Duct Tape Dress Form Tutorial

(the above pic of the backview of my dressform is for all of you who ask me how I get done so many crafts with a baby…I allow my house to become a baby enduced war-zone…it’s all about priorities people. ha!)

This weekend I tried making a knock-off top from Jcrew and after hours of hard work went to try it on and realized I had made the armpits way too small. There was no way to salvage it and I decided then and there to spend this weekend making my own dress form.

After following a few different tutorials online however I came up with this…
A dress form with entirely too much junk in her trunk. (The one of the floor is the 2nd try so you can compare, oh and that multi-colored furball is a Sheltie. “Parker” to be exact.)

I think the problem with my first form was from a combination of a few different things…

1) Existing tutorials call for you to wear a long tshirt, this turns out to be a problem though because it adds a lot of bulk to your form.

2) We used several longggg pieces of tape, I basically kept turning while my husband wrapped me in tape. No good. That way makes it close to impossible to get flat lines and you once again add bulk.

3)Overstuffing in the round. Our midsections are actually pretty oblong shaped but when you go to stuff a dress form she’ll fill out in a round shape since she obviously has no bone structure inside to hold the shape.

After some brainstorming here’s the method we found worked best:

You’ll need:
2 60yd rolls of duct tape
colored tape
magazine or newspaper
stuffing (I ripped open 2 ugly throw pillows that were hiding in a guest bedroom)
floor lamp base

For my method we decided we’d get the least bulk if we just wrapped me in cling wrap. Now obviously this will only work if you have someone wrapping you with whom you feel comfortable enough to be in your underwear. If not then try to wear something that clings to your body & that you don’t mind destroying. I also didn’t take pics of this process because, well, I was in my underwear and I don’t think blogger would approve. Can you imagine the people I’d get with pics of a girl in her underwear being wrapped in cling wrap & duct tape?! Ha!

Start by having your helper wrap you from the midthigh up to right under your bustline in cling wrap. Wrap snugly but not so tight as to distort your figure. Then cover your bust, shoulders, back and neck. Once again being careful to not add any additional bulk by pressing down as you go and laying pieces flatly.

Now that you’re wrapped it’s time to start taping. Begin by taping yourself from the bottom up using pieces of tape no longer than around 14″ long. Each one should be laid flat & carefully. Taking your time with the taping will make all the difference with the outcome! Continue wrapping from your thighs up to right under bustline. For the bust start above your breasts, wrap your upper chest, neck, back and shoulders carefully with short pieces. For the actual bust tape one 6″ piece vertically between your breasts, this will help to show the definition between the cups. We made the cups by tearing a piece of tape down the middle so you’re working with thinner strands. Then mold these around each breast…as long as your take your time, use small strips and keep in mind that you’re trying to get a true form of what your bust looks like in a bra you’ll be fine. (Repeat until every part of duct taping is 3 layers thick)

Now you should look like this…

(You’d be amazed how good a little ducted tape dress can make you feel, it’s like full body spanx)

Next you’re going to have your helper mark all of the following areas on you with a contrasting color of tape. Be sure that when you’re marking these “rings” that the back line is the same height as the front line. These will come in handy when you’re working with your form. (Click on image(s) to enlarge it)
Now have them carefully cut you out of the duct tape dress, this should be done in one straight line down the back being careful not to cut any undergarments. (Or skin for that matter)

Next tape the back line back together. We found it easiest to do this from the inside first. Working in 6″ strips stick a piece inside the form and press down on one side, then you can see what you’re doing when you go to press down the other side. You want to make sure you’re sealing her back up evenly! Your contrasting tape rings should help with this. After taping the inside reinforce by placing a strip down the back on the outside.
(see pic of backview at the top of this post)

Next use a small piece of cardboard as a base to seal up the arm & neckholes. Tape over these.

Time to stuff!
I used crunched up balls of magazine pages (newspaper would’ve been even better) to take up most of the space inside the form & then used the foam around that to fill it out and make a smooth finish. After stuffing your lady through the bust you’ll want to stick her on the lamp stand and work the rest of the way by stuffing around the pole first with newspaper and then fluff around that. (If you’d like now would be a good time to make her the same height as you, just keep stuffing or remove stuffing before inserting onto stand until she’s the right height)

Here’s the GENIUS trick my hubby came up with to keep her from filling out too round, cut two pieces of cardboard that are about 2″ wide and the length is going to be the front of your chest. For example from one side of my ribs (just under bust) to the other side if 16″. So each of my cardboard pieces were 2″ by 16″. Cut a line to the center of each piece so they look like this:Next round the corners, insert one into the other & open it up:
Finally you’re going to insert this piece (unopened) into your dress form just under the bustline. Position it horizontally so that it makes a stiff line across the rib space of your dress form, open it up while inside your form and place stuffing in each of the folds to keep it that way. This one piece will make a HUGE difference in keeping your entire dress form more of an oblong shape throughout the midsection and hips. TRUST ME!
Almost done! After you’re done stuffing and are happy with the shape of your form use pieces of cardboard & then tape to seal up the bottom.Done! Whew. Glad that one’s done with and hopefully my mistakes will help you get it right the first time! Duct tape ain’t cheap and Samster has possibly learned a few new choice words from observing mom and this process.

Hope you had a good weekend, tomorrow I’m going to post some pics from my mom’s day out (you’ll never guess what I did!) and then Samster and I are off to Florida for the week! I’ve been stocking up on projects the last few weeks so I’ll have plenty to post while we’re gone.

Talk to you soon!

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  1. Anonymous

    I am going to make this! I can't afford a mannequin, but this will help me make all my dresses as I start my small business. Thanks so much!!

  2. Lynn

    This is an amazing tutorial! I have seen a number of tutorials online, but I really like the way you trouble-shooted and gave the non- glossy version! This is totally inspiring!

    On a side note, my house oftentimes looks like yours (baby explosion!)- I noticed a toy phone in the front of your picture that looks a lot like a toy phone that I got rid of after it tested positive for lead! This is a link to my blog post about the lead and that phone- you might want to check it out and see if it is the same one!


  3. Rotten

    I tried it once and it was hysterical. My hubby & I documented the process complete with a much needed cocktail in my hand. It was a disaster, but so much fun.

  4. Piccolina Designs

    You should start designing duct tape dresses :) You looked great in it. I'm still nervous to try one of these. Not sure I really want to see what my shape looks like sitting on top of a floor lamp post :(

  5. sarah

    im pretty sure you just made my day. this is the easiest and best explained tute for a custom fit dress form i have found (and boy have i been looking!) i guess my weekend plans have just been set!

  6. Robin's Egg Bleu

    Found this after much perusing on google…you make it sound so 'doable'! My husband is napping in preparation for his wrapping job this evening. When I informed him that he'd be wrapping me in duct tape tonight, I thought he'd be thrilled. He was decidedly not.

  7. mistie

    thanks so much for this! I have seen many other posts on it, but yours makes it look real and doable! I've posted it on my blog page as I am starting a Wardrobe Refashion challenge for 6 months and want some things that are more tailored. I have a dress form from BEFORE I had my son. Nice to work on but…um…not good for anything that will fit me these days :)

  8. Courtney

    Found this post on google looking for how to make a dress form. By far, it's the best "how-to" I saw. I just made my duct tape dummy to-day, and this helped tremendously.

    Thanks for such a great tutorial!

  9. littlefoot

    Thanks for the tutorial. I've seen this method mentioned before, but you had some great tips like with the cling film and putting cardboard in the waist. I'm gonna send DH out to get some duct tape asap!! Don't have a lamp stand or anything but saw an idea of putting a coat hanger inside so you can hang it. Might give that a try, hopefully be easier to store too :)

  10. shellidawn

    I do believe (hands down!) this is the best dress form tutorial out there! I have several bookmarked that I was planning on using. I was going to use bits of info from each of them to make the best dress form and then I found your tutorial. You and your husband did a wonderful job, and I am making mine tonite! :o) THANKS BUNCHES FOR THE INFO!!!!!! (P.S. I love your website, overall! I really do!)

  11. Anonymous

    How could you be so calm while posing with your duct tape form on? I did one on my sister and she couldn't breathe and started hyperventilating and panicking and I had to cut her out so quickly I was barely able to do the amount of layers I wanted to. Three of us where working on her so we were fast. I just wanted to add this as a tip, leave the tummy area for last so you can breathe easier while you get wrapped. Great info. Thanks for sharing!


  12. Kama

    Cool deal. I have 2 sons (18 months and 4 months) and people are always asking me how I get things done (sewing-wise) too. :)

  13. Anonymous

    I loved this so much! I'm not a talented seamstress, just a crafty type who can't help herself. There's no way my husband would apply duct tape properly so I just repurposed 2 old bed pillows (stacked atop one another) and marked lines for my waist, hips, bra line, etc. then tugged cinched the pillows with yarn, tucked batting between pillows where needed, put an old bra on it (which my 2 yr old son enjoyed stuffing with filler), covered the whole bad boy with batting and put a stretchy tee over it. I'm getting ready to cover her with plastic wrap and all the colors of duct tape I have in my kit. For now she's hanging in a doorway via hubby's old wooden suit hanger (I pinned the pillows together so they hang there nicely). I can't decide if I should keep it as an easily put away mannequin and leave her on a hanger or use the lampstand idea, which is brilliant, BTW. I hate floor lamps and ours has been begging to be repurposed. A FREE MANNEQUIN!!!! THANK YOU!

  14. plus sizes

    I am indeed amazed with the way you created the dress of the mannequin. I guess if I have my own fashion galore I'll also create mannequins which are similar to those. Good job!

  15. Anonymous

    Here's a suggestion for the musical types out there. Get a long cardboard tube (from wrapping paper, for example), close off one end with more cardboard and/or duct tape, and place that up the middle of the dress form while you're stuffing it so that the open end sticks out the bottom. Then drop it on top of a mic stand and you've got fully adjustable height! Great for adjusting garment length with or without heels!

  16. Becky

    Thank you for the great tutorial! Placing the different colored lines on the form is brilliant. Thanks for creating!

  17. Lindsay Bayley

    This was a very helpful tutorial! I had been talking about doing this for a while and was inspired because of your first try debacle (which would have made me too sad to try again), and your helpful tips for making it better. Since I had been looking at various blogs on how to do this, I took a recommendation from one to use scraps of fabric to stuff (crafting and de-cluttering at the same time!) but the fabric was too heavy and as the dress from was hanging, the fabric started to sink to the bottom and now her hips have an extra 3″ so I’m going to get light weight stuffing (maybe the expanding foam because he have that on hand) and re-do it. I think I’m going to have to remove the seam up the back and pull it a bit tighter…But overall it looks great! I hope the improved version holds up!

  18. Julia

    Thanks for the great tutorial! It really helped. Mine came out bigger than me though. Like her waist and hips were about 3 inches bigger than my actual measurments. I decided to go with it though. It’ll work for my purposes of t-shirt reconstruction.

  19. Susan

    Just made this for my 16 year old who is a Little Person – tricky shape and very hard to buy clothes for – worked well so far just about to stuff it.
    Thanks so much for the tutorial :)


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