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Most of the sewing I get done is after the kids go to bed.  And that means while I’m making clothes for the kids, they can’t try them on as I work.  If I don’t have a form to fit, then I can only get so far before stopping and waiting to fit them the next day.  With the amount of sewing I do (or would like to at times), it’s really helpful to have a dress form.

I would love, love, love to have an adjustable child’s dress form for the various stages of my children’s growth.  However, right now it’s just not an option for us. In lieu of going without, we simply make a form for each child.

Since a homemade dress form is not adjustable and children grow fast, it’s important to make one while doing a stack of clothes for that child.  After finishing the stack, move on to the next child, do his/her form and work through that stack of clothes.

Here’s how we just made dress forms for a couple of the girls:

For this project we used:

  • A partial roll of regular duct tape (for the first layer)
  • 3 rolls of printed (pink) duct tape from the dollar store (on the outside)
  • A metal frame (welded by the Farmer)
  • Old plastic bags
  • Old shirt
  • Foam

We started by reminding the girls that once we start, they would have to hold very still, and that near the end it would get tight.  Forewarning is important. Then she can put her old shirt on.  This shirt will be a permanent part of the form, so make sure you don’t want it.  Also make sure it covers every area you want the form to fit to.

I find that shorter strips (no longer than 10 inches long) form to shape better.

Making a child's dress form so I can get all the sewing done after she goes to sleep at night.

I like to always start with an “x” over the chest area.  I think when just doing horizontal or vertical strips this area can become less fitting.  It’s more important for older girls, but I do this with the little ones too.

After this is on, I start with small horizontal sections along the front, and then in the back.  I don’t put it along the sides until the end since this causes the form to get tight and uncomfortable.

I carefully lined the neck line, and then each arm.  Anything you will ever want to fit your garment to needs to be made.  If you plan to fit sleeves, then your form will need sleeves.

If you want to fit pants to your form, you would want to wrap the thighs and do them as well.  Make sure to have fabric pieces around the thighs and under the form if you do this.

When I was happy with my results, it was time to fit very short strips (6 inches or so) to one side at a time and fit it as snug as we could without restricting any air flow.

Once the duct tape form was what I wanted it to be, I then repeated the process (only faster) with the decorative tape.  The dollar store rolls are short, so I used two full rolls to make this second layer.

When complete, place your non-dominant hand inside the bottom of the back, and carefully use scissors to slowly cut up the back.  Have  a new shirt ready for your little lady and make sure it’s in a private room.  If doing this with your teens, be extra careful not to cut her bra strap.

Now is the time to carefully tape the back together again.  I used 2 inch pieces to do this and it took awhile to get it lined up just right.  After this, I carefully held the arm shape, and taped over the arm holes.  Reach up in there and tack some pieces of a plastic bag inside the arms.

I know some people just leave the form like this and tape over the holes filling it with plastic bags, shredded paper, or whatever.  However, I want it so stand up as tall as my daughter is because we wear a lot of ankle length dresses & skirts.  I had the Farmer make a stand just her height.  He welded it together with some scrap metal pieces, and put some weather stripping on the bottom so it won’t scratch my floors.

Making a child's dress form so I can get all the sewing done after she goes to sleep at night.

The pink one was fit on a metal frame.  Next, we used the patterned duct tape to tape the bottom, and put some plastic bags in the bottom to hold the shape. After this the Farmer sprayed foam down the neck into the bottom, and we let it dry one can at a time.  After it was dry, we used a razor knife (very carefully) to shape the neck how we wanted it and then taped over the front.

The purple-bottom one was fit to a wood stand.  It was stuffed with plastic bags and old paper.  (Click the banner at the top of the article to see this one.)

Don’t have the same materials we used here?  Just use what you have for a stand and filling.  As long as it holds the shape, you’ll be just fine.