The Story of how I came to make a Dress Form from scratch on a shoestring budget:
Like millions of other Americans my family decided to spend less money on Christmas presents this year. Not surprisingly; our younger family members had trouble embracing this idea. To aid in the shopping process we all made lists for one another. One of the items requested by my teenage niece was a dress form. I suspected that this item didn't fit into our predefined budget but but I am not one to turn down a gift challenge (at least not one from my nieces or nephew.) And so, I set out in search of a dress form. I thought I might find a used one at a bargain price on EBay or Craigslist. My search, however, was fruitless. The cheapest dress forms were around $130.00. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled on to a website that sold instructions for making your own dress form; from duct tape no less!! This was even better as homemade items for Christmas are my specialty. I couldn't resist. The instructions cost $15.00 from Duct Tape Double . There are some links for free instructions at the bottom of this post but the $15.00 was well spent in my mind.
Here is my finished dress form after following the directions from the Duct Tape Double.
Never one to completely follow the instructions I made a few modification. I followed the instruction for the most part but remember I was on a strict budget. The instructions called for a lot of stuffing. To purchase all the filling new was not in my budget so I improvised. I used an old towel and I wrapped it around the cardboard fabric roll securing it with what else but duct tape. Then I used some old plastic grocery bags (the kind everyone has way to many of) to stuff an inside layer. Finally I purchased some second hand pillows and recycled their insides for the outside layer of stuffing.
My total cost so far was $27. 59. That included the $15.00 for the instructions, $6.50 for 2 rolls of Duct Tape and $6.09 for 4 pre-owned pillows. All the other supplies I had on hand or got for free from the fabric store.
I must say I was pretty pleased with the result but there was one problem....The Duct Tape. First of all it looked a little too, well... a little too much like duct tape. The second problem was that once you put a hole on the duct tape it is there forever. I wanted this dress form to withstand lots of pinning and not look like an overused voodoo doll so I decided to make a cover for it. I bought a second hand large mens shirt (note: it needs to be long enough to cover the full length of the dress form and long sleeves are best as you have a little extra fabric to work with.) The shirt cost $2.75 bringing my total to $30.34.
I pinned the front together as if the shirt were buttoned. Then I pinned the side seams and darts. Most of the fabric comes out of the side seams but front and back darts also need to be pinned and front bust darts as well. It is important to keep opposite seams and darts somewhat even with each other. Once all the pinning is complete the front is unpinned and the cover removed from the form. All the pinned seams and darts need to be stitched on a sewing machine. Trim off the excess seam allowance on the side seams. At this point turn the shirt right-side out and redress the dress form. You should be able to button it up the front and have it fit fairly well. You will probably need to make a few minor adjustments to the darts and side-seams at this point to make the cover fit as snuggly as it should. I originally planned to sew the front together but I had a shirt with a nice front placket that covered the buttons. I decided that not only did I like the way it looked but it might be a good idea to have the cover be removable. I figured there might be spots on the form that required patching after repeated pinning. What else but a piece of duct tape would make the perfect patch!
To finish the armholes I folded pinned and tucked in the raw edges of the sleeve following the armhole seams and making it as smooth as possible. Then I hand sewed the folds and tucks.
For the neck I sewed one of the extra pieces of sleeve into the neck opening. I was planning to finish the top of the neck as I did the armholes. While working on the cover I tied the sleeve in a knot just to get the floppy piece of fabric out of my way. I discovered that I liked the way it looked with the knot and the cuff at the neckline and decided to leave the knot.
Once all the hand sewing was complete and the cover fit snuggly on the form I went back to the duct tape. Tape the bottom of the shirt to the bottom of the dress form pulling slightly for a good tight fit.
Here is my finished Dress form with the cover:
I confess that I enlisted my fathers help to make the wooden stand. It consists of a rectangular piece of plywood and three pieces of 2 x 6 glued together and drilled with a hole the size of the card board fabric tube.
Here are some addition links you might find helpful if you are interested in making your own dress form.