Draping Desire Requires a Dress Form

It took my mum took 9 months to make me, and it took 3 years for me to make me.
Amazing. Mums are just so GOOD at things!

I absolutely hate how fitting commercial patterns kills my sanity and my love of sewing. To tinker with the fit every single time you open a new envelope, before you even get to the fun of creating a garment – no siree. I want to jump right to the construction variations and finishing techniques. The fitting issues were problems I wanted to solve only once. All tricks to get it right I find boring to follow. I KNEW a personalised dressform would cut to the fun and fancy bits straightaway (draping and simplifying pattern making).

I made a duct form (tape glue melted by central heating within weeks, became distorted and out of shape. It ended up in the dumpster. I presume someone saw it and called the police thinking they’d found a chopped up murder victim).

I tried a dials-galore dress form. No dials in the world, however, can reflect my crazy swayback, my not-so-pert bust with wonky-eyed bust points, my “protruding abdomen” – I’ll stop there. I also hated the plasticky flimsy-ness of it.

Finally I got a glorious display mannequin (£36 on ebay!!! Bargain! Different sizes, too!) with a polystyrene (PINNABLE!) body.

My mannequin base.(Click pic to see all my dressfom research Pinterest board and link to this seller)

My mannequin base.
(Click pic to see all my dressfom research Pinterest board and link to this seller)

I spent an obscene amount of time making a sloper with my exact shape. This is a long
story in itself. Just thinking about it, makes me breathe faster and shallower so let’s leave
the full story for now. But I ended up with a princess seam sloper in light lilac poly-cotton.
I didn’t treat the fabric with any starch or anything like that, and it has a centre front zip,
which made fitting, then stuffing, it as simple as it gets. I just pinned the bottom edge to the
polystyrene, so I didn’t even have to fiddle with a “lid”.

I put this sloper on the mannequin, padded out the difference, and all is forgiven. LET THE
DRAPING AND PATTERN DRAFTING FUN BEGIN!

Half decent!

Half decent!

I wanted to prettify it, and bought a off-white stretch mannequin cover (ebay again). This is
what is seen in this picture. I noticed that the stretch was so incredibly strong and
squeezed the padding too much, which meant the measurements shrank (if you click the image and zoom in, you can see wrinkles underneath the stretch cover). It became nearly one size too small, darnit! So off the cover came at once. Maybe one day I’ll make my own, gentle jersey cover. It’ll turn up in a lot of photos from now on, pretty or not, because it works! It’s an absolute representation of me.

For now it is wearing my Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt (blogged here).

My research:
My Pinterest board for all sorts of solutions. There are a few great tips on how to make a
sloper quicker than tinker with fit from existing pattern – for instance the Saran Wrap
method (I never tried this).
I found particulary Ikatbag’s tutorial incredibly useful and inspiring. You see her muslin in
crazy fabric? That’s the equivalent of my lilac one, essentially. And instead of her home-made “skeleton”, I used the polystyrene mannequin and save about one hundred hours,
and I reckon it wasn’t even that much more expensive.
Since I finished mine, I spotted La Sewista’s tutorial. This is the only time I’ve seen
someone else finishing with a zip. I think that’s so so obvious! Who can squeeze in all the
padding while slipstitching the last seam? Amazing.

I’ll answer any questions on this, as every sewist deserve one of these, but no sewist
deserves to spend three years making one.

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2 thoughts on “Draping Desire Requires a Dress Form

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