Same Pattern, Different Bodies: Bootstrap Custom Dress Form

Online custom patternmaking company Bootstrap has had their custom dress form pattern around for a couple of years. At the CSC, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about how easy it is to construct the dressform, how accurate the form is, and how useful it ends up being. Three of our readers–Heidi, Shirin, and Roschelle–decided to take the plunge to make their own Bootstrap custom dress forms and share their experiences with us.

Heidi

Measurements: Height and body type

Bust 43”, Natural waist 35”, Hip 44”

I guess I’m almost an hourglass.

Why did you choose this type of dressform?

I was struggling with fitting myself as like many of us I’m not a standard size. Trying to pin adjustments on myself was just too hard so I was keen to get a dressform of some type. When I was a teen I had my mum’s old form which was never right, I just couldn’t squash it into my combination of big bust small ribcage, narrow shoulders, height waist and big bum. I really wanted a custom form but the prices put me off so when I saw this I figured I could get a custom form quite cheaply.

Tell us about the ordering process – explain how you took measurements and chose the other adjustments (shoulders bum etc) and anything else about getting your pattern.

There are a heap of measurements that are required on the order form so this is where I started. Then I took some photos in the mirror from front and side and compared these against their other criteria such as belly protuberance and shoulder. Then I created my free pattern preview to see the 3D image of me. I over did it on the adjustments first time (my belly was not as sticky outy as I think it is lol) so I highly recommend using photos to compare and doing as many tests as you need until it looks like you. Then it’s just a simple online order and download your personal file once you get the email confirmation

I wanted to make my dressform quite cheaply and I wasn’t keen on the idea of interfacing every single piece so I bought some cheap blackout curtains for my fabric. These are stiff enough and sewed quite well so I could avoid this step. The pattern comes without seam allowance so I drew every piece on the wrong side and added seams after. This meant I could pin and match the precise sewing lines for each individual piece to avoid any errors in sizing.

Tell us about construction – how well did the pattern go together, did you have to make any changes, what materials did you use, where did you get your supplies?

The instructions are really detailed and while it was very time consuming (2 weeks for me of an hour or so in evenings and a few hours on weekends) it’s not technically difficult you do need to be able to sew different curves together though to make this work well

Once the skin is sewn it was just a point of stuffing and adding the stand. I stuffed mine with the inside of old pillows and cheap ones from Kmart. My inner pole was drain pipe and the stand is a cut off coat stand also from Kmart.

All up mine cost approx $70 AUD.

How well does your dress form mirror your shape?

It’s actually really close. I had to take care padding to get the under bust and waist right measuring as I was stuffing plus she’s a bit wonky in the shoulders again from my stuffing but otherwise pretty good. definitely close enough for fitting to be 99% right on her.

Now that she’s finished, what do you use your dress form for?

I mostly use Vicky for fitting patterns. It’s great to be able to baste a pattern together, pin and adjust on my form and then just pop the garment on for the final tweaks. Usually wearing ease. I also find it useful for adding embellishments which I can just pin in place and move around while seeing what they’ll actually look like on a body. I have also draped on dress direct onto the form which was a lot of fun. She gets used almost every time I sew

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend this dressform. It was really cost effective and a lot of fun to make. Being able to first fit on this before trying on myself has really opened up my sewing making it much easier to fit garments and test out adjustments on the fly. Pinning on myself is almost impossible. Since I made her over a year ago now I’ve tried far more complex patterns and got much better fit with fewer wadders. Can’t wait for them to release their men’s forms so I can make one for hubby too!

Shirin

Why did you choose this type of dressform?

Over the past decade, I have mostly sewn cosplay uniforms for my daughter (from about age 6 through high school). Recently I started taking costume design courses at the local college and beginning to sew for myself. In one course, we are asked to draft a 4 dart sloper based on our measurements. My instructor and I agreed that some of the calculations can go a bit wonky on plus sizes. So, with the approval of my instructor, I decided to make the Bootstrap dressform to serve as a basis for the sloper project. I fully expected to have to make adjustments, and after the project was excited to have the dressform at home to help me with future projects.

Tell us about the ordering process – explain how you took measurements and chose the other adjustments (shoulders bum etc) and anything else about getting your pattern.

Ordering the pattern was easy, but I was surprised at how few measurements were required in order to get a custom form. Full circumference measurements are obviously required, but half circumference measurements would be better suited to plus size applications. (Full hip circumference measurement, in comparison to half hip – measured from the side seam across the front of the body at the hip level to the other side seam – allows the pattern maker to see how the hips are set. Is most of the circumference behind the side seams? Is there a belly which takes up part of the full hip measurement?)  In addition, there is a lack of vertical measurements. In order to properly place the waist, I would have expected to have an underarm to waist measurement. Similarly, there is no vertical measurement setting the hip measurement below the waist. Lastly, there’s no measurement which relates to length of torso (“Full Girth” where the fitter measures from waist tape through the crotch, up over the shoulder and back to the waist tape is very useful for me when working out the shape of the actor.) So I guess the best way to say this is that I found the “Fit Adjustment” tabs to be difficult to interpret. Being a plus size person, many parts of my anatomy protrude, but do I have a “hollow back” or “very curvy” buttocks? My belly protuberance is very high on my body, so my silhouette didn’t match the options offered.

Tell us about construction – how well did the pattern go together, did you have to make any changes, what materials did you use, where did you get your supplies?

I had no difficulty interpreting the pattern nor sewing the project. I decided against topstitching the design lines into the pattern pieces, because I was worried that stuffing the form could cause those to move.

How well does your dress form mirror your shape?

As I sewed, I realized that the dressform didn’t exactly reflect my body. In particular, my dressform has a long vertical section under the bust, and then the stomach protuberance begins. On my body, this curve is different. As I stuffed the completed form, I also realized that the shape really was based on traditional dressforms, not on a person’s body. In particular, the buttocks are very flat, and the dressform is straight from the underarms to the waist. On my body, most of my bust measurement is taken up with a fat roll under my arms, and my cup size is fairly small. On my dressform, all of the ten inch difference between under bust and full bust is placed in front of the ribcage.

Now that she’s finished, what do you use your dress form for?

After completing the dressform, I then set about draping a sloper. I handsewed black twill tape along her major measurement lines – pinning wasn’t an option because the stuffing shifted, and handsewing the tape was tedious. Draping the back was a dream. My shoulder dart fits beautifully. Draping the front was more difficult. The bust shape just threw everything off. I had a tiny waist dart and an enormous bust dart on the draft sloper, with a very nicely shaped shoulder and neckline. Eventually I split the bust dart and rotated about half of the uptake into the waist dart, dropped the dart point about ½” and then fit that muslin to me. I now have a beautiful custom sloper and have used it to make a few custom tops.  I plan on binding the bust on my form and adding padding to the underarm area.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I love my dressform – we named her Florence Foster Jenkins. I have recommended this project to sewists and fellow costume design students. However, I’m slightly disappointed that the dressform maintains some of the odder parts of traditional dress forms (no buttocks, straight drop from underarm to waist) and that Bootstrap doesn’t fully communicate those assumptions to the customer.

Roschelle

Measurements: Height and body type
  • My measurements are:
  • Bust 51″
  • Waist 41″
  • Fullest part of waist 47″
  • Hips 51″

Why did you choose this type of dressform?

I chose the body form with my measurements because when I looked at the major body forms available on the market I saw that while I could adjust them to my bust and waist they did not accommodate narrowing down the hips as much as needed. I could either get a dress form to fit my bust and waist or get one to fit my waist and hips. I am aware that I would have to use extra padding in certain areas to have it further mimic my body shape but I did not want to have to do all of that in the beginning, I would rather give my measurements since they don’t change that often.

Tell us about the ordering process – explain how you took measurements and chose the other adjustments (shoulders bum etc) and anything else about getting your pattern.

I took all my measurements myself using a measuring tape with the exception of anywhere I needed to bend that part of the body to get the measurement, for those my husband assisted me. For the other choices for shoulder slope stomach height or butt I looked at side views of my body and picked the view closest.

Tell us about construction – how well did the pattern go together, did you have to make any changes, what materials did you use, where did you get your supplies?

After reading the instructions carefully the dress from came together easily. I made sure to mark all notches on the pattern itself. I used an upholstery medium weight fabric and polyfill purchased at Jo-Ann’s. After I assembled and stuffed dress form I took measurements and realized that getting a tight fit on the film stretch my fabrics so I unstuffed it and took in inches along the seam allowances. (I evenly distributed the amount that I needed to take in on all the vertical seam allowances so it wouldn’t make a drastic difference on any one part of the body shape). Instead of using a coat rack as the instructions suggested, I used a 1 1/2″ diameter PVC pipe from Home Depot. For the base of the stand I used a plastic Christmas tree stand that I filled with quick set cement (just add water cement). I started with a PVC pipe length that was about 5′ (I’m 5’7″).  Then with the PVC pipe sitting in the empty tree stand I put the dress form on the pipe and then had my husband mark the pole at the bottom the inches of difference between my waist and that of the form, this would make the dress form my height when I finished. (I measured my waist to the floor and the waist of the dress form to the floor while it was sitting on the PVC pipe)

How well does your dress form mirror your shape?

It does mimic my shape very similarly although I put on a few pounds. I plan on adding a sleeve that’s padded around the waist or lower waist to mimic the weight gain. I accidentally sewed my seam allowance a little too short on one side of the neck so mine kind of has a slight lean to it but it’s not enough to bother me or mess up the construction of the clothing I put on it. While the breasts are a little more cone-shaped than desired, I fixed that problem by just putting a bra on the dress form that I no longer wear and it rounds them out perfectly.

Now that she’s finished, what do you use your dress form for?

Now that it’s finished I can use it when I need to hem a garment or if I want to get a look at it all over not on my body but for taking pictures.

Final Thoughts

I’ll probably look at making another one in the future out of a different material and I plan on exploring how to add padding. I would recommend this to anyone who has a hard time finding that the dress forms on the market or either too expensive or not close to what their body measurements are.  The easy thing that I like about this pattern is that once you order it if you gained a few inches and you know how to add those measurements to a pattern to scale it up you can do the same if you have a little bit of time to this dress form to make the dress form still fit your size.

Same Pattern, Different Bodies: Bootstrap Custom Dress Form