This will be the first post in a series about the projects that I’ve done this past year. I actually got quite a bit done even though I did not take the time to blog about it. My goal is to cover all of them before the New Year, then start on my project list for 2013.
Today, I’m going to talk about something that I have needed for a long time: a fitted cover for my Uniquely You dress form. I purchased the dress form and cover sometime last year when it became clear that fitting a paper pattern or a muslin on myself in front of a mirror just wasn’t going to work anymore. In spite of my best efforts, I could make a garment fit almost right but not quite right. They almost always end up being too big in the waist, and sometimes there were other strange issues, such as excess material across the top of the bust.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Uniquely You dress form, here’s how it works. The form is made of a somewhat squishy foam, and the cover has seams all over that you can adjust to fit your body. When you put the cover on the form, the foam compresses and expands as needed to fill out the cover. This creates a dress form that is nearly identical to your body. Best of all, you can tack patterns and fabric to the form with pins.
After I bought the dress form, my mother and I tried to fit the cover to my body. We couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work. The instructions had you adjust seams in a particular order and the process was very intimidating. I ended up setting the project aside until I could find an online tutorial or hire an experienced seamstress to help.
I searched all over the internet and found all kinds of crazy forum posts and blog entries about the dress form. Many seamstresses said that they had trouble with their covers, but they were able to get them to work. It was the form that had problems. Some reported that the boobs were too big and they had to perform “breast surgery” on their dress forms with serrated knives. I saw pictures of mutilated forms with the tips of the breasts shaved off. The most horrifying image of all showed a form with its breasts chopped off and glued on upside down. No one was very clear on how to make the cover work, but everyone was very explicit about how difficult it was to get the cover on the form! There were crazy stories about grappling with the form on the floor, shoving the breasts into the cover, yanking on the zipper, squeezing the hips, and shoving one’s hands into the form’s rear in a sapphic wrestling match.
Sounds like fun, right?
I was even more intimidated. I pushed aside the thought that my purchase was a mistake and kept searching. I found a review on Patternreview.com where the author mentioned that she took a class with Claire Kennedy on making the dress form cover. Long story short, I tracked Claire down and took the class about a month ago.
Claire helped me every step of the way in making the cover. She completely ignored the instructions and had me start by sewing strips of muslin into the side seams of the cover. In hindsight, I should have used broadcloth or twill because the form puts quite a bit of strain on the muslin. Once the strips were in, I tried on the form over my underwear and she pinched and pinned the seams as needed. Then I took the form off, used a pencil to mark where the pins were on the inside of the form, then moved the pins to the inside and sewed the seam. Claire advised me to use a medium stitch length; long stitches would pull, and tiny stitches would perforate the fabric.
We went through multiple fittings with the cover — I actually lost count — until we got it right. The cover fit like a second skin. It also revealed all the quirks about my body. There were some that I knew about (my round barrel ribcage) and some that I didn’t (my slightly uneven hips). Every body has quirks, hence the need to adjust every seam on the cover so that it fits.
Next, we wrestled the cover onto the form by hooking the arm openings onto the arm stumps and squishing the bust into place. Then we put the form face-down on the floor and hooked the zipper together. I marveled at Claire’s feisty attitude and strength as she mashed the form’s back with her fists and I zipped the cover on. When the cover was zipped shut, we propped the form up and checked the measurements. The waist ended up being an inch too big. Claire said that this is because the cover too tight on my body for us to pinch in the seams. We wrestled the form off the cover and I took in each of the four seams around the waist one-quarter inch (for a total of one inch). Then we wrestled the cover back on! As a final adjustment before zipping the cover shut, Claire padded out the bust on top with some bits of polyester quilt batting so that they would be full and smooth.
Here’s the end result. The form has the same waist, bust, and hip measurements as me, but I think it still looks a bit different from my actual body. The waist looks a little pinched and it needs more gradual curves between the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the hips. In addition, my hips actually sit slightly wider than my ribcage and my lower stomach and butt are more flat. I think the form just skews the shape a bit. The good news is that I can adjust all this if the difference ends up being too much. For now, it works, and obviously every project will need a final muslin fitting on myself to ensure accuracy.
Yes, I’m a curvy gal. It’s a tradition to name your dress form, so I have named this one Joan after Joan Harris on Mad Men. Christina Hendricks and I have similar body types and I idolize her character on Mad Men, so it fits!
I highly recommend this form with the caveat that you will need assistance with it and that you should probably not follow the instructions too closely. If you are able to take a class with Claire Kennedy, go for it! I couldn’t have finished this cover without her help!