A DIY post! (And the next one is the creation of the newest outfit, I swear)

I had a problem; I was going to be displaying my gowns in an art gallery, but I had no dress forms. I make the gowns for myself, so they wouldn’t fit correctly on a standard (size 4-6) mannequin, and there were no guarantees that the gallery would have any mannequins at all.

I could have provided my adjustable dress forms but I actually, you know, NEED them. I spent a couple weeks looking on Craigslist to find cheap(er) mannequins with no luck- the one sale of “plus size” mannequins I found was very reasonable, but the waist was far too large. I may have been a 12, but I had a small waist proportionately, and corseted down some from there.

So, WHAT is a girl to do?….. Make her own!

A bonus to this method is that you can make mannequins in any size you can get your dress form to!

To get right into it (too late, I know), I stared by covering my dress forms with stretchy plastic bags and adhering the plastic in place by putting tape around the waist and crisscrossed over the shoulders to the waist.

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Flour and water, plus a little salt. (I’ll let you Google a recipe for paper maiche)

We’re talking hi-tech here. I used 2″ strips of brown packing paper, for the most part. I found it to be sturdier than newspaper- it holds up better in the wetting process, and requires fewer layers for a good strong base.



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As I pulled the strips out of the glue, I ran them between my first two fingers to get rid of the excess liquid. You’ll get the feel for it.

I started at the shoulders and worked my way down.





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End of the first layer. All the sites I’ve been to emphasize this, so I will as well: Make sure the layer is fully dry before starting the next, or you could get mold and rotting between layers!! Right, ew.  I used an oscillating fan to speed things up.


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End of layer two- I have a plan, but the first two layers are all about getting a sturdy base.


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Layer three starts going on- I’m using a slightly thinner white paper… pain in the but, SO glad I didn’t try newspaper for the first layers.



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Looking good, ladies! So, even though they’ll be covered, I want them to be pretty. 🙂

The plan is to take old or unused tissue pattern pieces and cover the white layer with them. (Thanks to Lyndsey, whose decoupaged hat box displays were an inspiration!)





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Now, for this part I used a cooked paper maiche recipe. Same thing, but you boil it and then cool it before applying. The added bonus of using the cooked “glue” is that it dries clear, and so is better suited to my purpose. The pattern pieces added a challenge… I certainly wasn’t going to dip these large swaths of tissue paper, so I got a foam paint brush, laid the tissue onto the dress form, and painted on the glue, thereby pasting the tissue in place just where I wanted it.

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Boiled. Not appetizing.



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There they are!


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Finishing tips: I cut straight up the back. These being adjustable forms, you have some room there to get scissors in. I then closed up the back with a big needle and button thread, and ran taupe duct tape down the center of the inside (with some horizontal pieces first for strength), and down the center of the outside. Paying attention to the outer edge, I closed off the neck hole with a brown paper bag and duct tape.

Since these will be placed on hip-height square pedestals of about 18″x18″, I stuffed them ( i used a big old pillow, you could also use newspaper) and closed the bottom with brown paper bag and duct tape.

Other ideas- you could insert an upholstery fabric tube (they’re sturdy!), stuff/tape around it and then use a christmas tree base (or whatever, time to get creative!) as a stand.

*Additional note* Be somewhat gentle with your dress forms, they *can* be disfigured if too much pressure is applied, and some have more plastic parts than metal- be aware of their limitations!


I, of course, neglected to take pictures after all the taping, and they are now in use, holding up my fashions. I will add completed images when they are back in my possession.