Before I was busy preparing and teaching the class I gave over the past week (did you miss me?), I meant to tell you about the dress form I bought. I think I may have been the only professional pattern maker in the country without a dress form. What can I say? I’ve never used them beyond hanging a garment on one for whatever reason, to check a collar or something and no, I definitely don’t drape on them. I don’t know if it was competitive pressures (my friend Sally must have 12 of these) or the incredulous comments from visitors over my lack of one but in the end, Alvanon convinced me I had to have one. And not that Alvanon tried to sell me one- it’s that their forms are quite distinctive. The usual forms (the armholes are awful) annoy me. I’ve often thought clothing fit so poorly because clothing is drafted to fit a form rather than a person. Anyway, I ordered my form two months ago but it didn’t arrive until just before the class. I’m writing about it now because my next post shows jackets on it so I thought I’d do this entry first.
I like the Alva forms because they’re the only ones that are based on actual sizing studies. I think Alvanon scanned close to 10,000 people in the UK (for the form I bought). There’s another form on the market from a competing company based on anthropometric data but the forms are based on the measures of raw data, not body scans and there’s always a bit of number torturing when you’re dealing with data sets, to say nothing of the veracity of the given study (of which I’ll omit my reservations at this time).
First I’ll explain the kinds of forms Alvanon has and then explain which I bought and why. Alvanon has two kinds of dress forms, ready made and custom (custom forms are the largest part of their business). Of the ready made forms, they have several classes. These are the Signature series, the DataFit series and the ASTM series.
The women’s form in the Signature series is based on Maureen Gannon, a US fit model. Her dimensions are popular. These are:
- Chest/Bust Girth 36
- Waist Girth 28 1/2
- Hip/Seat Girth 38 7/8
- Thigh Girth 22 1/2
Her height isn’t listed but I seem to recall she’s rather tall, 5’8″ or 5’9″. Her height is the downside for me, otherwise the dimensions would have been fine.
The DataFit Series is the one I mentioned above, based on the UK sizing survey of 10,000 women. There are two bodies, the Curvy Form and a Moderately Curvy form. The curvy is what I bought; the dimensions are:
- Chest/Bust 35.6
- Waist Girth 27.7
- Hip/Seat Girth 38.18
- Thigh Girth 22.28
- Height 5′ 6″
The Moderately Curvy dimensions are:
- Chest/Bust 35
- Waist Girth 30
- Hip/Seat Girth 38.58
- Thigh Girth 22.83
- Height 5′ 5″
Comparing the latter two, the moderately curvy is less shapely than I’d like. The bust to waist differential is only five inches and she’s an inch shorter. Not that her height is a problem, just that the smaller bust, larger waist and hip makes her a little stockier than I’m looking for. Between all of the forms, I would have liked a form with a greater differential between the under bust and over bust measure but that wasn’t attainable in a ready made form. These forms are solid B cups. I didn’t ask what the custom forms cost because I guessed those cost more that I had budgeted for a form. The Alvanon forms are probably the most expensive (but definitely the best) forms in the business.
The last ready made dress forms are the ASTM series. These specs aren’t published because the sizing data is proprietary, used under license. Of course if you’re interested in buying one of these forms, Alvanon will send you the basic measures of what constitutes a given size but one is not permitted to publish the data sets in a public place. Also, I’m a bit confused. Alvanon says they’ve integrated their results (based on over 200,000 body scans from the US) with the ASTM data and that these are published in the standards but I think that may be for next year because the 2007 standards arrived last month but I don’t find those in there. Ditto for the kid’s sizing. By the way, Alvanon is getting rave reviews from practitioners for their children’s forms. If I were doing kid’s wear, I wouldn’t buy any other form. I don’t want to digress too much, but don’t buy a kid’s form without a head. Ever. [Amended: Esther says not to waste your money on anything less than a full body form for a child. Save up longer if you have to.] Before I forget, I’ll update you on the women’s ASTM forms as those become available because the forms should reflect the larger cup size of the average woman (a 36C). I hope.
Before I forget, Alvanon does more than dress forms; their business is sizing. They do a lot of proprietary stuff for large retailers. One very interesting product they offer are pattern blocks. You can buy the pattern blocks that are designed to fit your form and use these as the basis of style development. If you’re not developing your own patterns, you can tell Alvanon to sell the pattern blocks for your form to a contractor you designate.
Anyway, on to the details of my new toy. Here’s the label. She’s described as a size 12. Heh. I think she’s closer to a US size 8 these days (dimensions listed above). Also note that her front panty line is marked. Actually, it’s pieced. This is very useful in style development. I haven’t noticed this feature on any other form. Another thing not seen on most other forms are the marked scye lines going around the body.
Here’s the over view, front and side.
As you can see, she’s a full body form. Her arms and left leg are removable. Her shoulders and one hip collapse. The shoulders is no big deal, that’s been done, but the hip collapse is wonderful indeed! She also comes with two cap sleeve extensions rather than a full length arm for greater variety. You can also use her without arms altogether. The base she hangs from is pretty cool. The casters on the base lock. Good thing around here, my floors are undulating waves of 100 year old wood flooring.
Most forms have the princess lines marked off as does she but this form, again, goes beyond. Check out her front bust in the center. This is a seam line, it’s pieced. This would be ideal for people worried about the bridge of a bra showing. Another thing that may not be evident in this photo (but I think it is) is that the front bust slope is not flat. There’s a small dip in the chest wall above each breast. This is more reflective of human shape and moreover, much harder to mold. There’s dips like this all over the form which is what really impressed me. The other industry forms smooth out all of those lines. That’s all very good and well if you’re making patterns or clothes to sell to dress forms but people aren’t smooth like that. It’s better to have those depressions there and figure out how to work around them.
Below is a side view of her bum. I took this to show you her back panty line. This is similar to the front panty line (the latter for a different style of panty obviously) that I showed in the first photo above, in that it is also pieced. Again, I haven’t noticed this feature on other forms.
Anyway, if you have any questions about her, I’ll try to answer them. Eric says I should have a naming contest. I’d thought of a name for her but I already forgot it. I thought about calling her Judy after that Canadian woman who chided me for not knowing that the correct term to describe a dress form was “Judy”. Go figure. Naming ideas? I don’t know anyone who looks like her.
[Amended] I paid more than I care to admit for this form ($2,000). Previously, Janice Wang (Alvanon CEO) mentioned that a discount for F-I visitors may be possible. I wrote asking for details. I’ll update this when I hear back.