Do-it-yourself Dressform


When you make clothes for a child, you run into one big problem – the child isn’t always there.  If you want to buy a brand new child-size dress form, you’re going to spend a minimum of $100, and they aren’t adjustable like the good adult-size ones.  So, if you want a dress form that’s your child’s size, expect to buy a new one about every 2 years, less if your child grows slowly.  I don’t know about you, but collecting dress forms at $100 buck a pop just didn’t sound fun to me, so I’ve been limited to sizing clothes when my daughter’s around.  When your daughter is a competition gymnast and a Girl Scout, she just isn’t around.Anyway, one day, while shopping for the fabric for the designs that inspired this blog, I decided that I was just going to price dress forms.  Fortunately for us all, I typed in “child size mannequin” instead of dress form.  That’s when I found this amazing tutorial.  It was amazing!  The ability to make a mannequin for under $20?!?  Excellent!  I therefore set out to make my own, for the .  The materials you’ll need to make my version of the mannequin:

  • Measuring tape
  • Wooden Dowel
  • Flower pot (make sure the dowel fits snugly in the drain hole)
  • Hot Glue & Glue Gun
  • Bath Towel
  • Quilt Batting
  • Packing tape
  • Muslin
  • Needle & Thread
  • A partner
All the materials

All the materials

Here are the steps I took to make my own, especially for my daughter:

1.  Measure your child’s shoulder height, neck length (chin to shoulder height), and torso length (shoulder to where the bottom meets the thigh).  Measure him or her around his/her shoulders, chest, natural waist (at the belly button), and the waist.  Write all that down.
2.  Cut the dowel rod 2 inches longer than your child’s shoulder height.
3.  Turn the flower pot upside down and insert the dowel into its drain hole.  Mark the dowel at the top of the flower pot.

Marking the height of the flower pot.

Marking the height of the flower pot.

4.  Take the dowel out.  Depending on how snugly your dowel fits in the pot’s drain hole, wrap 1 to 2 layers of duct tape centered on your pencil mark.  This will make the hole watertight.

I used 1 piece of duct tape torn in half lengthwise to get two layers.

I used 1 piece of duct tape torn in half lengthwise to get two layers.

5.  Place the dowel back in the drain hole (you might have to work it to get it in).  Hot glue around the hole and allow to cool.

6.  After the glue has dried, cut a strip of quilt batting that has a width of your child’s neck length.  The length of the strip will vary by your child’s neck circumference.  I just cut a few strips from the top of my quilt batting roll and figured that I’d cut more as I needed.  At the top of your dowel, put a bead of glue about as long as the width of your strip:
Press the batting onto the glue (not to hard, or you’ll burn yourself 60 times like I did) then put 2 beads of glue around the circumference of the dowel, one at the top of your batting strip, and one at the bottom.  Wrap the batting around the glue and press.  Continue to add glue and wrap until you finish the strip.  IMPORTANTAt the end of a strip, always put a vertical bead of glue and then start the next strip the same way.  Measure the neck circumference regularly until you get to your childs’ (it’s always better to go a little over).  You’ll be left with what looks like a giant roasting marshmallow:

The dressform's neck

The dressform’s neckDSCN0856

7.  I’m not totally sure why the original tutorial has you make the body out of a towel, but I’m sure that the poster had extras lying around.  If that’s the case, you can make the body completely out of towels/blankets or you can use only quilt batting.  I did both.  First, I laid the towel on the floor and folded the long ends until the towel was the same length as my daughter’s torso.  Then I hot glued the folded parts down.

Look!  A towel!  How exciting!

Look! A towel! How exciting!

Then, I proceeded to glue the towel onto the dowel (hah, those rhyme!) in much the same way as I did the neck piece.  The only difference was I did 4 or 5 beads around the circumference instead of just 2 at the top and bottom.  When I ran out of towel, I continued with quilt batting until the roll was the same circumference as my daughter’s shoulders (that bit’s important).
8.  Here is where I drastically changed from the original tutorial.  The woman who made the mannequin did just that – she made a mannequin. It was to display clothes on, not size clothes with, so it doesn’t have to look like a human.  I wanted a dress form, so I improvised.  First, I had my daughter “hug” the batting from the side to squeeze it into a more oblong shape.  Then I wrapped packing tape vertically from the bottom of the torso, over the shoulders, and back down again.  I did 2 or three strips of packing tape on each shoulder in this way.

If you're wondering, I could have used duct tape, but packing tape seemed easier to reposition, if I got it wrong.

If you’re wondering, I could have used duct tape, but packing tape seemed easier to reposition, if I got it wrong.

9.  Then, an inch or so down from the shoulder (this will differ depending on your child’s arm width), I wrapped my measuring tape around the body and pulled it to where it was my daughter’s chest measurement.  I had her hold the tape like that and wrapped packing tape around the body just below the measuring tape (having 2 types of tape here is confusing, sorry).  I wrapped it tight enough that the batting shrank to the size of her chest.  We repeated this at the waist and hips (they are smaller than the shoulders) et voila!  It looked like a person!

Well, you know, as much as this can look like a person...

Well, you know, as much as this can look like a person…

10.  Now we return to the original tutorial.  Use left over “neck” strips or cut some more and wrap them around the neck and down to create the curve from neck to shoulder.  One or two layers should do it.

It looks like she's wearing a scarf.

It looks like she’s wearing a scarf.

11.  At this point, I pulled the neck piece up and wrapped the whole thing in muslin.  At some point, I’m going to trim the muslin up and sew it on…someday.  I had some problems because the dowel was now so top heavy that it was off center and wobbly.  I suppose that’s the draw of the torch stand that’s in the original, but I couldn’t find one.

It's a ghost!!

It’s a ghost!!

12.  I couldn’t work with it, because it was so wobbly and off center.   That picture up there doesn’t do it justice, but the dressform was leaning at about a 5-10º angle.  This wouldn’t work for even hems!  So, my dad had this great idea!  We hung the dressform upside down between two chairs (I really wish I had a picture of this) by the flower pot.  We then mixed plaster of Paris into the flower pot and let it set over night.



The plaster secured the dowel in a perfectly vertical configuration due to the fact that hanging it upside down made the dressform obey gravity.  The duct tape and hot glue made the drain hole water tight, and we didn’t have plaster go anywhere we didn’t want it to.

So, there’s my homemade dressform.  I hope that you enjoy it, and I’d love pictures of your own.  I’m sure you could make it for an adult, but I haven’t tried it yet.


2 thoughts on “Do-it-yourself Dressform

  1. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself
    or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. cheers

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