Monday, 23 November 2015

Missy's had a makeover!

To help with fitting Helen's wedding dress when I don't have access to her as she lives and works in London and I'm further north, I decided to use a dress form.

This was an old dress form. It had been stored, badly, for many years. It was adjustable in width at bust, waist and hip, although one of the dials was broken. There was a small vertical adjustment to the waist length,  but not enough for Helen now or me then. There were a couple of other problems. Helen is nearly 6 ft tall with the long body and legs that implies;  the model was nearer 5 ft. Although the waist length could be adjusted,  the amount available wasn't nearly enough. Also,  although adjustable, it isn't possible to adjust apex height, shoulder width etc without a lot of work. Talking about shoulders - they were not collapsible and it was difficult to get garments on. Worse still,  the glue attaching the outside cover to the form had disintegrated and lots of rust coloured powder was the result and this got on to anything I tried to try on it.

I confess I flirted with buying a new polystyrene form as recommended in our class; by that I mean I did buy it but although I bought what I thought was the correct size, the measurements were too much. Too little is workable with but not too large. I had considered sawing it in two and lengthening but too big was a deal breaker. This model now has a new home! I considered buying the smallest size but that was shorter still in the body length, too.

I mentioned my problems with the model in my blog and Mary of Cloning Couture kindly pointed me to her posts covering form customisation and made some suggestions.

So David and I decided to go ahead with the major makeover required to make Missy work. If possible.
We were basing the adjustments on numerous measurements taken on Helen's body, my previous well fitting toile for her and Rory’s tightening of that,  leading to me making a further close fitting version which didn't meet at the waist,  so obviously I did something wrong as it clearly fitted when Rory was pinning it.
The steps are cut down here as otherwise this would be an exceptionally lengthy post.

  1. Remove old cover

  2. wash body to get rid of glue residue

    She's pretty small in her native state!
  3. minimise width sizes
  4. lengthen model to maximum using adjustment available
  5. Add to body length; David lengthened the body itself by adding cardboard and aluminium tape to the bottom (this was done after the model was rotated and redone); this lengthened it about 3 inches.. Previously the marking for the position of bum fullness was below the form body. He also added to the length of the upper body by extending the whole upper torso by placing a roll of masking tape about 1 inch wide on the internal top support plate on which the torso rested. 

    The reason the glue residue is back is because we had to take apart and redo after Fabulous Fit foam had been stuck on.
  6. fill in gaps and joints with padding and aluminium tape. By this time the model was a lot taller and was beginning to feel sturdier - she had previously been very shaky. 

  7. I used parts of the Fabulous Fit system to create hip and bum contours and also bust shaping and apex position

  8. I might add that when we attached the upper part of the model to the lower part,  we got it the wrong way around!  None of us involved in the process (I took it to class and the tutor was also involved at this stage, as was David) noticed - it took someone else to query it. The tutor thought it would be fine but David and I retracted a few steps and corrected this when we returned home. When this was corrected,  David took the opportunity to reinforce the gaps from the inside too.
  9. add layers of padding (bump,  mainly) , taped with masking tape. I couldn't find the materials mentioned by Mary. 

  10. I used one of Helen's bras over an already padded bust area (Fabulous Fit pads) to add more definition to the bust area and to position the apex properly. 

  11. amount of padding and distribution based on a close fitting calico toile which I tried on the form repeatedly. Helen has never tried on my toile - this was the toile I made from the adjustments to make the previous one much tighter fitting and I think I made a mistake in interpretation as I couldn't get it to meet in the zip area. So I had to loosen it a bit. I decided against tightly fitting the back into the bum until I had Helen present.
  12. We then covered with a stretchy dress form cover, recognising that a bit of extra padding at the seat was probably required

  13. I then made a final cover from the bump again using the sizes I used earlier - closer to Helen's original toile than the extremely close fitted one. I hoped this would give a lovely smooth and pinnable final surface. (I have toiles all over the place,  they’re taking over!)

This shows the bum shaping required at right

She looks good doesn't she?
I've still to add vertical (mid and side) and horizontal bust,  waist and hip) lines. However, I've discovered that while the bust size is great with the thick bump cover, the waist is marginally too big, made worse by the seam allowance. Too small would have been okay. Also, I think I need even more bum padding. So I reckon I use the bump for bust and hip but remove from the waist area so I'll need to cover with a thinner calico cover - does that sound about right?

Obviously, a dress form can never take the place of the real body, unless it's truly custom made from some sort of body cast.  Although this isn't right and probably never can be,  it will be a useful tool for me. (I must get around to customising my own dress form!)

Yesterday (Saturday) I had an individual lesson with Rory to help me with Helen's wedding dress, and the bridesmaids dresses.  We discussed the pros and cons of the styles I had pictured and drawn in my sketchbook. We discussed materials and construction. I used Missy to drape a practice wedding dress. This was very enjoyable and I was surprised at how well I got on. I feel it was important to start,  to get out of the mental block I had. I've emailed Helen some photos as even at this early stage there is a decision to make.

I've ordered metres of practice fabric. Also, I'm going to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate next week, on Friday. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a few useful pieces…

Helen is coming up in 3 weeks and I have a few tasks to complete before then so that we can use the next booked session with Rory to the fullest. While she's here I'll make final adjustments to Missy.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. Hopefully a useful undertaking though!

  2. That's very impressive! Also nice to see how the father of the bride is involved in the process too!

    1. Thank you. I wouldn't have been able to tackle it without David - well at least it would have been much more difficult.

  3. What an impressive remake of Missy - she won't know herself. This will stand you in very good stead....

    1. Thank you. She's already useful but a few more tweaks once Helen is here to test against her and she'll be even more so.

  4. As you have discovered, doing this takes quite a bit of time and can involve some construction skills. You will be happy you invested the time when the gown construction begins. I'm not sure what you meant in step 13 about remaking the toile in bump. I assume you meant English bump which is commonly used for underlining draperies. I have also used it for padding forms. I've cut it in various shapes and padded the form to shape. The reason upholstery batting works so well is that the edges can be feathered so not to leave ridges. It can be difficult to find in small quantities. I order by the case from a wholesale supplier. You might try fraying the edges of the bump to feather out the edges.
    Perhaps the added layer of bump created a too large waist. Even though this might not duplicate your daughters shape exactly it will still be immensely helpful. Great job and I look forward to following your gown construction.

    1. Thank you, Mary. Yes, I mean the draperies bump. I couldn't find upholstery batting. I didn't feather the bump; mine was perhaps a little thick. The outer cover is made from bump. I will be able to assess size against my daughter in a couple of weeks and can replace that outer layer with calico at least at the waist part - I live the current for at the bust. However, the lengths are pretty good and I've already found that useful. I don't feel, unfortunately, that I can share the gown construction until after the event. I say unfortunately as this means I can't seek help from the sewing community! I can share that I used Missy to drape a skirt for the dress and found this helpful in breaking my wedding dress block! Oh, I said that already I think but never mind. I'm currently making a leotard as part of the process.


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