Dress Forms: The Ultimate Guide

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Dress forms Well, hey girl!

I asked my Facebook group if they'd like me to blog about dress forms and there was a resounding "YAAAAS!" Well, not that exact exclamation, but that's how I received it.

Long before I ever got my first dress form, I thought that they'd essentially do the same thing. I own three dress forms and after using all of them for a while, I have found that they serve different purposes and they are for different types of sewers. And that's what we're going to chat about today.

I've got several considerations that you will need to make when finding the best dress form for your sewing, so I will break those into categories and discuss them according to the different dress forms I own.

Those categories are:  Price, Purpose, Pinnability, Adjustability, Durability, Guidelines

So, you know I'm not with the long winded-ness, so let's jump right in, shall we?

Adjustable Dress Forms

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The adjustable dress form that I have is by Dritz. My husband surprised me Christmas before last when he saw me looking for one. Let me tell you, had this not been a super thoughtful gift, this thing would have been on the curb a long time ago. But, I'll stay as objective as possible.

Price - $99+ Price increases with the size.

Adjustability - Many people, myself included, are attracted to the idea of an adjustable dress form. It has several dials that you can use to spread different dimensions to custom measurements within that size range. Awesome, right? No.

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In order for this feature to be useful, the dress from should reflect human body more accurately. This one does not. It looks like iRobot.

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Let's say you have a 34 inch bust. Yes, you can adjust the form to a 34 inch circumference around the bust line, what you cannot do is mimic the curve and cup size of a real bust, which is super important.

Guidelines - This is SUPER important. The very moment that you adjust this dress form to any measurement other than the minimum, you lose your reference to important seams like the center front, center back, and side seams. Meaning, those areas are no longer there to give you a point of reference when fitting. I drape and create my own patterns and this is an absolute no-go for me.

It does not have princess seams or waist guidelines which is important when fitting and draping. The princess seam lines help you with fitting darts and across the bust line.

Pinnability - Pins do not hold well, if at all in this dress form. Again, when fitting or draping, the ability to pin is a must. You can pin the fabric that sits on the dress form, but actually sticking pins IN the form is not going to happen.

Durability - This dress form is feather light. It is a struggle to work with because it's always moving and rocking back and forth as soon as you touch it. Also, when I adjusted it to my measurements, the dials got stuck at the waist and now I can't move them. That's why it's open in the picture. AND one of the neck panels popped loose. So, yeah.

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I'm not doing well with being objective, am I? :/

Purpose - Ok, Eryn, so what can I use this dress form for? If you already own this dress form, I do have some good news. You can salvage it by padding it out to your measurements. There is a class on Craftsy that you can check out that'll show you how to do that. It's called Fitting Essentials: Customize Your Dress Form (affiliate link).

Decorative Dress Forms

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Ah, the decorative dress form! She's so pretty to look at, and looks even better when she's styled with something fly to wear and some accessories!

But, for me, that's about where the benefits end there.

Price - $49+ (on sale)

Adjustability - This dress form is not adjustable. Another observation is that the dress form does not include a full bottom/hip area. It cuts off mid-butt. So, it's not ideal for working with bottoms. Even if you padded it out, you wouldn't be able to create your bottom enough to make it fully functional.

Guidelines - So, you may notice some black sharpie lines. I tried to draw in some princess and waist guidelines. That didn't end well. Don't laugh, I tried. What happens is that because the form is dark blue and my marker was dark, I could not see my drawn on lines through my muslin.

As I was draping, I would lose my point of reference for the princess and waist seams. As I mentioned above, this is a no-go. Draping requires you to create your own patterns, so precision is a must.

Pinnability - She is pinnable! BUT, she has some decorative stitching and rivets to mimic pockets and those got in the way while draping. I could not pin on them and I desperately needed to.

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Durability - This dress form is heavier than the adjustable form, but still light and easy to transport. She will still rock, but is easier to control when you're working on her.

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Purpose - I purchased my "denim" dress form from Joann's when they had them on clearance. I needed a pretty dress form to use to style some clothing for a vendor booth I did. All was well and good, but then things started to get a little fuzzy when I started trying to drape on this dress form.

I would definitely say this dress form is decorative. I usually have my favorite project of the moment on her with a necklace or belt. I pin the excess fabric in the back with a large hair clip so you can see the silhouette. No, it's not accurate, but she's there to be pretty, not to remind me that I don't have a 26 inch waist! If she isn't your exact size, just style her and let her shine!

Professional Dress Forms

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So, these are the big daddy's in the dress form industry. These are also the most expensive ones available. I purchased my Roxy half-body dress form from Amazon (yay, Amazon Prime!) in a size 12. There are other sizes available, just search your size on Amazon. They have a website as well, but it's less on Amazon.

Price - $160+ Price increases with size. (Depending on the model, Roxy forms include a removable arm!) Or, PGM offers floor models that are at a steep discount.

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Adjustability - This form is not adjustable, and if you want it to your exact measurements, you will need to do some padding. Here's that Craftsy class, again, if you're interested. The good news is that these forms have really precise size charts, so you can choose the size that closest reflects yours and go from there.

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Guidelines - Because these forms are used primarily for professional sewing, there are guidelines on this form that are essential for pattern making, fitting, and draping. The guidelines are visible through fabric. You can actually feel them a bit, which is wonderful once you start covering it with fabric.

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Pinnability - The two most popular brands, that I'm aware of, are PGM and Roxy. The difference between the two seems to be the filling. PGM is filled with foam and ROXY is filled with fiberglass. I have never used a PGM, so I can't offer an opinion or comparison between the two. But these are 100% pinnable.

Durability - I believe these forms will last you for years. My Roxy has a cast iron base so it is not going to be wobbling around on me as I pin. It is on wheels so I can move it around, but as far as working on it, it is solid.

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Purpose - This form checks the box for many of the features a sewer, whether professional or hobbyist, would need. It is not perfect, but it is close to it for the purposes of taking your sewing to another level.

So there you have it!

I hope that this guide has been super helpful in the choice you are trying to make with your dress form purchase.

I completely understand that a dress form is an investment in cost, so it's important that you make the best choice for you. If you figure out that you need one that is not quite in your budget, check ebay, Craiglist, thrift stores, sewing machine retailers, garage sales, or friends and family to see if they have one they aren't using.

If you have any questions or comments, post below!