Yesterday, I got fed up with always having to manually compare my measurements to a pattern and finally started marking up my cheap ass dress form. The same one I bought with a coupon back in the day — before I knew what to do with it and eons before sewing blogs took off and all the editorial sewists we love to stalk started hugging wolves. As affordably ugly as it is, my dress form has always been an untapped resource for faster fitting. Until now.
I took the dress that fits me best, put it on the form, and chalk-marked the key areas I’m always double-checking when preparing to sew a new pattern. Then, I applied skinny masking tape to the chalked lines. After using the set up to test and correct a final version of the BHL Anna bodice — which I would’ve sorted out in the first muslin had this reference point for my preferred empire waistline been in my life —I rewarded my win with some Washi Tape embellishing.
The tape won’t last forever. I like to think of it as the temporary tattoo I designed to give my fitting assistant a makeover. My headless, fuzzy fitting assistant that looks like a set prop in a muppet horror movie (the only reason I need not to creep myself out further by giving it a name). Instead of fading after a few showers, this tattoo will curl at the edges and slowly peel off in the sun.
I am thrilled that the usefulness of my dress form has evolved beyond my first quasi-customization of 38DD animal print bra stuffed with batting (my lazy attempt at customizing it after the 2006 duct tape dress form I made with some strangers in a library at my first ever sewing club meeting, met an accident on the subway ride home). It’s now sporting the demarcation lines I’ve been missing all this time:
- My most flattering v-neck line with a flower to mark my that cleavage point-of-no return-spot.
- My armhole. Particularly the shoulder and underarm lines of my preferred sleeveless silhouette.
- My side seam length. I am short-waisted, but the depth of my bust eats up so much length, that it’s often hard to tell wear my waistline should sit. The top of the two pink strips indicates my empire and natural waistlines (three fingers above my belly button).
- The back neckline of my go-to bodice. If I was draping a new bodice or preparing to fit a pattern with a collar, I’d probably mark the high neckline with a necklace just like I do when recording my real body measurements.
Looking at it now, it’s seems like an obvious hack. I won’t be googling it or anything, but I suspect I am not the first person to pimp out her dress form with Washi tape. It’s like the sticky crack of the craft world! I use the stuff to tape ridiculous things like grocery lists. When I do, I swear that I remember all the things on the list even when I show up to the market without it. There’s something about making the mundane pretty that boosts its benefit.
My fitting process — which, in a time-lapse video would look like a violent struggle with hot flashes— still involves getting naked at my sewing machine to try on the 1.0 and 2.0 versions of my garments. But these Washi tape lines have really helped me to stop underestimating the silent, linty Sleepy Hollow character that also tries on my clothes. My next step is to verify the waistline with a level and tape-mark my preferred untucked and tucked blouse hemlines (at high and low hip).
How do you use your dress form for fitting? Or, if you don’t have one, what solo fitting techniques have you mastered?