How to make a duct tape dress form for sewing and quilting clothing

Most people go shopping the day after Thanksgiving– the retail industry refers to this day as “Black Friday”.

My new-found cousin (who joined us for Thanksgiving, introducing us to “Tofurkey” and it’s accompanying amino acid, Tofurkifan) and I made a duct tape dressform on the day after Thanksgiving– giving birth to a new holiday, “Silver Friday”.

I love to create wearable art, especially Wild Onion Jackets or even altered sweatshirts! I was given a dressform by a friend who moved away. It was a wonderful gift, but it wasn’t really my shape. After learning about this method to re-create your own body shape using old tee-shirts and duct tape (link) I decided that this was the perfect way to introduce this new-found relative to the craziness that is my family. (Please, if you meet relatives via the internet, be sure to vet them carefully before meeting them in person, or you too could be sucked into a bizarre situation like dressmaking dummies! Fortunately for me, Michelle didn’t vet my family!!)

So, without further ado, here is a tutorial on how to make a duct tape dress form, complete with the day’s photos!

dressform-cutting-tee-to-fit-blog.jpgFirst step, choose an old tee shirt that kind of fits. You will be cutting it up, so don’t choose a shirt you love! We cut up the back so that we could then re-tape the shirt to make it tight. You want to avoid excess fabric which creates wrinkles, which creates added inches on the finished dress form.

We re-taped the shirt to fit my figure a bit more snugly. dressform-fitting-the-tee-blog.jpg

dressform-first-tapes-blog.jpgWe (and I really mean Michelle– I just stood there, absorbing the humiliation!) criss-crossed my breasts with tape…oh, look! a Playtex living bra!

dressform-boobage-2-blog.jpg Continue wrapping your breast area using diagonal strips of tape. Make sure you don’t squish yourself!

dressform-front-vw-vertical-layer-blog.jpg dressform-back-vw.jpg Here you see the finished first layer– wrapped vertically from neck to micro mini. (***IMPORTANT NOTE!!! Do not– NOT– think that it’s a good idea to wear a pair of leggings for your bottom layer! It is NOT a good idea– how the heck do you think you’re going to get yourself out of this outfit at the end???!!! Please know that here I am serving as a horrible warning, not a good example! Wrap a plastic bag or another piece of old tee shirt in a skirt form. Muuuuuch better idea.)

dressform-armsleeve-blog.jpgWe initially thought we’d make a short-sleeved dressform, so we (again, with the “we”. Michelle did all the work, and I just stood there.) If you think you’ll make a short-sleeved dressform, cut up your sleeve and re-tape it to snug up against your arm. We ended up cutting off the sleeve for the final dressform, but who knew?

dressform-front-excess-pleating-blog.jpgI’m pointing to the beginnings of the horizontal wrapping layer. You need to pull the waist tight– don’t add pounds to your figure, unless it’s with chocolate. Chocolate is much more fun than duct tape. You can see how much excess we got with that first vertical layer– see the gathers at my waist? Cinch it in, Miss Scarlett!

dressform-finished-front-plus-original-dressform-blog.jpgdressform-back-view-plus-original-dressform-blog.jpg Hooray– we’re almost finished! See how much, um, curvier I am compared to the dressform? At that point, I felt like I was in a full length girdle. Thank goodness we don’t wear corsets anymore– this is not comfortable!

dressform-cut-up-back-blog.jpgOkey dokey. Now we’re done with the duct tape…and it’s time to cut me out. This is where we had that sinking feeling….how do we cut me out of the PANTS??? No one’s been near me down south with a sharp instrument since I had my c-sections. How well do I know Michelle? Is she trust-worthy? Shoot– I didn’t vet her, either. Deep breath, close eyes, CUT!!

finished-dress-form-w-me-blog.jpgTA DA!! Here we are– Susan and Suzette. We re-taped the duct tape dress form over the original dress form, adding stuffing as needed to pad the duct tape form. We are currently exhausted from all our hard work, but when we recover, we (meaning I– poor Michelle will have escaped by then) will take measurements. By the way, how do you gain 3 pounds from one little Thanksgiving meal??? Oh, I digress.

I had never seen a duct tape dress form put on top of an existing dress form, so I thought it might prove helpful to post a how-to for those of you with an existing dress form which didn’t fit your personal body stats! If you don’t have a dress form, there are other ways to “stuff” the duct tape form: expanding insulation foam, craft batting/stuffing/foam bits, etc. You will also need something to use as a center post stand: I wonder if you could salvage an old table lamp? Try it and let me know!

I can’t wait to use the new dress form to help me out when I make my altered wearable art, or better yet, my Wild Onion Jackets. I think it will prove invaluable to learn where NOT to place certain appliques, how best to accentuate my better figure attributes, etc.  The dress form will come in handy when I make all the new Wild Onion Jackets to show during the classes I will be teaching at Quilting with Machines!

So, statistics: about 3 rolls of duct tape, one old tee shirt, one pair leggings (but you’ll be wiser than that), one unsuspecting relative, one digital camera, one afternoon, one bottle of wine. Two good senses of humor. One blog.

Addendum: I went out to measure me/my dressform. The dressform is about 1 to 1.5″ bigger than I am– I will try to re-wrap her, cinching her in a bit. Either that, or I need to start eating more to gain the extra inch on my body so we match…



Filed under altered artwear, duct tape dressform, family, life, sewing, wardrobe

27 responses to “How to make a duct tape dress form for sewing and quilting clothing

  1. You are going to love having a custom dressform. I have a My Twin. It was a total pain to make but it made a huge difference in my garment sewing.

  2. Ricë

    i LOVE this! thanks ever so much for doing it–and for posting it and with PHOTOS! i wish i had an old dress form to alter. and someone who’d do the whole Duct Tape Thang, too!

  3. Roberta

    Wouldn’t the extra inch be your ease??? You could just fit the garment tighter on the form that way. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Jan Thompson

    Susan – I would love to have been there to see this whole process – what a hoot!!!!

  5. Thanks for sharing your fun with this, something I’ve been wanting to do. We celebrate Don’t Buy Anything the Day After Thanksgiving Day around here which is a little long to say. I like Silver Friday.

  6. What would you do if you did not have a dress form to put the duct tape cover over? I’d love to make my personal form, but I don’t have anything to make it stand up after finishing.

  7. Christine, if you follow the link on my post, it will take you to one of the many sites online that teach you how to make this duct tape form, including how to deal with the empty form. I used my existing dressform b/c I had it– most tutorials recommend other ways to address the issue. If you search online, you’ll find a way to finish your form so that it stands alone!

  8. I’ve been wanting to do this for the longest time! So, who do I trust with tape a scissors? Nobody in this house! LOL! 😉

  9. This is great! Thanks for the heads (?) up on the proper attire for the bottom – I’m sure I would have done exactly what you did.

  10. Lorraine

    What fun and what a great job you and Michelle accomplished. Thanks so much for sharing it with the group and on your blog (who would not DARE create one of these with her current expanded shape!).

  11. What fun you must have had and a very useful object to boot.

  12. Bet you know your cousin pretty well now, don’t ya? Suzette is lovely, but don’t gain the extra inch to match . . . it’s way too hard to lose.

  13. This was TOO much fun to read, Susan! Thanks for the photos and the funny comments as you went along. Wish I’d been there to share the fun and wine!

  14. You may have just given me the solution to a class project my son has to do…..I will let you know later! 🙂

  15. A friend went to a duct tape party for this several years ago, but this is so much better than a merely verbal description of the process. Thank you so much for blogging about it, and for doing it so well.

  16. Jolene

    Thank you. 😀 You rock!

  17. Frankly, I think you have lovely curves and should be proud of them…to look that good after TWO c-sections??????? Eleven years after my second pregnancy (at age 52 almost) I am FINALLY getting rid of the pounds from second pregnancy and a decade of too much eating. I am considering the 40s my fat decade, not to be repeated. I hope.

    Anyway…great blogpost…thanks for sharing. I know now what we’re gonna do with that defunct floor lamp that is loafing in the basement….Dress form stand!

    Cheers, Sarah

  18. Pingback: Dress Form « Thoughts, Rants & Concerns

  19. Princess

    Couldn’t you just re-open the seam where you cut yourself out and overlap it to take it in an inch?


  20. Pingback: Dress: How to make a Dress Form with Duct Tape « Felt Fashion: BOOK BLOG

  21. I love it! This is a GREAT idea!!!

  22. What a great idea! And what an entertaining story. I will definitely try this (without tights)

  23. lee nabarro

    Awesome job!! and awesome blog

  24. Vannessa

    This is going to be helpful in a few months. Haha. Though I need to make a full body one for a costume! Oh well. I’ll just have to wear tights and be cut out of those separately. Or ask my friend that will be making the costume for me how she wants me to do it (she lives in another stat so I have to make it and ship it to her).

  25. Thank you so much for this great post
    A good idea, good read and good laugh!!!

  26. Lance

    My wife and I did this recently with water activated paper packaging tape. We chose that so the finished dress form could be pinned into, without having the sticky adhesive cling to the pins. We also simply used a very long t-shirt, and made a single cut up the back for removal. No problem. The resultant form is stiff enough to use simply standing on the dining room table. It occurred to me that it would be a good date-night activity for couples. My wife is using it for fitting an off-the-shelf pattern.

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