Custom Size DIY Dress Form

I have always admired those old fashioned dress forms. Having sewn my own clothes for over 40 years, I decided it was time to have a body-double. She is also perfect to use in photography of my own sewing projects. Bootstrapfashion will email you the PDF pattern pieces in the exact size you specify –  it can’t get easier than that; no duct tape form here. This is my Custom Size DIY Dress Form made with help from Bootstrap Fashion.

Where to get your Pattern:

Go to Bootstrap Patterns site to input all your specific measurements. Make sure to follow all the instructions including the belly protuberance. The accurate measurements will be key to making this exact scan of my body. There are many ways to customize your form and before you know it you will be able to print your pattern at home. It is quite economical as well with the option of previewing the draft pattern before you even pay.

Once you have the pattern (in PDF format) make sure to print it with no page scaling, print it at full size.

Be prepared; it will print many many pages (letter size) to make up the entire pattern. But how novel is that?! You did not even need to leave your house… This will be much different than those adjustable dress forms

It will take a bit of assembly of the pieces of pattern now. Grab some clear tape and scissors. Note the ‘map’ page to keep you organized. Mine took 30 pages (I’m a big girl)

The ‘Master Sheet’ will give you help in case you get confused about which sheets tape to the next. Overlap and match the lines, it’s really simple.

Once you you have the pieces all cut it’s pretty straight forward. Lay out according to the grain. I decided to use an unbleached canvas drop cloth. You should choose something that will be sturdy and not stretch.

It’s fascinating to make such a detailed body shape, buttocks, bust dart, shoulder slope and I am impressed with the way it is structured. Beatrice Forms is also an option but much more expensive. I also like being able to make any adjustments if needed.


It comes with quite clear instructions as well. When you order from this site you have the option to have seam allowances added as well. To make your custom dress form it is suggested to use sturdy fabric  and iron-on interfacing on all pieces. I think that makes sure that it does not stretch in any direction.

Ready, set, sew:

Using a tight straight stitch it’s assembly time. It did take quite a while to get to this point but prep is aways the key.

Being an artist and sculptor, it is interesting how the bust shape is created & I am impressed; like a bra. It feels a bit strange to be looking at a body-double of myself.

Press seams open and clip where there are curves. To further reinforce the seam and flatten it they suggest a zig-zag top stitch. I love how well the pattern pieces create the bodice. Make sure to use a good thread. This is definitely much improved from a duct tape dress form.

Here is the inside of the bust area. All the seams met up quite nicely.

Neck and Arm plates:

Once the front and back are attached then the arm and neck plates will be inserted. As with any circle sewing it helps to clip and pin quite well.

At the neck I wanted to eventually add a decorative top piece like the antique dress forms. I am using a curtain rod end finial and it will need some wood to screw into on the inside It isn’t pretty but it was the easiest way to get some wood glued to the inside backing plate. I doubled the cardboard for strength.

To keep it in place perfectly I hot-glued it from the inside making sure the seams were pushed outward. That provides a nice flat finish.

The Bottom Opening:

The opening on the bottom is also quite ingenious to allow future adjustment by having zipper openings.

I had tried making a dress from from duct tape once but when it is stuffed it ’rounds out’ and does not really match how we are actually a ‘wider’ shape. This pattern has a centre core that keeps the shape and pulls the centre of the bust in. This centre core also has a sleeve for the pole that you choose (like a pvc pipe). I used a heavy weight cardboard tube that would allow a lamp stand to slide into.

It gets a bit tricky to attach the centre stabilizer to the front and back centre seams, but it will be inside anyways, just make sure it’s well attached. The instructions/tutorials are quite clear.

Another circular sewing of the bottom plate and almost done.

Stuffing the form:

So exciting; it’s time to fill her up! This will take a lot of stuffing as you want it quite stiff, not soft like a pillow. I reused some of those pillows that had matted down and re-fluffed the fibre by pulling apart first.

Work your way from top to bottom. It will be quite a work-out. ‘But it is also magical how nicely the shape takes form. It took a lot of stuffing!

The Finishing:

Make sure to attach the finial by screwing into the centre of the top plate (wood backed)

I tend to be a detail person so I looked for some lid that would fit the neck, luckily I did find a perfect plastic container lid. A quick coat of acrylic paint and it looks great! A small detail that makes a huge difference!

I feel odd photographing her as she is naked and based on my own body… I am not a super slim person and have been amply blessed in the bust department…

A repurposed lamp stand worked out perfectly for the base and hubby added some castors. An old rolling chair or even a coat rack pole could also make a great base and a coat of paint will usually make anything look intentional.

‘She’ has a nice shape, some tummy, and some behind. Your’s will depend on your exact measurements. The small price for the pattern is well worth it in my opinion. If you would like more shoulders there are also customizable ‘arm patterns’ that are detachable. I like to use ‘her’ to see fabric draping and love that I can pin into her. I suppose you could add some padding if the size changes… (hope not)

I have not named her yet but she is a welcome addition to my sewing/working room and is often showing off a new scarf or inspirational fabric. Beware; it takes some getting used to seeing a double of yourself though… and accept yourself. Perfect!

This is just the beginning of custom patterns for me… go have a look at all the types of patterns that you can customize and order… amazing!

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  1. I found Bootstrap last year and made one of these. It’s really neat! Plus you can add or delete some stuffing if you gain (God forbid) or lose weight. You are correct as it is VERY strange looking at your own body shape! I used a child’s height coat pole to set it on – with the “spikes” removed – and it worked out great. It even spins nicely making pinning easy. I didn’t get the arm or leg but I’m considering it. The price for the pattern is very reasonable considering what it is and I love the results.

    1. Yes, I love mine! Being a designer and also working on patterns for 3D I marvel at how well these shapes ‘make’ the form! I envision an art installation of hundreds of body types/fabrics… (my crazy imagination) Good project for future clothing designers!

  2. Hi Barb.
    I came across a Bootstrap Pattern YouTube video for this DIY Dress Form after what seemed an endless and fruitless search for a reasonable DIY dress form idea. Now that I’ve found what was looking for, I’m extremely thankful and delighted to have found your blog, all of your blogs. I look forward to reading more and offering any support I can. Thanks so much for your sharing spirit.

  3. This looks amazing! What kind of pattern did you ask for? I looked on the site and couldn’t figure out how to ask for a dress form.

  4. Looks amazing. I am currently selecting fabric for my dress form, and love the canvas drop cloth idea! I have a few questions, did the canvas hold up? Was the interfacing required with such a heavy fabric? And what would you do differently?

    Thank you!

    1. I like how it turned out. It is just like me, and I like the stabilizing that the interfacing made. I would do it again that way. If I would use it for really precise sizing I find I would like more shoulders, bu there are some arm patterns that can be added. Good luck!