A Tale of Forms, Part 1

I’ve got a new book coming out this month.

It’s about fitting shirt-type garments by draping. To make it happen, I needed body-forms to drape on and photograph, since asking live persons to stand still to be draped on for hours on end over the course of the almost two years I spent working on the book would of course have been impossible. Instead, I managed to pull together four different upper-body forms, each representing a specific, unique body, and all together, a reasonably wide collection of body shapes and common fitting issues. In this and the next several posts here, I’ll show how I came up with these forms. Each was made in a different way, so I’ll break that down in some detail for each one.

Here’s a screenshot of the print-book spread in which I introduce the four forms:

I’m doing this because it’s not just sewing-book authors who need body forms to work on. It’s my opinion that a customized body form is an essential tool for every garment-making sewing enthusiast who is in any way challenged by fitting. I’m exactly such a person, and nothing has been as helpful and practical, nor as direct and intuitive, as I’ve wrestled to understand fitting myself, and thus to get better at fitting everyone else I sew for, as working directly with fabric on a custom form. That process is what this new book is entirely about, but there was little room left over in it to actually cover the form-making part, so that’s what this blog series will attempt to do, or at least start to do, hopefully adding at least a few fresh options and suggestions to the already rich and diverse custom-form-making knowledge base easily explored online, via Pinterest, or any search engine.

There are two products that I used in all four of my own projects because they worked so well, and that I haven’t seen specifically referenced before in other resources, so I’ll include them both here in this intro.

The first is the indispensible and entirely unique (as far as I know) Fabulous Fit® Dress Form Fitting System.


This is a collection of already body-shaped, tapered-edge foam inserts designed expressly for padding out any existing dress form wherever extra curves are needed. There are broad, smooth not-curved shapes for backs and tummies, medium-sized rounded shapes for busts and hips, small, tightly curved shapes for shoulders, and even palm-sized lozenge-shaped inserts for…whatever, all available in sized kits. All you do is slip the shapes you need under the included knit form cover—or your own—positioning them as needed over your already roughly padded out form-in-progress, for instant anatomically appropriate smoothness and sculpted shaping. You’ll see these in use in virtually all the detail photos to come. This is just the sort of perfectly conceived, one-of-a-kind craft product that the garment-sewing world can generate at its innovative best, and that screams out for buying ASAP before it simply disappears one quiet, un-announced day, leaving everybody who hesitated frantically searching, usually in vain, for a new source. So don’t do that!

The other thing is the material I stumbled on for making what I find to be the perfect form-cover: Milliskin matte spandex.

This is the fabric (the EXACT fabric and online retail source) I used to cover each of my forms, and as un-assuming as it no doubt looks, it’s IMO perfect in every important way, and noticeably better than any other fabric form cover I’ve worked on.

Three reasons:

1. It’s very elastic and wonderfully recoverable, so there’s no fitting or measuring required, just a quick stretch-near-the-form check to guage circumference matching, and then nothing but rectangles needed when cutting out the pattern pieces, with very minimal, eye-balled armhole and sleeve-cap curves, plus a serger/overlock machine if possible to bang it all together—some kind of stretch stitch, anyway.

2. It’s just the right slipperyness to never impede the natural fall and drape of whatever fabric you’re draping with, without being at all glossy (which I’d find visually irritating if nothing else), so you never have to check to see if the muslin is hanging up on a form curve somewhere out of sight.

3. Best of all, it really dramatically smooths out not just wrinkles and irregularities underneath it when pulled snuggly over the form layers, but it also makes, all on its own, small but critical anatomically sculpted transitions and gap-fillings that are absolutely tough enough to stand up to the weight of most draped fabrics, eliminating much of the need to find just the right stuffing material for every little crevice beneath it before you pull the cover on.

Deconstruction of the Fictional Female Form coming up next…



  1. Jane butters on December 11, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Hi David,live in the UK,do you have any UK sources for the dressforms,? Thanks x

    • admin on December 11, 2018 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Jane, good question, thanks! I’ll try to add more international sources from now on. There’s only one actual form that I bought for this project (the one coming up next) and it’s quite generic, so any form would do to follow along. The rest of the materials and tools I’ll be showing will no doubt be easily accessed in one form or another pretty much anywhere as they’re not brand-specific. Of the two I just described in this post, only the FabulousFit pads are unique as far as I know, and their site says to contact them directly for info on international orders at info@fabulousfit.com. If that turns out to be not feasible, folks have been padding out dress forms forever without these specific pads, using batting, scraps, bean bags, chopped up foam, etc., etc., so not having the pads isn’t a deal breaker. It just means the final sculpted surface before the cover goes on will take more effort. I searched for the Milliskin cover material adding UK to the search and found Amazon, etsy and ebay sources in the UK. The amazon one is “currently unavailable”, but there’s plenty of hits when you search the fabric category for “spandex stretch lycra”. HTH, good luck and please let us know if you find any interesting local sources!

  2. toraneko on March 2, 2019 at 4:57 am

    Part 2?

    • admin on March 2, 2019 at 8:01 am

      Coming right up!

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