Coveting a dressmaker’s dummy

There’s something human-shaped missing from my sewing life. I’ve been coveting my very own adjustable dressmaker’s dummy for some time now.

Once upon a time, I found a ratty mannequin at a flea market in Germany. I snapped it up for 25 euro and got some funny looks on the way home, clutching this tea-stained dress form as the metro whizzed underneath Dortmund.

I ended up naming it Sally, as you do. Sally was a bit broader in the back than I was, so I couldn’t really drape accurately using the form, but it was so handy to have a general idea of what a garment would look like without having to put it on and inspect it in front of the only full-length mirror in the house.

At the moment, fitting a garment is an odious case of trial and error as I guesstimate how much needs to be taken from a waist of a dress for it not to look like a potato sack. I often feel like a human pincushion as I wiggle my way in and out of half-finished items in an effort to get the fit just right.

So I guess it’s safe to say I’m in the market for a new Sally. There are a few options I could go for:

Buy new

Probably the most expensive and un-Seamless option, there are plenty of places I could get a brand-new dress form. John Lewis have a whole host of dress forms on sale starting at £139 for the Easyfit model. Not my first port of call as you’d imagine, but John Lewis do sell some good quality sewing wares so might be worth checking out.

Second-hand or vintage

Much more Seamless-like, don’t you think? Ebay always has a few vintage or second-hand dress forms on sale, but the price will fluctuate depending on how much competition there is for your chosen dummy. You never know, you might just get lucky. Also, I spotted a few ads for second-hand dummies on auction site alternative Preloved.

Do it yourself!

Yup, it’s possible to make your very own dress form. There are several tutorials available on the internet, the most popular being the duct-tape method. A more time-consuming but potentially rewarding method involves making a plaster mould of your upper half. You’ll need a good friend to help you out with either one – needless to say, it’s far cheaper than either of the first two options.

Personally, I’ll probably go on the hunt for a second-hand dress form if I can get a good price. Sad to say, I once passed up an amazing vintage wooden dress form I found in a charity shop in Swansea. It was the worst timing really, I’d just packed everything to move out of my flat and there was definitely no room for it, but I still wonder if it would have been worth the hassle anyway.

Do you own a dressmaker’s dummy? I’m dying to know if anyone’s had any success with the duct tape method!

25 thoughts on “Coveting a dressmaker’s dummy

  1. Vicki Kate says:

    I’m saving for a lady valet form. Not in tune with my pledge but I intend it to be a lifetime investment, so I’m happy buying new… Karen at did you make that went for one of these and is really lovely about answering questions!

    • Elena Cresci says:

      Ooh, I’ll give her an email. I was eyeing up the Lady Valets to be honest – as you say, it’s an investment rather than just an “oh hey new thing” type purchase.

  2. fatima says:

    My grandmother had a 1940s mannequin that I desperately wanted from her house when we had to clean it out, but it was soiled with mold. Alas, I am still in the market for one.

  3. dressesandme says:

    I would love a dress form so much but alas they are hundreds of dollars here in nz. I’m laying the hints on pretty think with the bf rIght now though. Fingers crossed!!

  4. sewbusylizzy says:

    I got myself a dummy from eBay. It was new and ‘petite’ but it’s still not small enough and it’s such poor quality. I wish I hadn’t wasted my money on it.
    I made a dress which is on display at work and I turns out a shop dummy is perfect. I’m going to save up and buy the same dummy from a shop fitting supplier. It’s cheap at $120 Australian – I’m lucky to be very standard proportions.

  5. BeingZhenya says:

    I am looking for one on Craigslist and Freecycle, but will probably have to get one on Ebay in the end, I am planning on starting Apparel Design classes in January, so I’ll definitely need a dress form!

  6. Roisin Muldoon says:

    I don’t have one, and I am with you on the fitting. I would like one, one day when I live somewhere where I have a dedicated sewing space. Right now I live in a small flat and the dummy would have to stay in the bedroom or in the living room and to be honest, I don’t fancy having a headless limbless torso on a stick on permanent display in either of those rooms!

  7. Sarah says:

    I have a creepy range of childrens wolf forms, which I actually have on display in my house. It really unsettles people who have never seen a dress form before (can you believe they even exist???). I’ve got a 12 year old one which is just too small to pad out for me. 4 dress forms and nothing for me 😦

  8. annaintechnicolor says:

    I would *love* to get a dressform. However, being an unemployed college grad living at home means that I don’t have the budget nor space for one! But I definitely see the practicaility of them, especially when I watch Project Runway and the contestants can just put some tape on theirs and then drape muslin and that creates their pattern. To be able to do that with a dressform that is custom fitted to me (as opposed to having to buy a pattern, make a muslin, and fit it from there) would be fabulous!

  9. glanceobservecapture says:

    There is no way I would part with mine….even though she isn’t adjustable – she’s an old Singer model – she belonged to my Nanna who was a seamstress and I inherited her, she’s always been known as Headless Edna. I must have a thing about body parts as she’s got a friend called Leggy Peggy – a pair of gold legs who openly sports leopard print knickers! xox

    • Elena Cresci says:

      I love that you inherited yours from your grandmother! Do you use her at all even though she’s not adjustable? Great name too.

      Also – with regards to the legs, oddly enough my friend came back from a year in Madrid with a pair of plastic legs named LuLe (Luscious Legs, naturally). She and her old housemate have joint custody of LuLe, who sports foxy underwear I’m told…

      • glanceobservecapture says:

        Ha! loving the legs story! Yes, I still use Headless Edna – mainly for makings tops as I am quite broad shouldered and I like my tops quite loose so I can belt them in (no good for dresses though).

  10. Claire Cooper says:

    I have two. A large and small version of an adjustable form. My hubby bought the first one from Ebay and it came without a stand, the covering is losing it’s stick, but it still works. It was a little loo large for my figure – even on the smallest setting. So I used Ebay to find another. We found one reasonably locally, and for the right price. this one came with a stand and hem guide and had been very well cared for. My advice, know how much you would be willing to pay for your dress form and keep your eyes open. Often local pick up from non city centre locations tend to be the best options.

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