What I Do in My Spare Time…a Dress Form, Of Course!!

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This is my very first post on my new blog. Hopefully you will find this information helpful!

I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I am usually doing some type of project. I spent a large amount of my summer fretting and studying for an exam that only comes every 10 years for my profession. Now that I have passed the exam, I can move on to my DIY Polyurethane Dress Form! I purchased the how-to instruction booklet from mytwindressforms.com. (It has been brought to my attention that the site is no longer working. I do not know if this is temporary or permanent. 6/2013)

I chose to make a polyurethane dress form instead of a duct tape form or a paper tape form. Although they are easier, I did not feel that they would be an accurate representation of my body.

Things that I used:
Dry Cleaner Bag
Masking Tape
Plaster Casting Material: Johnson and Johnson Specialist Plaster Casting Bandages
Bandage Scissors
Johnson Paste Wax
Pol-Ease 2300
Upholstery Needle and Thread
Rigid Expanding Polyurethane Foam
Wood Files
Hand Saw
Plastic Wrap
Rib Knit
Plywood
Stand (IV Pole)

I also enlisted the help of my dear husband. About half way through, he kept muttering, “I wouldn’t have done it this way”. I finally said, “If you don’t think this will work, cut me out right NOW!!” We pressed on. So if you get along well, then go for it. If not, you should probably find a dear friend to help you. We did it in the garage and put down plastic to protect the floor. First I was covered with a dry cleaner bag then tape was placed to secure it to me. Also a strip of heavy cardboard was placed midline along the front and back so that it would help protect me from the scissors. Then the plaster was placed on me one strip at a time. The process takes about 30 minutes to place all the plaster if you have everything cut ahead of time and have a strategy on how to put it on. Start from the bottom and work your way up. Total time for the plaster to set is about 45 minutes. The cast can be cut part way up to allow for breathing room after the bottom portion has hardened. It does not have to be completely dry and will not be completely dry before it is cut off. Plaster just needs to be set. You will also notice horizontal marks for center front and back to guide with reattachment. A horizontal line was also drawn at the bottom as cutting guide. I wish I had drawn a horizontal line also from the side for posture guide.

Dry Cleaner Bag

Masking Tape to Secure Bag

Plaster to Chest and Back

Completely Plastered

Partly Cut

The halves were then laid out in the sun to dry. We had at least two layers of plaster bandages on the mold. *The mold that we actually used for the form was a second form that we made (husband thought he could do a better one).

After it was completely dry, I brushed the inside with Johnson Paste Wax. Then several days later sprayed it with Pol-ease 2300. This was to aid in releasing the polyurethane foam. If you can brush with paste wax, spray, reassemble an then pour the foam within 48 hours, it might make removing the plaster easier. Here is a video tutorial that was similar to what I did. I did not use as many layers of plaster.

I then sewed the two halves together then covered the seams, neck, and arm holes with remaining plaster bandages. Then sprayed again the Pol-ease 2300.

Brushed with Johnson Paste Wax

Stitched Together

Seams, Neck, and Arm Holes Covered

The foam comes in two parts. You must mix according to the directions to the foam you purchased. I did not buy the foam that comes in a can, because I felt that the rigid foam I used would be more uniform in application. Just have to mix it really quickly (about 20 seconds) and pour before it starts expanding. Here is a video of the test amount to show the expansion.

Before I poured the foam, I reinforced the chest and upper back by using clear packing tape and applied it in a crisscross pattern across the chest.

I am petite, so I only used the 2 quart set and had some to spare. I let it dry overnight then painstakingly removed the plaster. This foam did not have any big gaping holes. Some areas I had to file off the remainder of the plaster. It was very tedious!

Half-filled

Completely Filled

Dress Form

After I was done shaping the form by using wood files, I padded the areas that were uneven and covered with plastic wrap. I then took rib knit and made a seam in the back. Then placed the cover on the form inside out, pinned closed the shoulders and neck then removed and made seams along the pinned line.(Did you know that everyone is asymmetrical? Had know idea my right side was so different from my left)

Padded and Covered with Plastic Wrap

Back

Front

I also found an IV pole at a thrift shop for $12.99! I’m glad my husband is willing to MacGyver this into a dress form stand. Stay tuned for my next post on how it’s done and final project photos!

IV Pole

Have you made a dress form before? What kind? Do you have a good story to share?

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18 thoughts on “What I Do in My Spare Time…a Dress Form, Of Course!!

    • Your form looks nice, though. Sorry it didn’t match your figure. It was not messy pouring foam. I just used small batches (12-16 ounces). Always made sure foam was firm so that next batch didn’t pour through and cause the mold to expand and break apart. Cost was about $100 not including time/labor. It was a pain taking off the plaster (that was the most work). The foam is small cell, closed cell, very stiff/durable, and files down easily. Definitely pinnable. I thought about papier-mache but didn’t know if you could modify it. I had to file down the abdomen and mid-back to fit measurements. Compared to getting a custom Wolf form, this was money well spent for me. Still have to put it on a stand but I won’t have time for that for another two weeks. Thanks for sharing! Like your blog.

      • Hi

        Your dressform looks fantastic..I hope mine
        looks as good as yours when I’m done. Great Job !

        Question 1: I also watched that youtube video and I was wondering how come you used a different foam than what was
        used in the video ?

        Question 2: Is the dressform hard or spongy or like styrofoam ?

        Question 3: From 1 thu 10 tell me how hard is it to Pin dressform and remove pins ..10 being the hardest..

        Thanks so much ..really appreciate you putting this blog up..most helpful for sure :)

      • Thanks for your interest! Answer #1:I used the rigid foam instead of flexible foam, mainly because I was following the instruction manual from mytwindressforms.com. Since it was rigid foam, I would be able to file it down and shape it the way I needed it to be since the mold is slightly larger due to breathing. I was not sure I could do this with the flexible foam. Answer #2: I would liken the foam to be similar in texture as floral foam (the green stuff florists use for floral arrangements). Very fine, small pockets and it is quite rigid. It is certainly more durable (not brittle) and also doesn’t seem to break down much when exposed to water. (I sprayed mine down as last resort to soften the plaster and also to get the dust off.) Not really like styrofoam because styrofoam has a little more give and easier to break apart. Question #3: I would give that a 1. Very easy to pin and remove. Hope this helps. I will post closeups of the foam.

  1. Hi again

    Thanks for replying so quick ..appreciate it :)

    Yes I would love to see some up close pictures of the foam.

    One more Question..

    How come you didn’t do it like they did in the youtube video .Where
    they did the front then applied tons of vaseline along the edges then did the back so the front and back could be removed easy . This way eliminates having to cut the plaster down the front and back.

    Also…This would have eliminated having to sew it up the front and back.

    If you were to do it again would you try the video method without
    having to sew it ?

    Thanks again for your time :)

    • Before I answer, I highly recommend that you get some sort of instruction booklet or tutorial about making one. There may be some tips and tricks that I forgot to mention on my blog. I think it is just a matter of preference. I would still do it the same way. I would not put as many stitches next time. In the comment section in my pattern review of the dress form, prostheticsgirl posts a nice comment of some of the nuances of putting it together. I based mine on the instructions from mytwindressforms.com because they have the experience of making many dress forms for the purpose of sewing. It just seemed easier to cut up the middle instead of the sides, especially when you got to the underarm portion. I would be concerned about inaccuracy if I just made two halves by using vaseline. How could I be absolutely sure that it was flush and how would I know it didn’t separate as I added plaster to the seams and with the foam expanding. The video was just a reference. I carefully followed the instruction manual from mytwindressforms.com except for choice of release agents. Looking at the video, they had two people working at the same time. I could tell that they had a lot of experience. I also did not use as much plaster so mine was flimsier. I didn’t feel that as a beginner, my husband could pull it off that smoothly with casting. I have some experience with casting material from medical school/residency but I wasn’t the one doing the casting. He did a great job. Call up brickintheyard.com and ask them about rigid vs flexible foam. The person I talked to was really nice. I needed to know where to find the Johnson Paste Wax (Lowe’s in cleaning section). No matter how you do it, it is time consuming. It was worth it for me though.

    • Oh no! I hope she hasn’t closed her site. Maybe it is down for improvements? Sorry. Hopefully it will be back soon. If not, I can probably answer most of your questions.

  2. I live in Australia and I can’t find the exact some products you used over here, I was hoping the instruction would have more info on what to use so I can find equivalent products.
    Did the plaster stick to the dry cleaning bag? How many layers of plaster did you need to do?

    • The plaster did not stick to the dry cleaning bag. We learned to put two layers on at a time. So at least two layers of plaster and in some areas it would overlap 4-5 layers thick. Two layers would not be strong enough along the edge of the form when you cut it in half. You would need it to be thicker to not lose shape or collapse with handling. You also end up a little thicker on the bust because you have smaller squares to form the contour of the bust. Hope that helps.

  3. I found an email address for MyTwin (info@mytwindressforms.com) and this is a reply I got back from them,
    “I’m sorry the website is down at this time as the company is u see going some reorganization issues.”
    and i have an instruction booklet on it’s way, I can’t want to start on the project. :) Thanks so much for this step by step of your dressform, it’s very helpful.

  4. Pingback: From a concept to a custom body form: PART I | 2 Girls and a Pin

  5. Hi! I wonder where can I buy Johnson and Johnson plaster casting bandages, as well as Johnson paste wax?. Do I need a Doctor prescription for this?

    • The plaster bandages can be purchased from medical supply without a prescription. I found mine on eBay. The Johnson paste wax, I found at a hardware store. I think it was Lowe’s or Home Depot. Good luck. Would like to see the finished form!

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