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Do I need a dressmakers dummy?

For people who do a lot of garment sewing, a dressmakers dummy is an invaluable piece of equipment. Some dress forms are single size, while an adjustable dress form is useful for people who sew clothes for others.

Advantages

When dressmaking, an adjustable dummy is invaluable in helping you to get the correct fit. Sometimes called a tailor's dummy or a dress form mannequin, the sewing tool is particularly useful when it comes to making more complicated garments or those with elaborate shapes, such as evening gowns or bridesmaids dresses. Whether or not you need a dressmakers dummy depends on how much sewing you do, and how difficult you find the fitting process when making clothes for yourself. Dress forms can also be used to help sewers adjust patterns as the pattern pieces can be pinned on, then marked or adjusted to allow for extra darts or to help identify exactly where pleats or folds need to go. A further advantage in using a dressmaking dummy is that partly completed garments can be hung on the dummy in between sewing sessions, thus reducing the need to constantly fold the fabric.

Make your own

If most of the garments you sew are just for yourself and you don't want to go through the expense of buying a dress form, it's possible to make one at home using duct tape. Wear a loose fitting, long-sleeved T-shirt or nightdress that reaches to mid-thigh length, and get a friend to help you wrap yourself in duct tape. Start wrapping horizontally at mid-thigh, overlapping the layers of duct tape as you wrap around your body. Wrap the duct tape tightly, but not so tightly that it squeezes or compresses the body. When you reach the bodice area, use shorter strips of tape applied radially across the bust-line to follow the body shape. Protect the skin of the neck by wrapping plastic loosely around the neck and continue to build up the shape of the dress form with duct tape to create the neckline, the contours of the shoulders and the underarms. Give the home-made dressmakers manikin strength by wrapping the body three times in duct tape, alternating between vertical and horizontal wraps and wrapping slightly more tightly around the waistline. When the body is completely encased in duct tape, remove it by cutting up the centre back with a pair of scissors, then re-close the dress form with more tape.

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