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Dressform tutorial…

rekha | Posted in Fitting on

I fianally got myself a dressform; Diana. Till now I lay the pattern pieces flat, measured and compared the appropriate sections and made the alterations. How do I go about using the dressform efficiently to reach a good fit?


  1. TJSEWS | | #1

    I recommend a book by Connie Amaden-Crawford, The Art of Fashion Draping, 3rd edition.  It is an excellent book which clearly demonstrates how to best use a dress form.  It is detailed but clearly written with many many sketches.  The book is somewhat expensive (around $60 I think) but well worth it.  You can get the book at Amazon.com with free shipping.

    1. rekha | | #2

      Ah, I do have the book, but as the title says it is all about draping. I really wanted to know what is involved in fitting over the dressform. For instance, I have half the pattern pinned on to the dressform; it seems a bit loose on the side, but by just looking at it I wouldn't know whether it is the correct fit or not. Also,

      1.   is the joint on the body form the 'waistline'

      2.   not all of the chest size is distributed over the breast. I am quite plump and a major contribution to that area is clearly the sides and the back.

      3. Hips: do you have to mark out with tapes the areas that is the 'high hip' and  'low hip'

      It apppears to me it would take as much time 'dressing' up the dressform to my measurements as it would taking direct measurements from the pattern and making adjustments. Perhaps I'm a luddite and am finding it difficult to adapt to the dressform

      1. suesew | | #3

        It sounds like you have to spend some time padding the form to make it look like you. You may be able to adjust the form for back waist length that would put the "joint" you mentioned at the correct height for your body's waist line. Do you have a friend who could help you do some measuring and comparing to the form? All of us have lumps and bumps and lengths that are different from the newly purchased forms. Spending some time on it will be a big help. If you have some clothing that fits you well, try those on the form and you will see the differences right away.

        1. rekha | | #4

          This is precisely what I was dreading. OK, brace yourself Rekha and dress the dressform. Thank you.

          1. FitnessNut | | #5

            Oh, yes....brace yourself, LOL! Seriously, it is well worth the time and effort.I have a Diana form as well as a professional one. Although without padding, it is difficult to replicate all the fleshy areas, what I did is measure the form in sections and use the dials to increase certain areas and reduce others without changing the total circumference. (I don't know if I'm being clear here....) That way, you can, for instance, broaden the back without changing the bustline measurement. This is what I do when sewing for a client and don't want to go through the process of padding. I still measure patterns (although I have to add that I'm drafting here) but can try the muslin on the form and see if it works prior to having the client return for a fitting.And, although it sounds unusual, I often borrow a well-fitting bra from my client when making an evening or bridal gown and put it onto the form. That way, I can clearly see things like bust point and neckline depth. You should see some of the expressions when I make that request ;-) !

          2. rekha | | #6

            I'll bear that in mind Sandy! Are you constructing anything exciting at present?

          3. FitnessNut | | #7

            No, not right now. I've had both of my sons visit over the past three weeks, individually, and we've done some travelling this past week to see grandparents and other relatives. And I'm preparing for Christmas. After the holiday, I plan to start making myself some new clothes.....I'm long overdue. Seems I've spent the past four years sewing for everyone else and left my wardrobe in a sorry state. So I'm gathering some ideas as to what I want and am making a few sketches. And I've just received a pattern in the mail for some stylish jeans from Hot Patterns. Thought I'd save myself a bit of work - hope the pattern lives up to expectations.So what are you working on at present? Besides the dressform, of course.

          4. rekha | | #8

            Could I have a peep into your sketches and any new/intricate techniques you will be using in the jeans pattern?

            As for my present project I am going to practice the quilting techniques that Mary Ray described on the same Vogue pattern she has shown in the article. I have always been interested in quilting but this comes nearest to incorporating both joys. The pinned pattern I wrote about earlier is this Vogue pattern, but it appears I have a long way to go before I can  proceed with it. Dressform it is first!


          5. FitnessNut | | #9

            I'm assuming that the Vogue pattern you are referring to is the one for the jacket. I thought it particularly lovely and not one that I would have thought suitable for quilting. Most quilted garments I have seen are somewhat boxy and shapeless, which isn't really the look I aim for. This one is different. Keep us posted on how you make out.....once the fitting challenges are over, of course!As far as my sketches are concerned, I haven't really come up with anything new or interesting yet. I think I'm out of practice! I don't mind sharing, but want to get above the pedestrian first. And sure, if I discover any new or interesting techniques with the jeans pattern, I'll be sure to pass it along. They do, however, seem to be fairly straightforward at first glance.

        2. rekha | | #10

          What would you recommend for stuffing that does not collapse when I put a tape measure around it and how do I make a contoured shape without lumps and bumps?

          1. suesew | | #11

            I would probably start with 1/2 inch foam slices covered with a snug fitting body stocking to hole everything in place. An electric knife cuts through foam very easily and can even taper edges to nothing very nicely.

        3. HelgaPataki | | #12

          making the dress form to resemble yourself

          Hi, I've never made my own dress form but have read about the duct tape technique and about how you wear a clingy body suite and wrap yourself thickly with this tape and then cut it off.  I am wondering:  what about your bust?  This technique would flatten your bust.

          Now, I have an idea but I am not sure how it will work, if it works, it could be better:  Does anybody ever recall a childhood past time about Vaselining your hand heavily and dipping your hand into a dish of cool wax, and then immediately cool your hand in a dish of water and then slipping your hand out of the wax and getting a mold of your own hand?  Its sort of a method as to how to make a bust or a likeliness of somebody like Julius Cesar.  Anyways, if you do this with a bra on, vaseline your body and the bra, have a friend paint cool wax, and then cool it before your remove your wax body mold?  if you did this in the tub and plug the tub up so that the was won't clog the pipes.  if this mold making technique does work, and you repeat to the back, or you do an all over the body waxing at the same time, you can cut at the sides and end up with a back and a front mold that is hollow.  then you can fill this plastic mold up with cement or some type of resin and when that is dried, you can remove it out of the wax mold and connect the back and the sides together.

          if this works, you will have a true likeness of yourself.  What do you think?

          1. decoratrice | | #13

            making the dress form to resemble yourself

            Very interesting post!  I can see the wax method working for small-to-medium items, but it seems to me that the wax would flop and deform as soon as it was removed from the body.  Perhaps if you dipped gauze strips into warm wax to reinforce it?  At any rate, the duct tape method really does work well.  For the bust area, tape first around the body above and below the bust.  This will give you a place to anchor the tape as you go over the bust.  Tear the tape into pieces about 6-8 inches long, and gently begin to shape it over the bust, placing them "on the bias", that is, conforming to the contours, not squashing them.  At first the shape may seem crude, but you can refine it with even shorter pieces of tape.  It takes at least 3 layers to get a nice smooth effect.  Good luck!

          2. HelgaPataki | | #14

            making the dress form to resemble yourself - Plaster of paris

            Now my imagination goes further:  Plaster of Paris strips might work as well.  Although I won't know where to obtain them. 

  2. pinprick | | #15

    Caution if you use plaster of paris for a dress form

    It heats up as it dries. You can overheat your core rather a lot using this technique, and I have heard of people passing out mid-construction because of it.

  3. HelgaPataki | | #16

    kharminj & pinprick...

    This is exactly something I was thinking of. 


    People have used it for body casts after surgery.  The surgeons just wrap and spill water over the wrappings.  I am also thinking of a type of art form where a specific female artist (don't remember who) made casts of real breasts.  The results were actually placed into a study because the women returned to pick up their casts all chose the breast size that were smaller than their own.  I heard of this through an article about women's perception on their own bust size.  Anyways, I am thinking of plaster of Paris because of these two modalities. 

  4. HelgaPataki | | #17

    plaster gauze dressforms

    to quote KharminJ,  http://www.dickblick.com/products/plaste...  Here is an idea that is posted on Craftsters:  http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?action=recentWithPics    or this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjdWH1G1GSA  

    1. Zana B | | #18

      Dress Form

      Here is a link where they have a kit you can do yourself :


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