How to Buy a Dress Form
The longer you sew garments, the more you come to realize that having another version of you on hand to fit things on would be incredibly helpful. Enter the dress form. It’s important to understand that not all dress forms are alike. There are thousands of types, all different from the other.
Joi Mahone drapes using a dress form in Fast Track Fitting
Before dropping hundreds of dollars on your new studio buddy, we will get to know the basics.
The first thing to consider when shopping for a form is what its intended use will be.
Do you want it to be a body double for your body? This is ideal for fitting bodices, making alterations and draping new creations. Since the form is like your own, you can treat is as your twin.
Getting a body double dress form is usually done in one of two ways:
Another less expensive approach is to make your own. There are a variety of tutorials online for many ways to custom make your own from duct tape or from plaster strips, much like how you’d make a cast.
One thing to keep in mind for hard-shell forms is that you will not be able to pin into them, since they will have a hard exterior. So consider making or getting a soft cover to fit over your hard-shell form.
Another consideration for a custom-fit form is the change in your body.
If you think you will never change an inch for the end of time, this is a good choice. But the reality is that likely you will change from size to size over time, or after childbirth, and having an alterable sized form can be a nice thing.
Enter the dial forms. Dial forms have little dials that adjust the size of each area of the body. These are perfect for when you are changing an inch here and there, but are not ideal if you are changing dramatically or sewing for others with completely different body types. Usually these are soft forms and can be pinned into and draped for all kinds of options. These are costly, but are significantly less expensive than a custom-made form.
If you often sew for others, then you will want to consider having a few dial forms on hand, or forms in set fit model sizes so you can confidently draft for other sizes.
It’s important to understand that mannequins are not dress forms.
So if you have a display supply shop near your home, do not assume that these are as good or as proportional as a real dress form.
Take time to take your real body measurements, ideally with a friend to help. Take them with you when shopping for your form. It can be a costly addition to your studio, but I cannot imagine not having another body on hand in my studio. I find it endlessly helpful, and once you have one too, I know you will say the same!
- For quick tips on using a dress form, see our post on Tips for Draping on a Dress Form
- Learn to master the art of draping on a dress form in the Craftsy class Fashion Draping: Dressmaking Basics with designer Paul Gallo.
- If you’re ready to learn couture sewing techniques, check out The Couture Dress with Susan Khalje.