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Notes on dressforms

2011 March 4
by elizabeth_admin

Thanks for all the great responses to my questions on dressforms yesterday!  One commenter, Tsedai, was especially helpful and shared all her research on the topic.  Rather than link you to the comment, I will paste it here for your convenience.

“Uniquely You all the way! I just got one and love it! I tried the duct-tape form originally, but it was just too big, heavy, and cumbersome, plus the layers of duct tape made it far too big to actually fit garments with. The UY form is foam so you can pin to it, it has a metal stand (not SUPER substantial, but it gets the job done), and made in USA for people who are conscious about that sort of thing. I think it hits the sweet spot in terms of price, quality, shape likeness, and effort to set up.

Fitting the cover takes about a day and requires some blood (got my finger in the zipper), sweat (hard work shoving the foam into the cover), and tears (my mom stabbed me with a few pins) but totally worth it. It totally fits all the lumps and bumps. I didn’t do any breast reduction surgery on mine, and, if anything, the breasts are too low. I think it took a little more effort than the duct tape dummy, but the results were much much better.

When looking at dressforms I needed to consider that I have a long swayback, small (slightly forward) shoulders, and a larger size for the hips than for the upper body. I wanted some reasonable body resemblance where I could use it to fit the back of my shirts/dresses. I also wasn’t really willing to spend more than $250-300, so some of the nicer forms were not viable options for me.

As I recently did A LOT of dressform research before I got the UY. Maybe TMI, but I will share what I found (prices estimate tax/shipping):

Duct tape – cheap, like maybe $20! But much effort, not super great results, I made one and tried but didn’t use it much/at all because it was too big around the shoulders and made everything too baggy on me.

Plastic adjustable – like Singer or Dritz from Jo-Anns. These can be got for about $100-150, you can “adjust” them for different sizes. They seem to be easy/fast to set up. They also seem to be flimsy and hard to pin to as they are plastic. I have heard about dials breaking, stands collapsing, etc. Some of them you can’t lengthen the back and some you can. These are easy, fast, and cheap, but I think for a little more money and a little more effort you can do a lot better.

Uniquely You – $150-200. Foam, pinable, metal stand, etc. Looks remarkably like your body once you are done. Kinda a pain to get the form in the cover, but once it is done it looks awesome. Also, if you change shape substantially you can always get another cover ($30) and make it look like the new you! Got mine from Sew Vac Direct online, shipped within a week, and their directions for picking form sizes was really good. There is also a form available for making pants, but it is separate and extra money. I think the stand is maybe not quite as sturdy as some of the more expensive forms, but people have said that they do use them for long gowns and they don’t fall over, and in my experience it is sturdy enough.

My Twin – $200-300. You get wrapped up in medical bandages, which get turned into a mold, and then filled with liquid foam that hardens, you cover it with some fabric and put it on a stand. This seemed WAY too labor intensive to me, but I have heard it makes fabulous results. I think if you have severe fitting issues this may be the way to go, but if you just have the usual problems, the UY is less effort at a somewhat lower price.

Standard size/professional forms (Family Sew, Roxy, PGM) – $150-300. Good news: these are good quality forms, nice stands, etc. You can also get for making pants, arms, etc. Bad news: they only come in standard sizes, so you have to get padding to adjust them.

Fabulous Fit – $400-ish. You get a form and padding and a cover. These also look really nice, but again, you have to add the padding, etc.

Wolf – $800+. The Rolls Royce of Dress Forms. Custom made, custom fit, totally amazing. Level of detail can increase for various fitting needs. Don’t think about it too much. Your pocket book will bleed.”


WOW!  That’s a lot of great information.  Thank you so much, Tsedai, for taking the time to write all of that.  Many people, actually, recommended the Uniquely You dressform.  It sounds like a great option.  I will look at all of the options, but I have to admit that price will be a pretty big factor for me.  And the Uniquely You dressform seems like a good pricepoint.

In other sewing news:  I cut out my first wearable muslin of the S2614 blouse.  I didn’t want to cut into my precious Milly fabric yet.  I have concerns that it’s not drapey enough for this blouse with that bias back.  Maybe if I took the time to put a CB seam in for shaping or a horizontal seam, but not now.  I had a black and white floral chiffon from Kashi at Metro Textile that I bought when I first started sewing and didn’t know that chiffon was a bear to sew with. 

OMG!  Cutting it out took forever.  And I had to analyze whether I would just bind the neckline and armholes rather than face them since the chiffon is so sheer.  Than I made my own self fabric bias tape, too small however, so have to make more now.  I knew I wanted to do French seams and thought I “remembered” how to do it from all the tutorials I have seen over the last two or three years.  WRONG!  Thank God this chiffon doesn’t have a right or wrong side.  Unfortunately, I still got it wrong on the second seam I attempted and ended up have to rip out a really long seam that had two sets of gathers.  Hari kari started to look like a much better option than unpicking last night, I’ll tell you.  But I finally finished the unpicking at 12:30am and went to bed. 

How can I be undone by French seams???  Anyway, tonight is another night.

I hope you all get a chance to sew this weekend!

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Marie-Christine permalink
    March 4, 2011

    I second the Uniquely You. You can do other methods of customizing, but they’re awfully difficult to make stable enough to use. And none of them (without major exposure to chemicals) enable you to pin into the form with abandon, a feature of my UY that I actually use a lot.
    The UY is the only commercial form that enables you to truly get a duplicate of your body, with all its.. ahem, characteristics. And that’s the main usefulness of a dressform. I see most people using theirs as a photo prop, with asides such as ‘xx has much more bosom than I do’, you may as well get a real mannequin if that’s the point. If you want to see what looks good on you, see it in 3d, and be able to do decent fittings, you need a UY.
    Caveat: I don’t think it’s possible to fit yourself for it truly alone. You need to be so tighly sausaged into the cover that you can hardly breathe. I was lucky to get help from a friend who’s an old hand at theater costumes and a fitting genius. If you don’t have one of those on hand, I’d plan on investing in a couple hours of the best seamstress in your area, you won’t regret a cent of it.

  2. Hoosiermama permalink
    March 4, 2011

    Here’s a vote for duct tape. Well, not actually duct tape; I made my form with brown paper tape about10 years ago using instructions from Threads issue #75 and have been using it ever since. It’s mounted on a Christmas tree stand (think thrift shop). No, it’s not a one-person job. You must have a capable helper. I had hesitated for years over the price of commercially available dress forms and this one is as cheap as they get. Maybe duct tape makes a heavy form, but my paper tape form is quite light, and as for the layers of tape making the form too big to use for fitting, why would you use that many layers?

  3. March 4, 2011

    The Uniquely You does seem like the best bang for your buck… I have a duct-tape form that I think has stretched (overstuffed, I guess)… I tried a paper-tape at one point but got the wrong kind of tape; it was wax-backed and didn’t stick to itself, so that didn’t really work.

    I think it’s a Murphy’s Law that you have to sew at least one of your french seams wrong-way around ;). I have this nasty tendency to just flip mine when I do that and sew it a third time… I lose a little bit of width but I don’t contemplate ritual suicide. 😉

    Good luck! I cannot express how much I loathe sewing with chiffon… 😉

  4. Harriet permalink
    March 4, 2011

    In a rash moment last fall I decided I HAD to have a dress form and bought the Dritz My Double Deluxe. I adjusted all the dials so the measurements are very close to mine, and then I put one of my old bras on it and stuffed it with foam padding. It looks remarkably like me. I actually have found it helpful in that I can put the garment on it and check to make sure it will fit around me before I sew it together, check to see if the neckline will be too low, and so on. For fine-tuning every little thing for an absolutely perfect fit? No, but I doubt many dress forms would do that. I think it cost about $150, including shipping (from SewVac Direct).

    One thing I haven’t figured out is how to fit pants on it. You are supposed to be able to, but the instructions that came with it are cryptic at best.

    I’ve wondered if it’s possible to sew up one of those UY covers (or something similar) and put it on this form and pad it out to get the same effect. But if I could do that, I would be really great at fitting clothes already and wouldn’t need the form!

  5. March 4, 2011

    I’m glad you got so much helpful feedback on your question! I’m intrigued by Harriet’s idea about sewing up a cover to customize the Dritz My Double Deluxe as I have the same form – hmmmm.

    Good luck with your sewing this weekend! I have dinner plans with a friend tonight and am going to be going car shopping with Jim tomorrow, but I think I will be able to do a wearable muslin of my knit formal dress idea.

  6. March 5, 2011

    I have a Uniquely You form that I had fitted to myself by a local seamstress that I think is great. My three caveats would be that she (I named her “Trudy“) is larger through the chest/shoulders than I am, that she’s made of cloth, so things don’t slip and slide on her like they do on me, and that the form doesn’t have collapsible shoulders, so sometimes getting tight things over the shoulders is a pain.

    If you are concerned about bust placement, the lady who fit my form has “modified” a UY form so that she could move the breasts up for corset-fitting.

  7. March 5, 2011

    Correction: I broke a link in my previous attempt.

    I have a Uniquely You form that I had fitted to myself by a local seamstress that I think is great. My three caveats would be that she (I named her “Trudy“) is larger through the chest/shoulders than I am, that she’s made of cloth, so things don’t slip and slide on her like they do on me, and that the form doesn’t have collapsible shoulders, so sometimes getting tight things over the shoulders is a pain.

    If you are concerned about bust placement, the lady who fit my form has modified a UY form so that she could move the breasts up for corset-fitting.

    • March 5, 2011

      I meann: larger through the upper chest, not the bust. The bust line is correct.

  8. March 5, 2011

    Oh, I hear you with the “thinking I remember how to do this”… and sewing when tired. Not an experience I want to have again. Seam ripping is a b*tch… 😉
    But yay on the dressform! I’m a poor student, so I’ve been planning on making one from cast and paper maché. But, I think I’ll wait until I don’t have to shiver while sitting around practically naked until the cast dries… 😉

  9. March 5, 2011

    I’m voting for a combo – the Dritz My Double Deluxe and the Fitting System from I have a My double Deluxe Dress Form now and once I get a new one, I’ll be willing to put up with the less than stellar quality. (The one I have now is from eBay and arrived in a workable, but not great condition. I did further damage with the cover.) Because I’m a RTW 10 up top and an 18 in the hips, I need something completely adjustable. This dress form does that. Padding it out was a pain, so I think the Fitting System will make that a lot easier. The cover I chose for the current form fit the bust, but compressed the hips too much and broke a dial or something. Either I’ll get a larger 3/4 body cover from Fabulous Fit or make separate bodice and shorts covers.

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