I have additional patterns for DIY mini dress forms on Craftsy and Etsy. If you want to sew a dress form, take a look at my Mini Stuffed Dress Form pattern. I have a paper version of the half scale dress form that is a little easier to make than the craft foam dress form below. I also designed a complete set of basic block/sloper patterns to fit the paper dress form.
I have free dress patterns on Craftsy that will fit all versions of the half scale dress forms. I plan to keep adding dresses to the collection as I practice my patternmaking skills, so follow me on Craftsy if you want to be notified when I upload new patterns.
I designed and made a half-scale paper mache dress form to practice patternmaking on. I thought it came out pretty well, so I’m sharing the pattern and instructions for making one.
This miniature dress form is about 17″ tall, and her bust, waist, and hip measurements are 18″, 13.25″, and 18.25″.
Materials for a torso and two arms:
• 1/16″ (2 mm) thick craft foam (4 sheets of 11″x17″ or 10 sheets of 8.5″x11″)
• High quality masking tape or box sealing tape. I discovered that thin cheap masking tape will start slipping off after a few hours, so tape up a test piece and let it sit for a day to see if it slips before you get too far into the project.
• Corrugated cardboard
• Manila folder or piece of heavy paper
• Scissors that will cut cardboard
• Mechanical pencil or very sharp pencil
• Ruler with millimeter markings
• Awl or pin
• X-Acto knife
• 1″ wide paint brush
• Elmer’s Glue-All (about 7 ounces), white flour, or cornstarch for paper mache. See recipes.
• Thin hook and loop tape (Velcro) for attaching arms
• Tissue paper for final layer of paper mache (optional)
• Support stand with 0.5″ to 1.5″ diameter dowel or tube (optional)
• Artists’ sealing spray and/or paint (optional)
• The pattern. Here is the original pattern that is illustrated in the instructions below. I also have a revised pattern with an improved neck. The revised pattern does not have a hole for the neck; the neck just sits on top. I did not re-write the instructions for the revised version, but you can click here to see pictures that show how the revised neck goes together.
Get all of your pieces cut out and supplies assembled ahead of time, then try to tape up the dress form all at once and get at least a couple layers of paper mache on within a couple of days. After a while, even the best tape starts to slip off and you get sharp bends at the seams rather than smooth curves.
Print out the pattern (preferably on thick paper). The border around each sheet is 7.5″x10″. If you print it to a different scale, you will have to adjust the length of the support tube (made out of a 7.5″x11″ rectangle of manila paper – see below). Carefully cut out each piece, making sure to cut off the lines (cut on the inside edges of the lines).
Determine which side is the right side of each sheet of craft foam, and mark X’s on the wrong side. The foam will bend more easily toward the wrong side, so this is very important. I found this out the hard way when I made my first prototype. One piece was cut with the wrong side out, and it rippled and wouldn’t lie smoothly. The right side may have a smoother texture.
Trace and cut out each pattern piece from the material indicated on the pattern piece. Again, cut off your lines when you cut out the pieces so they don’t grow larger than the pattern.
• Mark all notch marks on the right side.
• On the wrong side of the front pieces, draw a line down the center front.
• Mark the center front on each bust piece.
• For the corrugated cardboard chest, waist, hip, and thigh supports, alternate the “grainline” direction for each piece.
• With a pin or awl, carefully punch a small hole to mark the center of the hole on the appropriate cardboard support pieces.
• Mark the center front and center back on each cardboard support piece.
Cut an exactly 7.5″ by about 11″ rectangle from a piece of manila folder.
Roll the manila paper around the dowel you are using for the support, gluing as you go, and being careful to keep the paper straight. Make sure you don’t use so much glue that it oozes out and glues the paper to the dowel. Tape the ends down and leave the paper on the dowel to dry.
Measure the circumference you just marked to the nearest millimeter. Divide this measurement by 6.28 to get the radius. Cut a strip of manila paper a little longer that the radius. With a pin or awl, make 2 small holes exactly the distance of the radius apart. Enlarge one of the holes until it is just big enough to get the tip of your pencil through. Use the strip of paper as a compass to mark the holes on the hip supports, thigh supports, and 3 of the waist support pieces. Cut out the holes with an X-Acto knife.
Glue the 3 support pieces together for the chest, hip, and thigh supports. For the waist support, layer 2 solid pieces then the 3 with holes and glue together. Set books or something on all of the support pieces so they dry flat. Here are all of the finished support pieces:
Some general tips on taping the pieces together:
• Do the taping in a cool room. The tape and foam stretch out of shape if they get too warm.
• Use pieces of masking tape 1/4″ by 1″ or smaller.
• Butt edges together tightly
• For curved seams, place a small piece of tape on the outside at each end. Tape at any notch marks, then fill in the rest of the seam on the outside.
• Tape the inside of the seam after taping the outside.
Tape the darts in the UPPER BUST and LOWER BUST pieces. Start with a small piece of tape at each end. It may help to bend the pieces the wrong way temporarily to make sure the edges butt together tightly.
Tape the breasts to the UPPER FRONT AND SIDE BACK piece. Butt the upper half of the seam flat. The undersides of the breasts should be at right angles to the body. On the underside of the breasts, tape the inside before taping the outside.
Tape the darts in the LOWER BACK pieces.
Tape the BACK pieces to the rest of the body. Tape the inside and outside for most of the seam, but only tape on the outside for the upper 2.5″ of the seam. This helps the foam bend more smoothly over the shoulder. Here is a view of the inside.
I forgot to do this, but I think it would help. Cut a strip of manila paper about 1/2″ wide and the length of the center back seam. Tape it on the inside of one side of the center back, matching the center of the manila paper strip to the center back line. Clip the paper where the center back line curves or bends.
Tape the shoulder seams.
Test fit the assembled support pieces in place and hold the center back closed. If the foam is wrinkling in areas, reinforce these areas with tape on the inside. I had problems with the foam stretching because I was in a room that was too warm. Tape and glue the support pieces in at center front.
Apply glue to the edges of the support pieces and around the support tube, then tape the remainder of the center back seam. This part can be a bit tricky. You may want to use some stuffing to keep the body from collapsing. I tried using stuffing, then ended up taking it out.
I wasn’t quite happy with the upper bust and chest shaping. I flattened the curve in the upper breasts with large pieces of tape. I added some concavity and shaping to the chest and shoulder area with tape as well.
Now it’s time for the fun part!
Mix up your preferred variety of paper mache paste. Pour some of the mixture in a small bowl or cup, dip a paintbrush in it, and paint some on a small area of the dress form. Tear off a strip of newspaper, place it on the dress form over the paste, then brush some more paste on top. Keep overlapping pieces of paper until you have a layer done.
I applied four layers of newspaper paper mache followed by a decorative layer of tissue paper.
I tried using some plain newsprint paper, but I found that actual newspaper worked better. The newspaper starts to disintegrate when it gets wet, so it molds smoothly around curves.
• Use smaller pieces of newspaper around the curvy areas.
• Apply the newspaper strips diagonally around curvy areas.
• Tear the newspaper (don’t cut it).
• Either alternate between text and picture areas of the newspaper to keep track of where you’ve covered with each layer, or scribble all over the previous layer with a permanent marker.
• Where you have sharp bends, tear paper into shapes with “fringe”, then bend the fringe pieces over:
Now for the arms.
Cover with paper mache.
When the paper mache is completely dry, you can spray it with artists’ sealing spray or paint it.
To attach the arms, glue thin hook and loop tape to the armscyes on the body and arm.