A title like this could contain a very sinister story but in our case it was my idea to wrap duct tape around me. If you are a garment sewer you might already have guessed that I was after a dress form.
I aim to make clothes that fit but the fitting process can be quite lengthy if you have to fit yourself. For me it usually includes sewing a muslin, putting it on and going to our bedroom that has a full length mirror to see how it fits. With just one mirror it is, however, quite difficult to assess fit because you can’t really judge the fit from the side and back because you distort the garment when bending your head and body in an attempt to see what the garment looks like. Usually, I’ll go downstairs to take some pictures so I can assess what the garment looks like from those angles. I find pictures really helpful to assess fit issues.
When the fit issues are clear it is time to make adjustments. It is easiest to make adjustments to a garment when it is on a body. When the garment is on your own body that does create some challenges. Adjustments to the front are usually doable. I’ll do them in front of the aforementioned mirror (all the while worried that I end up leaving pins in our bed, on my boyfriend’s side…). Adjustments to the back are more difficult. Most places are problematic to reach without ending up with a back injury so it often involves a lot of taking the garment off, guessing what needs to be done, trying it on (often also taking more pictures) and then trying something else. This can go on for quite a long time because I’m also still learning how to fix certain issues and a lot of what I do is trial and error.
I’ve been thinking for a long time that a dress form would be extremely helpful to decrease the time spent fitting. If I can make the initial large adjustments on a dress form and only have to do the final tweaking on my own body the whole process should go a lot faster.
My first thoughts went to a commercial dress form but I quickly realized that even if they are of the adjustable variety I’ll never get one that is exactly like my own body. I think the future of dress forms will include a body scanner and a 3D printer that recreates your body to perfection but I haven’t been able to find a company that already offers this (and at first it’ll probably be insanely expensive) so I went with the next best thing: duct tape.
There are loads of tutorials out there on how to make a dress form using duct tape so I’m not going into all the details here. I’ll just give three top tips. Use a close fitting t-shirt as a base and not a garbage bag. The fabric of the t-shirt adds a lot of support to the duct tape shell and I believe this helps the form to keep its shape. Use non-stick scissors when you cut the dress form open to get out. Lastly, when closing the cut, start taping from the inside with the small lengths of duct tape and try to align the cut as best as you can. If you are happy with the alignment, put some tape on the outside as well, then move onto the next segment. Taping from both sides will make the seam stronger and you’ll have less chance the form will pop open at some point.
I started with a long sleeved scoop neck t-shirt but sewed some ribbed knit onto the neckline to create more of a turtle neck because I wanted to include part of my neck in the form (it’s easier to start with a turtle neck but I didn’t have one). Because my hips are the widest part of my body I find they also affects how tops look on me so I decided to include my hips and upper legs in the form as well so I also wore close fitting sports pants.
We used one layer of duct tape and two layers on some areas that I felt needed some more support. I bought two rolls of 50 meter each but we ended up using less than one roll. I would advise you to buy more than you think you’ll need because you don’t want to realise half-way through taping that you’re running out and need to go to a store to buy more. It’s not that comfortable to be wrapped in duct tape…
You should choose someone you trust to do the taping because it’s quite an intimate process. It was also a bit scary to have someone use scissors this close to my bottom.
My form was stuffed with filling from old pillows and some stuffed toys filling. I chose to put a hanger inside so I can hang the form somewhere when fitting. If you don’t include the legs you could also make it so it stands on a desk or insert a stand. In a future sewing room I’ll probably make something on the wall so I can hang the form permanently. For now I’ll make do with a hook a previous tenant left in our bedroom ceiling. The only thing she really lacks is collapsible shoulders, but I think that feature will have to wait until those body scanning companies are up and running.
Do you have a dress form and do you find it helpful for fitting?