Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Recovering a Vintage Dress Form

I was really grateful to be given this vintage "Adjustaform" dress form by J's Grandmother. I really wanted a dress form for home sewing, but couldn't really justify the expense right now, so this was well received! She tends to look after things, and this came to me in the original box, straight from the loft,where "she" had apparently been for many years.
When I removed her from the box however, it became apparent that she wasn't in great shape. Her covers were torn and stained and the mechanics and panels were all wonky. Overall she was feeling pretty sorry for herself. J sheepishly admitted that when he and his brothers and cousins played in the loft as children, she had taken quite a battering!! "You're not kidding" I thought! Poor old girl....

I began by setting the dials at the bust waist and hips to an inch smaller than my body measurements. I then cut a piece if wadding/batting big enough to go around the mannequin, with a small overlap to secure it. No need to measure really, just wrap the batting around the mannequin to establish how much is needed then trim off the excess.

I then wrapped the batting around the mannequin pulling it firmly around the back and secured it with pins, ready for sewing. I pinched the excess wadding at the top of the shoulders, folded it towards the back and pinned in place temporarily.

Once I was happy with the basic fit, I hand sewed around all the "seams" so that the whole piece basically became a "sleeve" that could be slipped on and off the mannequin. Again, this doesn't have to be accurate or particularly neat (as you can see!!) as all of your handiwork will be hidden from view. I used 4ply wool because I felt it would hold the wadding better than thread.

Once the wadding  was in place, there was a little of the neck still exposed. So I snipped a cross into the middle of a simple batting square, slipped it over & tucked it in all the way round.

I then double checked the "new" measurements of the mannequin were the same as my own (which amazingly they were to a tee!) and then set about making the outer stretch cover. This part couldn't be simpler really. It's quite simply a rectangle of jersey sewn into a tube using a serger or overlock stitch on a standard machine.
(It's quite key at this stage to make sure that you get the "stretch" properties of the jersey,on the horizontal width). The finished rectangle is approximately 6" (for turning under) longer than the mannequin body, and about two thirds of the width to ensure a snug fit once it's stretched over.

Once I'd sewn the tube (I sewed mine on the machine with my trusty overcast foot as I don't have a serger) I hand sewed a running stitch along the top edge to gather it in around the neck of the mannequin.

The tube was a nice snug fit on the mannequin. It took a bit of coaxing to smooth it all the way down, but that's a good thing. It means the overall finish is smooth and tight. The neck wasn't neat enough for my liking so I fashioned a little pussy bow neck tie to pretty her up a bit. Hell, I think she deserves it after what she's been through in that dusty loft over the years!
I have to say I'm pretty pleased with the result. She'll certainly do me a decent turn until I decide whether or not to invest in a newer model. (It's ok,she didn't hear me say that). I'm looking forward to being able to try my projects out first, without having to keep stripping off and trying them on myself. (Stripping off after every stage of a project doesn't half slow you down!!). It's quite wierd looking at what is, essentially, your body double. Gives me a whole new perspective on my body, where's that diet book.....


  1. Great Job!! I have an old dressform that's been whacked a bit, and this looks to be a fix. Did you name her yet?

  2. No, not yet! I was thinking about it... all suggestions welcome!

  3. Wow! Impressive, she looks very smart with the wee bow and all! Thats what I like to see, make your own AND restoring old stuff :-) You'll have to give her a nice old fashioned name...

  4. This looks beautiful! Great job! I tried to pad a mannequin once to use as a dress form and couldn't get the pattern to stay as I wrapped. I never thought about sewing it all together.

  5. i'm so jealous!
    i've wanted one of these for soooo long.
    it looks so great.

  6. Love this post. I, too, have an old dress form (her name is Esmerelda). When I got her, her...ahem..ta-tas were lopsided, so my Mum cleverly suggested I put a bra on her and stuff one side. It works perfectly ;)

  7. Excellent instructions! I have to get an adjustable form instead of the custom one that I really want and this makes it so much more appealing. Thank you!

  8. Danielle- I love the phrase "ta ta's" , hilarious!
    Everyone else, I think some of you are correct,she needs a name! Any suggestions.....

  9. Well done Portia! I have a dress form but she's slightly broken, so I don't use her. Mine's called Trudy.

  10. I love her!
    When I was in high school I made a dress form out of paper tape and scrunched newspaper attached to a thick roll of cardboard so I could have a dress form my shape for a senior art project, but I never thought to dress her up. I agree getting undressed and redressed all the time gets boring (and cold). I currently have a broken one, so yours might have a twin in Brisbane soon.

  11. I really thank you for posting this. I've been planning on doing the same thing, but haven't really had the time, and I've felt a little intimidated about the process. You made it look so easy.

  12. Oh well done, I've been thinking about covering mine and all I could think of was a t-shirt XD

  13. I have one of these as well, her name is "Miss Louby". One of these days I will get around to covering her!


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