Since starting to sew clothing, I’ve realized my need for a dress form.
Trying to properly fit clothes by yourself can be a strange procedure.
I’m truly convinced that the only people who are able to do a full fitting on themselves are contortionists! Trying to insert pins in a straight line while grasping a 1/4 of fabric on a back dart? Yeah right! You bend down to mark a hemline and you find out afterward that it’s an inch shorter than it should be. It’s truly an exercise in frustration.
Shortly after discovering the difficulties of fitting on yourself I started looking at other options.
Most of them were and are currently out of my price range. The premade forms are incredible if you can find a way to budget them in. If not, there are some craftier ways to acquire dress forms.
Let’s start with the premade forms. I’d highly recommend these ones:
- Dritz Twin Fit Dress Form: This is an adjustable dress form which allows you to make small changes to bust, waist and hip measurements. These are fabulous and are meant to be a long-term investment. The dials allow for a small amount of weight gain and weight loss, as well as accommodating a large variety of body shapes. Dress forms like this have been used for many years. You may still require additional padding to mimic large and natural curves. These are fully pinnable and you can easily add style lines with twill tape. You can purchase one on Amazon.ca for just under $350.
- DittoForm Dress Forms: This is a product that I’ve been eyeing up for years. Dittoform takes a 3D scan of your body and then creates a custom-made dress form from the scan. This is ideal if you have asymmetrical features, or just want an absolute duplicate of your body! I reached out to the company to ask about their shipping options in Canada. The owner, Carol, promptly responded with some information for us Canucks. She posts the locations which she is traveling to online and is willing to travel to your area if enough people are booked for a scan. So check regularly if she’ll be near you, or get a bunch of your sewing friends together and book an appointment. I also asked about shipping costs, and was estimated between $100 to $200 to ship to Vancouver Island, which is not bad at all. Carol was very prompt to answer my questions. Great customer service. The DittoForm costs $1500 for the scan, the dress form and includes free shipping in the United States!
- Fabulous Fit Dress Forms: This is a dress form “system” which allows you to customize your dress forms with a variety of pads and stretchy covers that fit over dress forms to create a more natural shape. You can imitate large busts, muffin tops, and all the other curves that make you beautiful but also makes sewing difficult. If you already have a dress form that’s close to your measurements but not quite your shape, you can use this system to pad your exact curves. It’s fairly affordable at $127 for the pads and covers. FabulousFit also sells dress forms, arm and leg attachments, and a series of fitting classes.
There are many more dress form styles available for purchase, ready-made, from stores.
These can include mannequins, vintage forms, etc. A little hunting around google can yield some amazing results. Familiarize yourself with yourself with what your dress size is and search around for one that is that size, or a few sizes below, as you can always pad them up! Check estate sales, Facebook marketplace, and thrift stores. You never know what you can find.
And now, onto the D.I.Y. dress forms!
Being a crafter, I’ve tried making a few different types of DIY forms. Some were complete successes. Others, well… not so much.
There are some truly great tutorials out there. If you’re crafty, or just ambitious, I highly recommend trying to make your own. Especially if you’re just starting to sew.
Some of my favourite tutorials include:
- Duct Tape Dress Form Photo Tutorial: This fabulous tutorial from Burda Style was one of the first DIY dress forms I’d ever seen. Until finding this, I wasn’t even aware that you could make your own. The tutorial itself is on the Dutch Burda site, but a translate button should pop up if you’re viewing on chrome. Its photos and instructions are extremely clear and easy to follow. A few things to remember before starting: Make sure you have fiberfill available. LOTS. If you wait a few days to stuff, the shape will slowly give way to gravity. Because of this, it didn’t work for me. Also if you’re plus size, ensure you have 4-5 rolls of duct tape. More is better, you don’t want to be stuck in a tight-fitting form while your helper runs for more. Finally, make sure your helper has reviewed the instructions.
- Paper Tape Dress form: This was one of my more successful DIY attempts. It was the cheapest method I could find. I got this gummed watercolour tape at my local art store and it was much cheaper than duct tape. I used 2-3 rolls of tape. To wet the tape we had a wet sponge in a tub of water and pre-torn 3-4 foot lengths of tape that we ran over the sponge. We also used a spray bottle to spot wet some areas. The tape hardens into a sturdy shell and it created a form that was so true to life it was incredible. I stuffed it with polyfill and finished the openings with more tape. The only issue I had was that you can’t pin into it. With that in mind though, you could cut an inch off the back and then pad it with batting. For that reason, I don’t use it to drape, but I will use it for final fittings since it’s such a perfect duplicate of me!
- Custom Drafted Pattern for Dress Form – Bootstrap Fashion: This is my favourite DIY dress form option! I’ve been familiar with the Bootstrap Fashion website for a while! They only recently released their custom patterns for dress forms. To get your pattern, you enter the requested measurements and a half hour later it emails you a pattern to your exact measurements! The pattern came with extremely detailed and easy to follow instructions, complete with a step-by-step photo tutorial. They have incredible customer service as well. I had purchased some patterns when the site just started, the patterns didn’t work the way I hoped to and I reached out to them about the issue when I found the newly added dress form pattern. This was about a year later. They promptly responded and gave me some suggestions, as well as a credit for my purchase to try some other patterns. I was blown away! It comes in both a regular and plus size pattern, both for only $24.00! This is the main dress form that I use for all of my sewing needs.
I hope this has given you some insights into what is available out there!
When I started sewing, I had no idea there was such a variety of products. I thought I would be stuck with a size 10 mannequin or recruiting people to help me with fitting. It truly is an important part of your sewing growth.