Tuesday, November 10, 2009

dress forms

You may recall the fiasco that was my attempt to make a duct tape dress form. Needless to say it hasn't been used and I have no desire to reproduce the experience or making it, even with the superior gummed tape. But my desire for a dress form just grows. In recent months I have been doing a lot of refashioning and making garments without patterns and this involves a lot of taking half finished and pinned pieces on and off and attempts to fit things in a mirror. Hardly ideal!

Previous attempts to locate a dress form in my size has proved pretty fruitless. All the ones I found online were overseas and offered by companies that don't ship internationally. I did find one, but the customer reviews about the quality of the mechanisms for adjusting it were so scathing I was convinced it wasn't a good idea.

I did find an aussie ebay seller who imports dress forms and sells them at a reasonable price, but their larger size was just a fraction too small for me. Despite supposedly fitting up to size 20, the measurements are smaller than mine and I wear a size 18. Yet another dead end!

And then it occurred to me to ask my local fabric retailer if she could order in dress forms in larger sizes. While she didn't have the size known as fuller figure, the manufacturer of the style she had on her books did make it so she said she'd find out for me. In the same instant it dawned on me that getting it back to Melbourne would be a bit of a pain so I rang a couple of places in Melbourne to make the same inquiry. Experience so far tells me that there is a lot of price variation (I have been quoted between $195 and $395 for the exact same thing!) so I decided to do my research on this one. Clegs came back to me fastest and they could get me a fuller figure, though at $395 I was looking at a fair bit more than I thought I would have to pay.

I also realised that while all the forms I have looked at are made by the same manufacturer, Clegs only carry the supafit model, while my local store and my favourite store, Tessutis only stocks the Diana model. In searching for reviews it seems the Diana is a sturdier and easier to adjust model with a better stand, and it was the short comings on the supafit that I had read about with the very first place I looked to buy.

But a side benefit of trying to find reviews and comparisons of the different models (through this fantastic sewing forum discussion site) I found a long thread about padding out dress forms. Not only does it seem possible, but most of the experienced hands recommend padding as a way of achieving a shape closer to your body. You see adjustability to the right measurements is one thing, but mimicking the distribution of those measurements on your body is a whole other thing. Those who hadn't padded their forms repeatedly posted that their dress forms never got used while those who had made their forms look more like themselves found them really useful. And of course if you are going to pad it out, you want the actual form to be smaller than yourself.

So now I am contemplating buying one in the easier to get smaller size and doing the work to make it look as much like me as I can! I'd love to hear from anyone about their experiences padding models out, reviews of different models or recommendations of places to buy.

Edited to add -

I just read through another tutorial on fitting a form to your shape (thanks for the link Nichola!) and found a couple of interesting things. The first is, the author recommends distributing your padding more evenly than you are in reality and claims this will make your garments look better. I'd like to know how, so I'm posting a comment and will let you know!

The second thing I found was that reading through the comments section there are recommendations for two form types I hadn't come across. Unlike the standard dial adjustable types I've looked at, the Fabulous Fit has a solid base with a padding fit system and removable cover. This means it is adjustable by size and shape and saves you the trouble of making your own padding and cover to fit. I gather this is the kind of form used by professionals and I can see why. Sadly, it stops at an American size 16, but the Uniquely You, which has many similarities goes up to a 50" hip with adjustments via the covering. And this company ships to Australia! Of course, while the form is only $139, the shipping here is $254.38!!

But aside from the issue of cost, another comment got me thinking about another problem. I hate how if ever I buy commercial patterns I measure myself accurately and find that the pattern size chart says I'm a size 26 or so. I know I may choose a size 18 or 20 in commercially made clothes, but the pattern says that for my measurements I need a size 26. If I make the garment in the size 26 (don't laugh - I've done this!) it is of course miles too big. I don't know why this is, but I basically don't use commercial patterns so I avid dealing with it. But it occurs to me - what if the dress form is the same? What if I buy one and find it is way too big? One commenter on the above post had exactly this experience and I can't imagine what I'd do if I paid $250 shipping only to have to return it!

Anyone else been down this road and know what I'm talking about?


dotted lines said...

I made one out of paper tape, and it's not bad, but generally things are too large when I make them on that form. It's also challenging because you can't pin into it!

The idea of padding out a dress form is something I've seen before, but I've never really sat down and thought about. I have a feeling I know what I'll be getting myself for Christmas! :)

Michelle said...

What you write is very interesting. On a whim I bought the larger sized Singer model a few years ago, but it is a couple to a few inches smaller than me. I didn't mind too much at the time, as it's main purpose was to model my unfinished garments and guilt me into finishing them. Never quite did that (!) but recently I've been thinking it would be much more useful padded out to my size. I shall check out the forum you link to and see what they say. I think it could be a goer.

Kate said...

Why does fabulous fit have a whole different form for bridal?

I have been fantasising about this recently. Well, I have an overlocker on the way, so I guess this is next! I do think it would make a difference to my ability to do things easily. Like hemming, for instance! I'm trying to reduce the barriers to entry for sewing, and I feel like that's soemthing it's worth investing in early. But it's all so confusing!

Arielle said...

I just want to comment on the redistribution advice on that blog (I read it a while ago).

I disagree with this advice.

Unless you wear specific underwear EVERY DAY and, thus, pad you dressform to mimick this shape, what would be the point?

The same way it's common sense to fit clothes over the appropriate underwear (padded bra, corset, racer back etc.), if you make your dressform to fit ONE shape, what happense when you change shape/underwear.

Your clothes will NOT fit.

I speak from experience. I made couple of sundresses in 05. At the time, I had a hüberpadded strapless bra (only one I could find locally) and now I look funny in the bust because I fitted the dresses for that bra.

Bottom Line: if you're goign to spend time, money and energy on adjusting a dress form, stick to reality. IMO.

Barbara van der Marel said...

Hi...I just read your post and I had to snort when I got to the part where you tell about your experience with commercial patterns...I thought I was the only one who got so annoyed by that. And flabergasted too...I mean, seriously, how hard is it to measure the *&^% thing properly.

My husbands aunt, who used to be a handcrafts teacher, told me too measure the patterns on the paper, to get a close enough fit. Maybe you could give that a go.

Hope you've found a dress form that works for you by now...I am still debating buying a Diana one or making one myself using a plaster bandage mold.