Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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.