|Making any Dressform Work
The dressform is a wonderful fitting tool, provided it mimics the body as closely as possible. In order to make any dressform into this fitting tool, it must be padded appropriately.
The basic requirements for a dressform are
1. The form must be smaller than the individual it is intended to mimic. The most critical measurement is the high upper bust, front and back. That circumference and those two dimensions should ideally be equal to the individual’s measurements. They should never be larger. This requirement usually means that the dressform is smaller in the bust, waist, and/or hips than the individual, but that is not a problem, since those areas can be padded out to fit perfectly.
2. The form should have a firm stand. Having a stand with wheels is great.
3. The form should be height-adjustable.
4. The form, ideally, should be pinnable. By that I mean it should be easy to poke pins directly into the form. This is an aid when tissue-fitting patterns on the form, and it is simply easier to have a dressform that is one big pincushion. That does not mean that hard forms cannot be used. Once hard forms are padded out, they become more pinnable.
5. One has to start with an accurate set of measurements for the body. Some of the basics are:
a. Upper bust
b. Full bust
c. Shoulder length
d. Shoulder center to bust point
e. Shoulder to waist, front and back
f. Neckline to waist, front and back
g.Torso just under the bust, about an inch below the bra’s lower edge
The theory of padding:
Many firm dressforms mimic the exact body measurements but using them for a fitting tool often results in garments that are too large. This is because there is no “give” to the form. A padded out dressform has a “goosh factor”, I call it—a soft feel to it due to layers of padding under a firm cover. The form acts more like the human body: when I push my finger into the tummy area of my dressform, it indents the same amount as when I poke my finger into my own tummy area, for example. This results in clothing that fits the form more truly to the body, because the form has a “give” in places similar to the body’s. The firm cover over this padding mimics the skin.
How to pad out a dressform:
1. Using quilt batting, add a layer of batting around the torso. The batting pretty much sticks to itself, but you can pin or tape it in place for a temporary hold.
2. Put a bra on the form that fits you perfectly. This is important for two reasons. First, not all bust dimensions are the same. For example, some wearers of a 36B bra have cups that runneth over, while others have cups that runneth under, even though 36B is the correct size. Secondly, pads alone cannot always mimic the shape the bust takes when it is in the undergarment that is usually worn. By using the same bra worn by the individual and padding it appropriately, the bust area of the dressform will exactly mimic the body.
NOTE: It is important that the basic dressform’s cup size be smaller than or equal to the body, since it cannot be altered easily. Some manufacturers make a petite form with smaller cup sizes.
3. Pad the bra with fiberfill, to as closely mimic the actual shape of the bust as possible.
4. Add layers of fiberfill around the bra area in back to mimic the shape of the flesh in this area as needed.
5. Add shoulder pads under the bra straps if needed to exactly mimic the shoulder-to-bust apex or bust point measurement. Some people have one shoulder higher than another, for example.
6. Add more layers of quilt batting, and separate pads, if available/needed (some companies like Fabulous Fit sell pads separately for dressforms).
7. Measure, measure, measure!
8. When all of the padding is finished, pull a formfit slip (a slip made with lycra in it, sold at JC Penneys, Kohls, Walmart, TJ Maxx, etc.) or a bodysuit over the entire form.
9. Stand next to the form, turning slowly and turning the form as well, checking the body dimensions and shapes from all angles. Adjust stuffing as necessary.
10. Measure the form again, and compare to your measurements. Adjust stuffing as necessary.
11. Next, get at least 3 or 4 tops, blouses, skirts, pants, jackets, and dresses that fit you well and try them on the dressform. This is a really critical step, because although the measurements may be accurate, they may not allow for the way the garment fits on you. This allows you to adjust the padding some more in order to ensure that garments fit on the dressform the same way they fit on you.
12. When the fit is as close as possible, pin or stitch black twill tape onto the form, marking the following areas, ensuring that the distances and dimensions are accurate. For example, the center back neck to waistline measurement may not be the same as the center front neck to waistline distance.
c. Center Front
d. Center Back
e. Side seam areas
f. Crotch seam area
Following these steps should result in a dressform that can become a useful fitting tool. Best of luck, and happy sewing!