This duct tape dress form was made after my friend had two babies close together in age. I wanted to make a form for her that was both inexpensive and easily altered so I could take it in as she got smaller, although this instructable could be used to add an inch or two to the dress form as well.
Step 1: Supplies
For this project, you will need the following:
-Duct tape: I used just over one roll for my friend, who is pretty tiny. You should probably have at least two or three rolls on hand.
-Shirt or plastic garbage bag (person sized): Whichever of these you use, it should be as long as you want your dress form to be tall
-Newspaper: lots for stuffing. I used almost two whole newspapers from Thanksgiving, so they were even fuller than usual.
-Permanent marker/pen that can write on duct tape
Step 2: Prepare Your Model
Have the person you are making the dress form for dress in snug clothing, such as leggings and a close-fitting shirt. This will cut down on odd lumps and extra bulk in your final product.
If you're using a shirt to make this dress form (Note: it will get cut and become one with the form), skip to the next step. If you're using a plastic bag, tun it upside down and cut a hole in the bottom just big enough for your model's head to fit through. Have her pull the bag over her head so you can judge how big & where you need to cut your armholes. Cut circles in the bag where your model will put her arms through. Try to keep the arm holes as close-fitting to your model's arm size as possible, as this will make constructing your dress form easier later on.
***This is a good time to pause for a trip to the bathroom. Soon your model will not be able to sit or move around easily without possibly damaging the dress form in progress.***
Step 3: Prepare Your Base
If you're using a shirt for the base and it's form-fitting, skip to the next step. If you're using a loose shirt or plastic bag, you'll want to make it a closer fit to your model to avoid odd lumps later on. Begin by facing your model and lightly pulling the shirt or bag out from her waist on both sides. Pin about an inch out from your model so that the extra material is evenly distributed on both sides; this should keep the material that is covering your model flat and straight instead of bunched to one side or another. If the bag or shirt looks like it's stretched or bunched to one side, unpin and try again. This does not have to be exactly even, just even enough that there is no odd pulling on the base material.
Continue pinning up and down the sides of the shirt or bag until you have two pinned "seams" that fit the shape of your model. If you have a larger bag that needs to be pinned in the arms as well, have your model hold her arms out parallel to the ground, then pin under the arms.
Once you are happy with your pin placement, cut on the outside of the pins (the side away from your model) in order to get rid of the excess material. You can put this to the side for now as you may need it for alterations later. When you are done cutting, you should have something that looks like a pinned together dress.
Make your side seams by removing one pin at a time, folding the material over flat and using the duct tape in small (4-6 inch) strips to secure the sides shut. Do this on both sides until you have no pins left in your shirt or bag. You should now have a form-fitting base on which to begin your dress form.
Step 4: Begin Taping
Start building your dress form by taping under the bust and around your model, followed by making an X across the chest and under the breasts as a guide (see photo). The pieces used for the X should be about 10-12 inches long. Continue layering above and slightly below the X you made until you have a base for the chest of the dress form (not including the breasts); this should take about six to eight strips of tape total, although it could take more or less depending on the size of your tape and model. Press firmly throughout the taping process.
***Note: When taping your model, it is best to place the tape down on one side, then run your hand along the length of the tape to smooth it down, allowing the tape to follow the natural curves and depressions of your model's frame. This keeps you from ending up with awkward bunches and an unnatural form.***
You can now start taping across the bust. Begin just above your first piece of tape that went around your model, and tape horizontally across the bust and around to the sides. The length of tape you use for this step should be equal to the width of your model plus approximately four inches so there is tape to wrap around the sides. Continue taping above the last piece until you've covered the fullest part of your model's chest, or about four to five strips of tape.
Step 5: Shoulders
Start working on the shoulders of your dress form in a similar way to how you did the chest. The difference in the front and back is that the shoulder pieces will look more like a V with tails than an X. Cut strips long enough so that they reach over the shoulders of your model and end around collarbone height. Once you have your base for the back (again, about six to eight strips total), do the same horizontal wrapping you did for the front.
You are now ready to work on the tops of the shoulders and arms. If you used a wider bag or shirt that has sleeves, now is the time to remove them. Simply cut the sleeves to where the shoulder seam on a shirt would be (use your model's shirt as a guide, if possible) and remove the excess material. Begin taping over the shoulders by covering the exposed areas of your base. You can tape in all directions here, as the shoulders need to be sturdy enough to support the rest of the form once it is on the hanger. Get as close to the edge of the armholes as possible when taping over your model's shoulder; if you accidentally tape her or her shirt, it is best to gently pull the tape up now and fold the exposed stickiness under before it forms a strong hold on your model. Continue taping both shoulders until the base is covered.
Step 6: Coverage
Now you can begin taping all of the exposed areas of your base from your model's waist up. Remember not to force the tape into any fixed position. You should be using a variety of lengths of tape for this step. Be sure to tape as close to the edge of your base as possible around the neck and arm holes.
Do this for both the front and back of your dress form. During the covering process, tape horizontally across the seams you created to ensure the sides of your form are as sturdy as your front and back pieces. Use strips of tape approximately 8-10 inches long for the side coverage so that they reach both the front and the back.
Step 7: Break: the Point of No Return
If you or your model need a break, now is the time to take one. After the next step, your model will not be able to sit until you are finished taping the dress form, so this is her last chance to sit down or use the bathroom until you're finished taping her.
Step 8: Lower Half
There are a few ways to go about taping the lower half of your model, but I chose to begin with a base line around where I wanted the dress form to end. I prefer dress forms to end at crotch level so that they can be used to alter pants or shorts, but you can decide the best length for your own form.
After you've taped your base line, simply wrap strips of tape around your model, making sure to tape across the sides as well. Cover your base completely with duct tape, and inspect for any holes or missed spots in your dress form.
Step 9: Final Layer
The top half of your dress form should be fairly sturdy, but if you think it's too thin to stand up to pinning during use, go ahead and tape one last layer around your model. Do this for the bottom half as well, making sure some of the top and bottom pieces overlap to form one solid, sturdy dress.
Inspect one last time for missed sections or single-layered areas. This would also be a good time to mark the top seams on your dress form going from your model's neck to shoulder, as these markings will help you place your hanger later.
Step 10: Freedom!
Now you're ready to cut the dress form off of your model!
I began at the top and cut down, but it's most definitely easier to cut from the bottom up. You can cut one straight line and be done with it, or you can cut in a zigzag pattern so that your two sides are easier to match up when you're putting them back together. Otherwise, you might have to match up tape strips like I did to ensure you're connecting the correct sections.
Don't forget to take your model's measurements after this step if you do not already have them. You should measure her bust, waist, hips, shoulder to crotch height (or shoulder to bottom of dress form length), and shoulder to floor height (if you're planning on hanging your form at actual model height).
Step 11: Inspection and Connection
Hang your cut dress form in an area where light can shine through it and see if there are any thin areas. If there are, layer a strip of duct tape over the thin spot to reinforce the area. This is also the time when you can cut off any excess base material from the bottom.
Once you're satisfied with the sturdiness of your form, you can begin taping the back together by using short (2-4 inches) pieces of tape and carefully lining up the edges. Do this until the back of your dress form is completely taped together. For extra support, go back over the back seam with strips of duct tape placed diagonally and horizontally.
Step 12: Hems and Hanger
Create clean edges by "hemming" them with duct tape. Take a strip of tape, place it on the bottom edge of the dress form and fold over. Complete this all the way around the bottom, around both arm holes and around the neck hole. If you have a piece of tape that wont fold easily around a curve, cut the tape toward the curve and fold both pieces individually.
Shimmy the hanger into the top of the dress form as if you were hanging a dress. Line up the seams you drew on with the hanger and tape in place. If you didn't draw seams, adjust the hanger until it holds the dress in a manner than mimics your model's posture.
Step 13: Close the Gaps
Begin closing the armholes by placing your hand through the neck hole & holding an arm hole open (see photo). It is best to have several strips of tape cut for this step so that you don't have to keep pulling your arm in and out of the dress form. Cover the entire opening with tape on both arms.
For the neck hole, it is easiest to have a friend hold the form open while you tape the hole closed. Tape from front to back over the hanger until the hole is sealed.
Step 14: Stuff and Close
Begin stuffing the dress form with crumpled up newspaper. It's best to use one sheet at a time so that as you're stuffing the form it will get compressed more than if you use several sheets crumpled together at once. As you're stuffing the form, be sure to press outward on any areas that may have caved in or dented. Stuff the form until it is so full of newspaper that it can hang without paper falling out.
To begin closing the bottom of the dress form, loosely tape across the opening, leaving a hole large enough for your hand. When the entire bottom is covered except for the hole, stuff any remaining paper that will fit into the bottom and tape up the hole. Stand the dress form upright to be sure it sits evenly.
Step 15: Correcting Defects
If your dress form is perfect and sits evenly, skip this step. If your dress form doesn't sit evenly, apply this method to the bottom of the form to even it out.
In case you had a fidgety model or other mishap and ended up with an oddly shaped area, you can use your scraps that you saved as a sort of dress form putty. Simply take your scrap and fold or wad it up, depending on how large and deep of an area you're fixing. Stick the scrap onto a strip of duct tape and arrange it on the dress form in the area that needs to be filled. Cover the scrap with duct tape so that it blends in with the rest of the dress form.
Step 16: Alterations
Measure your dress form around the bust, waist and hips. If your form is the size (or very close to that) of your model, congratulations! Your dress form is complete.
If your form is too large or small, you'll need to perform a little cosmetic surgery. To make the form larger, cut two lines vertically down the part that needs to be widened (bust, waist or hip), lining them up with the center of each breast. Open each cut half as wide as the area needs to be altered and tape while holding open. (Example: If your waist is 30" and dress form is 29", open each cut 1/2", making the total widening 1")
If you need to take your form in, mark the waist on both sides in line with the center of the breast and draw a vertical pointed oval approximately 2-3 inches tall. Cut the ovals out of the form, pull the sides of the ovals together and tape. Repeat with the hips as necessary. To take in the bust, cut the ovals directly under the armpit of the dress form on each side. (see photos)
Measure your newly sized dress form and adjust again if necessary. If no further alterations are needed, smooth the areas you've cut down with a few strips of tape.
Step 17: Finished!
Congratulations! You now have a customized dress form. Time to get to work on some awesome sewing projects!
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