It’s a stressful time to be a dress form. She (or he) is under so much pressure to do it all – be anatomically correct, have a posture that mimics a real, live human being, and withstand the a seamstress’ pinning, which can get gruesome. But they’re one weapon of many in our arsenal to achieve the right fit, correct proportion and killer design, so it’s important that our best buddies in our sewing studios stay that way – our best buddies.
There’s a lot to consider when buying a dress form. Just like a car, not all forms are created the same. While all have a base with a body attached, there are major differences in the build and the quality. So, in an effort to break it down to you, The Shop Company, an online retailer that has incredible prices for dress forms, sent me one of their forms to review as well as show you what to look for when you’re on the hunt.
There are two types of dress forms. The first is a standard dress form, and this is the lesser expensive, cheaper option of the two. It’s used mostly as a display tool for sewers and retail shops. With a price below $100, it’s a good choice if you don’t plan to use it for pattern drafting, draping, etc. The second type is a professional dress form and these are used by sewers who want a more anatomically correct and adjustable form (collapsible shoulders). They cost much more than standard dress forms ($150 and above), but the price justifies their durability and versatility. For the sewer who wants to use the form as a tool for drafting, draping and designing, this is your best bet.
Do you want your dress form to be a body double or simply a hanger for in progress work? When I first investigated forms, I wanted one that would be my body twin, an exact replica of me. But the reasoning didn’t justify the price I would pay for a custom form. I was 18-years-old at the time, and since then, my body has changed and will continue to change. So why make a short-lived, hefty investment? Also, will you be making pants or mostly skirts? If you’re answer includes pants, you’ll want to purchase a form with legs. The same goes for sleeves and arms.
All professional dress forms will be either fully pinnable or partially pinnable. Fully pinnable forms have a thicker layer of foam that allows for the direct insertion of pins, which is very helpful when pinning heavy fabrics to the form. It will be hard for pins to hold up the weight on a partially pinnable form, since the pins can only go in at an angle.
Collapsible shoulders allow you to put tight fitting clothing onto a dress form. When you put a tight-fitting garment over your head, you raise your arms , and this makes your circumference measurement slightly smaller. Collapsible shoulders mimics this movement.
For most of us, a dress form will be in the ball park of our measurements, but not exact. To get it as close as possible, pad up areas that need more width. Another option for adjustability is to buy a dress form that has dials which allow sewers to adjust critical areas like the bust or the hips. While this is super helpful, it also creates problems as there are gaps in the dress form that make pinning difficult.
Can’t afford either option? Make your own! The supplies to make one won’t cost more than $50 and there are a ton of tutorials online. Melissa Jenkins, owner of Katastrophic Designs and one of my sponsors, even posted a tutorial on Madalynne not too long ago!
So, if you’re in the market for a dress form, professional or standard, check out The Shop Company. They not only have a large selection of forms, but also fixtures and display options (racks, hangers, etc) at amazing prices. Happy shopping!