Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Better Dress Form

I started out my sewing career with a basic, cheap, dial-a-size dress form. Of course, this didn't work well with a stayed shape, so I moved on to a duct tape form. It was all right for a while, but the armature (PVC pipe) always poked through and made the shoulders oddly pointy and the torso itself was basically shaped like a sausage. I don't have a picture of just the form, but you can get a sense of its tragedy here:

The only plus it offered was that it was my basic size (if not shape) and didn't require me to put stays on it. I trudged along with it for several years, but it finally started to fall apart. Enter Lauren of American Duchess, with her post "Making a Workable Dress Form." I decided to follow in her footsteps, due to the awesome result she got.

I ordered the same dress form, and had my husband give her the same mastectomy. I didn't bother changing the shape of the waist as my measurements are quite a bit bigger than hers. I'm terrible about taking "Before" pictures, so this is the closest I've got:

Her cover has been removed completely and so have her boobs. I'm starting to cover her in batting.

I used polyester batting to cover her as it had more loft than the cotton I also had on hand. I first gave her and all-over coat as a base layer. I stitched it on with white quilting thread.

Then, I started adding layers in strategic places, especially her flat sides. I did this with some guessing. 

I laid down small layers and covered them over with larger layers so that there weren't too many edges in the same place. You can see the progression to larger layers here:

Back view:

I haven't shown every layer as it took a lot of them to get to this point, but this should give some idea of my method. Was this overkill? Maybe, but I didn't want to ever have to remodel her. Shortly after this point, I decided she was done and put the cover back on. I found there was more compression from the cover than I expected, so she was actually smaller than was ideal. My stays were especially loose at the top. 

After putting her on the back burner for a while, I finally went back and added more padding to the upper body (I decided the lower body wouldn't really affect fitting.) She needed more padding especially on the shoulders and back to fill out the stays the way I do. I even tried to make one shoulder higher by adding an extra layer, and I enlarged the neck with two layers. I didn't take any pictures of this process, but here's the finished result:

You can see that the shoulder line of the torso is higher than the shoulder line of the arm. The arms are hilariously small now for the body. I need to put the elbow bend a few inches closer to the wrist to match my own upper arm, as well as pad at least the upper. The arm is several inches shorter than mine and the hands are like a child's, but thankfully that won't affect fitting. The arms are completely pose-able, which is nice. 

 I may need some padding of some kind to better simulate the pushed up bosom, but I think I'm going to be pleased once I fix the arms. It will be so nice to be able to fit sleeves. I will point out: one downside of having to put so many layers of batting is that the pins can no longer reach the hard foam in some places. I should still be able to pin to it by poking it in then out, but I can't just stab a pin in and have it hold.

I noticed that while I was working on this project, the ladies at The Hive have taken dress forms one step further. How I'd love to have a cast of my own stay-wearing body!

Note: in case American Duchess' site ever goes down, the link to the dress form she and I used is