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Conversational Threads

Dressmaker forms

bettina | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I would like to purchase a dressmaker form, but am unfamiliar with the products available.  Do you have a recommendation?


  1. SewNancy | | #1

    Why don't you make your own?  It will be more accurate and it is not hard to do.  Also, if you use the duct tape method a whole lot cheaper!  Look in Threads index for an article on this. 


  2. carolfresia | | #2

    The duct-tape double article that Nancy referred to is here online--just go to the Threads homepage, and click on the Fitting category in the Feature Library at the left of the screen. The title is "Clone Yourself a Fitting Assistant," or something like that.


    Edited 9/17/2004 10:05 am ET by CAROLFRESIA

    1. fabriclover007 | | #3

      Make your own.  No matter how many you review, they won't be "your" shape.  Trust me on this one.  If you make your own all the lumps, bumps and everything else will be in the right place.  I was taped for the duct tape one and it was a great investment.

      1. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #14

        If you would really like to have a professional personal-fit dressform, I recommend you dig up your back issues of Threads and check out the articles written by Suzanne Stern in #'s 44, 45, 47, and 48. If you then would like to know more about Suzanne, read her story in #40 "Memories of a Parisian Seamstress". (That issue also contains an article by Suzanne on "Draping a Gown on a Fitted Tulle Foundation") As a teacher of dressmaking, I recommend my students purchase a form at least two sizes smaller than they are and create a fitted shell which contains NO EASE. It looks like a second skin when on the body. Start with a "Basic Block" or "Fitting Shell" pattern available from several major pattern companies. Work with a friend for the fittings. (Remember, numbers/sizes don't matter...a good fit is the best revenge...so, no knocking off your helper!) Use cotton batting (the kind you get at an upholstery shop) and pad out your shape. Become a sculptress! The final results are fabulous and last forever...or as long as you remain that size. Other references for this method are noted in Helen Joseph Armstrong's two books "Patternmaking for Fashion Design" and "Draping for Apparel Design". Or, for Northern California enthusiasts, my classes begin again in Jan 2005 at http://www.theplacethatsellssewingmachines.com listed under Susan Fredrick

        1. mem1 | | #15

          I am a bit confused about what you do with the cotton shell . Do you put it on the form and then fill it out with the padding to recreat yourself?

          1. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #16

            The back issues I mentioned will illuminate some of your confusion about padding the form. Basically you need a good full length mirror so that you can observe your own figure. Then, start adding thin layers of cotton batting to the form in the areas where it is needed to replicate your figure and fill out the shell. It helps to have a zipper in the back which opens on both ends so that you can zip the shell off and on frequently to check progress. The cotton batting clings to itself pretty well, but if necessary, you can use strips of iron-on fusible interfacing to hold things in place. (Place the pellon and then bring your iron to the form to fuse in place...gently. Don't squish the cotton batting.)

            When you are finished and checked all the measurements, you can add markings in black embroidery thread at Center Front and Back, Princess Lines both Front and Back, neckline, armscye, shoulder line. Add 1/4" black twill tape and stitch in place at waist, high hip and full hip. Fold a strip of muslin in thirds for a finished width of about 1" and place it across the bust as a "bridge" for when you are draping or fitting a garment. (It can be removed for closely fitted garments such as a surplice top, etc.) Be sure to mark the apex of the bust as well with either embroidery thread or a round headed pin. The attached photo shows one of my students working on this process. The shell is partially unzipped and hanging off the hips of the form as she works on the upper body area.

          2. MOMPEA1 | | #17

            Can I add my 2 cents about dress forms?

            About 6 months ago I made the mistake of purchasing a dressform. I went to the "exclusive" material shop, had my daughter with me (the form was for her). After an hour of measuring every inch of her body and my forking over $800 I anxiously awaited my "custom made" dress form-NOT! The form that I wound up with had breasts like Madonna's cones (!!!!) and buttocks that were a magnification of J. Los'. The shoulders would have been the pride of any linebacker. The foam that comprised the form could have been used to stop WMDs!! Get the idea?? My "custom" form was a standard form for a hormonally pumped King Kong that you compressed-if you could- and then slipped on an over garment that you had altered to fit the person the form was intended to replicate. All the alterations were made on the overdress and then you tried to compress the form and get the overdress to fit the form.

            If it wasn't for the cost the evening that 3 of us tried to compress the form would have been hilarious. My husband was straining to beat those breasts down to semi-cones. His comments can't be shared in this a "G" rated forum- but I'm sure you get the point. After all that work-and money-there is no way this form will ever be close to my daughter's shape. I am disappointed, angry and frustrated. I bought the form because my daughter lives out of state and it was supposed to ease my difficulties of getting the fit "just right".

            I read about the duct tape form after I had ordered my custom made form, wish I had read about it sooner. I have used it to make a mold of my daughter's hips and thighs to help me tailor slacks to fit-and it works. And it didn't cost me $8.00 let alone $800!!!

            Live and learn.


            Edited 10/27/2004 2:48 pm ET by MOMPEA1

          3. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #20

            I am so sorry and sad for your loss! Truly, this form you purchased is the one I tell my students NOT to buy. I had one myself many, many years ago. Called her Raquel. Opening the box upon it's arrival sent us into gales of rolling on the floor laughter. Raquel was not long for this world, but my husband enjoyed her endowments with a quick squeeze nearly every time he passed by. For that same amount of money you could have had a Wolf Dress Form, the industry standard, a Gold Form (designed for plus sizes) or, the more economically priced (and cheaper shipping) products made by DressRite Forms or Fabulous Fit Dressforms. My personal recommendation is the Wolf Form, if you can afford it, or the DressRite Form. And, again, I recommend you buy a form that is at least two sizes smaller than you are but has the same back neck length measurement, if possible. Better to have the back neck length longer than your own than shorter. ( If the back neck length is shorter, then the fullness of the hips may interfere with you establishing the proper waistline.) Sorry this information is too late to help you much. Maybe it will save someone else.

          4. kayl | | #24

            Sorry to hear of your travails with the form... you're not the only one who's had a few go-rounds with it. It might be too soon to laugh, but here's an old post from the usenet group Alt.sewing about a similar story: http://www.dorje.com/netstuff/jokes/dummy.from.hell

            Don't read it where you can't laugh out loud... she's a good writer.


          5. FitnessNut | | #25

            Hee, hee....very funny ;-)

          6. HeartFire | | #26

            I haven't had such a good laugh in a long time!!


          7. ElonaM | | #29

            Oh, that's wonderful! It's enough to make your mascara run.

          8. clematis1 | | #31

            Oh my gosh.  I was in hysterics about that one.  I was picturing my husband trying to stuff "Barbie" back in.  We had a hard enough time stuffing a cushion into its new cover.  Thanks, I needed that! Lynne

          9. SkiNsew | | #18

            I made one of these too and highly recommend this method.  I used some of that spray on adhesive that quilters and embroidery buffs used to help hold the cotton batting in place as I "padded up".   Worked well and was really easy.  Mary

          10. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #22

            Spray on adhesive is an interesting idea. I'll try it out. As long as it's not too messy it could be quite handy. Would hate to have adhesive residue floating onto the floor of the classroom/studio/workspace. Thanks for the handy hint!

          11. SewNancy | | #23

            Spread a disposable plastic tarp down first or an old sheet and then either toss it or wash the sheet.


          12. Elisabeth | | #19

            The articles on padding a dress form are in a book by Threads called Fitting Your Figure copyright 1994. Used copies are available for around $8 on amazon.com. The book is a collection of twenty some articles from the magazine on fitting and pattern alteration. I guess the book is out of print which is too bad because it is really good!

          13. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #21

            Thanks for the book note Elisabeth. I will check it out and add it to my library.

  3. ablakemo | | #4

    I used to have a foam one and it was never as accurate as my duct tape dummy! I love my new duct tape dummy body form--it was fun to make too! I HIGHLY recommend having 2 people to tape you if you decide to make one--it makes it go much faster.

    Good luck!

    1. Jean | | #5

      If I ever do that, it can't be my 2 best friends because I'll have to have them killed when they are finished. Gaaaack

      1. SewNancy | | #6

        I have made 4 of these now, 3 for myself at various weights and one for my daughter.  One piece of advice.  But 2 fitted t shirts and cut off the arm of one and sew it on to the neck of the other.  Then cut off the top just below the armholes and sew the remainder to the botton of the other t shirt and you get a long enough T shirt that fits well and makes the task easier.  There are good freebie instructions at http://www.leanna.com/DuctTapeDouble

        1. Jean | | #7

          Great site! I've bookmarked it, thank you!

        2. lize | | #10

          ok ladies i came in on the middle of this discussion.  this sounds like something i need i have wanting to buy a dress form but i keep promising myself i'm going to loose weight so i'm not willing to spend a fourtune on something that hopefully  be too big next year.  I've seen thses duck tape conversations what have I missed please tell me the main source and directions... thanks Lize

          1. SewNancy | | #11

            My original instructions were from a Threads Mag article but better instructions can be found at http://www.leanna.com/DuctTapeDouble.  I lost 75 lbs and my husband duct taped me several times as my weight changed!  He is very handy and used a threaded rod through a piece of plastic pipe that we inserted into a X mas tree holder.  We filled the base with plaster to make it less top heavy.  I obviously was able to reuse the base.  He also took a piece of plywood and jigsawed a base for the form, though some people use doubled foamcore board.  Two L squares(ie roofers squares) help with the initial shape of base and on this I used a flexible curve to get a more exact shape of my body to cut out.  This sounds complicated but not really when you get down to it.  It has been ivaluable to understanding my shoulder problems. 

            Good luck, Nancy

          2. lize | | #12

            thank you im going to give it a shot.  I appreciate it.

      2. FitnessNut | | #8

        LOL! Can't you see the headlines...."Duct Tape Murderer"!

      3. louise | | #13


        Amen sister! (To the having to kill your two best friends after)


        Edited 10/24/2004 12:18 pm ET by Louise

  4. ellewren | | #9

    What would you recommend as a good form to use for a variety of sizes.  I am starting a dressmaking business and want to be able to fit to something, initially.  Should I pick one moderate size and start from there?  If so, which dressform would you recommend and what size?  Just using my size won't work as I'm 5" and small boned.  THanks for any advice!

  5. user-764099 | | #27

    I recently took a duct tape double class online at patternreview. This same instructor sells videos of her technique at her website  http://www.Dressformdesigning.com.  She recommends using industrial grade duct tape - it makes a huge difference.  It is a good alternative to an expensive dress form.

    1. SewNancy | | #28

      Tried to use your link and it didn't go through can you check and see if it is incorrect?


      1. user-764099 | | #30

        I just tried the link and it worked fine.  Perhaps that website was offline when you tried it.  Try again and see what happens.


        I recently took a duct tape double class online at patternreview. This same instructor sells videos of her technique at her website  http://www.Dressformdesigning.com.  She recommends using industrial grade duct tape - it makes a huge difference.  It is a good alternative to an expensive dress form.


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