Sometimes, while I'm going through photos I'm going to put online, I imagine a future in which I'm a candidate running for office and my opponent has all his/her lackeys looking for incriminating photos of me. I am pretty sure I'll have to answer for this post and probably a few of my pattern photos. I am basically unelectable at this point, but I do it for you, sweet internet people.
I have had a pinnable foam dress form for a few years now.
It's been indispensable for knitwear design, since it's close in size to the a standard sample size for magazine publishing. And it works well for making garments for myself because while it's a little smaller than I am, it's still a relatively close match and I can gauge my progress.
A little note, before I go any further. I'm going to talk about how I differ from the average for my size and also from the dress form. This could be construed as some sort of self loathing/body snarking/judgement of anyone else's shape that is like or unlike my own. It's not. We are all built the way we are built and everything you wear or knit should be done so with the intention of feeling great while you wear it. It's good to know what makes you want to give yourself the ol' finger guns, winky face in the mirror and what makes you want to crawl back into bed and hide from the world.
Getting back into sewing has made me realize that my dress form is really useless for sewing. Skirts slide right off those slender little hips and it can't come close to mimicking my swayback/bubble-butt combo. Swaybacks cause the pelvis to tilt, arching the lower back. In my dancing days, I was regularly training myself to tuck by butt back into alignment, but I've slowly lost that muscle strength and really have to remember to keep things aligned. Even when I'm conscious of it, my back is still pretty arched, but when I'm at ease, it's quite pronounced. Along with that bubbly butt and a bit of softness around the belly, that sway back is even more pronounced. Wearing clothing that fits snugly at the waist and falls straight down or flares, seems to look best on me. However, shorter skirts like McCall's 5431, that are worked in crisp cotton, really highlight how much higher the back hem sits than the front hem.
Along with my body's structural idiosyncrasies, there are more common variations of the type that must of exhibit in one area or another. My shoulders are quite straight across (no shoulder pads needed here) which actually balances out my hips but does require that I adjust sloped shoulder seams accordingly. My torso is relatively long and my legs are short in relationship, so tops need to be longer to avoid showing my belly and pants and skirts should be hemmed higher to keep the proportions in line.
Even if I had the spare money for an adjustable dress form, I'd be unlikely to find one that could account for all these peculiarities of my body. Most are made only to adjust for bust, hips and waist circumference, and possibly torso length.
For the price, a duct tape dress form seemed to be the best option and tutorials online abound, so you know you aren't diving into uncharted water.
This blog post would be too long if I went through each step here, so I made a flickr set and added my notes to the caption section of each image. You can see the set here.
I'm really happy with the end result, though I was trying so hard not to suck anything in, that I must have overcompensated while being wrapped. The waist is now 2-3" bigger than my actual waist measurements, even after I've eaten a good sized meal. It's still incredibly useful, but I may need to try to reduce that circumference at some point.
Here are the two forms, side by side.
I decided to roughly cover the form with some lycra I had in stash, to make it a little less duct-tapey.
I've already put it to good use, using it to hem a dress.
And adjust that blue skirt I showed above.
All said, we spent about 2 hours for the taping phase and then it took me another hour to stuff and finish the form. The materials, excluding the cover I made and the t-shirts I wore under the tape, cost under $25. About $6 each for 2 rolls of 60ft duct tape, about $2 each for 2-3 bags of fiberfill, and about $4 for a pair of raglan shoulder pads. The chain to suspend the form from the ceiling, was a few dollars more.