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Homemade dress form

jyang949 | Posted in Fitting on

Last year I made a mold using plaster-impregnated gauze from a crafts store. That part was easy, but I had problems with the material for filling the mold. I made papier mâché from newspaper and wallpaper paste.

The papier mâché would shrink a lot when it dried, so the form was too small and a little warped. I tried using very little water in the mix and building up thin layers, but it always shrank too much and pulled away from the mold.

Is it better to use store-bought papier mâché for the form?–or something entirely different?



  1. rekha | | #1


    There was an article in Threads some years ago that mentioned use of polyurethane as a filler or polyfilla that decorators use. The advantage over papier mache would be that it will not grow mould on it.

  2. eauinaz | | #2
    1. joyful1 | | #4

      This site is great and fun.  Somewhere in my searching, either there or somewhere else ( a few years ago)  I found out about using mailing tape.  I will look for my info., but this sounds the best.  Wearing a tight shirt or leotard, you are wrapped with this brown paper tape.  It is firm  when it dries, you cut the whole thing up the back and tape it when it is off.   I haven't done it yet, but it is on my list of things to do.  If I find more info, I will let you know.  The blessing of this is you don't have to stuff it.

      Best wishes! 

    2. joyful1 | | #5

      Me again.  Just printed Mailing tape dress form in search and found a site in previous Threads issue--With illustrations!  http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/<!---->t00002_p5.asp .  You may want to try this!  the best to you!



      1. user-409055 | | #13

        I used the paper mailing tape to make a body double of my daughter so I could make her bridal gown. With several layers of tape on top of her body, the form was a little larger than her actual measurements. Since a bridal gown has to fit snuggly, I slashed the form on the sides and center front and adjusted it until the measurements were right, then taped the pieces back together. I found that it needed light stuffing to maintain the shape so I used left-over quilt batting. I put a heavy wire through the top (under the shoulders) and hung the form on a microphone stand. I could adjust it for the correct height. It was so realistic that I just couldn't have my "naked" daughter decorating my sewing space in the living room! I kept a T-shirt on her until the dress was far enough along. Hope this helps.Barbara

  3. Beanhi | | #3

    I've made a duct tape dummy from Leanna's instructions. It came out the be a good represenation. One problem I encountered was that it doesn't hold the curves when stuffed. I added some thick floral wire around the hips and down the back to stiffen it. I also detached the arms, closed up the openings and reattached it with velcro. That way I can use it with and without the arms. Good luck.

    1. rekha | | #6

      Did this cost you as much as a readymade dressform from the shop?

      1. Beanhi | | #7

        Hi Rekha,I'm not sure how cheap you can purchase a dressform but on the JoAnn's website the lowest price was $169.The supplies to make the duct tape form is inexpensive and you may already have them laying around. From my rough estimates below I'd say I spent under $100. I'm 5 foot tall about 105 lbs, so just add or substract to estimate what yours may cost. It's a great deal for a likeness that a store-bought form couldn't give you.Hope this helps,
        NhiRough estimate of supplies:
        - Duct tape - about $5/roll. It's been a long time but I think I purchased 2 or 3 rolls. I don't think I used them all but it's better to have more than not enough. I used white duct tape so it was a little more expensive but not by much.
        - A hanger - took one from my closet. IKEA wooden hangers are $2.
        - The base - used the bottom 2/3 of an halogen lamp. It's just about my height. I purchased the lamp at the Goodwill for under $20.
        - T-shirt - maybe $5-$10 for a pack 3.
        - Polyfil - this was probably the most expensive supply but if you use your JoAnn's or Michael's off coupons wisely you can save a lot of money.
        - Misc. - Foam board, permanent marker, wire. I had these laying around but they would be about $10 to purchase.

  4. user-37718 | | #8

    I got together with some sewing buddies 2 weekends ago and made paper tape dressforms.  THe only hard part was standing for about an hour - a lot harder than you think.  Some notes:

    • Use a sponge to just moisten the butcher's tape, you can't cut it off until it's dry ehough to hold it's shape - but no so dry that it's hard to cut yourself out of it.
    • I found the gummed butchers tape at an art supply store - watercolourists use it to attach paper to a backing board-  Opus Art supplies Langley, BC $5.70 cdn. for a large roll of 1" wide tape, which was enough to make a dress form - however the $4.99 roll at loomis art supply was considerably smaller an would have required two rolls.  
    • pay particular attention to where the neck joins the shoulders and I would recommend bringing the shoulders down to cap sleeve length.
    • I didn't have any shrinkage as it dried.  It actually ended up a little bigger than my actual measurements - but this is actually a benefit - built in wearing ease and protection against overfitting.
    • I finished mine with a "T" of PVC plumbers pipe that just fit snuggly (with the aid of a heat gun) over an office chair base that I found in the "AS IS" department at Ikea.  I also put  a ring of styrofoam near the hips to keep the dummy from moving as I stick pins in it. (Good thing I don't beleive in Voodoo!)
    • THere were 4 of us all with different body shapes (perfect size 8, one high shoulder, short waist, long crotch depth and myslef plus size with sway back) and they turned out great.  I would really recommend getting a group together (we met while taking an unrelated sewing class) and ganging up to do one person at a time  - 2 tape while one dries as you go with a blowdryer.

    Hope this was helpful,


  5. SewNancy | | #10

    you could try filling it with foam insullation in a can. It expands to fill the space and hardens.

    1. JanetG | | #11

      I have made the duct tape double from leanna.com 's site, and didn't have the problem mentioned earlier about the stuffing pushing out the shape. I used about 2 and a half rolls of duct tape, but found that it really needed a good two layers, carefully applied, before the shape was cut off me, and the final layer applied, to hold the shape properly. I stuffed my dressform with polyester wadding from 4 bed pillows (NB- I'm English - I don't know if you call these by the same name!). My husband made the stand for me from a piece of turned bedpost, and a coat hanger. Total cost: about £16 (around $28).

      The shape was so realistic when finished, that it really highlighted my round upper back - so, now that I've been to a chiropractor a few times, I now need to make another one, as I stand an inch taller, and much more upright, now!

      I have also made a 'waist to thigh' duct tape double as well, following the same principles as the torso one (although how to do this isn't explained on leanna's website), as I want to make trousers, and the theory works so well for the torso, that I wanted to try it out. It was my husband's idea...isn't he helpful?!!


      1. HeartFire | | #12

        How did you tape the bust area? whenever I've tried to do a duct tape double the bust was always very poorly defined, we made sure not to compress---but it still came out with o shape under the bust

        1. user-37718 | | #14

          Start with wearing a good bra! When we were making dress forms one of the women only wore a tank top - which is all she ever wears - and her bust line was much less defined than every one else.   We used the cross your heart method: take long diagonal strips from shoulder to hip between the breasts.  THis helped avoid the uniboob phenomenom.  We also used shorter strips and cut some in half to get narrower strips to better ease around the curves.

  6. MSJULIA | | #15

    I made the duct tape double, but then cut it to make a flat pattern that I traced onto cardboard and re-taped into a form. 

    I then used a piece of electrical wire to get the exact shape around the bust area, waist and hips.  I used that shape as a pattern for more cardboard shapes for a stiffener that also helped define the curvy areas.  I taped the form over these with L's of tape inside.  I have actually sewn fewer outfits now with the form - the stuff I pick out ends up looking awful on my form and I don't bother to finish them!

    1. JanetG | | #16

      To make the bust area well-defined, you do need to wear a GOOD bra (although Leanna's instructions say, I think, to wear an old one in case you cut through it when removing the taped layers. I found this was easy to avoid doing, but a good bra is necessary to make the double look like you when it's done. Also, as someone else mentioned, you need to start by defining the cleavage with narrow strips (duct tape cut into four widths of about half an inch each is OK), starting at one shoulder and going through the cleavage, ending up under the armpit on the opposite side. Defining the bust itself has to be done in short, narrow strips (about three inches long by half an inch wide), and I found that more layers were needed  than the three total that Leanna recommends.

      I, too, found that the finished double is so 'anatomically correct' that I have to dress her at all times, in case anyone looks in through the window! I have found it to be a very useful tool when adjusting half-made garments. Even shop-bought clothes that were never quite right can be corrected once put on the double - for instance, I have a blouse where the sleeves were too long, so I had previously taken them up on the shoulders, but the blouse was always uncomfortable, but I couldn't figure out why. When I put the blouse on the double, it was instantly obvious that the back of the blouse was way too wide for me - this kind of thing is incredibly difficult to work out if you put clothes on yourself, and then twist round to try to see what the problem is in a mirror.

      1. Elisabeth | | #17

        Now here is a different way... "Pneumatic dress forms are made of rubber or a combination of rubber and cloth, and may be inflated, or filled with air, in much the same manner as an automobile tire. Such forms also require the use of a tight-fitting lining to get the best results. As a rule, the life of pneumatic forms is not very great, as the material of which they are made is subject to rapid deterioration."That is from the 1920's. I'll bet there are some good materials these days to make our own inflatable dress forms. Don't you want one? From http://vintagesewing.info/1920s.html Tight Linings and Boning by Mary Brooks Picken. They also padded dress forms with cotton wadding under a "tight lining" back then and even enjoyed taping each other up. Look here: http://vintagesewing.info/1920s/26-fcm/fcm-24.html Some things never go out of style!

        1. sewanista | | #18

          Mnay years ago Threads had an article about making a dummy from cardboard. The idea was that you make a perfectly fitting skintight toile, then trim a little off the edges, cut it from cardboard, cover it in foam rubber, and the original toile or a copy. It assumed that you had a clever sewing friend who could in fact fit you that well, but even the pin here and fold there method seemed to be good enough at the time. I liked this one because it could be dismantled and stored flat. It wasn't as accurate as the molded methods, but I imagine the better the toile, the better the dressform. It was in Threads issue 37, page 48

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