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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  1. Christy Fisher says:

    Here are a couple of sources you may find interesting for used mannequins:
    interesting plus-size bodies as well as others
    and:Mannequin Recovery Co.
    3008 E. Pine Dr.
    Flagstaff, AZ 86004,
    Fax 770-987-0326
    I have bought used mannequins from Nancy and she is incredible. She is the mannequin repair pro for pretty much the entire mannequin industry. Her studio is open by appointment and she is very friendly and informative. Her prices are terrific. Stock is hit or miss depending on what she has run across.

  2. Has anybody tried the fabulous fit dress forms?
    (http://www.fabulousfit.com/) they have movable pads so you can create more realistic (and moldable, hmmm….) body shapes, although tthe armscye would still be a problem. but they’re pinnable. And you can change them around as your idea target demographic changes…

    I don’t have one, but I’ve been considering it for several years, I just hate spending money on an product I have no experience with..

    besides not being pinnable(and too skinny), the other thing I don’t like about mannequins is that they tip over too easily. Seems annoying.

    And I’m starting to think it might be worth it to make a dress form the old-fashioned way, the plaster-tape version of Kathleen’s saran wrap post.

    or, hmmm…. maybe some combination of the three…like make a plaster form of a skinny mannequin, and then use the fabulous fit pads to fill it out….

  3. Gigi says:

    People often write me to ask about the dressform I use on my site. I believe she’s a My Twin although I call her Ethel (I’m a hopeless I Love Lucy fan). The truth is, she is utterly useless in the fitting department. :-) She’s great for modeling purposes and holding works in progress but I doubt that anyone is really shaped like her. I, personally, think dress forms are overrated.

  4. Jan says:

    I made myself a paper tape dress form last year. It was decidedly unpleasant, but now I have a form that duplicates my body and attitudinal stance pretty well. I hated making it so much that I insisted on being cut out of it long before the tape had dried completely so the next day I got back into it and taped over it with cellophane packing tape and this seems to be working very well to hold it together. The main advantage of this method is that it is cheap and quick. I plan to make another one soon now that I have a little more experience.

  5. Gigi says:

    Jan, I’ve been wanting to make a double using paper or duct tape for awhile. It must be extremely helpful to have a body double!

  6. sandra says:

    for the Australian designer, I recommend http://www.dummieswa.com.au/ Their Miss A dummy is based on an American shop mannequin they found secondhand and she has a rather good shoulder shape (Slight hollow between bust and shoulder) and a little tummy like a real person.

  7. Debbie Soles says:

    I’ve been using mannequins for years, male/female. I drafted a no ease sloper to my specs, using a lycra fabric to cover, then padded where needed. First cover I made was not adequate, make sure the fabric is “slippery” (for lack of a better word:) so fabrics won’t hang up. I have a dress form, rarely use it, useless.

  8. Rita Yussoupova says:

    There is a company in LA area that makes dress forms from scanned Fit models bodies. The forms are made of material that feels and acts much like human flesh and skin.
    The Company name is TukaInc the dress forms are TukaForms. http://www.tukatech.com/tukaforms.htmcheck this
    Do you know have any info on these dress forms?

  9. Diane says:

    I bought a dress form from Manex because of the European sizing. The model with the stand is the cheapest but I bought the one with the cast iron base with wheels for around $300. The cover is a jersey knit that can be pinned, not great but OK. In Denver Mervyns is closing several stores so I intend to inquire about their fixtures to pick up some more “ladies”.


  10. Kathleen says:

    For new, traditional apparel industry forms, Ronis is the best value. Otherwise you could get lucky by watching ads in the paper. Maybe ebay..but I’d worry about the shipping on those things.

  11. deerskin says:

    if you want something for under say $200, you’d be looking at something older. Or you’d just have to luck out at some yard sale or estate sale or something like that.

    For cheap traditional style forms ebay is good but you need to search for
    dress form
    royal form
    superior form
    model form
    dress dummy–although these are usually British
    On ebay you’ll find the cheaper stuff will be listed by either someone who does not know the value of what they have (or they aren’t trying to exploit the value) or they have listed it in a way that people interested in that particular item won’t be able to find it. I’ve found one of my forms listed as Wolform–who’d know to do a search on that?

    So I’ve gotten a couple of forms off ebay–as Kathleen said you need to watch for shipping/handling charges. And you need to study the photos carefully to look for rust, missing parts, bent poles etc.

    There are also a few place on ebay that sell new forms for under $300, depending on the size/auction. If you search ‘dress form’ their sales will turn-up. But here’s are the ids of some of them
    you can get a new dress form including the shipping to you for under $300

    They mainly deal in mannequins
    Atlas Supply sells on ebay as well and is in the LA area. They list dress forms sometimes. There prices are pretty good–not dirt cheap but not bad.

    You might also try Craigslist. I’ve seen people selling used forms for reasonable prices.

    I also found this interesting page about a re-designed dress form in Japan. It’s neat to look at the old form and new form together since.
    New Dressmaking Dummy Based on the Average Form of Young Adult Females

    For my body a traditional form works as well as a manniquin–which Kathleen prefers–since i’m about as different from the “average” person they’d use to make the mannequin as i am from the “average” or “ideal” figure used to make a dress form.

    Okay–whomever is able to find a good cheap dress form from this advice/info should remember to help someone else–give some small donation to this site etc. Share the love.

  12. ChristyBurton says:

    Has anyone ever tried plaster cloth to make a dress form for themselves? I’ve used the cloth (I found it in the models isle of the craft store) to make a back cast for an art project and I think it would be stiff enough to make a whole body form. I’ve become obsessed with the idea today and am going to try it. If it’s stuffed with something and covered with fabric I think it will be fairly sturdy.

  13. Carol Kimball says:

    I would strongly advise against the plaster cast. It’s impossible to get it strong enough and THIN enough to be your shape. Cutting it off is dangerous unless you have access to a doctor’s plaster saw. Plaster strips are inherently lumpy. You’ll have added two sizes or more. If you’re working up clothes with so much ease that it doesn’t matter, this is still a lot more messy work to little advantage. Also, plaster is heavy and quite a lot of heat is generated as it sets. It also takes longer than other wrap methods, and is not more economical. If you faint through lack of movement/heat prostration, you’ll smack it up falling and have to begin again.

    The duct tape versions I’ve experimented with and seen are usually at least a size too big – you simply cannot stand motionless for thirty or forty minutes. The shells are filled with two-part insulation foam, and then must be laboriously sanded down after the tape/plastic are removed, constantly checking measurements and wearing a respirator against the outgassing. Both duct and plaster strips can more easily be pulled too much, distorting the figure – look at the breasts on the sequences of duct tape how-to websites. They say, “every woman has a larger side,” – yeah, right. But 2″ difference in height, and one way off to the side? Puh-lease.

    Kathleen’s saran method is the best of the wrap techniques, being thinnest.

  14. Andy Lee says:

    I’m currently a student in Parsons and I placed an order with Alvaproducts for one of their academic series forms. The prices for the forms are very reasonable but the only catch is you have to be a student with a valid student ID and you have to be part of their affiliated school network in order to receive the extra 50% off discount. I think the original price of the Academic forms are 700 but if you are part of an affiliated school, you only need to pay 350.
    Hope this helps. Here’s the link: http://www.alvaproducts.com/buy.php.

  15. Lori says:

    I’m looking for a supplier of decorative wire/iron dress forms like the ones they sell in Ballard Design Catalog? I’m sure they are made overseas, but I’m looking for a wholesaler contact in the states. If you can lead me in any direction, i’d be grateful

  16. Sheila Hildebrand says:

    My 12 year old daughter is interested in learning how to sew and has talked about fashion design for several years. I wanted to get a dress form for her and was hoping to find an inexpensive JR size since eventually she will outgrow this and may not even continue using it. Do you have any suggestions?

  17. Brittany says:

    I am in a big fraud battle with PGM-Pro. I bought a dress form off of them through ebay and they sent me a dress form with a broken pole, a cracked bottom and when I called to discuss exchanging it they reported they wouldn’t have another opne available for two months. They agreed to send a different model. After a few weeks I found out that they were not going to send me another one and had mistakenly sent a new pole to the wrong address and we worked out a return- HOWEVER, it has been two months and they still have not returned my money.

    My experience with them has been completely terrible, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to trust them.

  18. Robyn S. says:

    Someone mentioned Atlas Levy (I searched, didn’t read this entire thread). I got my dress form from there and with a student ID card it was $225. My only complaint is that the sizing wasn’t perfect, but I don’t know what the norm is as far as dress forms matching the advertised dimensions perfectly. It’s a good item for a student, anyway.

  19. J C Sprowls says:


    I’ve had wonderful results with PGM. But, you should realize that your item being damaged during shipment is not fraud – it’s a legitimate risk of doing business with anyone. UPS is the correct company to contact re: an insurance claim for the damaged item, not PGM.

    RE: Sending a replacement pole to the wrong address… That was clearly a mistake. Did they offer to remedy that problem? In their defense, both ladies I’ve worked with aren’t native English speakers and are easily confused when I speak too quickly (not that I ever do that :-)).

    RE: exchanging item… Sometimes their merchandise gets hung up at the port, which means they have to call you with their tail between their legs and offer another solution, after-the-fact.

    Those of us who have experience with waiting on the port to clear know this can be frustrating. Container shipping is a gamble – the mfg is at the mercy of how quickly mdse clears storage, customs, then shipping.

  20. Brittany says:

    Robyn S.,

    This is a fraud issue. Sending the dress form to the wrong address, was annoying, but i can get over that. Having the form be broken upon arrival, is annoying as well. However, I need a working dress form in order for it to be as useful as it can. Therefore, my only expectation from them was to receive the item i paid for in the condition it was described as, but since that wasn’t the case, I just expected to return the item and get my refund. Not too much to ask.

    Not only have they refused to send my refund for the past two months (exactly) but they are holding paypal and eBay accountable for with holding my refund. I have spoken with both eBay and Paypal and they have both advised me to contact the Internet Crime Complaint people, the local police force for LA (where PGM is located) and a lawyer.

    Also, I am not the only person who this has happened to. Two people from eBay hae contacted me in regards to the same thing happening to them with PGM-Pro.

    All I am asking for is my money back. But they seem to not understand that. I am confused as to why this is so difficult for them.

    Maybe you have some insight, Robyn S.?


  21. Heather says:

    Kathleen asked about Dress Rite dress forms:

    I’ve been using Dress Rite forms for years (not Gold Body type), at the college I teach at.
    They are quite shapely!! Large B/small C cups, a pooch belly shape, and shoulder blade shape on the back. Also has a lot of shape on the high hip.
    We have an “army” of 25 size 8 forms, each of them are a bit different as far as measurement goes. I prefer using the Dress Rite forms over my own Global Model form because of her shapliness.

    Cons: Does not have a sturdy base, so they can be quite tipsy and not perpendicular to the floor (difficult for marking hems).
    Height adjustment is limited, max 6′-2″ (imagined with a head), so you cannot drape a skirt standing up (like you can with a Global Model or Wolf).
    But overall nice to work with :)

  22. John S. says:

    I have found 4 Wolf form dress in s closing dress store. If anyone is interested in these let me know. Model 1950 size 10
    model 1940 size 14
    Model 1950 size 12
    model 1954 size 10
    They are in excellent condition with nothing missing- all parts are working great. Just let me know by

  23. elise says:

    John: if you still have those used forms in either 12 or 14 and you are anywhere in the NYJohn: if you still have those used forms in either 12 or 14 and you are anywhere in the NY< NJ< CT area, I am interested

  24. Penny says:

    There are a number of reasonable priced new dress forms listed on Ebay available in all sizes, childrens, womens, plus size and mens. I have not used one myself… They are new, have the specs listed on the web site, have nice functions such as collapsable shoulders, pinnable surfaces, models available with legs. All things considered, they do look pretty good!

  25. Yoshan says:

    I’ve been looking on ebay for dressforms now, and when i search i see alot of jersey covered ones that are lightly padded and sell for under 100. are these just for decoration or can i use them for draping? im really broke, so i can’t afford a dress form over $200, so if anyone has any suggestions about where i can find one that would be great!

  26. pgm says:

    PGM, located in Los Angeles, California, manufactures full range sizes of dress forms, ladies fullbody forms, large women forms, men forms, youngmen forms, children forms, antique dress forms, display body forms, antique display body forms. PGM dress form are natural body shaped with real looking butt to good fit garment design and fashion design education. PGM accepts Custom Made of any sizes of dress forms. PGM provides Studend Discount. PGM also manufacture pattern making tools system, including pattern notcher, tracing wheel, pattern punch, patter shears, fabric scissors, there are plenty of selections on dress form, pattern tools, antique dress form, garment racks, wall mount racks.

  27. John says:

    I have some insight to Brittany’s Supposed “fraud” case. I learned from PGM that their experience with clients on Ebay show that some of these customers attempted to return a dress form after “finishing” their dress projects and claimed sizing or goods are damaged and then made a huge “fuss” about it when their returns were not honored. PGM ebay site shows that there is a 10 day upon receipt no questions asked return policy

    If you look on PGM’s ebay feedback page. Ebay overturned the negative feedback attributed to these “issues.” I can’t believe people would go toward these steps to slander a good company’s name. I have never had issues with PGM products and though they could use a “better” english speaking service rep, they are very straight forward and honest.

  28. Rachel says:

    I have just managed to find an old dress-form which needs a bit of a clean-up. There is no maker’s name on it and it is currently covered in a synthetic stretch fabric – does anyone know the best way to clean it or recover it? I’ve checked some manufacturers websites but none of them having any kind of care instructions. I would love to be able to send it off somewhere but I don’t have that kind of cash and I live in the UK so I would rather do it myself if anyone has any tips. Thanks

  29. As a mannequin liquidation company, we get dress forms – display forms and seamstress forms – all the time from upscale retail stores that are closing or remodeling. Many of these stores have tailoring departments and are getting rid of Wolf or Royal dress forms. We sell them at 50% or more off the regular price.

    We encourage people to send us their “wish list” of the size and brand they are looking for. When we get it in stock, we send them an email. Some items never get posted to our website because our wishlist customers get notified first

    If anyone here is interested, please visit our website at http://www.MannequinMadness.com and if you don’t see what you are looking for, send us an email with your request

  30. edie perman says:

    If you are like me with more time than money, you can make an accurate clone of your torso by following simple and inexpensive method by Barbara Deckert, found in “Threads” magazine #75,p41

  31. ho ching says:

    is this web site helpful at all?? the author seems to specialize in “venting her spleen” and being caustic and critical about so many things. Fashion incubator my foot.

  32. Darlene Watson says:

    I am in need of a dress form with arm. As I am designing outerwear in various sizes, I don’t need one that is fitted to me. What is the current take on Fabulous Fit? Is the padding tricky to install? Can you pin into the form? (with the padding?) Is the pricing reasonable for what you get? Are there any midwest outlets? Are there any other forms that would make more sense? I’m new at this and there are so many options my head hurts. There’s a bag of CheezIts to whomever can be of assisstance. I am grateful for any help.

  33. Kathleen says:

    Hi Darlene. I specialize in outerwear pattern making, I don’t know what kind of outerwear you’re doing but dress forms aren’t as useful (in my experience) as one would like. It’s mostly because coats and jackets are boxier and not body skimming. To use any form, you have to pad it with clothes (shirt, then a sweater etc) but fitting it is best on a human if you can find one. I also haven’t used one of these FabFit forms or even seen one up close but they appear to be pin-able. Is there a school near you? The fabfit website lists clients, maybe you could call or visit one if they’re close to you.

  34. Jeni says:

    I tried the idea of making a foam double from a plaster cast of my torso. I had read around a few sites and it seemed pretty simple. My husband helped me (against his will and better judgement). We started by covering myself with a plastic garbage bag and using a bit of duct tape to define the contours. Then we used bandages already coated in plaster of paris that you just wet and apply. I had never read any warnings or possible troubles on any of the websites or forums. I had to wait 20-30 minutes for the cast to dry. It wasn’t restrictive or too tight, but snug and form-fitting. After 20 minutes my husband came back out to check on me and I complained of feeling light-headed and woozy. I wanted him to start cutting it off even though it wasn’t completely dry. (It was dry enough to hold its shape) After a few snips I started freaking out because I was seeing stars and I knew I was fading fast. I’m not claustrophobic or anything, by the wooziness was rapidly increasing.
    The last thing I remember was my husband yelling “Hang on honey!” as I started to lean forward. I woke up in a chair that was near by, covered in vomit and shards of plaster. I had passed out and vomited everywhere while he frantically cut me out of the mold. He said I stopped breathing and my face was bright red. I don’t remember feeling uncomfortable or having a hard time breathing, but somehow things went downhill fast. Maybe I was taking shallow breaths intentionally so as not to distort the mold, I don’t know.
    So $30 dollars, and 1 1/2 hours later I still don’t have a dress form and my husband is traumatized. I don’t know if duct tape would have a similar effect on me, but I’m too afraid to find out!

  35. Michaela says:

    I am new to pattern making and have been researching dress forms for a while trying to find a good quality form under $200. I’ve been looking at the PGM pro 603 and am wondering if any one has any experience or knowledge about the quality of this form?

  36. Kathleen says:

    Hi Michaela, you might be able to find a used form for that price. Industrial forms are pricey by comparison.

    I have a man’s PGM form, it’s okay. The PGM forms aren’t the best quality, the kind you buy to get in the door when you’re poor but not one you consider to be a lifetime investment.

  37. April says:

    I had a Fabulous Fit dress form that was mercifully ‘lost’ while on loan last year. I hated it. It was absolutely impossible for me to customize the fit by wedging the special contour pads under the form cover. The bust was way too big and the shape generally weird and did not even seem to be standardized. The pole that attached to the base was never quite right, and then it caved in bit, leaving the form with a permanent list. To be fair though, my poor results could be attributed to my lack of experience.

  38. kate says:

    Hi! I am trying to find vintage dress forms with cage bases and I don’t even need the top in good condition or at all. Preferably dress forms from the 1940s and earlier… Does anyone know where I could salvage these Items? I need to take the fabric/ paper busts off and replace them with something else so I stress that any condition is ok. I wish there was a salvage place I could find that offered the bases only… Help! :) Thanks you so much for any information! I will check back…. and GREAT info above already!!

  39. Jane says:

    I am just today finishing a plaster body cast — the mistake is not understanding it is a MOLD not the finished dress dummy.

    That means you need a snug NOT tight fit (remember to wrap your body in a plastic bag).

    My neice did mine on the hottest day this summer and I had no problem. But since we had done this before she had an assistant to cut and dip and she worked quickly.

    This is not a precise mold though and after I cut it off (pretty dry) I closed it back up and I let it dry throughly, I whipped out my measuring tape and made adjustments (and since I have Hooray! lost weight in my abdomen) I actually cut it up the center of that area and pulled it to the right size and using a clamp to hold it, I then just used more plaster to seal it up. I used a cut up blanket bunched up to support the shape when wet so it dried in the right shape. Do not be afraid to do this because after the moldi is made it will be discarded.

    Next do a little smoothing inside, trim or use more tape to smooth over.

    Next you use foam — this time I am using the expanding foam in a can — and when I have finished with this I will check back in in a few days with the rest of my journey, while fresh in my mind.

    I have done this before with a pourable type and although you need to practice with this canned foam to understand how SLOW to go I think it will be easier.

    I have had my neive so a duct tape body double and am much more pleased with this type — you still need to stuff the tape one to make it stable.


  40. Lotta says:

    I don’t own a retail mannequin, but bought a hard plastic shell dress form which really wasn’t pinnable, so I had to fix it (it’s a Dritz Sew Easy dressform, it’s plastic with only a thin knit cover which can’t be used for pinning). In the process, I wanted to also make it more anatomically correct, to match my own shape. I started by adding two cups from one of my bikini’s, since that for some reason fit better than cups from one of my bra’s. I then added foam to the waistline to make the form a bit less curvy. Then I draped fine muslin over the form, to make a cover with princess seams ready, with a wide seam allowance at the sides. Finally I gave the whole form a layer of poly batting (retrieved from a new cheap duvet), cutting it on each side to correspond with the side seams. I put the cover on top of the batting and used thick and long pins to pin the side seams real tight, flattening out the batting in the process. I then hand sewed the cover in place. Finally I cut a top cover from sweatshirt fleece, giving it shoulder seams, side seams and “arm plates. I hemmed the top to match the edge of the plastic on top of the form and made a 2-piece bottom cover with a hem and drawstring to tighten around the stand pole. I chose a dark taupe fabric to make it more practical than white, but that of course is just my preference. But, I find that I can trust that the dressform gives my clothes the correct fit and pinning goes real well. I am very happy with my choice of top cover fabric, as I think it is really nice to pin into. I have added standard style lines of cotton twill tape, pinned down, but after seeing a form with what I think is cords, I’m considering to give that a try as it would be way easier to feel through fabric, something that sometimes would be real nice – at least for the side seams which on my form isn’t as easy to feel as I think they are on a professional form. I don’t think cord would be as easy to pin down (or keep pinned down) though, I think I might sew it down instead, but maybe it would be too impractical if I need to remove them for some project…

  41. Claire says:

    I also have been doing a lot of research on forms. I think I need one of the forms designed for the, err, mature figure (a thicker middle and lower breasts). The Ronis Royal Woman form and the Dress Rite Gold form–both in size 12–seem to be what I need. Has anyone had experiences–good or bad–with either of these products or companies?

  42. Nikki says:

    I am searching for the best professional dress form in order to get the fit perfect for my first collection. Why are Global/New york forms, and wolf forms around $800 while PGM and Fabulous fit are around $400? Is it a quality issue? Does anyone have experience with any of these forms?

  43. Brina says:


    Yes the price difference reflects the quality. I’ve worked with a number of brands and the more expensive are more well made from their stands to the symmetry of the forms and how well they are finished and how sturdy. If they have mechanisms such as collapsible shoulders or a stand that height adjusts, they work better. Which is not to say that you can’t get by with a cheaper form.

    As far as fit–that’s something that may or may not come straight off your form.

  44. Susan says:

    I purchased a Fabulous Fit dress form about 10 years ago and love it. I have been able to change the body of the dress form as my body has changed. Also, when I purchased this form, I was looking for a dress form that I could customize based on the curve I have in one shoulder from scoliosis. I spoke to the company before I ordered this form and I am very happy with the results. I have been able to customize the dress form based on my measurements and the curve of my back. I can also pin the form and have made adjustments over the years. It is the only dress form I have ever needed – until now. Now I need a second dress form for my daughter’s figure because I am making clothes for her. Still, I highly recommend the Fabulous fit dress form. The pads are very easy to work with and the cover is very nice too. You can even use batting under the cover and pin it in place on the form to your size. I’ve been very happy with it.

  45. lillac says:

    Does anyone know if New York form,inc still exists? If so how do I purchase one or call them? I have not been able to get any info. on Internet.

  46. Sharky says:

    @Jeni — OMG! That is the most terrifying thing I can imagine — I’m already claustrophobic. Thanks for sharing your story; I will definitely not be trying the plaster cast route.

  47. Caro says:

    I’ve made a duct tape dress form, the only thing is she isn’t quite as accurate as I want her to be, the waist it TWO inches larger. No, I’m not being vain and subtracting two inches from my actual body measurements, it’s just difficult to make the duct tape dress forms super accurate unless you’ve done it a lot and know a lot of little tricks. I stuffed her with batting though so I’m thinking of making a waist cincher for her (like a mini corset) to cinch her in a bit. The bust and hips are okay, not way off like the waist but not super ideal, I think the bust is slightly too large, I have some tiny breasts! Also, a duct tape dress form is even harder to get accurate if you are very curvy, voluptuous or “oddly” shaped. My duct tape form IS however almost an exact copy of myself (save the waist) and has my posture and even the detailing on how one of my shoulders is more sharply angled, and my short torso. Most if not all mannequins I’ve seen have torsos that are an inch too long from the shoulder to the waist (I am a short lady, only 5 feet tall thanks to Chinese genetics). I think I’ll use my duct tape form for general fitting but I’m hoping to procure a vintage dress form through craigslist for taking display photos and maybe fitting. The only thing I’ve had my eye on is maybe an adjustable dress form.

  48. nania says:

    Duct tape dress form is ok, but, no collapsible shoulders. Last Saturday, I bought a new PGM dress form on a fashion symposium in California Mart, which is quite good, i love it, it’s very cute hip shape, they call natural buttock shape… you can take a look from their website picture http://www.pgmdressform.com

  49. Paul says:

    I ended up here in a round about way. I was reading the latest entry about La Bricoleuse (10-20-2011) and went to the Wolf Dress Form website to see if they mention where they get the standard forms, as if they would admit that they get them from China; the raw body is made from papier mâché in a factory in Guangzhou. I got mine there when I visited the factory for the equivalent of $200. The form was just like the neck to ankle forms that Wolf sells for $1,550.

    One thing you might do if you used a store mannikin would be to use it to make a mold using plaster bandages and then use the plaster to make a papier mâché. The papier mâché makes for a more pinnable surface especially after it is covered with a bit of cotton batting and cotton or linen cover. The plaster bandage technique was covered in an issue of Threads magazine. In that article the body was covered with the plaster bandage to make a mold of the person’s body. There are some drawbacks to using this method; one is that it can get hot and two that you have to work fast or use very cold water to slow the setting of the plaster. One other method that can be used to accurately reproduce body shape is to use alginate as the mold material, though I do not know what the cost factor would be. You can find information online for using alginate to reproduce body shapes as a number of artists use it for creating sculptures. It looks like it is easy to work with. If you have been to the dentist and had an impression made of your teeth, the material used is alginate.
    I went to the trouble of making a form because I wanted one that was petite and had the shape of a much smaller waist than you can purchase from any form manufacturer that I then used to design and make corsets.

  50. Fifi Belle says:

    Shapely Shadow had some of the best forms in the industry. The shape, the manufacturing quality, everything about them was excellent. Sadly, they closed in January 2011. If anyone knows who manufactured their forms (USA, probably California), please let us know. I’d like to get another stand, if nothing else. Alvanon has the next-best reputation for professional forms. They are coming out with a new line of shapes based on the yet-to-be published upcoming ASTM standards.

    I have done several plaster cast forms. The comments here are true. They are hard to cast, hard to cut off, and frequently collapse. A wrap method sounds better, though I have not tried it. Out of 4 attempts, I have two successful plaster mold forms. They are a lot of work.

    Love your site, Kathleen! I bought your book years ago and it has helped in the formation of my own business. Thanks for your wonderful work.

  51. Donna says:

    Made plaster cast form to fit my body but don’t really use it except to model finished garments. All of the commercial forms are to long in the torso for my body.

  52. Diane says:

    I just bought a well used but perfectly sized wolf form. Does anyone have any hints, experience, best fabric used etc etc for repading and recovering…mostly worn in the bust area. Thanks.

  53. Traditionally, linen is used to cover the wolf forms but I don’t know that you can find the grade easily. Linen won’t pill like cotton muslin and it slides better too. If you can’t find linen, a nice quality tightly woven muslin would work too.

  54. Donna says:

    I used a really fine woven cotton twill on my form. It has held up over the years and slides nicely also. I haven’t seen any muslin of a quality worth putting the effort in to. I had one piece of finely woven linen that I purchased some years ago downtown Los Angeles but the odds of finding it again are slim to nada.

  55. Fifi Belle says:

    To re-pad the worn bust area, you can use cotton quilt batting that looks like felt, sold in fabric-like sheets. The Warm and Natural brand is a good choice. Cut circles of increasing sizes to fill in the area gradually until you achieve the shape and measurement desired. You can use a curved upholstery needle to sew the batting circles to the worn areas as needed, or you can use straight pins to attach the batting.

    To use linen, muslin or twill for re-covering the form, as described in previous comments, you will need to have a precise pattern to which you cut the woven fabric, and at least one seam must be stitched on the form by hand to allow for placing the fabric shell on the form. Factory-covered forms come with woven fabric coverings because the patterns are well-established and re-used many times, however creating your own from scratch could be time-consuming.

    An easier and faster method for re-covering a form is to purchase a length of white rib knit fabric that comes in a tube, in as lightweight a thickness as possible. Slip the tube over the form and mark two dart-shaped seams over the shoulder area to taper the tube from the beginning of the shoulder to the top of the neck. Sew the two dart seams, trim, and place the tube over the form. The rib knit fabric will conform to the shape of the form. Hand-stitch to close the tube at the top of the neck and at the bottom of the form. The rib knit will enlarge the form slightly compared to woven fabric coverings, but the difference is not enough to be significant.

    After you have re-covered the form, you can purchase about 6 yards of black soutache braid and use a curved upholstery needle to hand-stitch the braid along critical measurement lines such as the bust level, waistline, hipline (typically 8″or 9″ down from waist), center front and back, sideseams, front and back princess seams, shoulder seams, neckline and armscyes.

    Wolf Forms also offers refurbishing and restoring services if you would like to hire the work done. Best wishes on your project.

  56. alex says:

    PGM dress forms not actually manufactured in USA. Made in China. Bought one and then found out I wasn’t supporting local

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