Form, fit & function that won’t break the bank

alvaform_features_smI’m pleased to announce that Alvanon has launched a new line of dress forms called AlvaForm Studio. The price of these forms are gentle on your pocketbook but certain to please anyone who has coveted one of their elite quality forms. And, this is the first official announcement -we got the exclusive on it. Yay us! In keeping with the exclusivity of this advance notice (it won’t be announced to the public for another three weeks), the forms are 30% off. I don’t know how long that deal will last but I’ll amend this entry when I know. Okay, now for features.

Gee, I’m not sure where to start, this being such a radical departure from anything else available in the market. I’ll start by itemizing the anatomically correct shape features that are unique to this product, refer to image at right (larger image).

  1. First we have a clavicle bump. Yay.
  2. The bust is a more rounded normal shape (I’ll provide a comparison further down so you can appreciate the difference). The underside of the bust is fuller instead of coming to an abrupt 50’s style bullet bra apex as is typical of other forms.
  3. The sternum between the breasts is taped for clear delineation, aiding in customary underwire placement.
  4. The bust is shaped with a princess line down the center and a dart off to either side.
  5. As with other forms, the cover is hand sewn along the side seam -but this one is much flatter. No more unsightly ridges. Can’t speak for you but I find those ridges somewhat annoying.
  6. The form has a belly button; invaluable for aligning lower slung waistbands or crop tops. She also has a pronounced belly like real people do with a noticeable depression below just before the normal bifurcation.
  7. The outer front thighs are curved outward, again, just like real people. At the same time, the back side of the thigh is curved inward.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this form was sculpted -based on real humans.

In addition to the features I mentioned above, one thing no one ever talks about is posture. The Alva forms are standing in a normal posture as opposed to other forms with figures standing at attention. Another thing I like are the markings indicating key measuring landmarks such as under bust, high hip etc. No more fumbling with the tape and wondering if you’ve got it straight all the way around. Personally, I find this feature very useful. No more eyeballing, if the tape is not resting on the landmark, it’s pretty evident.

There’s one other big detail -it’s a squishy form made of memory foam. Honestly, for me that was (initially) a deal breaker but they were going to let me test it for free (I’m keeping it so I pay for it just like you) and not charge me shipping to and fro so I said okay. I had seen some squishy foam forms from another company at SPESA 2007 and was not impressed. At all. I thought they were creepy. I also didn’t like the texture and while a good idea, I didn’t think they would be very useful because fabric sticks to them. In fact, I was so unimpressed that Alvanon put out a squishy form that I didn’t take it out of the box for three weeks. They didn’t know that but they obviously will after reading this review. Anyway, what Alvanon has done is put a stretchy cotton cover over the memory foam which solves both problems. This form doesn’t feel or look creepy and fabric isn’t going to stick to it. I actually like this fabric cover better than the linen; it’s not as harsh. And when I say foam, I don’t mean cheap stuff, this is pretty dense (I wish I were this firm). I like that there is some give to the form so you can get a better feel of whether the skin is being compressed for a tight fit versus trying to test fit on what feels like shaped pieces of plywood. Long story short, I wish the other form I bought from them were also foam with the flatter hand sewn side seams. I am planning to buy one of their men’s foam forms when those become available.

This last detail won’t impress you much especially if you haven’t used many forms but I love the base, cage and heavy locking wheels. I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of knocking over regular dress forms or almost doing it but it’s not very hard to do, they’re not very stable. The pole mechanism of other forms isn’t as sturdy and is essentially held upright due to balancing of the four feet. This form has a very nice wheel base, just roll it a short distance, you can feel how much more expensive the skeleton of this form is. The wheels look like inline skate wheels so while they’re hard, they have bearings so they don’t lock up like the smaller metal, clunkier baby wheels on other forms.

side_by_side_comparison_dress_formsI promised a side by side comparison of the major form brands versus the AlvaForm Studio which you can see at right. The greatest differences are in bust shaping and the center back line -pretty dramatic, no? By the way, both of these forms are the same size -yes, both of these forms use the ASTM D5585 data set.

That’s another thing, the AlvaForm Studio comes in two versions, a straight form and a curvy form. As you may recall, curvy doesn’t mean plus sized, curvy means a figure has a .75 hip to waist differential. Meaning, if you’re fitting a customer who is not hourglass shaped, you probably want a curvy form. Before I got off track, I was saying that the shaping differences between the standard brands versus the Alva form are pretty dramatic but to really appreciate the differences, you need to see the side by side comparison of the curvy form. Pretty amazing stuff.

Okay, let’s talk money. The exclusive launch pricing for my visitors (and anyone you tell so tell everyone) is $700 for the traditional straight or curvy dress form. There is also a torso form available, also in straight or curvy. The price for that one is $900.  Those of you who sought a price quote for shipping in the past will be delighted to hear that shipping will be a flat $180 in the US and $300 to Canada. If you want a form, see the order page to go through the process of selecting desired size etc. For now you have to fax or call your order in but in another two week’s time, you should be able to process the whole thing via the website. Another thing you’ll like -they will accept credit cards. Previously it was checks or wire transfer only.

Amended: Somehow I neglected to post the photo below comparing the shaping of the most popular form on the market versus the new Alvanon form. Really, I think this says it all.


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  1. Colleen says:

    I’m using Alva forms, now, and really like the features and the more realistic proportions.
    The squishy body, though, took some getting used to – for me, anyway.

  2. Jay Arbetman says:

    Aside from form and function issues….

    As I am sure you know, dress forms are going up in price explosively. My guy in Chicago is at about $1,200 on newly ordered forms. He was $695 a couple of years ago.

  3. gisela says:

    wow, I want one bad! Just the explanation you gave makes me want it; and looking at the comparisons you really can see the difference. I bought myself the XY&Z form and now that I’ve seen this Alva one, I don’t want to use mine any more, haha.

  4. Sarra Bess says:

    Well, crap. Now I need to find $1100, because I have to have one of these. I’m so unbelievably frustrated with my off-the-shelf home-sewer dress form I’ve been putting off sewing recently.

  5. What are your thoughts about the armhole? On the XYZ form it’s oval and tipped (which I would have thought would be good) whereas the Alva form appears more symmetrical (which I would have thought would be bad). But the Alva form armhole is bigger generally, which I’m pretty sure is good. (No more trying to guess whether your armhole is too small: if it accomodates the Alva form it must be ok.)

  6. Sarah_H. says:

    What assurance do they give of the stability of the foam material after much pinning and pulling. Dress forms are used for years (and years sometimes). How long can these be expected to last?

  7. Kathleen says:

    Re foam longevity: I don’t know. I only know that the properties of the foam has been well established (not new technology) and also, that Alvanon is particular about quality in ways few companies are so I would expect it to meet their rigorous performance standards. Perhaps a representative from the company will address this.

    Alison: I noticed this too. I can’t speak to this directly because mine is a prototype form, not the final version and the armhole is substantively different in that my form has a detachable cap sleeve. I will be more specific about its features in the forum but not in public because it (in my opinion) possibly represents a competitive advantage that Alvanon may choose to adopt in their production models in the future.

  8. Million says:

    I love it. I would request that they make a form that is similar in every regard except with a very flat tummy, or with more options for adjusting the model, since this is the slim version. Not all women require that much ease in the torso area.

  9. Bente says:

    They don’t do children’s forms in this product and it seams like they only have full body forms for children’s at a much higher cost (1,700). Does anybody know a recommended place or brand to buy dress forms for girls?
    Btw. the email from their web site doesn’t work; it bounced back..

  10. Kathleen says:

    Million: perhaps there is a misunderstanding with respect to the intended customer for this form, it isn’t intended to be adjustable like in home sewing. When I say “fitting to your customer”, I mean your ideal customer demography, not a separate and wholly unique individual.

    Even tho the form is intended to meet the ASTM D5585 sizing specification, her tummy is pretty flat but you could always get a smaller size.

    Bente: you’re right. They don’t have child’s forms yet. This is the first of its kind. If this launch is successful, I’m sure they’ll consider doing a kid’s form too.

    The more expensive child’s form you mention is a different product line, a premium product. As such, it’s not that the child’s form is “at a much higher cost” if you’re comparing it to forms within the product line it belongs to. Rather, the child’s form is at least $500 less when compared to forms in its category. If you’re going to make price comparisons, it would be the premium woman’s form ($2,300) to the one in this review ($700). But again, they’re not the same form. The premium form is based on independent research (10,000 body scans). The budget model is based on ASTM data specs -as are all the forms by any other maker.

    The fairest comparison are the features and pricing of this form I reviewed as compared to the features and pricing of other major form brands. As Jay mentioned, the cost of forms by the leading competitors are $1,200. Sure, you can find less expensive ones -I cheaped out and bought a PGM form for men ($350) thinking how bad could it be for the price but it is not usable.

    As far as inexpensive children’s forms that are built to meet the ASTM spec and with none of the Alvanon research and features, you can buy new or used from Wolf etc. However, if you’re making a higher end children’s product, I don’t know that the design and shaping of those forms will meet your expectations. Higher end products cost more (both yours and Alvanon’s) because more went into them to make them better. If you’re making value items and fit is not as great an imperative, then the leading forms on the market would be the better choice.

  11. Russell says:

    I have been using Alvanon for many years and love their forms. I recently joined a new company–six months ago and I am waiting delivery for our new dress forms from them (the custom made forms). They are made in Hong Kong and have to be shipped over the water by boat. We also have requested that all of our factories in China buy the same forms so when we fit a garment and send comments out, we know that our factories will be able to see what we are seeing.

    One thing–and I think it is a major point–is the crotch. On many dress forms you cannot fit pants because the legs are too close together. On Alvanon forms it has a nice curve with enough leg spacing to get pants on and not look distorted.

    Having been in the garment industry now for 40 years (this year is my anniversary) and having used all of the other forms, I would only recommend this company’s forms. They are truly the best to work on.

  12. Million says:

    Thank-you Kathleen. I think I may have finally encountered a vestige of home-sewing that I’m not quite ready to part with, as I do like the adjustable forms.

  13. Andrea says:

    What would make this form perfect (for me) would be that it would have short legs — like the ones that stop at the upper thigh. The bust shaping is ideal for drafting and fitting lingerie — that is what the bust delineation on specialized forms is all about. Does Alvanon state what bra/cup size this is (it looks like a well padded B or small C to me) ?

    I used a vintage foam dressform to start with (My Double ? Is that what it was called ? From the 60’s or 70’s ?) and it is still viable. The proportions were certainly not standard (it was quite short above the waist, somewhat generously busted, slim hips). I made a spandex cover for it, and would often use fiberfill stuffing under the spandex cover to pad it to create a fuller size for a particular client. It appears to be amber latex foam rubber — which will disintegrate with exposure to excessive light or heat. One great advantage of it was that it could be pinned into like a pincushion.

    I don’t know about the chemical composition of memory foam — like will it stay pliable forever or dry out or crumble ? That would be my only serious concern about this form. The more natural shape is a great step forward, I think.

  14. Andrea says:

    Ooops — went to the Alvanon site and saw that they do have exactly what I have described(though no images of it that I could find). Time to start saving !

  15. Silvia says:

    Oh my this seems so cool. I don´t think I can justify it yet ..but if I start saving perhaps in a few months….also because they don´t ship abroad yet… Thanks for the tip and great review

  16. Michelle P says:

    Wow, I am impressed. I have a PGM dress form which I like but it doesn’t have some of these features (it does have a very realistic bootie). I especially like the bust shape. I initally put an old bra on my dressform and stuffed the bottom to achieve the same effect. Then I padded out my form using quilt batting in layers. I’d prefer to have one the right shape already.

  17. Marie-Christine says:

    Sarah, it’s been fully 20 years now that I’ve been using my Uniquely You dressform, which is made of high-density foam. Apart from the fact that mine is even more realistic :-), I love the foam, I’ve gotten quite used to sticking pins straight in with abandon. That foam is made for heavy-use couches, only you don’t sit on your dressform (usually not) and mine shows not a trace of wear, or even faint loss of elasticity. I’d guess also that contemporary foams may have been improved in the last couple decades. So don’t hesitate on account of the foam.

  18. Susana Charm says:

    I’m Susana, I work for Alvanon.

    Kathleen, first we would like to thank you for taking the time to test our product and second, for sharing your results so openly and honestly with your readers. To address some of the inquiries/comments from your readers:

    Re armhole:
    In general, armhole shape is extremely variable by body size. It actually does tend to be symmetrical (based on our observations of tens of thousands of bid scans) at the core size. Body growth beyond the core size results in increasingly asymmetrical shapes. So, Kathleen is correct in her assumptions here, although the actual shape is very size-dependent.

    Re foam longevity:
    As Kathleen stated, the properties of AlvaForm Studio memory foam have been well established. This is not new technology. It has been tested by many industries before us and by our R&D department, as well. We have tested the memory foam quite extensively and found this material to be most fitting for the uses that a form of this caliber must endure. Like any form (or product in general) the proper care should be performed and potentially damaging acts should be avoided to maintain the condition of your form. The form should not be exposed to extreme heat or left outdoors with high exposure to moisture, and, of course, one should be cautious not to puncture the fabric wrapping with a sharp object (i.e. scissors, knife, etc…). In short, as long as the form is used properly in the appropriate manner for draping, fitting and pattern-making, your AlvaForm Studio will last for years to come.

    Re email bounce back:
    We experienced some technical difficulties with our email system for a couple of hours on Friday morning. We apologize for any inconveniences. The problem has been fixed, so please feel free to contact us directly.

    Re Alvanon product offering:
    Kathleen has done a great job in putting the AlvaForm Studio into perspective in terms of where it stands within Alvanon’s full, fit form product range and where we see our product positioned in the market. The AlvaForm Studio is indeed a brand new line of product that we consider “Entry-level” in comparison to our Premium AlvaForm that comes fully loaded with our signature features (i.e. collapsible hip, detachable leg/arm/shoulder caps, head, and so on…). Although we have eliminated some of these great features from the AlvaForm Studio (to be able to offer it at such an affordable rate), in no way have we compromised the quality of our materials or the superior shape, balance and accuracy of measurements backed by an extensive amount of research data and analysis. You get all that built into the affordable price; so really, there is no direct comparison in the current market for even our “Entry Level” line of fit form.

    Re AlvaForm Studio size specs:
    You can find the measurement charts for the entire size range of each AlvaForm Studio series on our website: We do not list the bra/cup size, however we do list the Bust measurements and thanks to Andrea’s comment, we will shortly be adding the Under Bust measurements as well.

    We are delighted to answer any questions and will shortly address more specific topics in the members’ forum. As always, we love happy customers and appreciate your feedback!

  19. Marieta says:

    I am SOOOOO excited about the new AlvaForm Studio that the order sheet is filled out and ready to go! SOLD!!! :) Thank you Kathleen and Susana for thinking of us and offering such a great affordable prices both for the product and shipping. Are you going to include arms down the line for the forms? I’m sure they’ll be an additional cost if people want to add that feature for blouses, shirts, etc…

    p.s./ I’ll be passing this info to the head of Fashion Design in my school ASAP!

  20. scandium says:

    Oh wow. I have no justification for buying one of these at this point in my life, being a very occasional hobby sewer, but I really, really want one. Perhaps I will have saved the necessary amount of disposable income to afford one by the time they ship to New Zealand, too…

  21. Jessie says:

    Kathleen, have you used the Alvanon form with the collapsible hip and detachable leg? This seems like a huge advantage over other forms. I can (possibly) afford this form, but I will be using it to make a lot of pants. Does the softness of the foam make up for the lack of collapsible hip?

    Thanks so much for the review. I am so glad they are making a lower-priced form.

  22. Kathleen says:

    Jessie, I have a form you describe (linked to in this entry). I like the foam but haven’t used it in the manner you describe. I would not think the foam could provide the same flexibility as the collapsible hip.

  23. Jessie says:

    I am curious to find out what it’s like to pull a pair of tight fitting jeans onto the foam form, as it is a struggle with a standard dress form. I would imagine the the type of fabric used for the covering makes a big difference in and of itself. If anyone has experience with this, I would love to hear about it. And thanks for the quick response Kathleen!

  24. Hi Jessie, we actually recommend our soft foam forms (both premium AlvaForm and AlvaForm Studio product lines) for compression wear, like tight fitting jeans. Based on client feedback, the foam gives enough for you to pull a pair of jeans onto the form without the collapsible hip feature (as long as you are fitting the correct size). We use a slicker weave fabric covering over the soft forms, instead of the traditional linen covering for our fiberglass forms, to reduce the friction a bit when pulling on tight garments. Hopefully we will be hearing feedback from you yourself, regarding this topic, soon!

  25. Alexis says:

    Hi Kathleen, wow. this is what i need! Question for you: how do i chose between the curvy and the straight? If i take only the curvy , i am leaving out a large part of the market ( i have a missy customer 35-55). Thanks and looking forward to read more from you!

  26. Kathleen says:

    You can’t fit everyone so it’s best to choose the form that most closely represents the dimensions of your profile customer.

  27. Dara says:

    Kathleen, thanks so much for the side by side form comparison. I’m used to the collapsible shoulders, etc. not foam (think Wolf). I think someone else mentioned this earlier, but is there any possibility of doing a side by side comparison of the two? I understand what Susana is saying, but I am a mediocre at pattern drafting and my samples always need 1 or 2 corrections before they are ready for market. Also, I have yet to have a client or fit model who is actually exactly any one standard so I’ve always adjusting mine with padding. I like the collapsible shoulders because if I have to modify the form for a customer (high-end one off) then the piece will still come off even if I’ve had to do weird modifications. I don’t like the idea of it being held up by friction. Probably weird on my part. Does this make sense, or just crazy boutique one-off talk?

  28. Million says:

    Hi again,

    I was looking at the specs for these form again and I really like how they have a bit of ‘give’ if you need to fit a garment without much ease.
    I’ve been told I dress like an Italian but I’m taking that as compliment. I had a lot of difficulty during my training as a pattern drafter because I was learning a drafting system with far too much ease added and I was personally measured by someone who added way too many fingers to my waistline. I experienced a lot of frustration in the process of drafting clothes for myself because of this, and I have not ever added my own my fingers to the waistband measurement to date nor do I don’t intend to when I am working with large or Xlarge fit models either. I am currently developing styles with more ease incorporated into the draft, but I like to keep a sense of the natural drape in comparison to the body when I am drafting rather than going for a ‘boxy’ look. I do like a boxy look on some people but usually I prefer a carefully draped look instead.
    PS: I hope those geeks who keep hacking your site will smarten up and get a life soon!

  29. Pingback: Paper draping
  30. Irina Lanceray says:

    Today I contacted this Alva forms company. The price is $2,075.00 + handling and shipping. Is this cheap ?

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