Search for the Perfect Dress Form

As any woman who has ever had a baby can tell you, our bodies are not rubber bands, and they don’t bounce back right away. It’s almost funny (almost) how many men seem to really think that: enter hospital pregnant, have baby, leave hospital in pre-pregnancy clothes. If only.

Five months ago, we brought home our fourth baby.  And five months later, I’m still not wearing my pre-pregnancy size.  It’s not that I think I’m fat–mostly, I’m struggling to fit into clothes that I really like, and I feel super bummed that nothing in my closet flatters me right now.  I know that all those fashion reality shows tell us to buy clothes for the body we have today and not the body we hope to have when we’ve lost the weight we’re planning to lose–and I think the philosophy is sound, that we’ll be more motivated to watch what we eat and exercise if we feel pretty and confident in our clothes–but if you sew your own clothing, that’s sort of a huge commitment, making a whole new temporary wardrobe.  Not to mention that I’ve hoarded some of these fabrics forever, and I’d rather not use them up on things that may or may not fit me a year from now.

So right now, I’ve been working with a lot of knits, things that I have some hope of fitting into now and that will fit me again later, after nursing is done and I’ve had a chance to get running again.  But I kinda feel as though I’m not using my time wisely: I could totally be working on long-term projects that will be investment pieces later, especially with all the fabulous wools I’ve got stashed away and fall coming fast.  If only I had a double of me, a copy of my body the way it was/will be, someone to model the projects I’m sewing when I can’t…

Enter: the Dress Form.  I think for a lot of folks who are new to sewing, this can seem like the official Badge of Sewmanship, the iconic piece of equipment that marks you as One Who Sews.  For me, it’s more like the Holy Grail, and I’ve been wanting to get one for aaaages.  But never quite knew which one to get.  I’ve done the Duct Tape Dress Dummy before, but it was killed in the Great Flood that ate my basement, and I think if I’m going to the trouble, I’ll just pop for the real deal this time.

So today, a round-up of the candidates as I narrow down my search and get ready to commit to a dress form.  Because I have big plans, I tell you, and I want the right lady friend to put them on.

  • Rae inspired me to look at Uniquely You, a dress form I’d heard of previously and whose adaptable sizing makes it my front-runner.  It’s a foam form that comes with a heavy-duty cover that you stitch to your exact measurements, making it totally personalizable.
  • Amanda of Amanda’s Adventures in Sewing put out a call to ask for advice and got this link back from her readers: Andy’s Dress Forms. I’m pretty sure this is the one we see in all her posts, and while it wasn’t cheap, it looks to be a very high quality custom dress form.  I also really like that these are available in a number of body types, and don’t assume we’re all shaped the same.
  • PMG Dress Form has professional-quality dress forms like we see on Project Runway–they’re also pricey, but they’re amazing and look just like what we’d hope to have and show off.  Plus, if you give up sewing, you can use it as decor, they’re so pretty.
  • Threads and Sew Stylish magazines recommend the Fabulous Fit form, which comes in all number of configurations and is also of professional quality.  I don’t know much about these, but can certainly see the appeal of a form that fits both tops/dresses and pants.
  • If you’d prefer an adjustable form, the go-to brand has always been Dritz.  These allow you to adjust bust, waist, and hip independently and are invaluable if you have or are losing a lot of weight and want to continue to sew through that transition.
  • Singer also makes an adjustable form that’s similar in style and quality to the Dritz.
  • And finally, if you happen to have piles of change burning a hole in your pocket, most folks agree that Wolf forms are the tops in the industry.  I’m not sure what puts them at double the price point, but I have it on good authority from those who have one that they’re worth the extra dough.

On the whole, these dress forms range from $99 up to $750, with most falling in the $200-$300 range.  It’s almost certainly a birthday/Christmas/Valentine’s Day combo gift for most of us–the kind of thing that you swear up and down if you get it you won’t expect a single other present the WHOLE YEAR.  And you mean it.

For myself, I’m still on the fence.  I think I’d like to lose the ten-ish pounds I’m still feeling not that great about, and then spring for one of these bad boys.  Until then, I’m enjoying some window shopping, and imagining how much more productive I’ll be once I have my very own double in the studio.

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  • Belinda
    October 14, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Can’t wait to see what you decide.
    I would love to have one too.

    At the moment, however, I’m really in the market for a simple, less expensive, pinnable, mannequin type of dress form that I can use for display and picture taking purposes.
    Any recommendations for one of those would be much appreciated!

  • Jennwith4
    October 14, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I was very blessed and my grandmother gave me her old dressform this summer! I don’t know what brand it is but it has knobs so you can adjust everything to your size. Iwas very excited but my excitement fell a little when I realized the bust would not go small enough. Ick. I haven’t used it quite yet but when I do I guess I’ll just make the ease in that area nonexistent so it will fit me. Goodluck dressform hunting! 😉

  • SBGirl
    October 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I’d say get a form, but also do the South Beach Diet for 2-3 weeks and you’ll win all around. You’d have to check re: nursing friendliness, but I bet it’s fine – low fat/low carb (at first though no fruit/grains; looots o’ veggies). Super healthy. Good luck!
    PS – I know what others think doesn’t matter at this point but you look great as is!

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  • Clover
    October 14, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    At baby #4 I know you know but probably even harder to be patient with your body. I just hit my sons one year and I know I still have to wait 6 months to have an investment pieces b/c I end up loosing too much weight b/c of nursing. Be patient and you will have the body you will have soon enough:-)

  • marsi
    October 14, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I have to say that ever since I brought “Matilda” home ( a Dritz dress form from Joann’s ) last Christmas, I have been obsessed with making clothes for myself that finally fit well. Before “Matilda”, it was very frustrating for me to try to make adjustments on myself especially when trying to adjust the zipper area on my backside. It was a pain to have to put on & take off a garment over & over until it fit right…..this was enough for me to want to give up each time. My “Matilda” may not be my dream dress form, cuz she’s a little clumsy and the rolly knobs are not the easiest to adjust, but she does make my life a lot easier & I do love making clothes that actually fit. Plus I was able to buy her with a 50% coupon plus an additional 10%, so for the price, I guess she has been well worth it.

  • Little Lizard
    October 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the great info! Hey, are you going to be at the quilt expo this weekend?

  • Kim
    October 20, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this info on dress forms, including links. I researched as hard as I could about a year ago and ended up with an adjustable Singer form, but it’s been a bit of disappointment. It’s really not as variable as a real body, where the top half may be a size S-M, but the bottom half is more like a size M-L, which would be, um, two different forms. I had no idea about the other 75% of the brands you mentioned and am thrilled!

    Note: I did hear that the Uniquely You form required manpower (and I mean muscular male manpower) to assemble. The custom skin you zip over the foam body must have an astoundingly strong zipper because it sounds like a Herculean task to get it on, and I quote from an owner, “I am NEVER adjusting that thing with a new skin again!” If you are one of those fortunate souls whose body stays the same, go for it. If you have fluctuation, perhaps another form is better for you!

  • Janimal
    October 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Kohls has the basic Singer dress form on sale for $129.99 on their website, and with a 30% coupon that’s just $91. So now I am really tempted. But I am hesitant to pull the trigger and just order it. I’m not sure which size to order —- or perhaps I’m just in denial about which size to order — sigh…..

  • Nancy
    January 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    I work at a costume shop and we have tried the uniquely you forms once before and they are just awful. Working with the foam is a nightmare and on top of that they loose their shape pretty fast. The new goto when we have an actor that we are working on a lot that we can’t pad out a form for is making a form out of paper packing tape not duct tape. It holds up way better cause it doesn’t sag and our last one only took an hour and a half to make. Cover it with a muslin sloper and its even pinnable.

  • Ruth
    February 13, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I’m curious if you bought a dress form, and which one? I’m looking for one right now. Have you seen the “Project Runway” form at Atlanta Thread? I can’t find any feedback or more information about this particular dress form, but it looks good.