Making a duct tape dressmaker’s dummy – the right way
Start wrapping under the bust, as snugly as possible. You need to make it as tight as possible otherwise mannequin will turn out larger than the person. Make sure the subject can breathe, has access to water and has been for a pee first!
Then proceed to a “cross-your-heart” taping that goes from one shoulder across under the opposite breast then around to the back, to define the bust area. You’ll use three layers of tape, with the second arranged vertically, wrapping very snugly and extend the wrapping around the upper arms and onto the neck, always keeping the bust contours well defined.
Use silver duct tape instead of white tape, as it is much stronger. Using first layer in sliver then maybe 2nd and/or 3rd layer in different color then you’ll know you have 3 layers. We made it fingertip length.
Mark the final layer carefully with plumb lines at center front and center back, around the waist, and carefully establish the proper height and posture by marking the same distance from the floor to the hip level on four sides. Mark crosshatches down the center back about every 3 inches apart to make sure it lines up properly later.
Cut down from the neck down the center back just to widest part of hips them carefully slide out of this “dress”. Hang on strong wooden coat hanger. Trim away excess plastic bag.
Tape the shoulder pads into breast and shoulders and butt.
Tape upper center back closed with smallish strips outside and a few inside. Finish with some wide strips across the back seam to fully secure back opening.
Lay body down on pillows on a table and start to stuff the upper torso.
Stuff as much as possible generally then tape a bag across the bottom opening and hang up. Stuff in the shoulder openings and then tape shut. Fill in the neck and then seal up finishing with a turtleneck effect around the neck. Lie it down again and seal up some more of the back to about 2 inches below waist. Continue to stuff upper torso as firmly as possible.
Visually measure the subject’s width at waist. Use big calipers if you have them. Just hold the wire across the waist and visually measure, mark wire with black felt pen at width. Cut wire about 2 1/2 inches longer. Punch a hole in CB waist, insert wire already threaded through a button. Feed it across through stuffing and feed out through the “belly Button”. You could feed wire back and turn it off inside the body but we twisted it off on outside of body.
Close up more of CB center back and continue to stuff torso.
When nearly done, hold torso upright on newspaper and mark the natural bottom shape with felt pen. Remove torso and smooth out the line if a bit bumpy. Cut out newspaper pattern, mark CB and CF. and cut out plywood or heavy cardboard bottom.
Stuff out bottom some more then staple the bottom to the form bottom then finish off the stuffing.
Slip on jersey skin and pin in twill tape to mark the vertical meridians first then the horizontal ones.
Pin in vertical side lines with twill tape, defining most comfortable armhole opening using a favorite t-shirt
Pin around waist at 2” intervals, covering the button.
A strong wooden hanger placed inside before stuffing is the start of either a hanging form or a simple stand. For a stand, use a piece of PVC piping or a cardboard tube long enough that you can cut it to your height when the form is ready to set onto its base (you can use a Christmas-tree stand on the outside of the tube, or a microphone stand inside the tube). Tape the hanger to the tube and put it inside the form before stuffing it, then start stuffing as explained above. Tape the opening at center back closed as you complete the stuffing, then use the horizontal level hip markings to help arrange the form on the tube to match the subject’s posture.
Rowan is thrilled with her body double and has already used it a few times to help her create her own custom fit clothing, at last! Good luck with your own as this is such a great idea if you’re not a standard body shape and size.
By Paula O’Brien
See Threads magazine for more suggestions and pictures
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