DIY Dress Form Intro: The Ultimate DIY Dress Form Tutorial Overview

Interested in learning to make your own professional quality custom dress form for around $100?
This is PART 1 of my Ultimate DIY Dress Form Tutorial where I show you how to make a professional and functional personalized form that looks like this: 

Finished Dress Form!  (It's almost too realistic... )

We will be using these materials:
             *medical plaster wraps, 
             *construction foam, and
             *PVC pipes 
             *Quilt padding
             *4 way stretch knit fabric

     I took on this project last year when I decided as a designer I was way overdue for owning a functional dress form.  However, I just didn't have the budget to spend the $300-$600 it would cost to get a decent and professional form.  (I don't care what anyone says... those adjustable forms you can get at the craft store are a joke, if you know anything about draping.)  I had made a DIY dress form several years ago with my bestie, Megan Winn of The Binding Bee, but it was never very functional and I left it in Indiana when I moved to Austin to pursue fashion design.  I decided it was time to try again and do a better job.

Here is the only picture I seem to have of my first DIY dress form, with one of my earliest projects:

     You can find a million tutorials on duct tape or kraft tape forms.  The reason Megan and I chose kraft over duct tape was because I had read many comments about duct tape being very heavy and sticky, and just the weight of the duct tape would eventually make the whole thing sag out of shape.  Our kraft paper forms were vaguely successful.  My biggest critique with making a form using tape is that you can't stick pins into it, which almost negates it's usefulness.  The pins get very sticky and are instantly ruined, which also happens with duct tape forms.

     I think by now a lot of people have figured out that you can make a mold of yourself and then fill it with foam to make a much more functional form that you can stick pins in.  When I embarked on this project about a year ago, I found two VERY helpful tutorials that followed similar methods using medical plaster wraps to make a fantastically accurate mold of the body, and then the forms were filled with expandable foam from the hardware store.  Unfortunately one of the tutorials seems to have disappeared except for some pictures and broken links.  However, I'll still list both of them for you so you can cross reference:

Part 1 by Jenna Sauer
Part 2 by Jenna Sauer
 You can see how incredibly professional this one looked in the end, which was hugely inspiring to me.

Overall, the process is broken down into these stages:

Part 1: Building the mold and stand

Part 2: Filling mold with foam

Part 3: Covering the form

And we're finished!

I'll be posting Part 1 soon... in the mean time, check out my clothing line Katastrophic!

Ready to move on?  Here's Part 1 and Part 2 and the final segment, Part 3!


Anonymous said...

You are simply amazing young lady!!!! How very creative!! Well done and so proud of you!! Hope you are doing well. Love you much!! :) Mrs. B

Anonymous said...

Is it better to try to make the form mirror image to your real form so you can put clothing on inside out to adjust seams? If it is no mirror image, how do you do this kind of adjustment?

Katastrophic said...

I don't think it would be possible to make your dress form a mirror image of yourself when you are making this kind of mold. However, there are two ways you can adjust the fit of your garment.

If your body is fairly symmetrical, you can still use your form with the clothing inside out. You should adjust corresponding seams the same amount on each side so that your garment ends up perfectly balanced.

If you have a significantly unsymmetrical body and need to make significant adjustments, (Esp. common in shoulder heights or even hip heights) you should put your clothing right side out and pin to fit. Then carefully re-pin each seam to the inside so you can sew it, and just make sure you measure how much you are taking in before and after transferring the pins to the inside. This is what you would do if you were pinning adjustments on a real body. It takes a little more time, but if you are careful you will get good results. I hope that helps!

cucicucicoo said...

Oh my gosh, this is wonderful! I'd been wanting to make a duct tape form but was brainstorming ways that I would be able to make it pinnable to use it better. Thanks for sharing! :) Lisa

reign said...

I would love to see how you did the quilt batting and cover :) it looks really good

Sherry said...

Hello! Would you recommend making a separate hanging mold for pants? I'm also wondering if it's somehow possible to fashion something magnetic onto the arm caps in order to add attachable arms... just a thought, anyway! :P

Julia Bobbin said...

This. Is. Amazing.

Thank you.

That is all.

Drew Rose said...

How long will this last?

Katastrophic said...

Hi Drew, I've been using mine for a couple of years now, but I anticipate it will last for years and years more. It's stayed in perfect condition.

Anonymous said...

I've done something similar but instead of the stretch fabric you are using, I used a full-body leotard (bathing suit style) on top with a firm nylon type pant and one of those nylon armour long sleeve undershirts. The trick is using one size smaller (in clothing, use M instead of L) so that when you fill with foam it doesn't stretch 'too' much. I've perfected the shape over the years AND its also a LOT easier to "add weight" in the middle of your belly/hips thighs when you gain/loose weight. You might not think an extra 10lbs makes a difference but it DOES show on these forms. That's why I opted for the nylons and undershirt with the leotard on top so it wasn't 'permanent' as much as when you do it the way you did. Just my 2 cents. Things work different for everyone.

Sherry said...

The leotard sounds like a good idea, but I'm kind of an "extra small"... so my problem is finding a size smaller. :P Do I need to let it in or something?

Sherry said...

Oi, I'm still trying to complete this dress form. I am to the point to where I'm padding it with the quilt padding. The measurements are off on it because I did the plaster stage a little oddly, but I'm hoping to create the dress form cover to match my body and then squeeze it over the foam with a muslin type fabric with a zipper in the back (kind of like the uniquely you dress forms). When I get to the cover, I'm wondering if it's possible to contour the seams around the breast area in order to keep it pronounced... I see a lot of dress form cover tutorials where it simply goes over the breasts like a shirt would. I'm wanting more of a bra-type look. You accomplished this with pins beneath the breasts, but I'm wondering if it's possible to create the seam the way it looks on the wolf forms, with the arch beneath the breasts, and why more covers aren't sewn this way? (I also noticed you sewed the quilt padding this way, but not the cover, and was wondering what the reasoning was for that? Is it simply because you wanted that high waist seam?)

meitina said...

Absolutely awesome. It is a piece of art. You could do a whole exhibit on dress forms. ^_^

Olliver Gant said...

Awesome dress form. Your tutorial is great! I am going to make one of these and yours gives me the confidence to start! Thank you!