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added August 2008

In 2003, my future daughter-in-law asked me to sew her wedding dress.  (I really meant to write you much earlier-honest!)How totally cool is that?  I had only made one other wedding dress in my life and it was for my niece. It was a much simpler undertaking, believe me.  My problem with making one for my daughter-in-law was her size--4'9".  For her first marriage, she had an "off the rack" dress that sort of fit but, she had to settle for "sort of fit".  This time, she wanted her dream dress.  She had a pattern picked out, made by McCalls.  I contacted the McCall pattern company and asked if they had any suggestions on what I would need to do to get their pattern to fit.  Their reply?  " Because your daughter-in-law doesn't fit within the typical size range of this particular pattern, there is no way for us to advise you on what you might have to do."  OOOOhhh kaaaay!  Bummer.
I started a search for a dress form and soon discovered that short people are a vast,  untapped market for virtually everything.  With a 4 month window for a woman with a full time job to make her dress AND 3 brides maids dresses, panic began to set in!  I made one more last ditch attempt to find a reasonably priced dress form on line that might be within her measurements and, my price range.   Imagine my success with that! .  And then I stumbled onto an article from Threads magazine on making your own dress form.  Duct tape?  My family are avid Scouters and, believe me, duct tape is a Boy Scout staple but, this was really way out there.  After reading the article and going to your site, I decided I could do it.   
I gave Janine 2 options--move in with me and my husband so I could have her for unlimited fittings or, get taped!  My daughter-in law also has one hip and one shoulder lower than the other which also complicated things.   She chose to be taped. 
Alas, I no longer have "Miss Jelly Bean" but, she was a beauty!  It only took us 2 hours to complete the taping.  I used foam board for the form base and arm hole plugs.  For the stand, I took the heavy duty cardboard tubing that the bride's maids fabric came on and used a saw to cut it to size.  That stuff is tough!  And for the stand?  I took the wheel base off an old office chair I was going to throw out!  It was perfect.  The tubing fit PERFECTLY over the pole that connected the seat to the legs of the chair and I had a really great movable stand!
I cannot begin to thank you enough for your ingenuity that enabled me to make my daughter-in-law the dress of her dreams and, most importantly, one that fit her!  Thank you!
Paula -
Shawnee, Oklahoma



added April 2002

Hey, just wanted to write and let you know that I got my form done today. I'd say it was about 4 or 5 hours and I'm really tired from all that standing in the duct tape and all that. I just had to write and say thanks for making these instructions. I have wanted a dress form for a long time.

One thing I did differently was sliding the PVC pipe over a cut down old coat rack with 'fancy' legs. I have to do a few touch ups to cover the pipe and nails and such...

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added October 2001

I want to thank you for your advice on the DTD. A while back I emailed you with a problem. The duct tape was bunching up badly around my waist.

My niece came to visit a few weeks ago and did my taping. We took your advice. We did the top just like the instructions to the waist. In the back which was where it bunched up the most (I am apparently very sway back) we did the vertical strips. She did short horizontal strips in the front. Then she did the second wrapping from the bottom up. When she came to the waist, she did a lot of clipping (like you would do for clipping an armhole in a garment) so it would spread out and not bunch.

I have stuffed her this weekend. Boy!! was that an eye opening experience. Now I know why I couldn't alter my clothes to fit me. I knew I had put on weight, but I didn't really comprehend it until I saw myself in 3D. I see me how others see me. My doctor had already put me on an exercise program. This is even a better incentive to keep on it.

For my stand I used what I thought was pvc pipe. I later found out it is a sewer pipe. I wondered why it was black inside the pipe. I cut a 2' x 2' , 1/2in piece of plywood into a circle and centered what I assume to be a flange in the center. To be sure it doesn't wobble I will probably seal it with silicone or drill a hole in the in the side and put a screw in it. Now I am armed with a body double of myself and the book "Fit for Real People". I am looking forward to making some new clothes now.

Thank you so very much

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added October 2001

My wife and I came up with an idea you may be interested in. We used a 5 foot cardboard tube we got for free from the carpet department of Homedepot. We notched out the top so a hanger would sit in the notch.

As a base, a big bucket of kitty litter. We just cut a hole in the top of the kitty litter and slipped the tube inside. You can wiggle the tube down to the perfect height.

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added February 10, 2000

I used a 4" pvc (bigger is better right? ) - it was a mistake cause the neck is too big, and I still don't have her fitting correctly (better than anything else though). Probably cause I have a rounded upper back. She is sitting on a hanger in the pvc - i'm going to undo it and raise up the hanger to see if it solves my problem - just haven't gotten to it yet. Also my duck tape is coming apart - found out in the South (we are in Florida) you need to use the contractors grade duct tape so it will hold. The heat (and humidity I imagine) just makes her come unglued. She looked great on an old halogen lamp base though. I just used the bottom half of the pole, covered it with a section of pipe insulation and a couple of round rubber things that have something to do with a toilet - they took up the slack between the pipe and lamp pole. Got the idea from one of the duck tape double hints. thanks for the wonderful idea. my sewing teacher is dying to see the finished model but I am slow in getting back to her.

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added March 25, 1999

Well I did it , made a duct tape double and there no turning back.  I had read the how tos in Threads and with my husbands help I got taped up.  What we did for a stand was an old grey dress form. If you put an add in classifieds people want very little for these or will give them away.  I expanded to form as far as it would go and set my double over top and carfully started stuffing. I used old pattern tissue, which I found worked well.  I would also like to mention that I'm a very large lady and this form has helped me in my sewing greatly.
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added August 27, 1998

Not having a trusted friend who could actually cover me with duct tape, I had to rely on my husband.  This is quite contrary to suggestions given.  However, all worked out well and including my husband in the process meant that he put his cabinet making skills to work.

Hence, the swivel stand. Actually this took no cabinet making skills at all.  To make a quick and easy stand, just purchase a patio umbrella stand of the kind that can be filled with water or sand and use a piece of PVC pipe the same diameter as the umbrella pole.  Build the form around that.  Cut it off at the desired length.  Insert it into the stand and..... voila... a quick and easy swivel stand.

That's the fun part... The other is that the DTC is a good duplicate of my figure. Am buying a fitness club membership next week.

Thanks for  the detailed instructions on the net!   Ariella
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added May 8, 1998

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.  I have always wanted a dress form and now thanks to you I have one.  I wish I knew about this before my daughter left for school in London, England she wanted me to alter several of her grandmother's Chinese dresses that her  grandfather gave her.  I would feel better able to handle the task if I had a dress form to put them on.

My sister came from Canada for four days and I put her to work.  She kept abandoning me to go outside and smoke so the tshirt kept rising up around the waist and bunching.  I was really disappointed in the job I did until I realized what was actually bothering me was that the form looked like my body!  The final measurements are exact.  I was going to cover it in a beige cloth but realized that a darker colored cloth would
show the seams better on light colored fabric.

Now I am trying dresses on the form that I did not feel comfortable wearing and can easily see what it was about their construction that bothered me so.  I would
recommend wrapping the neck up to the chin and will do this in the future when I lose weight and need a new form.  It would be beneficial to see how collars will sit since some of us tend to tilt our neck forward.

I have printed your instructions out for four other people. I ran into trouble with the old torchiere lamp that I used, I had it sawed down but found that my fabric tube would not go all the way down because of a metal coupler used to reinforce two metal tube sections.  I couldn't give up so I sprayed the joint with wd40 and used a flat-head screwdriver and a hammer to wedge a small opening all around the joint. The parts then were loose enough to screw apart. I had to remove the coupler since it was about 3/8" thick and by wrapping the fabric tube with several layers of duct tape it made the stand sturdy enough that  it doesn't matter that the two parts of the metal are just sitting on top of each other.  The longest part of the metal tube is attached to the stand and provides the support, the upper piece of metal tube just makes it look good.

Thanks again for all your help.
Maureen McFarlane
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added April 28, 1998

I borrowed a copy of Threads from a friend who told me about the duct tape dress form and was surprised at how accurately it worked in the magazine. My mother and I will be getting together tomorrow to try it out.

Ironically, when I went to turn on our failing halogen torchierre, it completely died.  Perfect! (or fate?)  I will also be using a poster mailer--one of those round tubes to put in the torso which would allow the form to slide up and down the lamp stand.  Drill holes in the stand at various heights (and, of course, at normal height) so you don't have to do detailed waist work on your knees. To secure the height while working, simply reinforce the neck of the torso with more tape and thread through two shoestrings or what have-you through both the stand and the form.

An additional idea...
As I am a costumer, I will need to work with arms and/or legs.  I would suggest a few modifications:
1.  Purchase or dig out of your closet a form-fitting mock turtleneck and tape the arms (this will avoid the bunching of fabric at the back) and allow you to tape the arms.
2.  After taping the arms and entire body, cut down the back of the arms as well as the back of the form to ease removal.
3.  Re-tape the arms down the back and cut off at the shoulder.  Punch holes with ice pick on torso and arms to lace on arms when needed.  The same could be done with legs if you use spandex shorts.

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added April 3, 1998

About 2 weeks ago I did the taping for a friend, using only the info from the article in Threads. She wore her usual underclothes and a slip under the T-shirt. I basted a piece of double-knit to the neck, the shirt was plenty long. It took all morning to get ready, tape her up, cut off the form, and stuff it. Another friend stopped by when she was nearly taped up, she thought it was some kind of armor at first.

Before I cut the form off I did mark a plumb line to show how the form should be mounted so it would stand at the same angle she does, and a few horizontal lines on the back to match up the edges when we taped it up.

We didn't use a coat hanger in the shoulders, instead, I cut out a silhouette of her shoulders from doubled corrugated cardboard (one of her shoulders is a lot higher than the other, a hanger might have evened them up).

We stuffed her form with plastic peanuts and plastic grocery bags, and I cut the cardboard for the bottom by having her lean her hips against the wall sideways, then facing front and measuring out to the opposite side to get a cross-section shape. We cut a circle where the lines crossed to put the cardboard tube through-did remember to put it in as we stuffed.

I had a broken halogen torchiere lamp that we used for the stand. We pulled the wires out and her husband cut it to the right height. The base was already weighted and everything.

After I left my friend fine tuned the double by adding scraps of batting to the stuffing where the peanuts hadn't filled it out well and taped the bottom in and put it on a stand.

If (when) we do my double I plan to start with a long sleeved turtleneck T-shirt and make it longer if needed. The lamps are so cheap I may just buy a new one for a stand, if I can't get one out of someone's trash or a garage sale. The broken one didn't have the safety features to prevent fires so a lot of people may get rid of them instead of buying new bulbs when they burn out. A new one is only $15 on sale, and has a screen over the light bulb and an auto shut off.
                                            Jane in Ohio
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added Feb. 14, 1998

Some one asked a question about combining their old (regular) dress form with their new duct tape form.  I was faced with the same situation,
since I "outgrew" my form.  I now have my new duct tape form taped on top of my regular, old dress form and it works quite well.  I stuffed
the bust area with old shoulder pads (from a long lost top) to fill in the space between the 2  forms.  I used some leftover batting to fill in
the area below the waist.  I was lucky because I didn't have big areas to fill in with the batting. The two forms fit pretty snuggly except in
the hips and stomach.

Another comment - it is helpful to make sure that the t-shirt fabric does not get bunched up in the back where you will be cutting the form
off.  When a friend and I made my form we didn't think about that and had a difficult time cutting my form off.  When we did my friends form
we were careful to arrange the excess t-shirt fabric so it was smooth across the back. Big improvement!

Jan Raith
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added Feb. 4, 1998

My sister and I had a great time this weekend playing with duct tape and  saran wrap, etc.  I had even more fun at Home Depot in the plumbing
department the next day.  The "plumbing guy" and I came up with the best stand ever that requires no drilling, gluing or other hard stuff.  All you
need is PVC pipe cut to the lengths you need and they do that for you at Home Depot. Here it is:

1)  4" diameter PVC pipe cut the length from floor to bottom of dress form,
2)  place a PVC toilet base (yes!) into that - this gives a platform for the  form to rest on
3)  insert a 2" diameter PVC pipe cut your height from floor to just below your shoulders
4)  onto that place a "double T" joint (has 2" openings on 4 sides).
5)  place a 4-5" section of 2" PVC into the top joint for the neck.
6)  place a 2" PVC pressure cap over that to close the top nicely or don't cap it and tape the wig stand on instead
7)  measure the width of your shoulders less the width of the double T joint and divide the remainder in two.  Cut two pieces of 2" PVC equal to that
measurement and insert them into the shoulder openings.
8)  place the whole thing into a Christmas tree stand and tighten around the 4" section of PVC.

The best thing about this stand is that the dress form can swivel with no fancy hardware - the 2" pipe just turns inside the 4" pipe.  The rigidity of
the PVC pipe at the shoulder also makes a solid demarcation for shoulder and sleeve seams.

To economize on stuffing I first padded and shaped the shoulders with heavy  tissue paper right on the PVC stand and taped them in place.  Then I wadded
up heavy tissue paper inside a blanket of bubble wrap (had some from a  recent move) and taped that core around the body part of the PVC stand.  I
imagine newspaper would also work for the core.  I then glued two "push up" bra inserts into each breast, added fiberfill to firm them even more and
taped large squares of cardboard over all of that on the inside of the form to hold the breast padding in place.  Finally, I "dressed" the pre-padded
PVC stand with the duct tape double stuffing the form and closing it up the back from the top down.  The last step was to cut a cardboard base and tape
it into the bottom of the form.

Once I had the stuffed form on the stand I was able to compare my shape and posture to my double's shape and posture in front of a mirror and could make
the refinements needed - mostly I needed to tighten things up a bit by adding tape and pulling tighter.  When I was happy that I had a good enough
clone I wrapped most of it with a final layer of tape to cover all the wrinkles and tape edges.

I LOVE my double!!!  We have been looking for good dress forms for over a year now but most are about $150 and up and don't begin to be as good as
this one that cost me about $40 to make!

Barbara Lies
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 Just had to tell you that my daughter taped me up today and 'Tillie' looks amazingly like me -- sad for her I must say!  I have stuffed 'Tillie' but have to re-arrange the lower half.  Too much stuffing in back and not enough in the front.  I measured the waist and it is exactly my measurement.  I put a denim shirt on her and she looked so much like me it was scary!  Can't wait to actually size a pattern on her.  I must tell you -- I was lying in bed the other night thinking about making ''Tillie' and thinking about how I would stand her up, etc.  and Bing!  I remembered a brass suit valet stand  my  husband was no longer using  which was sitting in a corner of
the basement.  I draped Tillie over that, taped her up and began stuffing. Stuffing was not simple tho but I think with the re-arranging she will be

Thanks for your great idea and all your help
P.S  when you said a size 10 needed 1 1/2 rolls of tape, I decided to purchase 10 rolls.  A bit too many!! I used two rolls and barely a part of a third!!!

Thanks  Cathy in Colorado

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My husband and I finally got together for the first part of making the duct tape double.

I wasn't expecting much ... my husband is an engineer and definitely doesn't have an artistic eye or much patience for handwork.  Though I
was on target with my assessment of him, the double still went surprisingly well.  The last post I read on this suggested it goes
better with longer strips so I asked George to do it that way.  Otherwise, we followed the original instructions.  He didn't keep the
shirt smoothed out at all underneath and it bunched horribly at the small of my back.  Also, he wasn't very careful with the tape.  There
are plenty of places where smaller pieces should have been used around the armholes and the tape wasn't kept as smooth as it could have.  Like I said, he just doesn't have the patience.  I did tell him that he couldn't possibly make it too tight -- only too loose.

By the time he completed the first horizontal wrapping, I had decided it didn't matter how lousy a job he was doing -- I was so much fatter than
I had realized.  MY goal was NOW to lose weight so I'd need another double made!  So I lightened up and encouraged him to just keep going.
I figured we'd learn from this one and maybe in a few months we could try it again.

By the end of the second round, I was feeling faint -- it was TIGHT!  I had visions of fainting and wondering what my shy, overly cautious hubby
would do.  Would he rush me to the emergency room?  I could just see the doctors saying "Mr. Cavanaugh, could you step in here with us. Now just WHAT were you doing with your wife when this accident occurred?"  I took a deep breath and knew I would have to get a grip.

By the third wrapping, it had loosened a little and I was fine.  The end was in sight and I was getting excited.  I sure could see why I struggle
with fitting -- a trip to the scales afterwards confirmed my worst fears -- I am now the heavier than when I was nine months pregnant with any of
our children :(

In spite of all this, the double turned out well.  Using the string and scissors as a plumb, he accurately marked lines and managed to cut
through the fabric bunches at the back.  I know I'll be able to use this!

One of the kids had an old music stand; it comes apart for storage -- the bottom works perfectly as the dress form stand.  Tonight we'll tape
and stuff and I'll let you know how that goes.

I can't get over how well it came out; hope this encourages some of you to give this a try.

Mary in Dalton, GA

We finished it last night -- It was a lot of work but I am so excited. George and I worked in our living room because it had plenty of space
and light.  We were taping the bottom to the form when my daughter came by with a new boyfriend.  He picked it up and went scurrying off to our
bedroom and my daughter just cracked up.  The poor guy could only wonder.  I'm glad it's over and safely tucked away in my sewing room

It really looks fine -- the places where he didn't tape smoothly kind of bother me.  I was thinking about it this morning and realized it was
only duct tape cellulite!  It won't affect the fitting at all!  Now to jacket fitting!

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Chapter 2
Hello to all who are into repeating themselves!!!! The DTD was "mounted and stuffed "  [anybody do taxidermy?] today!  I am not quite finished as I have not added the bottom piece that holds all the stuffing in, but that will happen tomorrow. I purchased four 16 oz bags of Poly Fill (I am 145# and 5'5") and should have bought 5 bags,  but I have a great deal of Scotch blood in me.  It is amazing how tightly that fill can be packed into the tape shape. Speaking of which, it IS necessary to pack it tightly, so mind Leah's instructions.. After filling the complete tape shape, I found it advantageous to cut a small slit in the sleeve of the T Shirt at the armhole, stick my 'packing stick'  through and tighten up the poly fill by adding small amounts at a time and getting the shoulder area good and firm. My DH fitted a 5 gal. bucket as a base for the tube by cutting a hole the same circumference as the tube, exactly in the center of the lid, locking the lid down tightly, and, by using two stones in the bottom of the bucket, there is enough ballast to keep DTD upright. He sawed the tube to my exact height.  When not in use, the DTD can be hung from the ceiling over in the corner from one of the old swag-lamp hooks, thereby returning my precious floor space to me.  Now, that means that the base/stand cost us exactly nothing.  The tube was free, we already had the bucket/lid.

Expenses so far:
3   Duct Tape          @2.97                    8.91    {needed 1 1/2 rolls at the most]
4    Poly Fill 16 oz    @2.59                    5.28    [on sale at 1/2 price]  Needed Five

Things we learned:
Taping is about a two hour process.  Make sure you have not had a lot of things to drink for several hours prior to beginning the process.  You cannot stop in the middle and finish later - it needs to be done all at once. Small pieces of tape on the curvy areas are a MUST.  DH loved this part! :-) It doesn't need to look pretty - it only needs to be snug, not tight enough to distort the contours of the body. Mark Armscye before removing taped form from your body. Mark Neckline before  removing taped form from your body. I don't look like I thought I look - that DTD tells it all.

Chapter Three coming soon.
DeAnn in Citrus Heights, CA
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Last weekend, my best friend came from North Carolina just to wrap me in duct tape.  It was a real eye-opener.

First, I added enough length from another T-shirt to make the whole thing just below mid-thigh.  That way, I'd have lots of extra room for the
tape to draw in fabric.  Then I sewed an old T-shirt sleeve to the neckline.  I didn't intend to do it, but I sewed the seams on the
outside of the neck.  Turned out to be a good idea:  my neck didn't get rubbed by the seams after taping began.

I wore a bra, old but typical of the styles I wear.  Early into the first tape layer, I noticed in the mirror that I seemed to be wearing a
silver breastplate.  I told Dawn I just needed a spear and a helmet with horns, and I could sing soprano.

As each layer drew it in tighter, I looked more and more like a woman wearing a body corset with attached bustle.  For the first time, I could
see my left shoulder is higher than my right, and my left hip is lumpier than my right (oh that cellulite).  The rest seems pretty symmetrical, for an ancient fertility goddess...or a Wagnerian soprano.

Because I planned to mount it on my existing dress form, Dawn took chest, bust, waist and hip measurements while I wore it, then wrote that directly on the tape in indelible marker.

As Dawn cut me out, steam came out.  Do this in air conditioning, folks.  It does get warm in there.  Whole process took about two hours.

I mounted her on my dress form, secured the neck with tape, then used fiberfill to pad the voids.  This was kind of tricky, since I had to allow for the space between the unclosed back seam and still fill firmly.  That was why I had Dawn do the measurements -- I could measure
to check my accuracy of fill.  OK, I got a little impatient, so the form's really not all that firm, but neither am I.  She seems to be working out ok so far...

It only took about thirty minutes to pad her and secure the back seam.  That part does take two people:  one to hold the form edges together, the other to tape them closed.

When my DH saw this silver creature standing in the bedroom in the moonlight, he demanded I throw something over her.  He also offered to paint her flesh colored.  I dissuaded him from that when I told him I'll buy some lycra or spandex to make a tube to cover her silver essence.  I put a skirt on her that I need to hem, and a wide brimmed hat.  DH didn't wake up startled by the other woman in the room...

I'm thinking of calling her Hebe, after the goddess who hunted peacocks.  I'll be using her to indulge my own peacock tendencies -- to make well-fitting clothing in a variety of nice colors.  Then, again, the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings.  Well, I'm a musician, I sing soprano, and I'm fat (well, flabby).  But Brunhilde just doesn't appeal to me...  Any suggestions for a good name?

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A Special Thanks-

To all my Internet friends who have given suggestions for this page. Whether it was an easier way to make the form you discovered while trying this method for yourself, or helping me phrase an instruction so it could be understood better, your help has been indispensable. If you have noticed your words added to this page, give yourself a big pat on the back.

Would you like to share your tale? Click on the comment link below.