How to Make a DIY Dress Form (Bootstrap Fashion Review)

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Do you ever get tired of draping your sewing projects on a dress form that is a completely different size and shape than you are? Or trying to accurately alter a shirt while it’s on your body? Well, I did, and finally decided it was time to sew a custom DIY dress form.

There just came a point after birthing two children when I decided it was no longer possible to be the size I started out pre-child, which was roughly the size of my existing store-bought dress form.

While I probably could have painstakingly drafted my own DIY dress form pattern, I instead opted to have someone else do it for me! 

I also didn’t want to wrap myself in duct tape when I could simply sew a form myself. So, enter Bootstrap Fashion, which was recommended by a local sewing friend. This is an AWESOME site that allows you to put in your measurements for a dress form or ANY pattern that they sell. This is the gold standard of pattern customization!

All that said, I just made my own dress form to make exact dimensions AND even added one arm to it. Learn more in this Bootstrap Fashion review!

how to make your own dress form

DIY Dress Form vs. Dress Form Cover

As I mentioned, my custom pattern came from Bootstrap Fashion. Here’s the link to their dress forms

There were two main options for DIY dress forms on the website. The first was creating a dress form from scratch using either your custom measurements or average industry-standard measurements for several sizes. This would then be stuffed and mounted on a coat rack or other pole-like device.

The second option was creating a custom dress form cover, which would go over an existing dress form. Since I already had a smaller dress form, this is the option I chose. It was less expensive for the Bootstrap pattern, and I would need a smaller amount of stuffing. Check out my before and after below!

before and after diy dress form

Bootstrap Fashion Review: Ordering and Checkout

The one aspect that can make or break getting an accurate product is your measurements. I had my husband measure multiple times to confirm accurate measurements. If you don’t measure perfectly, you get imperfect results! Luckily, Bootstrap Fashion has a very detailed document for how to measure yourself before ordering your pattern.

Before I placed my order for my dress form and arm, I ordered a preview. I typed in all my measurements and added seam allowances (3/8″) so I would have that information on the pattern also. This was the best deal because you get the sewing lines for the actual pattern as well.

It took exactly 10 minutes for the preview pattern of my DIY dress form cover and arm to then reach my inbox.

Everything looked good from the preview, so I went ahead and ordered the actual pattern. One con is you have to use PayPal or a gift card to purchase. I prefer to always use my credit card when purchasing online and like to have that option. However, I luckily have a PayPal account that I can use thanks to years of eBaying!

After ordering, the pattern made its way to my email within 15 minutes! Time to get sewing!

How to Sew a DIY Dress Form Cover from Bootstrap Fashion

Before even bothering with sewing the dress form arm, I wanted to check out the dress form cover itself.  I decided to use a light- to medium-weight Ponte knit fabric that had a small amount of stretch for this cover. I had a few yards lying around my sewing room, so I figured this was a good time as any to start destashing.

My dress form pattern was 16 pages when printed. There were a few locations where the seam allowances didn’t make it onto the page, but adding 3/8″ to the pattern piece was not a big hardship. (See below.)

missing some seam allowance on the bust pattern

Here are a few pictures of the process. First, I taped all the pieces together.

the pattern for construction

Everything lined up as it should, so I cut the pieces out and placed them on my fabric. It took less than 1 1/2 yards of fabric for my pattern.

placing the pattern pieces on the fabric

After I cut the pieces out, I got to sewing! I recommend using a walking foot when sewing knits to keep the top and bottom layers feeding evenly with no puckering. The only other sewing supplies you need besides a sewing machine or needle and thread are scissors, elastic, stuffing, and an iron to press seams open.

use a walking foot when sewing knit fabric

Overall, the instructions were easy enough to follow. My printout was missing one step, but I probably could have sewn the entire dress form cover without instructions simply by using the provided diagram of the finished product.

The instructions also say at the end that you can try on the dress form cover on yourself before you put it on your mannequin. If you use a fabric with minimal stretch, this IS NOT an option unless you have an abnormally small head in relation to your neck. I couldn’t even get mine over the crown of my head! 

So, instead, I just pulled it over my mannequin and realized I had a lot of space to fill! 

trying the dress form cover on the dress form

The hardest part of making my own dress form was stuffing it to the perfect proportions. The instructions recommend using shoulder pads for altering the shape, but this just did not work out for me. (See the failed mess below!)

using shoulder pads to stuff the dress from didn't work

I ended up using Polyfil stuffing from a couch pillow and had good results with this. I would have saved 30 minutes of frustration if I had just started this way! Overall, it took about 1/2 of a couch pillow to fill the empty space. Along the way, I had to keep getting my tape measure out to make sure I was stuffing the right amount at each body section. Below is how much stuffing it took. 

use a pillow or polyfil stuffing instead

The good thing about Poly-fil stuffing was it made adding my little humps and bumps much easier! Here’s the finished product from the front and back after being stuffed to my exact body shape. This really gave me some time to reflect on my jiggly post-baby belly fat and decide it was time to start doing some ab workouts. 

front of my dress form cover finishedback view of the diy dress form

And here’s my custom dress form’s side view complete with my C-section shelf even present. 

side view of my diy dress form

What I’d Change If I Ever Make Another Dress Form

You’ve seen the good! Now, the next part of this Bootstrap Fashion dress form review is the things I didn’t love.

Overall, I would still buy the DIY dress form cover pattern, but I’d use a sturdy, woven fabric to sew it. To get it over my dress form, I’d add a zipper up the back. Stuffing a woven, stable fabric and keeping the right size proportions would be SO MUCH easier than stuffing a stretchy fabric while trying to keep the right dimensions and minimal stretch.

One other problem with stretchy knit fabrics is pinning to your form cover. If you have a heavy fabric and are only able to pin into the stuffing or the knit cover, the form is not going to hold up. Luckily, there isn’t a whole lot of stuffing under my cover, and I’m able to pin into the original dress form, if needed.

Also, as I already mentioned, I’d completely skip the shoulder pads and go straight to Polyfil stuffing. And, instead of elastic around the base, I think I’d add a little extra fabric and a drawstring so I could fully close the area to keep the stuffing from falling out. 

Sewing the Dress Form’s Arm

the diy dress form arm pattern pieces

After I finished the form cover, I started on one arm. I’ll be completely honest and say I didn’t even think to check if I was sewing the left or right arm here. Turns out, it was the left!

For the arm, I used thin cotton broadcloth with no stretch. I didn’t have any neutral upholstery fabric as was suggested, and I wasn’t about to make an arm out of my scrap gold and maroon brocade fabric! The broadcloth worked great for the most part. It was a little more unforgiving when it came to slight bulges from the stuffing, but the measurements were all right.

The total time to print, cut, sew, and stuff the arm was slightly less than 2 hours. Sewing the arm was surprisingly more involved than the dress form and annoyingly enough took some hand sewing. (I always prefer to use my machine!)

As hoped, all the measurements were accurate, and the arm looked just like mine. (Well, except for missing freckles and having a few odd Poly-fil faux cellulite bulges!) I attached the arm to my dress form using pins, and this was very easy. I was able to stick the pins into the existing dress form to hold it. It was much too heavy to pin to the knit dress form cover itself.

bootstrap fashion diy dress form review

In summary, making a DIY dress form cover (with an arm!) to slip over my existing small dress form was easy and made the PERFECT addition to my sewing room.

There are a few things that I’d change if I ever sew another dress form, but I was so very pleased with this pattern. The measurements of the form matched the personal measurements I submitted, and I don’t hesitate to recommend this pattern to you!

One Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been looking at the Bootstrap dress form patterns and wondering if I have the nerve to try one. I’m just so frustrated with my current one which I’ve tried to pad out to my measurements, but can’t get everything right at the same time. And your idea about the long zipper sounds like a useful addition. I’m encouraged to give it a try.

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