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.
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?
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.