Threads Dress Form Double – Part 1

I have a shorter waist then my dress form

Ann and I are doing a project together, it’s Kenneth’s King’s dress form body double from the July 2012 issue of Threads.  I feel so fortunate to be able to work on this project with a sewing friend!    The minute I saw Kenneth’s article I knew it was a project for me because duct tape doubles,  as useful as they are,  have always seemed like  not too fun for the amount of work and – well – they don’t look that nice and they smell funny.  They’re also not pinnable. The premise of Kenneth’s article is simple, basically a zippered cover is made for a dress form and then another body double form is made from a human body.  The space between the two is padded out with batting to conform to that individual body shape and zippers enable the body double to be removed from the dress form.  I like this idea because have an old friend for whom I want to make a little black dress; she lives in New Jersey so this method will enable me to have her exact body dimensions in my sewing room.

The non-matching horizontal bust dart was intentional to see if it made a difference – it didn’t

Kenneth’s article is great although I have to say that it’s really about how to make the body double and doesn’t go into detail about how to fit a shell to a particular person.  So I’ll share what Ann and I have learned so far:

  • The first thing we did was to take a full set of measurements for each other.  The last time we did this was 2005 (!) and we agreed it was time for a new set.  Burda’s size tables are a good guide as to what measurements to take and we also added hip circumferences down from the waist at 2inches, 4 inches, 6 inches, 8 inches and 10 inches.
  • We then trooped off to Jo-Ann’s and looked at fitting shell patterns.  Now that McCall’s owns 3  of the Big 4 brands there is not really any difference in fitting shell patterns between them other than to note Vogue’s is multi-cup sized and Butterick and McCall’s are not.  Ann bought Vogue and I bought Butterick because they had my size.  She wanted the A-B-C-D cup pattern pieces and I didn’t need them.  Both fitting shell patterns come with excellent detailed instructions that explain how to interpret drag lines and how to make adjustments for different body shapes.  There is also a measurement template that corresponds to the one we made up ourselves so there is no need to take anything other than basic bust-waist hip measurements in advance of buying a Big 3 fitting shell pattern.
  • Fitting shells patterns are not multi-sized, they are sold in single sizes (like in the old days) and we each chose a size that most closely matched our upper body measurements.  Both of us bought a size 14 however as you’ll see  when we post the finished body doubles there is quite a bit of difference between the two of us even though we both used a size 14.  Which is really the whole point of making one right?

    I didn’t straighten the zipper before this photo was taken, sorry!

  • Kenneth’s article shows a princess seamed upper bodice on his model.  After a discussion we determined that it doesn’t really make any difference in the end and our shells will both have traditional darted bodice blocks.  Kenneth’s model also has her body double fitted smoothly over her bust with no separation for each breast.  We both decided it that molding the block around the bust would give us a more useful body form so we both added a horizontal bust dart.
  • Both Vogue and Butterick fitting shell patterns have extra wide seam allowances, which makes them really easy to fit.   Prior to cutting the muslins both of us made basic fitting adjustments that we each knew we needed (bust fitting for Ann, petite waist adjustments for me) but otherwise we worked up the initial muslin straight from the envelope because we knew we’d fine tune the fit for each other.   Both muslins together are here on Ann’s blog and the seams turned to the outside was deliberate to allow easier fitting on that first try.

The photos are my muslin #2 and Ann’s muslin 2 is on her blog.  The differences between us are interesting yes?  And both are a size 14.  I have scoliosis so for me each upper bodice piece needed to be fitted individually, cut single layer and carefully marked. The asymmetrical sides of my body are best seen from the back.  My left shoulder is higher than the right.  The large curved dart on the right that looks like I’ve had a lung removed compensates for the way the left side of my body twists up and back from the right side.  Ann has pinned out some additional ease on my right shoulder and over each bust apex that I’ll incorporate into the next muslin.  I’m not concerned about these crazy asymmetrical darts because the goal is to have a tightly fitted shell with zero ease.  I want something that exactly mimics  me so it can padded it out into my 3D shape.

The next step is a full length muslin with the hip panels added.

Notice on my symetrical dress form the waist is uneven now due to the shoulder adjustment, but not on me above.

15 Responses to Threads Dress Form Double – Part 1

  1. PVE June 11, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    For certain, a project worthy of both your talents!!!!!!

  2. Gorgeous Things June 11, 2012 at 2:40 am #

    It’s amazing, isn’t it, the changes we need to make to fit these doubles?

  3. Bunny June 11, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    This is inspirational and makes so much more sense than a DTdummy. I never liked my DTdummy. Maybe it was just ugly and I couldn’t get beyond that. This I like. Thanks for all the details.

  4. Allyn June 11, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Fascinating! I need to do one of these myself, but it looks like it’s a better project for two people.

  5. Mary Beth June 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    This is getting exciting :) Nice job on showing the fit issues of someone with what would be called a mild scoliosis. Your darts and the photo on the form show clearly what is needed to fit your shape and should make all the difference in the world in the final garments. Congrats!

  6. Phyllis June 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Bunny, I think the reason this project appeals to me is that, unlike a DTdummy, it’s a sewing project. Also it’s really interesting to see my fit issues clearly laid out in detail and I think the process of making this body double will add to my fitting skills overall. Plus I like the idea of being able to make one for another person.

    Allyn if you ever want to do a sewing weekend with Ann and I you’re welcome to come up to Boston! We could both help you fit a shell and then you could make one for yourself.

  7. Laura SJ June 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    If only I had an accomplished sewing partner to pair up with! There is a place near me in Chicago that does DT dummies fo ran affordable cost. Wonder if I could use a DT dummy to fit myself for one of these Threads doubles?

  8. coudremode June 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Laura I think that would be workable because really the first fitting is the one that requires the most help from another person. I fitted the 2nd muslin that you see here to myself because by that stage there were just a couple tweaks that needed to happen. Kenneth does recommend a partner for the caliper stage prior to padding out the shell but I think help from a non-sewing friend would work there.

  9. Nancy K June 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    I took my moulage from KK’s class and put it on my duct tape dressform. It works pretty well and I was able to add the padding needed for the weight gain since I”d made it. It does not eliminate all fitting on yourself but it helps a lot. It really helps to have someone else,particularly someone as experienced as Ann work with you on fitting. Can’t wait to see it finished.

  10. Gorgeous Things June 11, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Allyn, I second what Phyllis said – get up here, girl! We’ll have fitting sessions followed by mojitos!!

  11. Cynthia Sinclair June 13, 2012 at 12:30 am #

    I read the magazine article and your additions are an additional, welcome clarification.

  12. Kristin June 17, 2012 at 4:50 am #

    I have seen the article yet but I will follow this with keen interest. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for myself. Thanks. :)

  13. Bunny February 6, 2013 at 1:50 am #

    Having just finished my dress form, thank you for the inspiration. I feel good now about those odd tucks I took in the oddest of places because in the end it fit me. Sew on!

  14. Marla Cooprider September 30, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Thanks for that information. My daughter also has Scoliosis. Bad enough that she had surgery at age 15. Her rod then broke and her curvature got worse but thankfully no additional surgery. But fitting her was quite a challenge. Besides being petite and tiny built she has the shoulder and back fittings on her right side. If I make anything fitted for her each bodice piece is fitted individually. So I know what a challenge it can be!

    I just got a dress form and bought the Fabulous Fit system, but think I’m going to use a combo of those pads and Kenneth King’s method to make a dress form close to my size. And if I want I can make others for whoever I make an outfit! :)

    Thanks for your blog,


  1. Final Muslin for the Body Double | Gorgeous Things' Blog - June 18, 2012

    [...] Phyllis and I got together to check the fit on our muslins. Phyllis already showed you an update in her last blog post. I ran up the adjusted muslin today. Phyllis did some tweaking for me on mine, and I tweaked her [...]

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