When making a dress, or any sewn costume for that matter, you need a dress form that conforms to the shape of whoever the final piece is meant for.
You can buy an adjustable dress form but these tend to be expensive. A good adjustable dress form costs well over $100.
But one popular method of DIY dress form is a duct tape dress form. But how do you make a dress form this way?
As the famous Mythbusters logic goes – if it can’t be fixed with duct tape, you are not using enough duct tape.
A duct tape dress stand is no different. You need a lot of duct tape.
Next you need a t-shirt you don’t mind destroying. While this can be done solo, it is a lot easier with help.
How to Make a Dress Form With Duct Tape
Tools and Materials
Wrap From The Waist Upwards
Whoever the dress shape is for needs to put on the t-shirt. The t-shirt needs to be tight-fitting with a bit of sleeve to protect the underams.
Any shaping at this stage depends on what they’ll be wearing with the final dress.
For instance, if you are making an 18th century costume then they may want to wear stays underneath.
Any modern garment like a wedding dress may be accompanied by shapewear or other undergarments, including the bra to be worn with the dress. Anything like this should go underneath the t-shirt. Don’t be tempted to wear a sports bra to go with the tight-fitting t-shirt as this probably isn’t the shape you want in the final outfit.
Then begin wrapping them in duct tape from the waist.
Go round the full circumference of the waist. Don’t cut tear off new pieces of duct tape, simply hold the roll and keep wrapping.
Aim to overlap a good inch or so each time as you want to build up a good thick layer of duct tape to hold the dress form.
Keep it tight at this stage, keeping in mind that this needs to accurately reflect the shape of the person and the dress they’ll be wearing. Therefore the duct tape skin should feel tight but keep in mind you don’t want the final dress to be too tight so don’t restrict the form at all.
Keep wrapping until you reach the bust. At that point you may want to apply the tape slightly looser so as not to squash the bust.
Wrap Around The Shoulder And Arms
Once you have a strapless dress made of duct tape – i.e. you’ve reached the arms you obviously can’t wrap in circles anymore. Tear off strips of duct tape and form straps from the shoulder line to the neck, again overlapping generously.
Most duct tape lets you rip it thanks to its grain. However if your duct tape proves difficult or you are using a different kind of tape then try non-stick scissors.
Next you need to lay duct tape around the underarm. Keep to the shoulder line – don’t apply any duct tape to the arm – and form the arm hole.
You should be able to use the t-shirt seam as a guide but if it’s a loose t-shirt you may want to go a little tighter. Consider how the dress is made and that this section is for the arm circumference.
At this point it is probably worth marking the waist-line so if the subject bends to the side you can mark this on the duct tape with a marker pen.
Remove the Duct Tape Dress Form
This is the most difficult part of how to make a dress form. The subject is now tightly wrapped in duct tape and you have to get if off them.
Ideally you want a small but sharp pair of scissors with a rounded point if possible. The duct tape is thick and difficult to cut but at the same time you don’t have much space to get underneath without jabbing the person underneath.
Carefully cut the form open including the t-shirt with a simple straight cut up the spine. You can then remove the form from the wearer.
Tape the form back together by sealing up the cut with another strip of duct tape.
Stuff The Duct Tape Dress Form
Pack the duct tape dress form tightly with your chosen material. This could be newspaper, wadding or foam.
Make sure the outside feels firm and holds its shape. It it doesn’t then keep packing. When you’re done you can seal the bottom with a flat base by taping on a sheet of cardboard cut out to the shape of the form.
If you already own a smaller dress form then you can wrap the duct tape form around the outside and pad with wadding as we did in this example.
Alternatively you can attach your stuffed dress form to another form of stand.