My boyfriend wrapped me in duct tape

frontA 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.

backWhen 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.

sideI’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.

Cut open dress form. I later cut off the top of the pants that wasn't attached to the duct tape.

Cut open dress form. I later cut off the top of the pants that wasn’t attached to the duct tape.

 

Feeling a little deflated...

Feeling a little deflated…

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.

Getting some shape as the form is stuffed.

Getting some shape as the form is stuffed.

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.

duct tape dress form

Do you have a dress form and do you find it helpful for fitting?

September 1, 2014

Emmely Treffers

About Emmely

I am a sewing enthusiast from the Netherlands. I live in the Leiden area with my husband and two daughters and I am currently working as a senior researcher in molecular virology. With my quilting patterns and sewing blog I want to infect as many people as possible with my love for sewing.

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21 Comments

  1. allthoughtswork

    Who knew all those quiet seamstresses in JoAnn Fabrics were so kinky? 😉

    Reply
  2. Kristin

    I have a dress form that is foam. “Betty” is a pain in the butt. She never really mimics my real body even after hacking and what not. I’m really interested in the duct tape method; however, I’m really claustrophobic. Did you feel trapped while doing this? Any suggestions on that end? LOL. I love that you now have an exact replica of your body. I think this will help you with fitting tremendously!

    Reply
    • Emmely

      Only near the end it became a bit restrictive. You’re not supposed to wrap the tape really tight, I was still able to breathe properly. The shoulders/arms and neck are more restrictive. We taped my neck last because I thought that part would be most uncomfortable to have duct tape wrapped around. I think it helps if the person that is doing the taping knows what he or she is supposed to be doing in advance so the taping process itself can be done as fast as possible. It took us 30 minutes or so to apply it all.

      Reply
      • Kristin

        Thanks for the great tips! I’ll be sure to have my Mom help and not my husband. LOL he would get a kick out of it all. 😉

        Reply
        • Emmely

          I hope this method works for you, good luck!

          Reply
  3. CurlsnSkirls

    Thank you sooo much for showing this, with all your helpful hints. Have wondered about doing this with a friend, but never had the tape & the friend & the time all at once. Love the hanger idea, and would also want to do the lower body, for the same reasons! Do keep us posted on any further alterations you find necessary.
    What are you going to call her?!
    xx del

    Reply
    • Emmely

      Not sure yet whether I’ll give her a name. I think I’ll first have to use her a bit to see how it all works out.

      Reply
  4. katechiconi

    I made one of these a few years ago, but I didn’t use it that much, probably because I don’t make as many of my clothes as you do! I found that more layers of tape was good, because it made the form much firmer and it needed less stuffing, but the hook in the neck is a great idea. The other thing to watch out for is that you mustn’t put a dent in it, because it’ll never flatten out again properly, so don’t drop it or bang into it.

    Reply
    • Emmely

      I worried that with more layers it would get too large and no longer really mimick my size. It feels quite firm now and I am also storing it hanging to prevent dents, that is a good point.

      Reply
  5. Jilly

    I have a fashion dress form, but it is useful go hemming and some fitting but not as much if it were a exact replica of me. I like the black!

    Reply
    • Emmely

      I specifically chose black, most duct tape is silver, but I don’t really like how that looks! You can also get it in a lof of fun colours, purple, green, blue etc., but that was a lot more expensive per meter…

      Reply
  6. Kathy Lynch

    I too have been thinking….then procrastinating….then thinking some more….about which type of dressform I should get. The lower body would be necessary for me too (same reasons!). Thanks for giving me more food for thought Emmely…something else to procrastinate about perhaps? LOL Cheers from Australia!

    Reply
    • Emmely

      It was a long process for me as well. Also because a dress form does take up a lot of space. The duct tape is a cheap option though.

      Reply
  7. Linda of Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

    I do have a dress form (“Dolly”). I have dialled in on her the inches, but I have also padded her waist and put on one of my own bras (stuffed) to get that right. I think your 3D/computer imaging idea is better though. Then again, maybe it is more fun to have your partner wrap you in duct tape!

    Reply
    • Emmely

      He first thought he could simply stick one end of the tape to me and then run around in circles to attach the rest. It was a bit of a disappointment when it turned out he actually had to be a bit more careful how and where the tape was put.
      Do you find that you got the shape right with the padding? I think I would find it difficult to determine where exactly to put it and how much.

      Reply
      • Linda of Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

        What a funny picture you have described! Well let’s say that Dolly has my exact measurements, but she doesn’t have the same squishy spots and lumps that I do here and there… so she is good for the start but I still have to try my garment on to finish… Or hope that my squishy spots and lumps get pushed flat – which isn’t always the best fit!

        Reply
        • Emmely

          Ah, the squishy lumps and bumps that make us all unique. I expect to need to do the final fitting steps on my own body as well. Only time will tell…

          Reply
  8. Lyric

    Can’t wait to delve into this post. Bottom line I can’t afford a french dressform and this may just the way I HAVE to go in getting one. From the articles I’ve read I get discouraged at the part after all the taping and you need a stand to put it on. Nevertheless, I NEED a dressform.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with it, Emmely. Now, I’m off to re-read it more closely.

    Cheers,

    Lyric
    http://www.sewlyricallyvintage.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • Emmely

      Good luck making one!

      Reply
  9. memoriesdust

    I use a dressform I brought, Its handy for holding up a garment while I pin etc but you are right even with all the adjustments made its not exactly like my body shape. Especially the waist and shoulders. This looks interesting!

    Reply
    • Emmely

      I still need to really test the form with an actual pattern (where does all that spare time go when you need it?) but to me the form looks really promising and similar to my real shape.

      Reply

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