How to Buy a Dress Form: 7 Tips To Help You Get the Right One

Buying a dress form can be a challenge. What type should you get? How much do you need to spend? Should you just go the DIY route?

Use the tips below to help you find the best dress form that works for your needs and your sewing style.

1. Custom or DIY – Your Purpose Will Decide

Dress forms can be obtained in one of two ways:

  • Custom ordering
  • DIY

The right one for you will depend on your purpose.

If you’re serious about sewing, and you want to use a dress form for draping, drafting and designing, a professional, custom dress form is your best bet.

The only drawback with this option is that it may not match your body type exactly. That’s why this type of dress form is ideal for professionals and those who often sew for other people.

If you’re on a tighter budget, the DIY route may be the better option, and in many cases, will be suited to your exact body type and size.

2. A Resizable, Dial Form Can Change as Your Body Changes

If you’re buying a professional dress form, consider a model that is resizable. Forms with dials allow you to adjust the size and shape of the form to match your changing body.

Let’s face it – most of our bodies will change throughout our lifetimes. We gain and lose weight. We go through pregnancies.

Having an adjustable form allows you to change your form as your body changes. Instead of having a room full of different sized forms, you can buy one and change it as needed.

While not an absolute necessity, it’s often worth the extra cost to go with an adjustable form.

3. You May Need a Bifurcation Form if You’re Serious

Some seamstresses may need or want a bifurcation form, which also includes legs. These forms are one step above the professional dress form.

If you want to try on pants and shorts, this type of form is very useful. They’re also useful for draping these garments or for pant fittings.

You can also find forms with arms, which is useful for draping and pattern work.

There are many companies out there that offer dress forms with magnetic arms. These arms can be added or removed as needed.

4. Decide Whether You Need a Partially or Fully Pinnable Form

Professional dress forms can come partially or fully pinnable. Hard-bodied forms cannot be pinned, but you can add padding to change this.

Fully pinnable forms are preferred. These forms have a layer of foam that allows you to insert pins directly. This feature is helpful when pinning heavy fabrics. Heavy fabrics are hard to pin to partially pinnable models because pins have to be inserted at an angle. In most cases, the pins cannot hold the weight of heavy fabric when inserted at an angle.

5. You May Need to Add Padding to Your Form

When buying a professional dress form, you’ll find that most models do not match your measurements exactly – even when you order them to your dimensions.

The torso may be a bit longer, or the bust may be too high up on the dress form.

Adding padding can help bring the form closer to your exact size.

6. Collapsible Shoulders are Helpful

Many dress forms have collapsible shoulders, which is very beneficial for use with tight garments.

Collapsible shoulders mimic the real-life movement of putting on tight garments, which makes it easier to fit these items onto the form.

7. Know the Professional Brands

If you plan to buy a professional dress form, it can be helpful to know the most popular brands, which also offer higher quality than unknown brands.

The most well-known dress form brands include:

  • Alvanon: More expensive, but forms are based on the research of body shapes and are more accurate. Alvanon’s forms will give you a more realistic fit.
  • Wolf: One of the most expensive brands, but is the industry standard.
  • Ronis: Another brand that is on par with Wolf in terms of quality and professional use.
  • Fabulous Fit: A customizable form that’s affordable. Allows you to adjust as your body changes.
  • Rox: Offers good proportions and is one of the most affordable, quality forms out there.

Do You Need a Dress Form? The Benefits of Adding a Form to Your Studio

Many home seamstresses argue over whether you really need a dress form, and the answer really depends on your needs. Some people just prefer to stick with flat patterns and really have no need for a dress form.

But if you plan to do draping, having a dress form is an invaluable tool.

The basic concept behind draping is to pin the fabric to the form, and mark the pattern piece along the lines you want to sew. Using a series of dashed lines and notches allows you to interpret your pattern after it’s removed from the form.

And once you’re done with fittings and you have it just right, you can quickly and easily draft your own pattern. Draping – and dress forms – are essential for pattern making.

If pattern making is in your future in any way, you need to buy a dress form. And you’ll probably want a fully pinnable one. Otherwise, you may not be able to drape heavy fabrics.

Forms are also essential for professionals and those who do fittings. Use the tips above to find a form that fits your needs and sewing style.