I was scrolling through my photostream and I suddenly realized how often I write/talk/teach/demo about fit. In fact, I think that getting a good fit is the number one subject in class, other than the technical skills needed to create a beautiful garment.
Investing in a good dress form is the same as buying a good quality serger, sewing machine, or iron. I was asked recently whether or not I think having one is important. YES! If budget constraints have got you down, there are several blogs and tutorials on how to make your own dress form using a combination of double-sided tape, wood dowels, and spray foam. Fashion Institute of Technology instructor, Kenneth King, developed a method of using fusible quilt batting, shoulder pads, and other simple materials to create a body silhouette that can be mounted on a cheap dress form. That said, bear in mind that dress forms are not human forms. I have never encountered a human that had absolutely no buttocks whatsoever. Most dress forms are missing this part of the human anatomy, together with the lumps, bumps, and curves that make us truly female. So, some method of getting the form to accurately reflect your true shape is necessary.
My personal favorite method is the Fabulous Fit system combined with a dressmaker form. I have written about this before but for my new students, here is a fresh take on how to get a perfect fit. For this tutorial, you will need a dress form one size (or more) smaller than your body measurements and the Fabulous Fit System in your size. Amazon.com has dress forms for about $150. A small price to pay compared to how much the average sewist will spend on fabric and how much time is wasted trying to get a perfect fit without one. You can also look online at auction houses or, try a retail mannequin form for around $59. The main problem with these mannequins is that they are very small. The Fabulous Fit System is about $77 also on Amazon.com. Also, I recommend the following items, shown below:
1) A Cotton Bra that fits you well.
2) A Copy of the Sutura Style fit chart. Accurate measurements lead to accurate results. Get your copy here.
3) A piece of elastic equal to your waist measurement less 1″ and tied at the end
4) A pair of shoulder pads
Having taken my current measurements, I laid out all my pieces to make it easy to find what I needed.
Step 1: Full Bust Adjustments
Put your bra on the dress form. The instructions tell you to put the first cotton cover on first. That is fine if you don’t need to do an FBA, but since I do have a full bust, it’s important to get that area right. The mannequin actually has the same measurements as I do at the apex, but check out the gaping at the high bust. This is my first correction.
I added the bra pads and placed them in such a way that the thick part is up, filling the top area of the bra cup.
Here is what it looks like. I took the time to smooth the pads a little more, then added the first cotton cover. It’s the one without the princess seams.
Step 2: Filling out the waist. Using the piece of elastic to hold the pads in place, I played with the different pieces until I had the shape I needed. I started out with 2 of the 17″ pads and 2 filler pads (shown above). Then I added the pads labeled ‘high hip’. They are politely referring to the buttocks. I checked all my measurements and then replaced the filler pads with thigh pads. The thigh pads gave me a rounder hip area on the sides and less on the backside.
Step 3: Small seat Adjustment.
Okay, I’ve got a small butt, but this lady has me beat. I put the buttock pads in the natural spot and then had to drag them down and sideways to get the fullness where it really is. After playing with the pads, I finally figured out that I needed to use the two thigh pads to create my small seat area. The buttock pads were just too thick. So, I took out the thigh pads shown above at my waist and used the shoulder pads to create a bit of a tummy.
Step 4: Covering the Form: Once my main adjustments were made, I put the second cover on. Using the elastic helped enormously with this as it was holding 6 pads in place!
And now I am ready to sew for the body I really have! This project takes about 1 hour but saves time and frustration when sewing new garments.