The reason I really needed a dress form is because this pattern is poorly designed. I cut a mock-up out of muslin, pinned it together and found it needs tweaks, adjustments, additions and possibly a ritual sacrifice to actually make the dress on the cover of the pattern package. It's Butterick "Retro" B4790. Here's a website that will help with adjusting that pattern. It's my next stop after making the Dress Form.
But, back to the matter at hand. My mom was in town and she graciously offered to help me with this project. We turned to the INTERNETS!!!...ok, Pinterest, and summoned up a whole lot of people offering how-to's on making a custom dress form. We looked through them and decided to go with THIS ONE. I want to be clear, I did not come up with this process all on my own. We worked to follow the instructions in this video and I have some pointers to help make it easier. Also, to see the second video you have to sign up for at least their 14-day trial and if you forget to cancel they bill you. I'm going to be honest here, the second video is only marginally worth it. The site is expansive, though, so I'll see what else they have to offer.
Anyway, here's the video I worked off of and where I got my supplies list.
- 2 rolls of grey 3M All-Purpose 45yd/roll Duct Tape
- 2 rolls of hot pink 3M 20yd/roll Duct Tape
- 1 5-gallon bucket
- 1 5-gallon bucket lid
- 1 16" 1 1/2" PVC tube
- 1 5' 1" PVC piping
- 2 1 1/2" PVC fittings.
- 1 yard stick (just a heads up $.69 at Lowes, $6.99 at JoAnns)
- 1 bag river rocks (you could also use sand or kitty litter, but I wanted a less messy/dusty option)
- PVC cement (I used Oatey medium-clear)
- Fiberfill - I bought 1 32oz and 1 20oz bag of the Fairfield Crafter's Choice 100% Polyester Fiberfill. I used up all of the 30oz and barely broke into the 20oz bag.
- 1/4" or 1/2" masking tape. I found it in the quilters section.
- 1/2" Foam core board (or stiff cardboard)
- Bust/Bra cups (this helps the breasts keep their shape)
- thin elastic (for marking the waist line during taping)
optional for Cover:
2 yds stretchy fabric. (I went with a polyester/cotton mix that had a good amount of stretch to it. I made a cover so I could pin to the form, since duct tape is not conducive to pining.)
Already at home:
- t-shirt (possibly extra material to extend the shirt if it isn't long enough.)
- plastic wrap
- permanent marker
- washable markers
- x-acto knife
- 1 manilla folder
- a cat to get curious and then decide a project with duct tape is not one she's interested in.
I recommend that you start by getting your stand ready. The PVC cement takes about 15 minutes to bond and 2 hours to cure. It was very nice to have my stand ready when I had completed the dress form.
I glued one of the fittings to the center of the bottom of the bucket.
I glued the other fitting in the center of the lid. If you use the lids that go with the buckets, be careful; they are brittle and will crack easily, which you can see in my lid. I used duct tape to strengthen/reinforce.
Once these are set, I glued in the 16" 1 1/2 " pipe. DO NOT glue the pipe to the lid fitting, only to the bottom. This will allow you to access the bucket so you to change ballast if you want.
The pipe for the Dress form is only 1" and so will fit into the 1 1/2" pipe, and allow you to turn and dress form freely. DO NOT glue the dress form pipe into the stand pipe.
I chose river rocks as my ballast (rather than sand or litter.) It was just a personal preference. You need weight to make sure the form doesn't tip over if you are fitting a heavy garment; just make sure you don't make the stand too heavy to move.
hmm, I wonder if I could put wheels or casters on the bottom of the bucket...
OK, time for the Duct Tape.
To start, I cut up a manilla folder and taped it up my spine as an underwear protector for when you eventually cut the form off. It worked great.
p.s. watch out for loose hair. There is a lot of tape involved in this and it can get real uncomfortable, real fast. Also, I did end up loosing just a little hair to this project.
Oh no...my dress form has my DNA...nothing good can come from this. NO ONE TELL STEVEN MOFFAT OR WE'LL GET A NEW DOCTOR WHO VILLAIN.
p.p.s. Yes, I have tattoos. One is a rhino with a Lotus flower in the center and the other is an ouroboros.
<-- The first duct-taping involves making the collar/neck piece. We plastic wrapped my neck and then duct taped it and then cut it off to save for later. It would be too restrictive to keep on the entire time of the taping.
*tip - use small, 3" pieces in curved areas.
Once the neck is cut off, the lower collar and shoulders are taped. Try and not to tape to skin, duct tape is sticky. -->
After taping the top of the shirt, we made sure to tape just under the breasts, the natural waist and at the hip line. Tape all the way around. This helps guide how you tape.
Once the lines were made, we taped the back first (2 layers, the 2nd going in a perpendicular direction to the 1st) then the waist-hips-rear. Next was the lower front. we saved the upper front for last and paid special attention to keep the shape of the breasts true.
Once I was completely covered in 2 layers of the grey duct tape we added the 3rd layer in a hot pink that makes me smile. You can use any color for this top layer of duct tape.
It can go faster if the person being taped rips the pieces for the taper. Also, wear comfortable shoes. I ended up standing for 3 hours straight during the taping process.
*tip: Tape tightly under the arms and make sure the arm hole truly just represents your arm. I had to make an after taping adjustment because the arm holes were too large and interfered with the line of the dress form where the armpit should be.
The manilla folder on the spine worked great to make sure only the duct tape dress form was cut during removal. It was nice to be out of the form - it kind of felt like a full body corset and I did get a little woozy/lightheaded at one point.
*tip: draw a centerline down the back and put hash marks every 6" and you can more easily line it back up to tape closed the form.
Once you are free of the form, trace the outline of the arm holes, top of the neck piece and bottom of the dress form on the foam core board. Cut out and tape the neck and arm holes into place. Also tape the neck to the collar of the Dress Form.
Fill the form with the fiberfill from the top down and tape in the bra cups to help the breasts hold their shape. While filling you'll need to insert the 5' PVC pipe. I had a hard time figuring out where exactly to set it (since it's hard to tape it to the inside) and I ended up going back into the form once full of fiberfill to move the pipe around so the form stood more upright instead of leaning forward. For me, the top of the pipe rests against the top of the neck piece. I also ended up securing it to the bottom foam core board so that it took weight off of the top and helped the whole form turn easier.
Here you can see the form is pretty much my height.
Also, you can see the dress fits me and fits the Dress Form. I measured dimensions and they match my own!
My mom and I probably put about 16 hours of work into this thing and there were a few points I was ready to call it installation art or try and make some kind of anime cosplay ducttape dress out of the blasted thing.
p.s. that is my boy Duncan (a Great Pyrenees mix) sitting in the background.
I wanted to be able to easily pin pattern pieces and costume designs to the form so I made a cover out of super stretchy fabric. I sewed a tube (basically took the 2 yds and sewed on the long edge) and stretched it over the dress form. Then I pinned in darts and pinned in the shoulders and back. I made the adjustments, trimmed the extra fabric, and added in an elastic lined bottom to cinch in the loose fabric under the form. I pulled it back over the form and it fits great!
I already have the Butterick "Fast & Easy" pattern (listed at the very top of this blog) pinned to it. Man is it in desperate need of adjustment. Happily, I now have the tools to work some magic.