My DIY Duct Tape Dress Form

Make your own dress form body double using duct tape, newspaper and expanding foam. Step by step photo tutorial. So Sew Easy.How to make a Duct Tape Dress Form – and how NOT to !

How to make a duct tape dress form - a perfect replica of you body shape. So Sew Easy

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.

Duct tape dress form - the preparation

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!

Duct tape dress form - give the upper body shape and definition. So Sew Easy


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.

Duct tape dress form - place duct tape in long strips. So Sew Easy

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.

Duct tape dress form - continue adding tape past the widest part of the body. So Sew Easy

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.

Duct tape dress form - starting to feel rather hot now. So Sew Easy

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.

Duct tape dress form - its getting pretty hot in here! So Sew Easy

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.

Duct tape dress form - first fill completed. Still needs more filling out. So Sew Easy.

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.Duct tape dress form - the finished body double. So Sew Easy

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


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94 Responses to My DIY Duct Tape Dress Form

  1. Sherry geis says:

    Thanks so much for your post. I’m not your traditional size or shape and have problems when making any clothes for myself due to a smaller waist and big ole bubble butt. Lol. I found some expandable forms but don’t have $200+ to spend on one. I’m going to try this tonight and i will let y’all know how it goes. AWESOME IDEA!

  2. Diane Mancino says:

    Only just found this article and it sure sounds like fun but such a shame with the expanding foam. Ive just must try this, thank you for trying.

  3. Shannon Berndt says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. A dress form was out of budget and would still need lots of modifications. My husband was a good sport and taped me up. I used up all of our star wars duct tape. Then I had a girlfriend help me stuff it. I used it last night to pin back darts in a dress and I am so happy. Many thanks!!

    • So Sew Easy says:

      That’s fantastic Shannon. Thanks so much for sharing the pic. Glad this sort of dress form is working out for you too.

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  5. linda bowens says:

    So many great ideas, my adventure begins today. cloth duct tape, cotton pillow for inside, heavy cardboard for bottom and arms and neck. I will post pictures.

    • Beth says:

      Way back in the day before they had patterns for historical costumes we used to make our corset and fitted bodice pattern pieces this way. Duck tape a T shirt to someone, cut it off them add 4 inches to all over circumfrence (2inches to back, 2inches to front) and viola! fitted bodice or corset! You add the additional inches to make up for the fact that the tape fits Very close so this gives you breathing room, and to allow for seam allowances.

  6. Dolores says:

    awesome Idea.. I’ll have to try this.. I’m terrible at measuring and fitting.. at least you can see it on your double..
    Thanks for the great idea … it’ll save a bundle.

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  9. I know it would take some time, but after completing the duct tape form, i’m wondering if it would be strong enough to cover it with paper mache’. I love the idea of the weighted microphone stand!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      It will be strong for the paper mache’, however once you add it, it will change the size of your dress form.

  10. Kate says:

    If you pin directly into the duct tape, will it leave a sticky residue on your pins?

  11. Carolyn says:

    Can anyone tell me how long to allow to do the taping part of the project? I.e., van the taping friend can get it done in an hour or does she need to allow 6 hours, or what . . .

  12. Bonnie says:

    Love your dress form! Has anybody, tried using fiberfill, firmly packed? If it worked, I would think, you could use straight pins on it for fittings.

    • Rachael says:

      I did stuff mine with Fiberfill and newspaper mixed. I tends up fairly light and easy to move around if needed. To pin over it, I would recommend putting a layer of quilt batting over and putting a cover over it. they do sell dress form covers, or you can drape your own. Then you can pin into the batting instead of the tape.

  13. Cori says:

    So my daught we helped with the taping. I am a little scared about the spray foam but will use the product for windows as suggested in another response. Hopefully if I don’t go crazy that will work. I plan on inserting either an old shower rode or pvc pipe for stability and adding a piece of ply wood cut to fit the bottom. For my stand I am using the bottom of an old desk chair. It’ll make my dress form the perfect heights and it’s on wheels.

    Loved the post & my daughter had many laughs while taping me up. What a bonding experience. Told her I would love to make one for her, but for some silly reason she decided to pass ?

  14. Brenda George says:

    Great idea, I made a model of myself 30 years ago and it was fibreglassed inside, then a layer of thin polyester over the top glued on, and a cotton cover way made. This enables me to use pins on the model. A stand was also made and I put black tape for waistline, bust, and hips and also vertical straight lines for centre front back and side. I have gained a little weight in 30 years but generally it continues to be very useful when designing clothes and checking on style etc. Loved your post as it has given me a very practical idea for doing another.

  15. Kimberly Richard says:

    Use the cloth tape. Have your stand made first. I used a shower curtain rod as the pole, by laying it on it’s side you can adjust for heighth. My daughter said I should used a microphone stand, they don’t cost much and are weighted already and they adjust easily. Once you have the neck hole covered. Turn the form over and fill with MINIMUM expanding foam. Doing it over several days, a layer at a time. This gives it time to expand and it leaves room for the expansion, so that distortion doesnot occur. Once you have half way ful, insert your pole part, be sure to balance it correctly hy leveling- use a level! You will have to brace somehow to keep it straight. I am making my daughter one so will take pictures and send for posting.

  16. Natasha says:

    That actually worked out really well thanks! Since it was first time doing it I learned a few things: get really good scissors to cut through the fabric and tape and wear a descent bra. I wore a sports bra. Bad idea for not getting a uniboob. But fortunately, I was gonna see a bra into my costume so I pinned it to my bust. Anyway it’s getting the job done so I’ll prolly do another one. Also ur friend gets probs for doing the tape so smoothly, ha.

  17. FRAN PERKS says:

    WOW! I thought this was a cool idea since I can’t find a mannequin within my budget or probably for my shape. I was seriously reading your blog and got fully absorbed. I was envisioning a friend of mine helping out and getting it together. Then I continued reading and burst out laughing. I was then envisioning my friend and I cracking up with tears and chuckles. We would both be crying so hard from the laughter. Too bad for you. After all that work. But maybe you will find the inspiration to do another one. To say the least your idea was an inspiration for others. If and when I make one, I will send you a picture. For your eyes only, I think! 🙂 🙂

  18. Nandin says:

    Woow, wonderful and easy idea! Thanks a lot, i’ll absolutely got one.

  19. Sis says:

    Couldn’t you use the expandable form in the bust area before sealing up the back to make stuffing easier?

  20. hawkswench says:

    I am curious; since fat spreads, should a larger size person sit while doing the abdominal area? Since with non stretchable fabric, you would need to accommodate that spread.

    • You should still do the form standing to get the replica of your body as it usually is, but if this is a problem for you and you usually adjust patterns to give a little more ease in this area for comfort when sitting, then you would still do that adjustment when you sew.

  21. Laura says:

    With the amazing help from my partner, we were able to make one. We used stuffing from pillows instead of newspapers and bags … he is making a stand now. Thanks so much for the instructions!

    Oh, in case it matters, we used three entire rolls of duct tape (55yd (50m) each) to complete. I about a size 4. He mentioned that the “cloth” duct tape works much better than the “industrial” one I purchased.

    Thanks again!
    Laura from Pennsylvania

  22. Angela says:

    What a great post and idea!! One question, did you make a stand and if so, how?

    • Deby Coles says:

      Ah no, by the time I over-did it with the expanding foam it was useless because it expanded all out of shape and wouldn’t work. I could never persuade my husband to help me with another one. I had always imagined that I might try to hang it somehow, but well, the expanding foam got the better of me before that could happen.

      • Cass says:

        Great Stuff expandable foam comes in three types. The type shown in your picture (the black can) is for large gaps and expands like crazy. The blue can is for door and window frames. It doesn’t expand as much and won’t push for room like the black can will. Maybe try that next time in a few applications?
        Note though – once you’ve used a can and let it dry, you’ll never be able to use it again. Never try to apply the foam without the tube (hugely messy & sticky), and use the can shortly after buying (stored cans dry out and are useless).

    • Maxine says:

      I’m making my stand with a piece of light ply wood as a base for Dulcie to stand on and the base off an old pedestal fan (adjustable you see) as a bottom.

    • Trish says:

      I know this is late but i have just come across this page now so my apologies. I made one with the help of my husband and we used an old coat rack as a stand. I used ribbon to hang it around the coat prongs on top. Put the ribbon around the arms on the outside and also from the bottom up along the inside, duct taping in place. Then i secured it in place with tape around the pole on the next and bottom. I also used heavy cardboard for the bottom of it to keep its shape.

  23. Maxine says:

    Besides spray foam/newspaper, is there any other good combinations of packing-out materials you could use? Would plastic shopping bags work (with or without the foam). Love the idea and can’t wait to make one!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Yes they would work, but you’d need to squash them down to get a firm finish and I think you’d need hundreds of bags. If you’ve got a lot, then this is a great way to recycle them.

      • Maxine says:

        The plastic bags worked a treat… yes it did take quite a lot of them, but I found that I could squish them in a lot better than the wadded newspaper would allow (and if for some reason ended up wrongly positioned) you can ‘thump’ them into shape. Also doubled as an upper body work out stuffing them in! I wasn’t brave enough to use the spray foam though, I didn’t want all the effort to be for naught! Dulcie Duct tape does look good and she works well, I think she could do with some more aerobic workouts though!!

        • Deby Coles says:

          Hooray – that’s great news. Thanks for reporting back how you got on. I’m delighted for you. I bet you had a lot of fun with this. I’d love to see the finished result.

    • Barb says:

      The first one I made I used aspen shavings as the primary fill (once I had pumped the breasts and sleeves full of the minimal-expansion spray insulation). You can get them at large pet stores in compressed bales; it’s sold for rodent bedding. One half of a 2 cu.ft bale was enough to fill the form to a nice firmness. If you do this, shake the form occasionally as you fill to sort of pack the shavings down.

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