DIY Dress Form Part 3: Padding and Cover

This is the third and final section on making your own DIY dress form!  
(Here is the INTRO post as well as Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.)

What you need for this is a couple of yards of quilt padding, which you can get at most craft stores, and a couple of yards of a very stretchy and elastic knit fabric.  (This is usually called 4 way stretch and has spandex or lycra or elastic or whatever you call it built into it.  It's what you would make a skin-tight body suit out of. The padding is going to make the surface of the form smooth under the cover, and will also give your form a really nice slightly squishy surface, like a real body.  I know you may be worried about the padding adding too much bulk, but comparing measurements to my body it didn't seem to add a very significant amount.  If this is very important to you, you can always shave a bit of your form down in crucial areas before adding the padding.  The stretchy cover also really helps to hold in the puffiness of the padding.

*First, I covered the whole form in a single layer of the quilt padding.  I used strait pins to slightly stretch pieces of padding over sections of the form making sure to piece it so that the cups were contoured perfectly.  I cut the pieces so there was no overlapping at the edges.

*I used a heavy duty thread to whipstitch the padding pieces together just so the edges meet up nicely.  Remember to make sure you are stretching the padding a little bit.  

*To make sure the foam didn't completely obliterate the shaping of the collar bones, I used the curved needle to tack down the padding to the foam just underneath the collar bones.  (Click on pictures to view full size for extra detail.)

Next step is to create a pattern for the stretchy cover.  To do this, I marked my seam lines on the form with yarn held down with strait pins.  You will need to mark: 
-Center Front 
-Center Back
-Side Seams 
-Princess Stylelines front and back 
-Shoulder seams
-Waistline  (I chose to use a higher, empire waist rather than the natural waistline because it's more flattering on my form.  Whatever waistline you want to use is fine.)
-Leg lines

This is a pathetic drawing of the seams you need to mark:

One all seams are marked with yarn, you will start copying each section to your stretch knit by draping and tracing one piece at a time.  Pay attention to the grainline and make sure you stretch each piece a little bit to be sure the fit will be snug.
 Next you will remove the traced section from the form and re-trace it onto pattern paper, smooth out the lines, and add seam allowance.  Remember that since your center front and center back lines are dividing the form evenly in half, you will only need to trace one half of the front of the form, and one half of the back of the form.  Don't forget to make pieces for the neck, as well as the armhole openings!

Here are all my pattern pieces traced with seam allowance:

Next, cut all of your pattern pieces so you have 2 of each- one for each side.

Sew your pieces together!  Here is the torso section of my dress form cover on the foam form.  I sewed all the seams except for the crotch seam so I could slip it over the top of the form.  Then I hand stitched the crotch seam with whip stitches, which was not too difficult because I made the seam towards the front of the body, and the fabric is stretchy enough that you can pull it forwards enough to sew pretty easily.  I think I may have used a curved needle for this.

 A good view of the side seams and armhole:

I used strait pins to define the fit under the bust (they're just stuck strait in):
 AND of course, this is me trying on the little torso cover before I sewed it onto the form because I couldn't resist checking out the perfect fit.  :)  Ignore the fact that I look a little nakie.  (Besides my dorky socks...)

I followed the same steps for covering the legs with padding and the cover.  (Although I think for the leg covers I might have used measurements to draft up a pattern since I couldn't access the inseam on the form.)  I slipped the sewn leg covers over the legs and then hand stitched them to the torso with whip stitches around the leg lines.  I also defined the belly button with strait pins, which might make this a little more creepily realistic, but I think is helpful for plotting waistlines.  And here is the finished product!!!

Complete with butt definition using the same strait pin technique as used on the under-bust:


Feel free to contact me through my facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/katastrophicdesign, with questions or posting pictures of your own fabulous dress forms!  In the mean time, you may also check out my clothing label through my website, http://katastrophicclothing.com/  

GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (You're going to need it!  JK.  Sort of.)  <3>


Gembirdie said...

Totally, totally fascinating.
I've just struggled with a preformed dress form that you compress with a sheath that you made with your dimensions - the result is not too bad, actually, but the one are where I'm not happy with it is the bust.
Your method is amazing, and extremely clever. Well done!
I will probably try it out for myself - thank you for posting such good instructions!!!

Gembirdie said...

Totally, totally fascinating.
I've just struggled with a preformed dress form that you compress with a sheath that you made with your dimensions - the result is not too bad, actually, but the one are where I'm not happy with it is the bust.
Your method is amazing, and extremely clever. Well done!
I will probably try it out for myself - thank you for posting such good instructions!!!

Polly Pierce said...

Wow! What a brilliant project. The definition is amazing and while the whole process is long and fiddly at times it certainly worked well!

I'm so impressed with the final product that I'm almost inspired to have a go myself. Undoubtedly I will, but not just yet!

I've always wanted to make or buy a dress form, but have never been totally convinced by the craft/duct tape methods. This, however, is the bees knees...

Anonymous said...

Wow!!!! I have trouble finding a form shape to do my sewing that corresponds to my morphology and your method seems so clever that I'm tenting to try it. Still I'm afraid I could never do something so fine. Thanks for sharing!!! and congratulations for such good work

Unknown said...

This is great, you've answered a lot of the issues I've seen with the duct tape forms. I may have missed it but what did you do to make the neck? How did your friend secure the bottom of her dress form while she filled it with foam-does the foam spill out the bottom while filling? Thank you for sharing!

Katastrophic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katastrophic said...

Hi Aminah, I made the neck actually by taping a tube of paper to the opening. As for the bottom of the torso dress form, you can close that off with a piece of cardboard cut to fit around your stand, and attached securely to the bottom of your mold while you fill it. Great questions!

Sherry said...

Two attempts at this later, my mannequin is still drying twisted and the shoulders are slanted unevenly. My boyfriend HATES doing this! Haha... I have given up. HOWEVER, I'm thinking of a crazy hacky method that might seem like a runaround full of unnecessary steps, but it just might work.

I'm going to do the traditional cheap-o duct tape dress form, then stuff it. Then slather it in vaseline and coat it with the plaster bandages. That way I don't have to go through the suffering and the model will actually STAY STILL. :P But this way I won't have to deal with a duct tape mannequin because I think it would be hard to draft on one, and it'd be weird feeling even with a fabric cover I think (maybe I'm wrong).

Anyway, I'm going to add a lip to where the two halves connect so I can easily crack the bandages apart like a nut after they dry. And with another mannequin inside, hopefully it will not bend or shift while drying. Then I'll smooth the inside with plaster of paris and "release" it with the pol-ease and Johnson's paste wax. Then I'll reseal it with more plaster bandages and fill it expanding 3 lb polyfoam.

At that point, hopefully the cast will pry right off, and then I can pick up where your tutorial leaves off with the quilt padding and the fabric. The part that scares me the most as an inexperience/beginner sewer is the fabric cover!

I am REALLY hoping this works though, because it will be my last attempt. Also, I really wanted to do the legs, but it may be difficult this way. I'm also torn because I want to make this awesome looking DIY mannequin stand here: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3665/molded-papier-mch-form

Crossing my fingers for this weekend!

JR said...

Hi, I'm a sculptor and am working on dress forms for an installation. This tutorial is incredibly helpful, thank you so much for posting it.

I wanted to let you know that after lots of materials tests, I've discovered a way to get foam to release from plaster bandage: silicone caulk. Rub the caulk (I used black caulk to contrast with the white of the plaster so I can be sure I've covered the entire surface) into the plaster mold with glove-covered fingers to create a thin layer. I also use an additional mold release agent painted on top of the cured silicone, but I'm going to try it with just the silicone and will report back.

Jennifer Rabin

Unknown said...

Can you put pants on this form with the pvc pipes in the legs? Do you have to take it off the base for that?
Is the foam pin-able?