How to make a Duct Tape Dress Form – and how NOT to !
You might have seen these before. At some point or another, all sewers need to fit clothes so that they look flattering and are comfortable. But if there is just you, fitting and pinning alterations on yourself while you are wearing what needs adjustment is just plain difficult and sometimes near impossible. This is why all keen sewers love a dress-form – a mannequin with their own measurements (as near as possible) so that the clothes can be made on the model and fitted to the person who will be wearing them.
Sadly my budget does not extend to importing a dress-form so I decided to try to make my own body double using duct tape, newspaper and expanding foam.
How to make a duct tape dress form.
(Excuse the photos, they were only ever intended for personal use but this was so much fun I had to share!)
Here is how it started out. I first wore an old close-fitting t-shirt that I didn’t mind cutting up. I extended at the bottom with a wrap of extra fabric around my hips and held it in place with some tape. I tied my hair up out of the way. Then we were ready to begin.
You will need a helper. Someone with whom you are quite close as this can be a very personal experience involving a lot of patting and smoothing of your personal areas! Start by applying the tape under the bust and in a cross-your-heart through the center to give individual definition rather than end up with a single uni-boob!
Now start to fill in. We decided to keep me cool and breathing easy in the Caribbean weather, we would start on the lower half first. Using long strips of duct tape, overlap them concentrating on one area at a time, placing the tape horizontally and smoothing in place without pulling tight and distorting the body shape.
Remember that this is supposed to be a duplicate of your own body, flaws and all. So don’t pull tight around the waist or flatten your tummy to make it look better as tempting as that might be! Keep going with the tape in long pieces, front, sides and back. Continue down past the widest part of your hips, bottom and thighs so you can use it for fitting skirts and dresses too. End at the bottom with a line of tape as near horizontal as possible.
All done at the bottom? Let’s start adding tape to the top section. Here shorter strips will be needed and will run in a more diagonal direction for a smoother finish rather than simple straight across. I had a v-neck t-shirt so added a piece of fabric around the neck and across the V so the tape didn’t stick to my skin.
At this stage you might start to feel rather self-conscious as well as warm and constricted, and be keen to get this thing off you. But your helper has invested a good deal of time in patting and smoothing your tape and getting their fingers all sticky. So give them 5 minutes to enjoy laughing at you and taking silly photos while you melt in the very hot sunshine. It’s only fair.
Now cut down the center back and through the back of the sleeves and remove. Go take a nice cool shower! Phew. Connect the cut edges of the hollow form without overlapping and tape them back together again. Cut some cardboard to top off the neck hole and the arm holes and tape these in place.
Then scrunch up lots of sheets of newspaper and start to stuff your body firmly but without distorting or stretching if you can. Make sure to keep turning it as you stuff to try to avoid too many voids and loose areas. Once its pretty well stuffed with the scrunched up newspaper, fill in the bottom with cardboard and tape in place. It will probably look something like this – still a little soft and baggy in places.
Spotted that can of expanding foam bottom left? This is where the magic comes in. Or in my case, the disaster! Using a very sharp knife cut small holes in the tape at the places where there are voids in the stuffing, typically the bust, bottom, tummy etc. Insert the nozzle and squeeze in a little foam. Notice I say a little! I underestimated how much this stuff expands and I filled in all of the voids at this stage until it was smooth and perfectly finished. Add a little tape over the cuts you just made.
At this point I thought myself finished, measured my body form and was delighted to see that it was almost spot on to a fraction of an inch, to my own body measurements. It looked so good, was light and easy to move about, and I was delighted with the finished result.
All that remained was to get my husband to make a basic stand, stick it on and it was done. Or so I thought.
But in the morning, I was greeted by a monster! The expanding foam had continued to slowly expand little by little overnight and because the form was already full, it had no where to go except to stretch and pull and stretch some more. I was not really enormous, but my body double was no longer my double, but some deformed monstrosity of lumps and bumps.
The foam was hard so there was nothing to be done to save it – we dressed it up in some old clothes and left it out the front of the house with the dustbins (trashcans if you are US). It was there a couple of days and must have given the passing tourists quite a shock!
So, can this be done? Absolutely. It was going perfectly well until I got overzealous with the expanding foam. If you want to make one of these, be sparing with the foam, leave it some hours to expand – you can always add a little more later, but you cannot remove your ugly lumps and bumps if it expands too far.
I do recommend this project – it really was a lot of fun? Anyone else out there had a go at making their own duct tape dress form?
Authored by: Deby at So Sew Easy