Padding a Dress Form

Dress forms are expensive and honestly, a little difficult to find especially in plus sizes. However, sometimes you cross paths with one at a flea market or an antique shop oMeet Dixie Padding Dress Form Step 1r under your Christmas tree! Mine was under the tree this year!

My sister in law found this beauty on Facebook Market and thought of me. It had a little damage and was missing a stand so my brother and SIL worked on cleaning her up and here she is! It is easy to see she is much smaller than me and that is ok. I have a larger bodice at home for me, but this one is closer to Momma Mia’s size.

This one isn’t quite the right size, which is very common when you find one second hand, but we are going to fill her out and make her work. I typically only sew for myself and Momma Mia so this tutorial will work perfectly for her body. My brother did note that I had asked him to make me a stand for my other mannequin and I reminded him I have a Birthday next month! Cross your fingers!

So the first thing we need to do is take a lot of measurements. I measure her frequently anyhow for garments so this wasn’t an issue. The difference in working on padding a dress form and taking measurements for fit, is you want to try to be accurate as far as front curves compared to back curves. If you look at your body you are most likely more curvy in the front than the back. In this case, she was 20 inches from side seam to side seam across her back and 24.5 inches across the front. Keep this in mind when doing your own mannequin. Also keep in mind, I sew 99% knits. They are slightly more forgiving than wovens, so this doesn’t have to be 100% spot on, but it will be very close.

Supplies Needs:

**Dress Form                                                   **Measuring tape

**Batting Scraps or PolyFil                            **Current measurements

**Cling Wrap                                                    **A helping hand is well… helpful 🙂

**Bra that fits your body properly

Step 1: Compare your bodice measurements to your dress form. I began filling out from the middle since this is where I needed to build up the most. I needed to gain about 14.5 inches total. I used quilt batting scraps here. These pieces were between 6-9 inches wide and I wrapped them around the mid section of the bodice. This has eliminated the hour glass appearance which was my goal. I used small flat head pins to hold the layers in place as I wrapped.


Step 2: Measure your dress form and compare to your measurements. Next, I covered the entire bodice with a layer of batting. I used small pins to contour around the shoulders and underarm areas. I only needed to add an inch to hip area of the bodice. This quilt batting, in an all over, layer gave me an almost perfect measurement in the hip area. I then used cling wrap over the entire bodice. This helps hold everything in place since it sticks to itself. You can also use it to tighten areas you may have padded slightly too much. Measure Again!

Step 3: Building up the bust. Make sure you have the under bust area close to where it needs to be and put on the bra. Adjust the straps as needed so that it sits at the proper height. I used ziplock baggies filled with quilting scraps to fill out the bra cups. You can use whatever you have. Again, measure often and make sure the cups are smooth. They should look similar to the model you are basing your bodice off of.


Step 4: Round out the midsection as needed. If you don’t need to increase the back measurement anymore just wrap your batting scraps back and forth across the front section. I used the small pins to attach the batting down at the side seams before folding it across the midsection again. When I got within about an inch of my final number I cut the batting into round shapes in graduating sizes to round the belly a bit. I pinned these down and then did another round of cling wrap to hold everything in place. I also used the cling wrap to wrap the loose bottom edges tightly to the dress form. 🙂  Congrats! You now have a body double and I have Dixie! Momma Mia’s new twin!

I hope this tutorial will help you pad out those dress forms you see at yard sales and flea markets and help you realize you don’t have to spend $300.00 to have a usable dress form!


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Author: SequoiaLynnSews

I am a single dog mom of two and we happily reside in a small house in Ohio. We spend our days playing fetch, digging holes in the garden, and sewing, lots of sewing. We have high hopes of moving to the mountains someday. The dogs don’t really know that yet, but they will understand. I shamelessly hoard fabric and feel slightly sorry for whoever has to sort my stash when I am gone. I am employed full time in a industry that requires little of my creativity, but basically lets me wear whatever I want. So it works out. I can usually be found behind one of my sewing machine avoiding human contact. I test a lot of clothing patterns and therefore always have a new outfit to share. You have most likely found my blog through some sort of sewing outlet and will quickly realize that I am sewing for a plus size body. For reference, I am 5'1 and wear a range from a 2-5x. Sizes change with every designer and you can't trust ready to wear sizing when you are making your own clothing. Your tape measure will become one of your most used tools and if you misplace them like I do, you should pick up several. I will be sharing the good, the bad, and the A-MA-ZING with you… So stay tuned. I will also try to teach you a few of my tricks along the way. People always tells me they want to learn how to sew. My best advice is you have to start. Just do it! You are going to mess up, you will break needles, you will ruin the pretty fabric, you will stab your fingers, but you will learn. You will make something and you will wear it. Someone will say, “I like your shirt.” and you will smile and say, “Thanks, I made it.” You will race home and make something else. Pretty soon you have made more good things than bad and you will feel proud of yourself and you should. I will be proud of you too. :) Ok, that is enough rambling, I have sewing to do. :) SequoiaLynn

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