What are Dressmaking Dummies?

Sheri Cyprus

Dressmaking dummies are forms used by fashion designers and dressmakers. A dressmaker's dummy is also called a dressmaking mannequin. Whereas mannequins like the kind seen in many store window displays have a head and limbs, dressmaking dummies have only the torso. The torso dressmaker's dummy is sized for a particular clothing size, or range of sizes, and can be used to create tops as well as bottoms.

Dressmaking dummies are used by fashion designers.
Dressmaking dummies are used by fashion designers.

The torso-shaped dressmaking mannequin is mounted on a stand; the distance from the waistline to the ground allows it to be used for fitting pants, skirts, and dresses, as well as garments for the upper torso. After a paper pattern is made and cut out from fabric spread out on a flat surface, the dressmaker or designer pins the cloth pieces together. This pinned cloth rough garment is then fitted onto the dressmaker's dummy; sometimes, large basting stitches are used rather than pins to hold the fabric together. The designer or dressmaker then makes any needed size adjustments before stitching the garment together.

A dressmaker's dummy can help the dressmaker to achieve the optimum fit for each item of clothing.
A dressmaker's dummy can help the dressmaker to achieve the optimum fit for each item of clothing.

Some dressmaking dummies are sold in a specific dress size, while others are adjustable. Custom-made dressmaking dummies are made in the exact measurements of an individual's body type rather than a general size. A dressmaking mannequin may be made of foam, plastic, wire, or a combination of these. Some dressmaker's forms look quite unsightly as they may have many different markings for fitting guidelines, plus extra sections of padding the dressmaker taped on. Black wire dressmaking forms can look quite elegant; these types may be used to display the finished garments as well as for fitting them.

A dressmaker's dummy is one of the most important sewing supplies because it provides the best fit possible for a garment — as long as the dress form is the correct size. Dressmaker's dummies are available where dressmaking supplies are sold. Some of the newer models that adjust into many different sizes may be extremely expensive, but used dressmaking dummies are usually less expensive.

Dressmaker's dummies on stands are usually a comfortable height for most fashion designers and dressmakers to work with easily. Since the dummy models the middle section of a human body, having the three-dimensional figure can help garment makers see how their creations would look on a real person. Often, designers will adjust their original design based on how the first draft of their garment looks on the dressmaking dummy.

Dressmaking dummies can help dressmakers visualize what their creations might look like on a real person.
Dressmaking dummies can help dressmakers visualize what their creations might look like on a real person.

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Discussion Comments


Does anyone know how much a standard dress making dummy costs? Also, do you think that ordering on online would be cheaper than you local stores, or about the same price?


If you are short on cash but would still like to have your own dressmaking dummy you can easily make one with a little help from a friend. While it won't be beautiful, it will do the job.

You will need to buy about 6 rolls of duct tape, the kind that is silver and plastic. You will also need a huge T-shirt, preferably a light color that you don't want to keep. Get some scrap fabric, lots of cotton batting, a permanent marker and lastly, some large sharp scissors.

Once you have all of this get whoever the dummy is being modeled after into the t-shirt. Next, use the duct tape to make the form by taping it to the shirt, snug against the person. It is better to use many short pieces than long ones. Make sure to mark a line down their back with the marker and down the shoulders.

Make sure you leave t-shirt sticking out at the bottom of your mold and at the arms, and never tape to the person.

Once this is done cut the person free of the t-shirt using your marks. Be very careful.

Afterwards, you can tape the form back up and seal the neck, and arms with scrap fabric. Now you can stuff the form with cotton. When all this is done, seal the bottom with more fabric, and voila, your own dressmaking dummy.

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