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Plus Size Dress Form

A decent compromise for a plus size dress form that worked well and looked good without breaking the bank.

I had been wanting a dress form for my sewing space for a long time, but the more I tried to find one, the more I realised how costly it would be to get a proper one. I had considered so many different types – adjustables, fixed forms, dress forms for tailors, dress forms for display. Whatever the type, they were all exorbitant the moment they fall in the plus size range, not to mention costly to ship to my location.

Nice but pricey dress form options available in the market.

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I had also considered making my own dress form as many had done and shared on the internet. The duct-tape method seemed to be the most popular. Some purchased regular sized dress forms and padded them to their size. Others purchased custom dress form sewing patterns online that were drafted to their body measurements. However, I did not embark on any of these because I really wanted a clean and nice-looking dress form that is not an eye sore, and I was not confident I could achieve that on my own.

I was in a limbo for a while, swinging between impulse-buying one of those spanking dress forms, and convincing myself that I don’t really need one. Until one day, I came across a local supplier that offered this:

Not-so-appealing photos from the seller. RM220 including domestic shipping.

From the photos provided by the seller, it looked like the dress form was a modification of a regular-sized (possibly male) dress form. It didn’t look as pristine as one of those expensive dress forms, but it was affordable. What totally repelled me at first, though, was the fabric cover. But thanks to the amazingly creative sewing community on the internet, I found the idea of sewing a dress form cover with my own choice of fabric.

So finally, after months of temptation and deliberation, I placed the order for what I think was an apt compromise between what I really desired and what I could comfortably afford. And a few days later, my dress form arrived and frankly, I was underwhelmed as it looked even worse than the seller's photos. But I held on to my faith that once it got its new cover on, it would look miles better.

The dress form that was delivered to my doorstep.

But first, I must investigate what was underneath that original cover. Was I right about it being a modification of a regular-sized dress form? I removed its original cover and whala! Look at all those padding!

Beneath the dress form cover were layers of cleverly secured padding and a stuffed bra that transformed a men's dress form into a curvy plus size women's dress form.

I guess this meant I have paid for someone else to do what I was not confident enough to do myself. And that someone seemed to have done a pretty good job. The shape was quite realistic. All I needed to do then, was to increase the bust, which was fairly easy now that I had the base shape of the dress form. I simply put an old bra on the dress form, and stuff the cups with cotton squares (I suppose you could use many other things – polyfiber stuffing, cotton stuffing, fabric scraps etc. I just had a lot of cotton squares lying around unused.) For additional security and “perkiness”, I crossed the bra straps at the back.

I increased the bust by putting an old bra on the dress form and stuffing its cups with cotton squares.

I put the original dress form cover back on and as I was satisfied with the modified shape and measurements, my next mission was to sew the new dress form cover. This was made easy for me because I only had to trace the pattern of the original cover and sew a new one using my choice of fabric (which I got during my recent trip to Saigon).

Tracing pattern of original dress form.

Sewing was a breeze because it was just putting together the identical front and back pieces by sewing the side seams with the fabrics right sides together. Because this was a thick fabric that will be subject to a lot of stretching, I used a tight three-step zig-zag stitch setting on my sewing machine. Here’s how my dress form looks after the make-over!

My plus size dress form in its new cover.

I might make another dress form cover using this bright floral fabric also bought from Saigon – for days when my dress form doesn’t have a dress on.

Fabrics bought from Saigon. Thick and stretchy - perfect for making dress form cover.

Thick and stretchy fabrics bought from Saigon. Perfect for dress form covers.

A dress I made, displayed on my newly made-over dress form.

Even after all that make-over, this dress form is far from perfect, but it is sufficient for my current purpose. I am still trying to figure out ways to improve the dress form’s stand, both in terms of appearance and stability (it wobbles and if you noticed from the photos, leans to one side). Once I managed to find the idea (and time) to do this, I will update this post. Fingers crossed!

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