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#1
Old 03-21-2009, 05:32 PM
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Tell Me about (Buying a) Dressmaker Form

A few years ago, I bought my wife a sewing machine for Christmas. As she gains sewing experience, she's been using it more and more (and for more substantial and complex items). A few months ago, she mentioned that she'd like to get a dressmaker form; just recently, she said that having one would really be beneficial. She's even talked about making a duct-tape form (e.g., something like this). Her birthday is coming up, and I think she'd appreciate one as a gift -- but of course, I know nothing about them.

About the only thing I'd insist on is that it's adjustable, so it can be used for different people (they make those, right?). And, of course, money is an issue, in that I don't want to overpay for junk...but I'd be willing to sink a few weeks' paychecks into it to be assured of a quality form. I'm positive that she'd use it for years to come. So:

What are the important features?
What are the most notable brands (if any, and why)?
How much can I expect one to cost?
Recommendations on where to buy one?
Any other tips, gotchas, advice, etc.?
#2
Old 03-23-2009, 02:23 AM
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*bump*

Has anyone reading ever owned one? Any information would be greatly appreciated...
#3
Old 03-23-2009, 04:07 AM
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Well I've never used one in my life, but I typed in "adjustable dress form" into Yahoo search and got a whole page of hits...they even sell them at Amazon.com...price seems to run between $100 and $200 bucks.

Get thee to thy search engine!
#4
Old 03-23-2009, 11:03 AM
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Location: detroit, east-side
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I haven't purchased one, BUT something to consider:

How out-of-the-norm are her measurements? If she's someone who constantly has issues with fit in store bought clothes (the waist on pants gapes horribly, shoulders are too narrow, etc), then the usual "dial a size" dressmaker dummies might not work for her either, because they are standardized to clothing measurements and she'd run into the same problem. Apparently they can't take too much "funky adjusting" (the average women's pants use an 8" difference between waist and hip. If she has, like, 12", the dummy just can't adjust that much).
#5
Old 03-23-2009, 11:40 AM
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You can actually get one custom made, if you're ready to spring for such a thing. If your wife has a non-average figure, it would probably be worth the cost. My college friend who was a beanpole had one, and it was great for her.
#6
Old 03-23-2009, 12:06 PM
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Location: San Francisco area
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If she's only making clothes for herself, then the duct tape home-made form is good, if a little unglamorous, but if she's going to be making clothes for you, the kids, friends, etc, she'll need a more generic form. The dominant brand in dress forms is Dritz.

If you're near a Jo-Ann Fabrics store, head over there and see what they stock - the one by me carries a couple different forms that you can check out. Unless you're pinched for time, you don't want to buy it there unless you're on their list and get their 40% off coupons in the mail.

Aside from Amazon or Jo-Ann, another good vendor that I've bought things from in the past is Atlanta Thread Supply. If your wife is an avid sewer, you need to know about ATS as they have a lot of useful things that you will not find at the local sewing and crafts store. For instance, they are just about the only folks that carry male tailoring forms. And ATS tends to be a lot cheaper - on the Dritz "My Double" forms, their regular price is $100 less than Jo-Ann's sale price.

If you want to go really fancy, look at "collapsible" forms - these are pro-quality things, but they're single-size, so they're really only suitable for the truly dedicated sewer who's only making things in one size. Collapsible means the shoulders drop down to make it easier to get garments on and off of them - doesn't mean that the form shrinks down for storage.
#7
Old 03-23-2009, 03:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zweisamkeit View Post
How out-of-the-norm are her measurements?
Quote:
Originally Posted by dangermom View Post
If your wife has a non-average figure, it would probably be worth the cost.
Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
If she's only making clothes for herself, then the duct tape home-made form is good, if a little unglamorous...
Her figure falls well within average, I think I'm safe in saying. But...
Quote:
...but if she's going to be making clothes for you, the kids, friends, etc, she'll need a more generic form.
This is the issue.

Perhaps some background is in order. She started out making outfits for our dachshunds -- something about animals in human clothing just cracks her up. (She loves William Wegman's stuff; also, her latest creation was to make a "human skirt" for our girl doxie that matches the "poodle skirt" she has.) I doubt dimensions get much weirder than for a dachshund, so she's gotten pretty good at working sans form.

She has made a few items for a friend already. But, she's recently wanted to expand her horizons, making a variety of items for me and other friends, in addition to making items for herself. So that's the role the form has to satisfy. (An aside: do people who sew for many different people normally keep multiple forms on hand? It seems like it would be quite expensive and take up an awful lot of room.)
Quote:
The dominant brand in dress forms is Dritz.

If you're near a Jo-Ann Fabrics store, head over there and see what they stock - the one by me carries a couple different forms that you can check out.
Ah...we were in a Jo-Ann's a few weeks ago. I noticed some boxes labeled "dress form"; that's probably what got this stuck in my head. I didn't notice the manufacturer, but I think the price was ~$225. Unfortunately, we live about 2 hours away and I don't think I'll be back around there anytime soon.

If you don't mind my asking, since you say they have a couple different forms -- what is different about them? Assuming it's not just size, what's good/bad about them (or better/worse)?
Quote:
Aside from Amazon or Jo-Ann, another good vendor that I've bought things from in the past is Atlanta Thread Supply.
I'll take a gander, thank you. Perhaps that'll be enough to fill me in and answer some of my questions.

Geez, I hate being in the position where the only thing I know about a topic is that I don't even know enough to know how or where to begin. But at least now I've got a start...
#8
Old 03-23-2009, 05:09 PM
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How did the duct tape form work out on the dog?
#9
Old 03-23-2009, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Stimulus
Ah...we were in a Jo-Ann's a few weeks ago. I noticed some boxes labeled "dress form"; that's probably what got this stuck in my head. I didn't notice the manufacturer, but I think the price was ~$225. Unfortunately, we live about 2 hours away and I don't think I'll be back around there anytime soon.

If you don't mind my asking, since you say they have a couple different forms -- what is different about them? Assuming it's not just size, what's good/bad about them (or better/worse)?
The store probably stocks them in three sizes - petite, medium and full. No idea if they will have the "regular" version or the "deluxe" version, but you can order either online. (Actually, for $220, it was probably the regular model that they stock in the stores. The deluxe version has slightly extended "arms" so you've got something to hang sleeves off of, there are 12 instead of 10 size adjusters and it is blue rather than burgundy. Costs about $25-30 more. Not a huge difference, but at the moment, if you order it from Joann, they're giving free shipping on the deluxe, making it a better deal. (Of course, they're still a whole lot cheaper from ATS)

If I was buying one right now, I'd get the 'deluxe' model from ATS.
#10
Old 03-23-2009, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gigi View Post
How did the duct tape form work out on the dog?
It would be quite a trick, wouldn't it? I guess one would have to wrap the dog in gauze first (something like this), then cut it off. Poor dogs.

Honestly, I have no idea how she does it -- she made an Aloha shirt for a friend's Brittany spaniel (the owners lived in Hawaii for years). Came out quite well, I have to say...and that's even though I find animal clothing over-indulgent and extremely silly.
#11
Old 03-23-2009, 07:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
The deluxe version has slightly extended "arms" so you've got something to hang sleeves off of, there are 12 instead of 10 size adjusters and it is blue rather than burgundy.
Thanks for the help. Naturally, color doesn't matter. I suppose having arms might be an appreciated feature; at least, it's something I'll now be aware of. Do you happen to know what the extra two size adjusters control? Are either of those the standard number of adjusters? (And I think the Deluxe would be the one I'd get, if only for the stand.)

If you don't mind, I have some other questions. I didn't spend much time reading up (I will later), but I was looking at the ATS site's forms. The lack of information is startling -- and when I say "lack of information", I'm quite sure it's my ignorance showing. I'm guessing that most people looking into buying a dress form already have this as common knowledge.

For instance, for the Twin Fit, they list:
  • 12 dials provide custom shape adjustments.
  • Full shoulders provide a perfect drape.
  • Adjustable.
  • It's made of stong, lightweight materials and covered with strong foam backed fabric.
  • The form is mounted on a simple, sturdy pedestal base and comes with a hemming gauge and basting attachment.
Is that a pretty good accounting of potential features?

Then, for the Uniquely You form, there's this "custom cover" deal. How does that work? Is it worthwhile or generally a PITA?

Then there's the PGM Full Form. It's got the collapsible shoulders, but...what makes it worth more than 3x the cost of the others?

Oh, and one more question (for now) -- what's "draping tape"?

Last edited by Digital Stimulus; 03-23-2009 at 07:12 PM.
#12
Old 04-06-2009, 01:44 AM
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I had forgotten about this thread until El Perro Fumando started this thread and reminded me. Following up, here are some things I've found:

AFAICT, there are (basically) three types of dress form: (1) single size, (2) what I'll call "padding adjustable", and (3) "dial adjustable". Duct-tape forms are an extreme (and extremely cheap!) example of (1); better custom ones to buy/make are from My Twin Dressforms (instructions at site). From what I gather, the PGM brand of forms that I referred to above is well-known, professional grade, come in a single size, and cost upwards of $500 (which I believe is near a lower bound for professional forms). It seems that padding one is common practice -- and of course that's common, once I put some thought into it.

The first adjustable type (2, "padding adjustable") uses "covers" that allow a single form to be used for multiple people, like the ones for the Uniquely You forms. They cost between $140-$250 (depending on where you get it and whether it's on sale), with covers costing ~$40 each. Another, higher grade model of this type is made by Fabulous Fit, featuring their "Patented Fitting System" that uses pre-formed pads and padding, placed within some kind of full-bodyform wrap. The Fabulous Fit forms seem to be geared toward professional use (low end, $~350 up to $1500+); they have wheeled metal bases, cloth cover, and the more expensive models have detachable, magnetic arms and legs and/or collapsable shoulders/hips. From what I gather, the "cover" type of forms can be adjusted for up to three sizes beyond the base size.

The final type of form (3, the "dial adjustables") seem to be more low-end and are primarily from 2 companies in the U.S. (Singer and Yamata Family) and 2 in the U.K. (Dritz and Adjustoform). As gotpasswords indicates, even though they're adjustable they have a limited range; they most often come in 3 or 4 sizes (e.g., petite, small, medium, and full figure). And now I understand better what was said above about "regular" sizes -- adjustments can only vary so much, as they just don't physically bend that way (e.g., they won't work for someone with huge boobs and a tiny waist). Besides the general choice of size, it looks like the following are potential options:
  • 4 or 8 part body (AFAICT, that corresponds to the 10 or 12 adjustment wheels; the 8-part body is split at the waist for height/longer back lengths)
  • Legs and/or collapsable shoulders; note that forms with "legs" usually have an off-center stand
  • Pinnable cover material (usually nylon with a foam backing)
  • Adjustable neck
  • Type of base (tri-pod/quad-pod? metal/wood? wheels? adjustable height?)
  • Hem marker/pin grip/leveller
From looking over reviews, lots of people complain about the sturdiness of dial adjustable forms -- mostly that the plastic size adjusters break too easily or the base is unstable. OTOH, just as many people said they had few such problems, so long as one is somewhat careful. These models cost between $100-250.

In addition to Atlanta Thread and Jo-Ann, other sites that sell these brands of forms include Atlas Levy's (link goes to the eBay store) and SewVac Direct. I only found Adjustoform forms at U.K. sites, so if they look like they're worth the shipping cost (which is $100 or more to the U.S.), one might as well go directly to the Adjustoform site.

I hope this was helpful to someone else reading along...and even more, I hope my wife is satisfied with the form I end up getting her. I'm leaning towards one of the cheaper Fabulous Fit models (due to the sturdy base, pinnable cloth cover, and capacity for custom personal molding that can still be used for other sizes/people). If anyone has additional thoughts, they're certainly welcome to make them known...
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