Dress forms

[This entry has been amended 4/27/09]
Here is another frequently asked question from my mail:

My question is where to buy a good reasonably priced dress form for designing. I have been experimenting with women’s clothing and have had a great response to it. Now I would like to purchase a nice dress form to help move forward with this line. I have been looking at Dress Rite Professional Forms and was wondering if this would be a good investment. Or would you recommend another product.

Hey, did you know that in Canada, they call dress forms “Judies”? I’d never heard that. Okay, I’ll answer the first part of your question with a listing of all the resources I know of (of professional forms). Anyway, I should mention -again- that I don’t like dress forms and don’t even own one [amended, I own two now]. I’ll close this post with recommendations for other products but I really don’t expect anybody to take me seriously because I doubt anyone will tolerate its limitations.

Ronis Brothers
36 Harriet Pl.
Lynbrook, NY, 11563
Tel: 516-887-5266
Fax: 516-887-5288
I saw these forms at the Bobbin Show several years ago and was very impressed with the product integrity. Complete price list on site, 10% discount for students.

Wolf Form Company, Inc.
P.O. Box 510,
17 Van Nostrand Avenue
Englewood, New Jersey 07631
Tel: 201-567-6556 or 201-567-6572
Fax: 201-569-9023

Superior Model Form Co
306 West 38th Street
New York, NY 10018
Tel: (212) 947-3633
Fax: (212) 947-3752

Dress Rite Forms
3817 North Pulaski
Chicago, IL 60641
Tel: (773) 588-5761
Fax (773) 588-4456
Dress Rite Forms is also maker of the Gold Body Form which “duplicate the shape of women after age 50” based on the 1995 study by Dr Ellen Goldsberry and Naomi Reich (buy the results of the study here). I have reservations about the veracity of the study and consequently, any products derived on the basis of it. [amended 5/22/09] There is a proposal on the D-13 ASTM committee ballot to withdraw the D-5586 (2001) standard for body measurements for women aged 55+ with no replacement. If passed, this study will not be included in Vol.2 D-13 as of November 2009. Since libraries that have the ASTM standards discard annual copies, you should get the standard now if you think there’s the slightest chance you need it. It is possible D-5586 may then enter public domain but I do not know this for certain (caveat lector). [amended 5/3/2010] The most recent D-13 ballot includes reinstatement of this standard; I expect it will be approved and included in the November volumes. Designation number will be 5586-01. Ditto for 5585 which had been similarly discarded but will likely be approved.

Global Model Forms
100-02 Rockaway Blvd
Ozone Park NY 11417
Tel: 718.848.3729
Fax: 718.848.3042

The last two form makers are unique in that their forms are based on body scans (a la TC2). These are “the next generation” in dress forms. I’ve never seen products from either of these two companies but extensive information can be found on their websites. I would very much like to visit either of these companies personally and examine their products. [Amended] I ended up buying an Alvanon form and am very pleased with it. If you like, read the review detailing the features of the form I bought.

Shapely Shadow, Inc.
23852 Pacific Coast Highway #597
Malibu, California, 90265
Tel: 888-348-3676
Fax: 310-577-1817

Alva Products (Alvanon, Inc.)
145 W 30th St. Suite 1000
New York, NY 10001
Tel: 212.868.4318 ext 105
Fax: 212.868.4319
Discounts for students. Complete price list on their site.

[Amended] The lowest price seller of dress forms is now PGM-Pro. I bought a man’s form. I didn’t need a high performance form so the value was okay and really, I just bought this form to check out the product quality. If your budget is tight, this might be a good choice. If you wanted a better quality form at an inexpensive price, I’d suggest the Ronis forms. If it were me and I started doing a lot of men’s wear especially for products at higher price points, I’d probably pay the big bucks and get another Alvanon form. It depends on your customer. If you’re targeting higher price points, get the Alva form. Medium price points, get Ronis. For mid to lowest price categories, get PGM Pro. Of course the Wolf et al forms are good for medium to lower price point categories too.

Now, back to what I do use. I don’t really like dress forms because they’re not as anatomically correct as I would like. For example, arm scyes on standard forms will mirror and reproduce the typical error-fraught armhole I wrote about the other day. I prefer to use retail store mannequins which are sculpted from the bodies of real people. Now, there are problems using store mannequins because you can’t pin into them (among other things) but these bodies are based on real human beings so I get better results. The form I’ve used over the past several years is a pretty good match to me. I do realize that many of you can’t use these forms because they may be too slender to match either you or your stock size but I do know they make fuller figured mannequins these days so that may be an option if you’d care to explore it. I got an idea of how to make a mannequin pin-able from my friend Sally. When I was visiting her, I saw she’d re-covered (repaired) one of her dress forms by making a cover out of power net. I think I could make a retail mannequin pin-able if I made a cover for it with a layer of polar fleece under power net. I’ll be posting on that once I get to work on that project.

If you’re interested in buying one of these mannequins, my first suggestion would be a store that sells used retail fixtures. I’ve found their prices to be hundreds of dollars less than what you’d find on ebay. It seems ebay is where the aficionado and collectors go so prices are accordingly high.

Anyway, in my search for mannequins, I found a site that describes in detail -amazing detail- how mannequins are made. The making of Lauren is well worth a visit, it’s fascinating. Enjoy.


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