Introduction: Packing Tape Dressform

Picture of Packing Tape Dressform

Make a custom dressform, display mannequin, body double, cast, or a big pinata with some help and a little paper gum tape. You could also use this technique to make paper casts of other body parts, objects, or people!

I got the basic directions and idea from here:
But since they didn't really go into that much detail, I've made an Instructable (my first! yippee!) since I was originally looking for one here anyway.

Making the dress form is pretty easy, and only took us about 2 hours to complete.

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

You will need:

- a roll of kraft paper gum tape (its the kind with dry glue on one side)
I got mine relatively cheaply at Staples. To make my form (I am a size 4), we used less than half the roll, if you are larger, you will need a bit more tape.

If you can't find the paper tape, I think you can also use duct tape, but you will need a few rolls to make the layers stiffer since it is flexible. The beauty of using the paper tape is that it shapes itself after drying like instant paper mache strips. And later on you can put pins through it without lots of sticky residue getting on your sewing pins.

- scissors (make sure they can cut through fabric)

- a rag or sponge to wet the tape, maybe a bowl to hold a little water (or just do it by the sink, and keep the rag damp)

- an old turtleneck or fitted t-shirt that you are willing to sacrifice to this project
The shirt should be as close fitting as possible and not too thick or textured. Crew neck or turtleneck are ideal, and the length should not be too short. If you don't have a turtleneck or longer shirt, don't fret, it is easy to extend the length of the form to cover your hips and neck.

- hairdryer

- marker

- someone to help you


- a hanger (to make a hanging dressform)

- old pillow or polyfil to stuff it when finished, or a bag of packing peanuts, packing foam or a few cans of spray foam (if you want to stuff/coat the inside for reinforcement- not necessary since it holds itself in shape but maybe it keeps the thing more durable)

- old lamp base, tripod or music stand (to make a standing dressform)

Step 2: Cut the Dry Paper Tape

Before you begin taping, it helps to prepare a bunch of cut pieces in different sizes.

The trick is to use smaller strips for curvier areas like breasts, collar bones, neck, and larger strips for flatter areas like the small of your back and your shoulders.

We mostly used a lot of 1.5" by 6" strips, but cut some long ( 3"x18" ) and super short (.5"x3")

Step 3: Tape the Torso

Picture of Tape the Torso

Now its time to start taping. The tapee should be wearing the fitted turtleneck and his/ her usual undergarments. He or she should probably be standing up.

Wet each strip as you need it, because they dry fast and are extremely sticky when wet. To wet the glue, lightly run a damp (not sopping, just damp) rag or sponge over the shiny (glue) side of the tape. Do not put the tape under running water, as this usually causes too much glue to be washed off and it won't stick later.

Begin with a horizontal strip running around the midsection below the chest. Make sure that it is not too loose, we want the shape to be as close to the body as possible.

Next tape the chest and and shoulders, like making a harness. Use small pieces in all different directions over curvy parts, and try to keep them laying flat against the body. If you encounter a fold or wrinkle happening in the tape, you can notch it to keep it laying flat.

Lastly, tape around the stomach and lower back and neck area.

It helps if you tape symmetrically, so in the end all areas are evenly covered. Ultimately you need about 2-3 layers or tape to create a sturdy shell.

The tapee can help by cutting more tape or taping the front sections within reach. Try to avoid twisting and bending so the torso shape isn't crushed or distorted too much; eventually they won't be able to move anyway.

Step 4: Tips for Taping Shapes

Picture of Tips for Taping Shapes

I already mentioned about using short thin strips to cover rounded areas like the chest, some other areas you should watch out for are the dips by the collarbone, area between the shoulder blades in the back, around the waist (lovehandles?), and underarms to shoulders...

To keep the integrity of a depression area, push the tape into the valley part first, then smooth outward letting the edges of the strips fall where they may.

I used a V- shape pattern to tape the back between the shoulder blades.

If you notice an area tenting too much, don't be afriad to cut it off (just the tape, not the shirt) and re-tape that area with smaller pieces.

Having the tape overlap in all different directions will create a stronger contoured shell.

You might also want to create "spines" (such as a cross shape over the front and back) to support the entire structure more.

To create extensions (say, if you are using a crew neck shirt instead of a turtleneck) use a vertical strip, tape to the inside of the shirt with the sticky side out. Then fold it over onto itself so that the ends are sandwiching the shirt but the tape sticks out to the length you need the form to cover. Space these extension prongs a few inches apart, and then tape them together using the same method (folding the tape over onto itself, but sandwiching the tape next to it).

Use a hair dryer to dry any pieces that are still wet.

Step 5: Draw Guidelines

Picture of Draw Guidelines

If you are making a dress form for sewing, now is when you want to use a marker to draw your own waistline, hips-line, shoulder line, center line, etc on the form.

You can use a ribbon or string to measure the line.

Now is also a funny time to add tattoos.

Step 6: Remove the Shell

Picture of Remove the Shell

Using the scissors that can cut through fabric, carefully cut through the center of the back, vertically.
You are cutting through the paper tape AND the shirt underneath (which is now a part of your dressform). Be careful not to cut the person or their undergarments by accident.

They should be able to wiggle out of the shell without bending it too much. If you were using a long sleeved shirt it might help to get a third person to help pull the sleeves forward.

Step 7: Seal the Back Up, Finish the Edges

Picture of Seal the Back Up, Finish the Edges

Using several short fat strips, carefully join the cut line together. If you want to avoid excessive tape buildup along the back, you can also seal from the inside.

NOTE: If you are making a hanging dressform using a rigid hanger, insert the hanger and affix it to the underside of the shoulders before sealing the back. The hanging hook sticks up through the neck hole.

After the split line is sealed, finish the bottom and neck edges by folding strips of tape over from the outside to the inside. You can trim the sleeves off and do the same to those, or knot them and shove them inside the form.

Step 8: Stuff the Inside and or Decorate (Optional)

Picture of Stuff the Inside and or Decorate (Optional)

The form should be stiff enough to not collapse, but you can stuff the inside if you want to make it sturdier.

Things that should work include: packing peanuts (in a bag, unless you seal off the bottom and armholes, fill through the neck, then seal), polyfil, old pillows, packing foam... see the next step for details on how I stuffed and mounted mine.

I am using a layer of insulation spray foam to coat about 1" on the inside (so pins will hold better). If you do this, just spray one section at a time, let it dry and set for a few hours, then flip the form over and do the other section.

You could also shellac the outside if you wanted to seal it, or decoupage, collage, paint, spraypaint, whatever... its not necessary, but if you are using this as a display mannequin decorating it could be really nice. I might decoupage some newspaper and lace onto mine.

Alternately you can stretch and attach a sweater/ knit shirt over the paper form to create a better surface for pinning fabric.

Step 9: Mount the Form Onto a Base

Picture of Mount the Form Onto a Base

I am going to hang mine on a collapsible music stand, but you could permanently mount your dressform on an old lamp base, or music stand (probably easier to accomplish if the inside is stuffed).

Or just hang it.

Or (if the bottom edge is straight enough) the form should be strong enough to stand upright by itself.

Tada! You have cloned yourself a double.


mamayama (author)2011-10-14

Before you wrap the torso, it's very important to TAKE A DEEP BREATH and hold it...or instruct the person you're wrapping to do so. Otherwise, it's easy to over-compress the lungs...and next thing you know, your dress form model's lips are turning blue. Happened to us; had to tilt her onto the bed quickly so she could re-oxygenate (next option, of course, was cutting the unfinished mold from her and starting again--but, once horizontal, she recovered quickly).

Great Instructable, thanks!

LadyBaltimore (author)mamayama2016-09-29

Great comment! I will try to remember that!

saeledbetts made it! (author)2016-05-07

I tried a duct tape version before finding this. This works so much better! I had 2" wide tape. I recommend narrower tape - it goes around curves easier. Thanks for posting this!

ChristineA22 (author)2016-01-05

Thanx ...
I was looking for something like this.

nrkey4ever made it! (author)2015-05-20

Worked out great! I couldn't get the packing tape described here, but I found Richard Wet & Set drywall joint tape from Home Depot, the results worked out the same! Thanks for the awesome instructable!

callmeshane (author)2008-01-06

Me thinks making up a plaster and cheese cloth "female mold", then splitting it and casting in a "male mold"..... as the dress form... Girlfriend - come here, I have a bright idea.... but first - let me shave your whole body : ) Yippee!!!!!

jswetman (author)callmeshane2014-10-05

Did you try the cheesecloth and plaster method? They sell plaster embedded fabric in craft areas of hobby stores that is used for making angels so the fabric 'dress' stays full... hardens into the shape you want. Just interested. Jane

stijky (author)callmeshane2008-01-07

wow... post pictures

spunk made it! (author)2014-06-03

I made one ;) And I love it! It's so useful for alterations and construction.

I stuffed mine with rumpled newspapers and added a broomstick as a stand. I used this instructable ( as a guidance for the construction of the concrete base I added.

Martha Macgyver (author)2013-08-06

Well played! That is a great solution with the tape. Hadn't thought of using that for that purpose but it makes great sense. I saw a post too about taking just a sliver out of the back to account for the extra space you gain which is also clever. The finishing off with the foam is also a nice touch because then you could in theory use some pinning or tacks with out really destroying the shape over time.

firefly68 (author)2012-03-25

stijky, thanks so much! I thought I'd seen all the variations on this, but yours, with this kind of tape, seems like it will be easiest for my very reluctant BF to deal with. :-) I also love that you can put pins in it.

stennett (author)2009-06-21

I made one for my wife's lower torso (to make pants) using the black Gorilla tape as it's thicker and stiffer. The form still wasn't as stiff as we liked. Nor was it shaped or sized was a bit big due to the thickness of the tape. To fix both these problems I filled it with the self-expanding foam you can get at the hardware store and then I removed the duct tape "mold". The duct tape came off perfect due to the tissue paper we had wrapped around her before we laid down the duct tape. I then stuck a broom handle into it and mounted it to the ceiling. We then put two pairs of thick tights on it and voila!...a pant form that we didn't have to spend $300 for. Probably around $40. If anyone wants pictures I can post them.

firefly68 (author)stennett2012-03-25

Stennett, I would love to see photos. I need a pants form as well as a dress form.

aneley (author)stennett2011-03-20

I want to make my dress form like this as well... I want a very exact replica :) But I want to try using masking tape (since I have it already) and I hope this tape will come off just as easy :) And if you still have photos please post :)

akyramoto (author)2012-01-22

Just did this today, took a little under 2hrs, turned out awesome!!

paleotool (author)2011-11-29

Great Instructable! Well thought out and good photos too. I think we'll have to make one.

nagutron (author)2008-01-03

Nice Instructable! The photos are really clear. From your finished photo, it looks like the dress form is just a bit wider than you are. I wonder if it would make sense to take the thickness of the shell into account by cutting a narrow strip out of the back before you re-seal the form. About three times the thickness of the form (1/2"-1"?) should do it.

stijky (author)nagutron2008-01-03

That is a really good idea. Like I said, its important that the shirt underneath is also as thin as possible and smooth. Also, If I did this again, I would remove the collar and bottom hem from the shirt before taping because they did create lumps (not sure if you can see that in the photo). One could probably also cut the form down the sides instead of the back center, shave 1/2" from each cut then reseal the two halves that way.

Myself (author)stijky2008-01-05

Or you could use this form as a negative mold, because the inside is where it's most accurate, and cast a positive shape inside it. Wrapping the victim in plastic wrap, then applying the tape over that, would leave a smoother layer inside that the fill material might release easily from. For fill material, I'm picturing a concretion using expanding foam insulation as binder and packing peanuts as aggregate to contribute bulk. Maybe entire plastic bottles or something could be used up the middle to fill the central volumes. Cardboard tube from the center of a carpet roll, perhaps? (It's approximately neck-sized and would make a nifty core!) That's obviously the subject of a separate instructable, but it would be hilarious to use a single mold to make a bunch of clones. :) Leave one in your cubicle at work and see how long it takes anyone to notice...

kenbob (author)Myself2011-11-28

I like the idea of using the form as a mold - and my daughter wants a dress form,,,, may have to try this

jessyratfink (author)nagutron2008-01-03

Mine was larger than me, too. I made one out of duct tape last year and it turned out quite bloated. I think I might try the packing tape, though. Duct tape just wasn't stiff enough! I also used a very thin shirt, and it didn't hold up that well. Any pressure and the form crumpled. :P

dreamydeary (author)2011-09-01

Another idea for the stand: an IV pole like this one. Sturdy, roll-able, and adjustable.

Ronyon (author)2010-12-05

Has anyone tried simply reversing the first layers of tape, so that the sticky side is faced out ward? As an electrician, I have learned to make a"head" for pulling wire through pipe, using a reversed layer of duct tape as the first layer.We also put a thin wire under the first layer, allowing us to "unzip" the entire "head", by pulling up on the end of the thin wire, which then cuts through the layers of tape like they were nothing.

wonderbyrd (author)2010-11-12

I just did this. I would recommend *not* using the Staples brand of packing tape. The adhesive was not strong. Spend the extra $4 on the brand name tape.
Also, I used a mound of plastic grocery bags to stuff mine. Worked well!

Thanks for posting this 'ible, it was very helpful!

jlock126 (author)2010-05-24

I'm going to make this dress form this week. I'm so excited. Thanks for the great instructable.

stijky (author)2010-01-14

 Hey this exact method was in LIFE magazine on Jan 9, 1939! Check out
Page 52 (from google books) 

aliking (author)2009-11-09

Hey, wanted to thank you for this one. I've referrenced your Instructable in mine:

Ieatbabiez (author)2009-09-07

Thank you for posting this! It will help when I make clothing and will make for an interesting art project....:D

djenabab (author)2009-08-05

I would like to do one of legs. I have a hosiery business and I think it would be fun to do one for legs with feet. Any suggestions? Victoria

Ieatbabiez (author)djenabab2009-09-07

I would follow the same steps and use hose instead of the turtleneck....I hope I helped ;D

bootkidz (author)2009-09-05

very cost effective

jtmcdole (author)2009-08-26

I know I'm a little late to the party on this, but I just wanted to say thanks for the refresher course! I saw this at the 2008 Dragon*Con in Atlanta (lots of great craft panels for costuming). I'm planning on doing just an upper torso and left arm for an armor project I've been working on, should help with patterns. Tip: Draw a straight line down the back and then draw some horizontal lines crossing it. Cut on the line and when you put it back together, align the horizontal marks.

StrangeCupATea (author)2009-08-14

This is excellent! I'm starting to redesign second-hand clothing as a business and this is a perfect, solution for achieving a "standardized" sizing for my garments! Thanks for you great guide!

flashstick (author)2009-03-01

Thank you so much for posting this! It's going to save me about $129...

KendallM (author)2009-01-15

This seems REALLY awesome. I can't wait to try it. I may tape my husband first lol! I'll let you know how it goes!

finfan7 (author)2008-10-25

This would be a very interesting way to make stage armour. It also looks so much better than the old caranwrap and scotch tape, far smoother.

oddmuffin14 (author)2008-08-20

Really great instructable. I'm sad I didn't find it last year; it would've made my school paper projects so much easier. But I'll definitely be using it in the future!

DREDGONRED (author)2008-07-22

this is so awesome ... Thanks for posting

JaniePatricia (author)2008-07-13

thanks for posting this i looked at the same web site you looked at but it is not too detailed. yours is way better and now im gunna do the same, cuz ive been using my sister as my mannequin and she is getting tired of it so i decided im gunna do this.

mpgs324 (author)2008-04-29

My neice and I made the dress form from duct tape. Yours is much neater. If I want to put packing tape over the duct tape will it work?

macrumpton (author)2008-03-18

you could probably use saran wrap instead of the sacrificial turtleneck. It looks like a great way to make a fake suit of armor.

jauncourt (author)macrumpton2008-04-23

I have done exactly that for a low-budget interactive theatre production. Reinforced with a few cable ties (layered between tape layers) and painted, it lasted the whole production.

macrumpton (author)jauncourt2008-04-24

Cool! do you have pictures?

jauncourt (author)macrumpton2008-04-24

Unfortunately, no, since it was pretty low budget and I didnt' think to get any for my portfolio.

mrthumbtack (author)2008-01-04

heh, I'm staring at my duct tape one right now. good idea on using kraft tape and not duct tape, I've found the duct tape to be frustrating for a variety of reasons I stuffed mine with old newspaper, however, and that seems to work well Good instructable!

darkmuskrat (author)2008-01-04

Lol, the last picture in step 3 "I am she hulk, SMASH!" :P

brodysmom (author)2008-01-04

Wow! What a great instructable!

chiok (author)2008-01-03

This is really cool! With the sacrificial top, you say it should be close fitting which I understand. But should it be a top that fits ok or should it be one that stretches to fit? I wasn't sure that if the top fit too snuggly, then when it was removed, it would try and shrink back and crease up the mold. Conversely a top which isn't tight enough could wrinkle under the taping process causes bulges perhaps? Just wondering which top to use really.

stijky (author)chiok2008-01-03

Hmm... I do think a few layers of the glue tape should prevent even the stretchy shirt from crumpling. The glue tape is pretty strong once its dry.

kenbob (author)2008-01-03

Brilliant instructable! good photos, good instructions! I am sending it to my daughter.

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