Let’s Talk Dress Forms

In my latest YouTube video I talk all about Mannequins, Dress Forms and Tailor’s Dummy’s answering the following three questions:
1. Do you need a dress form?
2. How to use a dress form?
3. Dress forms I recommend…

I discuss the questions considering the different customers and uses, between a home sewer, a professional dressmaker and someone wanting to start their own dressmaking pattern range or fashion label. Watch the video above!

Do you need a dress form?
My honest answer to this question is, you Do NOT need a dress form or mannequin to be able to sew or be a dressmaker. Mannequins have uses, but they are by no means a requirement.

Think about your budget and maybe make sure you really love sewing (if you are a beginner), before you invest.

Dress form uses…
Let’s talk about the ways that you can use a dress form.
1. Display your garments. Sometimes you just need to try your garment or sample onto a mannequin, so that you can take a step back. This can help with working out construction methods, as well as seeing whether you like the garment. If the mannequin is the same shape and size as you, this helps even more!
2. Hemming garments and letting bias skirts or dresses hang.
3. Fitting garments. If you have a mannequin that is padded to your shape and size (or bespoke to you), you can of course fit your garments on the mannequin.
4. Draping patterns and designs. Hand-sewing and shaping fabrics like sewing lace to a bodice.
5. Standard Size. For me I use my Alvanon mannequins because they are as true to standard size as possible. I work on these mannequins to develop the Made to Sew dressmaking pattern range.

Mannequins I recommend!
I have used a number of different mannequins over the years and wanted to share my recommendations. However I wanted to create a resource for other mannequin recommendations, so if you recommend something that I haven’t shared on this post please do drop me an email (info@madetosew.com). I will happily update this post.

Starting at the cheapest dress form and working up in price. I wanted to first recommend this cheap polystyrene mannequin you can purchase from Amazon. Click here to see the link – Amazon.

These mannequins are useful if you don’t have a large budget. They can be padded up to your individual shape and size easily.

Adjustable Mannequins
I have owned 3 different adjustable mannequins in the past. Firstly the Venus Form and then both the Small and Medium size in the Lady Valet dress form. Link to Lady Valet – Amazon.

Unfortunately I don’t like to recommend adjustable mannequins. I personally had issues trying to achieve the same size Bust, Waist and Hip in the mannequin as my customers. The adjustable dress forms are quite firm and therefore difficult to pin into and pad up. I love how the Lady Valet dress forms look, they look premium displaying garments; but from a practical perspective I believe there are better alternatives.

Royal Dress Forms
I love these pinnable, soft dress forms from Royal Dress Forms. I have a Classy Form, which I believe was part of the same company. The Classy Form versions are no longer available. These dress forms are perfect for draping due to the balance lines, and the fact that they have the start of legs really sets them apart from the cheaper mannequins available.

The company also sells accessories for attachable heads, arms and padding, so that you can pad up your form to your individual measurements. This is the mannequin that I use to work on for my figure, so that I can leave my Alvanon mannequins below for business use.

One thing to remember, if you are planning to purchase a mannequin to pad up to your size. Make sure you choose a mannequin based on your smallest measurement and check things like the neck and shoulders of the mannequin. You can’t make the mannequin smaller, but you can make it larger.

Bespoke Dress Forms (e.g. Beatrice Forms)
A variety of companies are now offering bespoke mannequins, made to your individual measurements, usually based on a body scan. Of course this does come in at a higher price point, but it is an incredible option if you have the budget to spend. Padding a mannequin to your measurements is great, but never perfect, you can’t be precise with the shape and structure of the figure (such as one shoulder lower than the other etc.). Whereas a perfect body double will make fitting and draping a breeze.

One company that has started this service is Beatrice Forms. I have a customer that has purchased from them and is very happy with the service and her bespoke mannequin. I believe there are other companies out there and I am certain that Classy Forms / Royal Forms (above) was previously offering this service.

A negative of a bespoke mannequin is that if you change size, the mannequin will no longer work for you. Of course you have the ability to put on weight and ‘pad up’ the mannequin. But if you loose weight you cannot make the mannequin smaller. So if you are an individual that yo-yos with your weight, I would recommend padding up a mannequin instead.

Finally let me mention the three premium Alvanon mannequins I own; one size UK 8 and two size US 24. Alvanon work by creating realistic dress forms, based on average shapes and sizes. The company has scanned thousands of women (and men) from different countries. When you purchase you have ability to choose a dress form based on your individual customer, picking from a range of sizes and dress forms based on averages from different countries (e.g. Europe, UK, North America, China, Japan etc.).

Two of the forms that I own are soft forms, meaning they are soft and squidgy and I find more true to fitting a real person. They are easily pinnable, have a heavy base and are a dream to work on. If you have a business in fashion, or design dressmaking patterns I can’t recommend this forms enough to help with fitting and designing.

After making the video I will continue to add any suggestions. Feel free to share yours with me.

One company I have heard about but never used myself is Bootstrap Fashion they offer mannequins that you can sew up and make home; either to their standard sizes or to your bespoke measurements. As I said, I haven’t personally used them, but they are definitely worth a look if you are after a cheaper (and possibly adjustable, you could remove the padding inside if you change size) alternative to a bespoke mannequin.