The 8 Best Dress Forms
Getting The Most From A Dress Form
You could attempt to measure the hem while you’re wearing it, which is a major hassle, or while it’s lying on a flat surface, which often leads to an incorrect measurement.
And once you’ve finished lovingly crafting a garment, a dressmaker’s dummy offers you a fantastic way to display it.
Whether you’re new to sewing or a seasoned pro, you’ve probably considered investing in a dress form, also called a dressmaker’s dummy. You may have heard that they can stop you from making disappointing garments, garments that hang wonkily or that just plain don’t fit. As you sew from your pattern, you can place the garment on the form to check drape and positioning, stopping you from making errors and ultimately leading you down the path to a gorgeous dress, skirt, or shirt. But did you know that you can do much more with a dress form?
For instance, these handy items are perfect for obtaining a straight, no-headaches hem. Imagine that you’ve just bought a new dress, and it’s simply too long. You could attempt to measure the hem while you’re wearing it, which is a major hassle, or while it’s lying on a flat surface, which often leads to an incorrect measurement. Instead, you can simply pop the dress (or skirt) on your dress form and easily measure from all sides.
If you’re ready for more of a sewing challenge, you can use a dress form to begin creating your own sewing patterns. In fact, if you’ve got design ideas dancing around in your head, purchasing a dress form is one of the best ways to get started because it will allow you to begin draping. In this method of creating garments and patterns, the designer takes pieces of fabric, usually muslin, and works to build the shape of the garment around the form, cutting and pinning the fabric into place as he or she goes.
This is in contrast to the other most common method, called drafting, in which a fashion designer draws the pattern pieces on sheets of paper. The draping method can be much more forgiving to newer designers, since it lets them see how the fabric hangs and what the design looks like — instead of trying to work out the math for pattern sizes from a sketch. Of course, both methods do require skill and an understanding of the parts of garments and how these come together, but for newbies and the highly visual, drafting with a dress form is more approachable.
And once you’ve finished lovingly crafting a garment, a dressmaker’s dummy offers you a fantastic way to display it. Whether you’re giving the item to a friend or selling it, you can arrange the piece on the form in order to present it in style. You can also use the styled form for pictures, should you want to show off your creation on social media or your sewing blog.
Types And Features
Dress forms, like bodies, are not all the same; they come in various sizes with a range of features. While the size you choose should match the body you’ll be sewing for, the features you select will be informed by the manner in which you’ll use the dummy.
After all, your own shoulders squeeze and move when you need to shimmy into something tight, which is something a dummy can’t do.
First, think about whether you’ll use the form more for sewing and design or for display. Display forms are often less expensive and more decorative, perhaps made from pretty fabric or wire. While you can certainly use a display form for sewing tasks, you’ll probably want to select these models with fewer features if your goals are mainly aesthetic.
Next, consider whom you sew for: If that’s a variety of people (or you tend to gain and lose weight easily), you’ll most likely want an adjustable model. These let you make a range of key measurements bigger or smaller, including bust, waist, and hips. Most have dials that you turn to change the form’s size.
You’ll also need to assess how much padding your form needs. Some have thick padding that’s made to handle heavy garments, while others have thinner padding that works best for draping without a lot of serious pinning.
Finally, think about the shoulders. If you’ll be sewing tight garments, it’s probably better that your form has collapsible shoulders; otherwise, you’ll struggle to get the garment on and off it. After all, your own shoulders squeeze and move when you need to shimmy into something tight, which is something a dummy can’t do.
A Brief History Of The Dress Form
Collapsible shoulders, adjustability — the home dress form might seem to be a modern contrivance, perhaps one derived from professional tailors' forms or department store mannequins. Curiously, though, the dressmaking dummy is probably much, much older. In 1922, a British archaeologist named Howard Carter first began excavating the tomb of Tutankhamen, who ruled Egypt during the 14th century B.C.E. Inside, he found a solid gold coffin, trumpets, food, wine — and, next to the ruler’s clothing, an armless, legless wooden torso that matched the pharaoh’s measurements exactly. It is this ancient item that most historians believe to be the first dress form.
The King Tut form may have been the first, but it was by no means the last dress form of royalty.
The King Tut form may have been the first, but it was by no means the last dress form of royalty. Old English monarchs, queens who ruled before the French Revolution, and various European rulers all had forms modeled on their measurements, items that let royal tailors create garments literally fit for a king. These highly useful items descended to the common folk during the Industrial Revolution, when standardization and reproducibility became the norm. Mannequins made excellent displays in department store windows, and dummies helped individuals and businesses create clothing of uniform sizes.
Today, dress forms are no longer just for royalty or businesses, as evidenced by the wide number of these items available for purchase by at-home sewers. They’re quite deeply entrenched in the fashion zeitgeist, as well; a 1997 collection by Belgian designer Martin Margiela, for instance, featured a signature linen top styled to resemble a dress form. From tool of royalty to common but respected necessity, this modest item has left its mark on sewing culture across both history and the globe.