the shape?  Wouldn't splitting it into halves along the sides be better?

        How do you keep duct tape stiff enough so it doesn't distort, ie the shape becomes too round when stuffed?

        Re the plaster-cast and paper-mache form, is there any significant shrinkage of the size when the form is dry?

        1. scrubble4 | | #20

          Hi:  I responded earlier, I think my response number is 13.  I describe making a dress form from plaster cast tape which ends up with a really great and durable styrofoam form.  You may find that response helpful.  Scrubble4

          1. User avater
            annenet | | #21

            I did the MyTwin also and I couldn't be happier with it! Mine's about 3 years old, but I'm still the same size and shape so it works really well, right down to my posture. If I remember correctly they list sources for the foam. You mix it together, pour it and watch it very quickly rise!

            I'm also considering the MyLabel software - can't have too many fit checks!


          2. scrubble4 | | #22

            Annenet:  Thanks for response.  Last spring I bought the Cochenille software.  I researched the various pattern making softwares extensively before I bought.  This one has a good review on Threads and they answered all my questions so honestly as I was trying to figure out which one to buy. 

            I absolutely love it.  You can design up a storm and the software makes the adjustments on other pattern pieces affected by your adjustment.  You can take a fair number of dimensions which then creates your sloper that you can choose to have behind your pattern as you design it.  You can turn on a grid so you can count the number of squares for ease if you are straying away from the ease they build-in, they do dimensions for you as well.   I can't believe how amazing it is and it wasn't that expensive especially compared to other software patterns.  I have measurements for friends, grandnieces, sisters etc all in there and can design for each of them according to their actual shape.

            The neat trick for me is then to be able to fit it on My Twin.  You are so right about the difference posture makes on patterns.  Being able to see my back was such a revelation for me.  

            Thanks for your response.  Scurbble4

          3. jjgg | | #23

            Have you looked at the My Label software? for $500.00 you only get 20 styles to select from, and I don't think you can modify them - change the neck from a scoop to a V etc. I would wait a year to see what sort of updates it has. I suspect you will have to pay for any new styles. The only thing the Bernina program has going for it and it's really a toy, not a tool (IMHO) is that you can dress the figure that is supposed to be to your measurements and make her spin around! I don't know how realistic that is.

          4. User avater
            annenet | | #24

            My dealer is running a 25% off sale starting around Thanksgiving as I know it is sort of limited it is Bernina and I'm pretty sure it will make some pretty big strides. A rep told me there would be more patterns and those who bought it early would not have an extra charge. After seeing how the embroidery software escalated I expect this to do the same. Just a thought.

      2. fiberfan | | #17

        The dress form doesn't need to be pinable, it just needs a surface that isn't slippery.   Because the cover fits me snugly, the padded cover is also snug.  This holds the batting/stuffing between the dress form and the cover.  I use more batting than stuffing, I don't know if this makes a difference.


        1. user-216215 | | #18

          Thank you Joann, for the information, I was wondering, how the stuffing was applied, I will apply that construction. Thanks for responding

    2. lovemycottons | | #25

      While reading the archive posts I found yours and really liked your idea of the dress form cover and how you contructed it. I have been toying with the idea of a cover for awhile but couldn't quite figure out how to go about it. Did you use a pattern? and what kind of fabric?

      I have a fitting shell made with gingham (1 inch checks). What if I take off the sleeves, shorten it to hip length, sew the seams a bit more to make it snug  and add the seperating zipper. Do you think that would work?

      For the bust area, did you just stuff with the batting and stuffing or did you also use a bra?

      By the way, I have the My Double Dressform, with the pants option.

      I am sorry this is a very late reply to your post, and I hope you may be able to respond to my query. Thank you,


      1. fiberfan | | #27

        "I have a fitting shell made with gingham (1 inch checks). What if I take off the sleeves, shorten it to hip length, sew the seams a bit more to make it snug  and add the seperating zipper. Do you think that would work?"

        That is basically what I did with my sloper.

        "For the bust area, did you just stuff with the batting and stuffing or did you also use a bra?"

        I used a bra that fits well and stuffed it.  I don't think I could get the bustline shaped correctly without the bra.


  3. fbs810 | | #4

    Hi, I have a dress form and love it.  It is really nice to beable to look at what you are working on all the time.   I would purchase one that you could make pants on also.  They are really helpful.  The adjustable ones near your size are better because we all change a little with age and sometimes sew for others.  Check out Joann's for some of theirs or Nancy's Notions online.  Worth the invesment. 

    fbs810  Sewer and quilter for 43 years.


  4. sewelegant | | #5

    I copied an article to my word files .  I cannot remember where from, it could have been Sew News or the Clotilde newsletter or maybe even Threads;  unfortunately I did not record where it came from  It is well illustrated and explained in detail how to make a tape dress form by Coni Crawford.

    I attended a seminar by Coni Crawford and she included a demonstration on how to do this on a 2X figure from the audience.  It is not complicated and the only necessity is to have a "friend" to do the taping.  I have not found someone yet to help me, but do plan on doing this eventually.  It is much like the duct tape form you see in the posted sites in other letters, but this is free.  If you send me your email address I can send you a download.  I don't have the wherewithall to do a PDF or figure out how to get your email from this forum.

    Another idea:  similar to the one fiberfan mentioned.  My daughter graduated with a degree in fashion technology from Purdue.  She used her newfound knowledge to make a bodice sloper of me and we transferred it to poster board, cut it out and taped it together so it looked like a dress form.  I put that  over an old Unique dress form I had outgrown.  I didn't like that very much so I copied the sloper (with seam allowanced added) to some old fabric and stitched it up.  Put an old bra that was the proper size on the form and by measuring and stuffing carefully ended up with a very satisfactory dress form.  It seemed almost my double and has served me well.

    1. katewestin | | #8

      Thanks - great tip! I'm still researching and hope to make the final selection soon. So many options! I think I'll go with a form I can order on-line as the taping method, though it sounds like a great deal of fun, may be more than what I'm ready for! I'm considering either Royal, Uniquely You, or Wolf. I understand that Wolf is really the Royal form... you just pay more for the brand name?  


  5. BernaWeaves | | #6

    I recently got a Uniquely You dress form from The Atlanta Thread Company, via mail order.

    The form is foam, and it comes with a cover that closely matches your measurements.  There are directions for trying on the cover on your own body and making adjustments to it so that it exactly matches your body.  Then you zip it onto the form and it looks just like you.

    You can pin into it easily because it's cloth and foam.  There are no gaps or holes like in the dial a boob forms.

    It comes on a stand that you can raise or lower, and you can have it swivel or not at the turn of a thumb screw.

    It was about $130.00.

    The best part is, if I change sizes, I can just resew the cover, or if I drastically change sizes, I can get a new cover for $10 and refit it.



    1. katewestin | | #7

      Hi BernaWeavers,

      Thanks for the info. Very helpful. I'll look into this - sounds like a great option at a very reasonable price. I did a bit of research on the Royal and Wolf forms too - interesting. What I heard from the manufacturer/rep at Royal is that Wolf, priced at $650, is different only in name. The Royal, priced at about $470, looks exctly the same as the Wolf. Both are height adjustable, pinnable, steamable with collapsible shoulders, claw base with casters, padded paper-mache with linen cover.  Had to laugh - they have dog forms!

      Thanks, ]



  6. scrubble4 | | #12

    Katiew:  I went the route of making my own dressform.  I think ithe kit I used is called MyTwin and is usually advertised in the back of Threads.  The process was certainly doable.  Wearing the undergarments I want my outfits to be fit too, I then wrapped myself closely in lightweight plastic.  I used drycleaner bags.  I did this with the help of my husband.  Then my husband wrapped me in cast setting material.  Once it had set he cut it off and sewed/taped the cast mold back together.  Then upside down (neck as the base) he filled it with the styrofoam creating chemicals we received with the kit.  Once the styrofoam set he cut off the plaster cast.  I sewed together a knit stocking to go over the plastic and then attached threads for all the horizontal and vertical lines I wanted on it.  My husband put it on a stand.

    Here is why it is great:

    - you will have an ah ha experience when you see  your body especially the back of your body.  It is pretty amazing to see from a sewers perspective

    - you can pin and drape right on the form as it is styrofoam with a knit topping.  I have had mine for 15 years and it is just like new, and fortunately I haven't changed shape too much.

    Now that I have this form, I can't understand the purpose of forms that are not you.  All the ways your body differs from the illusive body that patterns are made for, are on your form and you can figure out even just through draping how you need to alter a pattern or adjust a seam or dart.  For me it took so much of the anxiety out of sewing because I now know I can make it fit.  I must admit I went one step further this last year and bought the Cochenille software so I can design clothes to my body shape as well.  But I still use my dress form to do so many parts of the sewing process.


  7. Patmaker | | #14

    I have been a pattern maker for 30 years and sewn longer than that and right now I make Wedding and Ball gowns for a designer in Birmingham -  I use the My Double form I have all the sizes offered and I have a couple others brands.  I find them good - I do put purchased Bras on it and some padding  from quilt batting when needed to adjust waist or hips to fit the customer.  When I do a muslin- I use the cheap drapery lining and drape it on the form holding with pins- (I also use the roll of the isle cover for weddings it is realy interfacing with a print on it- it works good) - I get it at HobbyLobby -  then use a ink pen to mark seams and lap and cut it on the the form as I go- then I transfer it to the good muslin adding seams as I cut-  If you get the form to the correct measurements for the model then the dress will always fit beautifully with minor adjustments...I do have the Singer forms but I prefer the My double- the only problem with these is they have no boobs so you have to have several size bra to fit to get correct bust measurment.  I'm finding out that most of these slim small girls have C and D cup bras.. So I have all size bras and padding if needed...  Hope this helps.


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