Custom Sized Duct Tape Dress Form

duct tape dress form graphic

I am referred to as the “crafty one” in our family, but my cousin Mollie deserves a creative title of her own.  She is a better baker and cook, and a MUCH better seamstress.  (Although I set that last bar pretty low.)  Last summer she obtained a nice quality sewing machine, but hasn’t had much of a chance to use it.
She really wanted a dress form of her own so she could work on patterns for clothes (YES, she can sew actual clothes!), or even come up with patterns of her own.  Unfortunately, even used dress forms are gosh-awful expensive, especially if you are looking for an adjustable form.
Why did it have to be adjustable, you ask?  Well, nobody in our family is what you would call “standard size.”  But who is really?  To make clothes on a dress form and have them fit properly, some adjustments would need to be made.
Unless, of course, she had a dress form made to her own exact measurements.  What we needed was a perfectly custom-sized dress form that was both easy AND inexpensive to make.  Does that seem impossible?  All things are possible… with duct tape!

duct tape dress form materials

Mollie gathered together the materials to make her doppelganger, Millie the Dress Form.  Then, we followed along with this dress form tutorial from Little Pink Monster and tweaked as we went along.

duct tape dress form pretaping

We were pretty geeked to get started on the project, but our enthusiasm kind of ebbed and flowed throughout the night.  This is a project that can be done in one evening, but it is a bit labor-intensive.
Mollie was sure to wear clothes that she was willing to get rid of, since the clothes you wear under the duct tape need to be cut off with the tape later in the process.

tape bottom half

Mollie was beginning to realize that duct tape does not “give” much for breathing purposes.
Begin by wrapping the tape from what will be the bottom of the dress form up to the empire waist line.  Try not to wrap too tightly, as that will distort your natural figure. 

dress form layer one

We joked that we were going to send this picture to our cousin telling her this was Mollie’s dress for her upcoming wedding.
We followed Little Pink Monster’s tutorial for wrapping Mollie’s body in three layers of duct tape.  It was at this point I made her carefully waddle upstairs so we could cut off the tape.  Poor Mollie.

dress form cut off

So happy to be free of her duct tape Spanx.
Cut the duct tape up the back or side (cutting through the clothes as well), and re-tape the seam.  You should already see your dress form taking shape!

use cardboard to close off shoulder holes

Cut pieces of cardboard to fit in the neck and arm holes and tape them in place.  You will eventually do this to the bottom of the dress form too.

stuff the dress form through the shoulders

Next, we stuffed Millie (as we had named her) up to her shoulders using various kinds of soft, squishy filler.

install form on pole and finish stuffing

After she was properly filled to the shoulders, we mounted her on the PVC pipe.  We used PVC and an old tree stand because that’s what Mollie had lying around at home.  You can feel free to use an old floor lamp, patio umbrella stand, or whatever else your ingenuity can dream up.
TIP:  Make sure you are mounting your form at a comfortable height.  A 7 foot tall dress form isn’t very useful.
Next, we filled in the rest of the form with more stuffing.  This took awhile, especially since she was dropping filler about as quickly as we shoved it in.

You will want to overestimate the amount of stuffing you will need.  It takes a LOT of plastic bags and other filler, especially if you want a densely filled dress form.

mollie loves her dress form

I think the duct tape delirium was setting in here.
It took some adjusting and re-stuffing to get Millie’s proportions to match Mollie’s.  Use a measuring tape to re-measure your body against the dress form before closing up the bottom to make sure your measurements are correct.

duct tape dress form

Mollie decided Millie was too sad-looking in plain silver duct tape, so we finished her off by covering her in a layer of happy purple tape. 

finished dress form

This picture shows how accurate the custom form ended up being.  All the measurements are correct, not just the circumferences, but the other important measurements like distance from shoulders to bust!

millie the duct tape dress form

UPDATE:  When Mollie got Millie home, she dressed her in a few of her favorite dresses, noting how each dress fell.  Then she marked important guidelines like where the seams should lie, the center seam on the back, and neck and arm holes. She added strips of electrical tape to those positions to act as guides for future patterns.
The dress Mollie is wearing in the picture is the first piece she created using Millie.  She was able to design and create the dress without a pattern because she was using the dress form that is shaped just like she is!  P.S. How cute and talented is she?!?
For the cost of a few rolls of duct tape and an evening’s work, Mollie now has a totally custom dress form that she can use to make herself loads of fancy new clothes.  Now, I just have to make a Jess-sized dress form so she can make some for me too!
What you think of duct tape dress forms?  Crazy or brilliant?
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    • Tamara Skidmore says

      Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am a recreational sewer. I sew alot of clothes for myself because I’m trying to save money. And so many times I have troubles getting the fit out of my clothes that I want. I can’t wait to try this. Next time I make a skirt using this I’m hoping the waist will fit better! God bless you for sharing!

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