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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Handmade Dress Form



When I made my paper cancan dress, I was asked to send it along with something to display it on in the exhibit.  I searched the internet for days looking for an inexpensive, light weight, non-plastic dress form but I couldn't find anything!  So I decided to make my own.  If you'd like to make your own too, you will need to have a dress form to begin with - yeah, this kind of defeats the purpose of needing to make your own - but in my case, I was able to borrow a dress form to use as my "mold".

Here are some work in progress photos and instructions.  The dress form took about three weeks from start to finish because I wanted to make sure it was completely dry in between the steps.  I also made a stand for the dress form using a wooden curtain rod and a wire basket; but the following steps are instructions on how to make the dress form to simply sit atop a table, desk or dresser.  I didn't take enough photos but I hope you get the idea.

Materials:
Dress form (to use as a mold)
Large plastic garbage bag
Masking tape (2 rolls)
Heavy duty scissors
Paper pulp
Cardboard
Newspaper or plastic bags
Paper mache (I used vintage sheet music and 3/4 school glue + 1/4 water to make the paper mache)
Varnish or other sealer

Instructions:
Step 1:  Drape the dress form with the large plastic garbage bag.

Step 2:  Cover the dress form with masking tape.  (I used an entire roll of 2" tape just for this step).  Since my dress form has arms and a longer torso than I needed,  I ended up with three openings that would later be closed up.

Step 3: Cover the dress form with paper pulp.  It is necessary to apply the pulp with the dress form laying on the ground so that it doesn't drip off.  I applied pulp to the front side first and let it dry for three days.  Then I applied pulp to the back side and let it dry for three days again.

Step 4: When the pulp dried, I measured and marked a line all around the bottom edge.  This is a very important step to ensure that the form will sit level when complete.
Step 5:  When the paper pulp dries it will be very tight to the dress form so the easiest way to cut off the pulp is with a "t" shaped incision in the back.  You will be cutting through the layer of pulp, masking tape and the plastic bag as these are all stuck to together now.  Be very careful when making your cuts so as not to damage the dress form underneath.  Tip: To ensure that you do not cut into the dress form "mold" when slipping the sharp scissors under the plastic bag, cover the tips of the blades with tape.  Remember that the tape is there so you wouldn't want to close the scissors all the way when cutting.
Step 6:  Carefully slip off the dried pulp over the neck.  You may have to slip your hand underneath the layers to loosen it up and off the mannequin.  Don't worry if you make cracks or holes as these can be repaired (during step 8).

Step 7:  Cut off the excess paper pulp/tape/plastic along the marked line on the bottom.

Step 8: Close off the incision mark (and any cracks you may have made) with more tape and paper pulp.  Let it dry for three days.

Step 9:  Tightly fill in the empty cavity of the form with crumpled newspaper to make it solid and sturdy. (You can use plastic bags instead).

Step 10: Close off the arms and bottom openings with cardboard circles/ovals, tape and paper pulp.  Let dry completely.

Step 11:  Cover the dress form with the paper mache.  Make sure the paper mache is not dripping wet as it will make the paper pulp soft and cause the form to cave in. Be very careful when handling the dress form at this point because the moisture from the paper mache will seep into the pulp and make it vulnerable to cave-ins.


Step 12:   When the paper mache is dry (about two days later) apply a protective coating of varnish or sealer.

Time and patience was needed to make this dress form out of paper pulp and paper mache.  If you'd like an easier method, I've heard of people making them using just duct tape!  And there are so many pretty duct tape patterns and colors on the market that I'm sure it would come out just as nice.  Making a dress form from scratch was quite an undertaking but it was well worth the results!

4 comments:

  1. You can definitely see the time and patience in those amazing results. Beautiful.
    Much love,
    Marcia

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  2. I used old fashioned packing tape-the kind that has threads embedded and you have to moisten it. It made a nice base that wasn't affected when I decoupaged mine. I love your stand-how did you attach the upright to the basket?
    amieecastro@yahoo.com

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    Replies
    1. I also considered the tape you mentioned but I'm used to working with paper pulp and I love it's sturdiness. I used a curtain rod as the base pole. The top of the pole/rod snuggly fits into a circular hole I made in the base of the dress form using a cardboard packing tube (about 5 inches deep). The bottom of the rod is attached to the basket with two round wooden disks with a long screw through the bottom. The assembly of it is "sandwiched together" (eg: 1-rod 2-disk 3-basket 4-disk 5-long screw.) Thanks for asking!

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