couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, Dress Forms

Custom Dress Forms

In my recent moulage/dressform class, students used everything from a custom made full body form from Wolf to a display form found at Hobby Lobby. Evidence that you can get almost anything that resembles a body to work.

We ripped the existing base off the display form and replaced it with a wooden dowel. The dowel fit into a sturdy cast iron base and was a huge improvement over the rickety wooden one. Class begins with taking about 25 body measurements. We then draft a moulage, or mold, of the body. The drafted moulage pattern is cut from sturdy muslin and tested on the body. Fit adjustments are made and transferred back to the paper pattern. When all looks good, we cut the final dressform cover from heavier muslin and do one last fit check.

The muslin cover is draped onto the form. Placement and amount of padding is assessed and we start padding the form to fill out the cover. Depending on where padding is needed, I’ll suggest using various bust cups, cotton quilt batting or polyester batting. The poly batting is steamed to compress and firm up the shape. The display form fit her neck and shoulders surprisingly well. Bust, waist and hips can all be customized with layers of compressed batting.

At the opposite end of the dressform spectrum is a custom made full body form from Wolf. This student had wrestled with fitting problems for years and tried everything from body scan versions to this custom model but nothing seemed to address a key fit issue.

She had already drafted a custom cover to fine tune the fit. It needed firmer padding and a key adjustment for a high hip. After drafting the moulage it was test fit and elastic tied around the waist to pinpoint the fit issue. The right hip significantly higher causing skirts and pants to ride up on the right side. Notice the position of the waist when her back draft is laid out on a grid. Lowering the hem on that side really doesn’t fix the problem.

We carefully marked the dressform cover and added padding to duplicate the hip contours. The finished form is a much better fitting aid with balance lines correctly placed.

We tested the fit using several of her dresses. The new mannequin pinpointed the need for a slight full bust alteration to remove the drag lines around the bust dart. The moulage patter is used to create a custom sloper or basic pattern which can be used as the basis for drafting additional styles and correcting commercial patterns.

The next custom moulage/custom dressform class will be held January 10, 11 and 12 in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. For more information: Dressform Class

8 thoughts on “Custom Dress Forms”

  1. What an amazing class this is. Like many women, I struggle with body issues and then fit. I have tried various things with a mannequin only to start over time and time again. I can’t get to Florida but take inspiration from this marvellous post. Steaming polyester batting to make it firmer…who knew!!

    1. Thank you. I offer the course via Zoom. It does take more time and patience than being in-person. Happy to help if you have specific questions. Good luck with getting a perfect fit.

      1. I’m interested to hear that you do this course over zoom. I’ve tried doing this myself with limited success. And am also very interested to learn how to use your sloper to fit commercial patterns. I’m bookmarking this for next year (currently in the middle of decorating and making curtains and blinds so dressmaking is on the back burner for a short while). I hope to speak with you soon.

      2. I’ve worked with many students using the sloper to adjust commercial patterns and would be happy to work with you via Zoom. Good luck with your decorating projects and let me know when you want to concentrate on pattern work. Thanks for inquiring.

  2. One thing I have never seen addressed is length issues. I have a really long back waist, and my professional full body form is simply too shortwaisted to be able to drape on. Additionally, the crotch depth is an issue that is hard to resolve with the mannequin, which makes pants very hard to do on it.
    Do you address these issues in your class? I couldnt make it to Florida, but could do virtual.

    1. In order to extend or shorten the neck to waist length, you just need to have a form that isn’t larger at the point where you want the waist to be. That means that if your back waist length is much longer than average, your waist will sit somewhere along the high hip. That works for the half body (just torso). On a full body form, the problem would be that the new lowered waist would shorten the crotch length. If you really want to do both pants and dresses/jackets, then you would need two forms. The full body for pants so that the waist could be raised and a half body so you could lower the waist. Not sure if that’s just too involved. I’ve had success with quite a few complicated fitting issues in virtual classes. The process is longer and takes more trial and error on your part but I can usually pinpoint fit issues and suggest pattern fixes. Let me know if you want more info.

  3. Wow! I have this same hip issue, but with a slight twist in my spine, and it gives me fits when trying to do something high end. (For jeans I just go for “close.” Those photos really show how it can help. A custom dress form is definitely on my wish list.

    1. She had wrestled with fitting issues for years and knew about the high hip issue but doing the moulage and marking where the waistline was positioned in relation to the hips really pinpointed the problem. Having a dressform that duplicates your figure is such a game changer. Thanks for commenting.

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