Body Forms

Body forms can be very useful for sewing and patternmaking. The challenge is getting one that resembles your figure that is affordable.  There are a number of options:

Basic Cheap Dress Form

Basic cheap dress form purchased from a fabric/sewing store (such as Spotlight in Australia).  You can also buy them online.  Some of these are expandable, some not. Even the expandable ones are (in my opinion) not that good unless you have The Standard Figure.  The shortcomings are not just limited to the fit, they are the quality of the product; lightweight and not sturdy, difficult to pin in places where the expanding produces gaps.

Good Quality Dress-form

A good quality dress form, obviously more expensive.   Very difficult to get in Australia, and the ones that are available are extremely expensive.  One of the really good brands in the USA is the Wolf Form.  If you’re Australian and you want a good form, it’s probably better to buy it directly from the US.  Even with shipping, it will probably be cheaper than purchasing it in Australia.

Custom Made Dress Form

A custom made dress form, made to your measurements.  This is easier and cheaper if you live in the USA. Two companies that make custom forms are; Superior Models – and Wolf Dress Forms  From the perspective of an Australian, these custom forms aren’t that expensive, but getting it shipped is another expense and a difficulty.  I inquired twice about the cost of shipping, and whether they could in fact ship it, and did not receive a response!  (Actually, I received an email from Superior Model saying someone would get back to me, but they never did).

Custom Made Replica of Your Body

A custom made replica of your body, such as my body cast, which was made in fiberglass.  Although it good in some ways – ie. good to have an exact replica of my body to understand the fitting issues, not so good for pinning, and I have difficulty getting some things on and off.

Sew Sister makes custom body forms from 3D Printing from a dense polystyrene.

Duct Tape Form

Making a Duct Tape Form.  If you do a search on the internet for body forms, you will find lots of videos about making your own dress form with Duct Tape.  This is the cheapest option available, and I tried this out. Many people on the web swear by it and say they find it useful and better than shop purchased forms. I didn’t have a very good outcome.  I couldn’t get the final form stiff enough to make it useful.  Below are some images that were taken while making it, but I forgot to take a photo of the final ‘form’ before I threw it out. (I found it quite useless).

EXAMPLE: Custom Body Form – Fibreglass

I had a fibreglass form made by

As mentioned above, I found it very useful to understand my body.  I have no regrets for the getting it made, even though it was quite expensive.  However, I would also like to have a custom-made mannequin that is easier to use in terms of making patterns.  I find getting some items of clothing on and off very difficulty, as well as pinning. EX

EXAMPLE: Custom Body Form – Polystyrene by Sew Sister

You can have a Body Form made from a 3D scan by Sew Sister.

Here in Australia, you can have this done by Hollie in Canberra, her website is:

If you don’t live in the ACT, Hollie can still make your body form; check out her website for the details of having your measurements taken in any mPort machine.  She is an mPort partner, and she can get your details of the body scan and print your 3D custom form.  The cost is around $700, but I don’t know if that includes postage.

Example: Making a Duct Form

Here are three images of making the Duct Tape Body Cast.  It was kind of fun and interesting, but in the end, I didn’t find it useful.  I found it very difficult to fill it so it was solid enough to use.

I had to wear a skivvy or something underneath that could be cut up.  It got more and more difficulty to breathe as the duct tape went on.  It got tighter and tighter…… It’s very hard to put the tape on loosely!

Once I had enough duct tape, I cut down the back, through both the tape and the skivvy, and took it off like a garment.

Once off, it kept its form to some extent; it sat on the table upright for a while, before sinking down on one side.

The website giving directions said to fill it with various fillings (including the foam that expands).  I tried various things but never managed to get it sturdy enough to be of any use.

9 Responses

  1. Hi Maria,

    I’ve just found your amazing website and I’m in the process of reading all your fantastic resources.
    I wanted to tell you about a product that has helped me so much: a hard polystyrene dress form made from a 3D body scan. The only thing about it that isn’t 100% perfect is the armscye, and that’s because I have “bingo wings” and the way I had to stand for the 3D scan didn’t allow me to lift my arms enough. Anyway, the forms are available here:

  2. Hello there Samantha,

    Thank you so much for that information. I was wondering when something like that would become available. At at moment I just can’t afford to get the polystyrene one, but I’ll definitely put it on my wish-list. My fiberglass one was fantastic to get a good understanding of my fitting issues – it is so useful to see your body from an outsider’s perspective, the the polystyrene one would be wonderful for draping and pinning, etc.

    I will definitely mention Holly’s custom dummies on my website for other Australians who might be interested in it and can afford it, and ask her if she minds me linking to her website. Thanks again for that info.

    Glad you’re finding my website useful. What part of Australia are you in?

  3. I am not sure if it is available in Australia, but I had gotten a pattern from bootstrap to make a dress form from my measurements. It takes labor to sew and fill it but I was very satisfied with it.

  4. Hi Amber

    I just had a look and the measurements that you supply in order to have the patterns drafted does not include the Upper Bust. In which case I can’t see that everyone would get a good result.

  5. Hello Tomoko

    I have looked at that site, and a few others like it in the past. When I note that they don’t include the Upper Bust Measurement, then I don’t bother going any further. I haven’t looked at this site right now as I just don’t time, but I suspect they still don’t. The point of my article was getting a body form ‘that fits’. If the Upper Bust measurement isn’t factored into the fit, then their blocks/patterns will not produce a good fit for those who have more than a 2 inch differences between their Upper Bust and Bust.

  6. Hi Maria – I am not sure how old this blog post is, but here in the US we have a fantastic resource for a custom, pinnable dress form, Beatrice Forms <> I have had mine for about a year, and it is invaluable. Plus the owners are very accessible, and have created an online community, The Beatrice Collective, that is also terrific. I know that they have just recently developed the ability to ship to the UK, but don’t know if that includes Australia. Best wishes!

  7. I wanted to add a comment here to say there’s another custom dress form that’s available if you’re in the USA — Ditto Form ( I chose that one in particular because the dress form comes with your full shoulders (though not your bicep), which is one of the areas I have the hardest time fitting. It also extends about a handspan down past your crotch, which includes leg separation (though not actual legs). It’s a small business and the owner is very friendly and responsive, but they do the 3D scans by traveling around the country and booking you in when they’re in your location, so it’s not the fastest option.

  8. Hi Maria – I made a bootstrap form according to the very thorough work instruction that came with it. It was very accurate to my measurements by tape, but the other parameters are subjective, so I likely was a bit off. I wish I’d had someone to take my measurements. I draped a sloper on the finished form and tried it on – terrible fit. So I did what the work instruction said NOT to do, I sewed the pattern up empty with 2 inches ease, put it on and started alterations – I guess this is called a moulage. Turns out I’m as asymmetrical as my good scissors. I transferred the alterations into the existing dressform without much trouble, didn’t even unstuff it – (reminded me of the Scarecrows’ spa scene in the Wizard of Oz) and draped sloper#2- which fit me very well on the first crack! Having found my twelve inch upholstry needle, I next plan on contouring in the flat bony chest that sits above the correctly sized DDs. Fun fact – you can reduce the pattern pieces on a copy machine to 50%, cut with no seam allowance out of craft foam, glue or zigzag it together, and stuff with whatever – an accurate pinnable 1/2 size form is yours! Note: I think if one is young, symmetrical, and accurately measured, the bootstrap will likely serve without customization.

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