Vintage Sewing

Dress Form Dilemma

December 5, 2013

Hi All

I only recently stumbled across this treasure trove of inspiration, and instantly became an avid fan! I just graduated from college, and although I am just a beginner, I am trying to hone my sewing skills specifically with 1950s/1960s styles. I am having so much fun perusing all your projects, and only hope I have something just as nice to show off soon.

To show his support for my new found obsession, my BF is going to spring for a dress form for Christmas! I am obviously super excited, but as I mentioned before, I am kind of newbie to this fun and fantastical world, so I am a tad clueless as to what exactly I should be looking for.

The hunt began at the logical first stop for all things beautiful and vintage, Etsy of course. My heart sang as I browsed the plethora of loveliness that might just soon be mine, and I did find a number of contestants for the coveted position of my in house body double.

Vintage Adjustable Dress Form/ Mannequin

In Rare Form - Vintage Sewing Mannequin - Dress Form - Adjustable - Mint Green - Dress Rite - Clothing Jewelry Scarf Display -

I mean, how gorgeous are these girls?

But then a nagging thought occurred to me; Perhaps I should be focusing more on the function of the dress form, and less on the display/vintage aspect. I did a bit of research about what I should be looking for, but have come up with nothing conclusive. Collapsible shoulders, adjustable height, and wheels seem to be biggees, and I did find a nice form that doesn’t break the bank from The Shop Company that seems to cover everything.She looks clean and crisp, but alas she is admittedly not vintage.


So, sewers of the world, what do you think? What do all you professionals out there use?

I am so excited about joining this awesome vintage-sewing community. Keep up all the beautiful work!


  1. I have the green dress form in my sewing room, and as lovely as it is, it’s really not functional for me. Unless it’s in the size that you will primarily be sewing, it’s kind of a pain. It doesn’t adjust much, and the bit that it does adjust, is very difficult to use. I just ordered a Singer adjustable dressform, and I can’t wait :until Christmas when I get to start using it! I do love to have my vintage form just to look pretty in my sewing room 🙂

  2. I originally bought I believe a Dritz My Double dress form because at the time it was the only one I could find in the right size. It has plastic adjustment wheels that you spin with your fingertips, but honestly the whole thing feels a bit flimsy, and after having had it adjusted all the way out, the wheels are all stuck and I can only adjust it about halfway in. The adjustments are also extremely hard to make when the wheels do decide they are willing to move. (

    I ended up buying the Dritz Sew You dress form later on which has adjustment wheels you turn like an oven knob- they are super easy to adjust and I like it better all the way around. (

    I wish I had gotten one like my second one in the beginning, but unfortunately being quite a large woman at the time, there wasn’t a lot to pick and choose from.

  3. Eveyr dress form I’ve seen seems to have a fairly small cup size, so unless I can find one to accommodate a D-cup it’s not going to work. It’s kind of frustrating. I’m sure there are some good ones out there but the shipping to Canada is probably horrifying…

    1. I’m with Deb. I’ve found that’s the best way to get the right cup size. I stuffed the bra cups with old socks filled with rice. It creates a very natural looking and resilient breast. A bra with a wide back band will stay put better than one with a slim band.

  4. The dress form you have on the bottom of the post is the same one I have. I am a highly practical person, and I love it. I’ve never been a fan of the adjustable ones because they are kind of hard to fit correctly with the gaps and edges, and if you plan on going with something more form fitting, go with a modern one. Plus, its super easy to add padding to it if necessary.

  5. I think a lot depends on your figure and any “problems” you have. I sew for a friend and use the adjustable form for her and have no problems. I am fluffier and older so the foam form works better for me as it’s easier to change to fit my body.

  6. Since I was a novice sewer, I went with a standard cheepo adjustable dress form in my size range and then made it my real body double using the Fabulous Fit pad system and one of my own bras. It took some work, but she is now exactly like me, tummy pooch and all, which makes fitting and adjusting super easy. If it looks good on her I know it will on me too.

  7. I have a singer adjustable form and I would not recommend it. The adjustments didn’t work that well even to start with but are now terrible. Also I am currently doing a lot of draping and the gaps in the adjustable forms are terrible for this. I think any close fitting garment is hard to get perfect on an adjustable form as the fabric slips into the gaps. I am currently saving up for a form very similar to the bottom one you showed. This is what we had in fashion collage and I found them so much better.
    If you do go for an adjustable I would try not to get one with a horizontal gap at the waist, this is the most frustrating thing about my current one.
    Good luck and make sure you share with us your sewing!

  8. Thanks so much for the tips. I really appreciate it! I think I am going to go with The Shop Company form. I will let you know more about her as soon as she arrives 🙂

  9. CarolP – we are honored by your interest in our professional body forms and we are grateful for the mention here.
    Rest assured that you will not be disappointed with the form – it is very high quality and the price is unmatched. The reason for this is that since the majority of our customers are stores who buy in bulk, we have priced our products accordingly (with bulk discounts already applied). However, we still warmly welcome the consumer seamstress as well.

    If it is not too much to ask from this audience, we do plan on expanding our line of professionals ( and we are wondering if perhaps anyone here has any suggestions for us to add to our professionals collection.

  10. I have a vintage dress form from the 1940’s that I found in a local antique shop. It belonged to a dancer who lived in Dulwich Hill in Sydney. She is made of calico.
    I call her Doris. I was so lucky she was my exact size except she has a 22cm waist
    and mine is a bit bigger than that. I just add a bit of padding to compensate. She is beautiful and in perfect condition. I know I was very lucky to find her.

  11. You’ll want an adjustable one as it’s easiest to work with if, like me, your size fluctuates. Personally I use an Acme size B (similar to the green one) that I recovered. It’s not as pin-able as the new ones that have a thick layer of foam but it’s highly practical and I actually picked up two for less than a new one would cost me. Plus she looks adorable standing in my sewing room when I’m not using her.

  12. Nothing will ever work as well as an actual body, but I always tell people to look for one with a base that has 4 “feet” – you do NOT want one with a three-point tripod base because they tip over very easily.

    The pro forms with collapsible shoulders are definitely the best if you plan to do a lot of draping. If you are just doing basic fitting, an adjustable with a bra in your size is usually easier (just add a stuffed bra in your size) and the most affordable. I have a couple adjustable forms at home because I’m able to sew for multiple sized clients without having to have an army of different sized dress forms. (Just remember that even with a dress form in the correct size, you will still need to adjust a garment on the person wearing it in the end.)

  13. One issue I’d take into account is that vintage styles have the bust line about an inch higher than we wear today, and even if its size-adjustable, a modern dress form won’t give you that line. So go vinteage if that’s important to you.
    I find a dress form really helps with the dressmaking process, you can hang things on it and pin them more easily, but I don’t really take it as accurate for fit because it’s not me.
    If you want to try something out that is a lot of fun and low cost, try making a duct tape dress form. Mine is really useful, although I know she won’t last forever. But she is my exact replica, and helped me discover my lop-sided shoulders which I had never noticed before! And it’s a scream to do, just make sure you have a friend who is patient and a perfectionist. I found a great tutorial in Threads magazine that we followed. Wear your vintage undergarments when you make it, if you generally wear them under the clothes you make. And stuff it really well, I used lots of cushion padding.

    The one thing it teaches you, is that a form is not a human. Often I can’t fit things on my form that I know fit me, because she can’t squirm and move to get something over her shoulders. The good thing about the duct tape version is you can squish her a little. She’s great for button front blouses, so you can line up where buttons should go etc. And if you like her a lot, then maybe its worth investing in a real one. Good luck with your search!

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