Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dummy

When I made this cute Christmas apron, I found that I was having difficulty taking good pictures of it.  Considering I think of myself as "15 pounds too comfortable," I'm not willing to stand in as a model.  What I needed was a mannequin.

Ever priced a mannequin or a dressmaker's dummy?  They are expensive!  But I did find a lot of tutorials of how to make your own dressmaker dummy from duct tape.  That got me thinking...I could make my mannequin from duct tape.  But, I didn't want it to be MY body double and I didn't want to subject any of my family or friends to the torture of being wrapped in duct tape. 

You have such a cute figure, could I wrap you in duct tape?

Then, an idea came to me while I was drifting in and out of sleep early one morning.  Why not shape a pillow into a human form?

We had a pillow that we bought years ago taking up space in a spare closet because it was too rigid for our liking.  Since I didn't want to destroy the pillow by wrapping it in duct tape, I started with putting the pillow inside a dry cleaner bag.

Next, I taped down the tips of the pillow so that it would be a more rounded shape.  Then, about two-thirds the way down the pillow, I wrapped strips of tape around the middle to form a waist.  I continued to wrap 6- to 8-inch strips of tape around the pillow in order to give the effect of a rib cage and hips.

Since I wanted my mannequin to be FEMALE, I dug around the bottom of my dresser drawer for an old bra.  It didn't need to be a perfect fit since I would be holding it in place with more tape.  I stuffed the cups with my favorite filler, plastic grocery bags.  I really over-filled the cups because they'll get a little mashed when the bra is taped to the form.

I taped the sternum first, did a "cross your heart," radiated tape from the cups, ran tape along the shoulder straps and finished with a long strip under the bust.  Now I had a good representation of the female form.  (I ran out of duct tape, so the bust is two colors.)  Mr. Tallgrass thought she was pretty skinny.  Bless his heart!  No matter, I told him, a camera will add 10 pounds to it.  ;-)

To make it in this world, she'd need a backbone, so I used a piece of scrap trim that's about two inches wide and about three-eights of an inch thick.  I gently pressed it into the backside and duct taped it into place.  I applied the tape in a basket-weave pattern for additional strength:

8" pieces placed horizontally, about three inches apart.
Two long pieces, placed vertically right against the trim
More 8" horizontal pieces between first set of tape strips
Two more long pieces, placed vertically against the trim
Then I put one longer 12" piece horizontally at the top, slightly overlapping the wood

The main stand is a 2x2 that I picked up at Home Depot.  I cut a piece of foam core board the size of the bottom of the mannequin and stapled it to the top of the 2x2 so her torso would have a base for a little more support.  Next, I nailed the "spine" to the 2x2 using small brads.

Thankfully, it's Christmas time, so I figured I could use a tree stand as a base.  And I knew I was going to dress her in a small black tee shirt so it would be form-fitting.  Since I'm more of a medium-sized gal, I went to my favorite thrift store for a cheap black tiny tee and scored a tree stand there too!

I did discover when I was dressing her that the duct tape gave her a bumpy bustline.  I thought about putting another bra on her, but she was too "firm" for a regular bra.  So, I dug at the bottom of my dresser drawer again for an old sports bra and used straight pins to bring back her d√©colletage.  The neckline is just a scrape piece tea-stained broadcloth.  I neatly folded the cap sleeves of the tee shirt to the back and pinned them in place.

A dressmaker's dummy cost about $100.  So do most of the mannequins on eBay.  Here's my cost breakdown:

Old pillow.....$0
A roll of duct tape.....$4
Two old bras.....$0
Wood 2x2 base....$6
Wood for spine...$0 (used trim scrap)
Small black tee shirt.....$3
Christmas tree base.....$5

So for only $18, I have my very own mannequin, more drawer space and a gap on a closet shelf.  Hurrah!

Obviously, if you already have a Christmas tree base, you could use it instead of buying another one.  But, our tree will go up the day after Thanksgiving and it will stay up until New Year's Day.  Since I scored a tree stand at a thrift store, it was worth the $5 to have it for a dedicated mannequin base.  You could probably hit the sales for something after the holidays.  Or, even better, scan the curbs for one on trash day after Christmas!


  1. What clever Idea. I have priced these too and even tried to buy one off of craigs list but the seller was a bit flaky and could never settle on a time for me to pick up. I have hard time taking good photos of my self and this is the perfect solution!Thanks for the idea

  2. This is being added to my idea file...thanks for the tutorial!

  3. Wow! How smart are you? This is great, and so resourceful!

  4. Girl, that is GENIUS, pure genius....over from DIY Showoff - go you!

  5. Just came over from DIY showoff and this is just brilliant!!


  6. Brilliant! I will definitely be making a few of these for the spring flea market season. they'll be great for displaying my work aprons.

  7. this tutorial is awsome! I love those dress froms and you are right they are so pricey, this is a brilliant option, you are very clever! thank you for sharing how you did it!

  8. Amazing!!!!!!! Love it! It turned out so "real"!!! Does that sound right?

    Found you from Make Mine Beautiful on Facebook


  9. NO WAY,,, PLEASE girl link this up to my party, this is flippin awesome BEYOND beliefe,,, I LOVE IT...

    The belly button was super cute too, he he, and the bra, and all, gosh, you did GOOD.

    Bella :)

    My party **Amaze me August** Please,,, girl, this is too good, and I need it.

  10. How clever and creative are you? This post made me laugh out loud and immediately I'm scheming how to make one! LOVE IT! Well done!

  11. Heather, I FEATURED this today. You know how much I loved it when I saw it, and just had to share with my readers.

    Thanks for linking up to **Amaze me AUgust** I love having you!!

    Come grab yourself a FEATURED button and display it proudly girl!!

    Bella :)

  12. For months and months I have been researching making a dress form and never found this until someone pinned it on Pinterest this morning! Here you have done this over 2 years ago! I actually have everything to make this including an unused Christmas tree stand! Thank you so much for being so creative! Most of the other tutorials I have found were just too complicated.....Guess what I will be doing today?


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