I’ve made several duct tape dress forms in my day, none of which are still around. I’ve wanted to make a dress form of my body shape for some time, but nothing was promising. Once I came across Bootstrap custom dress forms, it was a done deal. In this very detailed post, I’ll talk about the experience I had with Bootstrap dress form patterns, including printing, constructing, and stuffing it.
If you want a more streamlined version of constructing the dress form, check out my post on making a half-size version.
Getting the pattern
In order to get the pattern, there were a few steps I had to take. Here is what I did, as well as what I learned:
Ordering the Bootstrap custom dress form pattern
I found a sew-along video of a Bootstrap custom dress form on Youtube, as it just happened to pop up on my feed. I watched the entire video and was extremely impressed by the result. Once I watched a dozen more videos that gave the same positive feedback, I knew I was going to try it out for myself. I went on the Bootstrap website, put in my measurements, and purchased the pattern. Within 20 minutes, I had an email containing 3 PDF’s: one was assembly instructions, one was printing instructions, and one was the pattern pieces.
Initially, I was confused by the printing instructions. I printed ‘How-to-print-instructions.pdf’ page 2, and was so confused as to how I was going to make this square 10cm, as it was 4.6cm when I printed it. Once I realized it was the square at the end of the pattern, however, I was ready to try it.
I then attempted to print the pattern pieces through my printer’s app on my iPad. For some reason, I think this app distorts the scaling a little bit, so I originally ended up with a 10.5 cm square. However, once I printed the test page on my computer, the test square measured 10 cm. I concluded that I could in fact print it without Adobe, and the insistence that I needed that program was unnecessary.
Also, my printer leaves a 1/4” unprinted border around the page, so I thought the scale was off. This was because the pattern pieces go right up to the edge of the page on the PDF. Once I acknowledged this, however, I felt it was fine and let the pages print.
Assembling the pattern and cutting out the fabric
I chose the seam allowance option of the pattern pieces, and noticed that the seam allowance given was 3/8”. I typically sew with a 1/2” allowance, and was temped to extend it that extra 1/8” for ease of sewing. However, I figured it was fine as is, and I would probably end up trimming the seam allowance down a bit anyway.
Cutting the pieces
First, I laid out the paper with the pattern pieces, taped them together, and cut them out, as instructed. Next, I laid out the pattern pieces to see how much fabric I would need, and concluded that I would get 1 ¼ yd. of 57” width. The fabric I chose was called ‘sportswear tough cotton twill’ fabric, and I chose something that resembled my skin color. I also got ¾ yd. of ‘bottomweight canvas’ for the inner support. I ended up having just under 9” left of the main fabric, and about half the width of the inner fabric.
One instruction that confused me was about how much interfacing I needed. Like the body fabric, it said 1 ¼ yd. would be enough. It also said it should be fabric-based and should be pre-shrunk with the body fabric in the washing machine. I was using a fusible woven sheer weight interfacing, which is only 20” wide, so I ended up needing 3 ¼ yd.
Also, since I’m stubborn, I decided to interface the fabric after I cut the pattern pieces out. This only made the process longer, and all the notches became harder to see. If I were to do it again, I would definitely interface the fabric first.
Constructing the Bootstrap custom dress form
I mostly followed the instructions on the pdf, using a 2.0 stitch length and heavy duty thread in the bobbin. The only thing I did differently was sew the back and front pieces together then attach them at the sides. The instructions say to leave the back open to sew the neck piece on, but I ended up sewing the neck like the armhole piece and it was not any more difficult.
Topstitching the measurement lines
For the top stitching, I used a zigzag stitch with 3.0 width and 0.6 length. I stitched the bust, under bust, waist and hip lines along the front piece, and did the same for the back. I marked it on the wrong side, and sewed it wrong side up. This turned out really well. However, I did mark these lines after I sewed the pieces together, and it would have been easier if I had done it before. But, I honestly didn’t realize what the lines on the patterns were, so it took until after I attached the front and back pieces to figure that out.
Attaching the inner support
The part I was most confused about when attaching the pieces was the inner support. The directions were a little vague here, but after watching some Youtube videos of other people sewing theirs, I figured out how it worked. I interfaced one piece of each the front and the back, then surged the sides together (without cutting) to create uniform pieces. After that, I stitched/quilted the vertical lines, per the instructions, and attached them to the center piece; to make sure it was secure, I then top stitched the seam allowances down.
Stuffing and finishing the Bootstrap custom dress form
Now that the shell was constructed, all that was left was to stuff and close it. I thought this was going to be quick and easy, but…I was wrong.
Foam for the neck
As I am all about reducing waste and not adding anything more to my already full fabric storage, I decided to use 3 layers of 1″ foam rather than 1 layer of 3″ foam. This was because the foam comes in 24″ width, and that way I would have considerably less foam left over while still saving money. I cut 3 neck circles out, which were about 5″ in diameter each. Then, I glued the three layers together, and it turned out exactly as I had hoped it would.
Now that everything was sewed, it was time to stuff. I started shoving in stuffing as packed as I could. On my first measurement, I was getting over 2″ more than what the measurement was. I continued to the underbust and waist and found the same thing. I figured I had overstuffed it, so I began removing stuffing. This led to a very deflated looking dressform, and not what I expected it to look like.
It was at this point I knew something was wrong. The dress form was way too big when properly stuffed. I was mostly concerned with fixing it, as I was anxious to get this thing up and running. However, I felt it would be beneficial to figure out exactly what went wrong, so I could fix it in the future if I ever want to make another one.
My first instinct was that my seam allowance was wrong. I typically sew at 1/2″, so maybe I aligned the needle incorrectly to sew at 3/8″. I removed all the stuffing and measured my seam allowances. For the most part, they were 3/8″, although some places were more like 1/4″. It was not so off that this would be the cause of such a huge variance, so I wanted to look deeper into the issue. However, I figured I could reflect on that later, and would focus on trying to make it right.
To fix the problem, I had to figure out how much I had to change. I took the finished measurements, and subtracted the measurements I wanted. Then, I figured out which seams I wanted to alter, in order to keep it proportional.
As I began stuffing again and taking measurements, things were finally coming together. This is how I expected to feel the first time around. The measurements were much closer than before, and I felt confident shoving in as much stuffing as I could. Once it came together, I was pleased enough with how it turned out. I closed it up and called it a day.
Although the video I watched said it only cost $40, I am sure that it’s because that person already had some materials on hand. I bought pretty much everything new for this, and it ended up costing me about $73:
- $15 for the body fabric
- $6 for inner fabric
- $2 for foam
- $16 for 5 lb. of fiber fill stuffing
- $10 for interfacing
- $24 for pattern
All of these things (besides the pattern) I purchased at JoAnn Fabrics, many of which were on sale. From a previous project, I already had a DIY dress form stand made. I used a wooden dowel and Christmas tree stand to keep it upright.
What I would do differently
This was a learning experience, and I definitely made some mistakes along the way. Now that I’ve done it a couple times, there are a few things I would do differently in order to get a perfect result:
Interface the fabric before cutting the pieces
Like I mentioned in part 1, I interfaced each piece after cutting it out. This made the process so much longer, since I then had to re-trim and re-notch every single piece. If I could do it all over again, I would interface the entire thing first, then cut out the pieces.
Make sure the pieces are exact
As I was getting antsy to get this thing constructed, I started cutting some corners. I was too lazy to trim every single piece of interfacing off the sides, and left some a little wonky. Because of this, my some of my seams were a bit off, which threw off the measurements. Next time, I will make sure every piece exactly resembles the pattern pieces.
Construct the body following the instructions
I meant to follow the instructions exactly, but I misread one of the steps. When I sewed the center back pieces to the side back pieces, I assumed the center back pieces would then be sewn together to create a panel. This was incorrect, and forced me to change some instructions around to make it work. I don’t think this caused any of my measurement issues, but made the construction process a bit more complicated.
Overall, I am mostly satisfied with the outcome. The process wasn’t as coherent as I thought it would be, but that was my own fault. This service has the potential to be extremely useful, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to find a less expensive version of a custom dress form. I plan to do this over a second time, as I know I can do better.
After having my dress form for about 6 months, I figured I should give my updated thoughts on it. First of all, I stand by what I said about the pattern. I think it is a great service that has potential to be a helpful, inexpensive option for at-home sewists. However, mine isn’t very functional. When I made the pattern, the dress form was too big. I have lost some weight since then, which means my dress form doesn’t represent my body very well at all. This could be fixable if it were too small, but having it be too big makes it a beautiful coat rack.
Also, I am not entirely sure about the accuracy of the bust shape. It is quite prominent and round, and I’m not sure that a dress form pattern in my correct measurement would represent my body well, either. Overall, it was a great learning opportunity. However, I’m still not quite satisfied in my custom dress form pursuit.