Dress Form Recommendations

The other day I received an email from a lovely lady wondering about dress forms. Though this blog is for Ellebay Bridal Boutique and by no means for sewing, I’ve gotten a surprising amount of readers asking for advice on the topic. I’ve still got tons to learn about the world of sewing, but I’ll try my best to share what I know!

” Hello Ellebay. I am a big fan of your blog and dresses. You have done some very nice work. I especially like the blog posts about draping. I was wondering if you had any advice about choosing and working with dress forms for draping. I am mostly interested in experimenting with draping clothing for myself as a hobby, but would like the flexibility to occasionally be able to work on clothing on a dress form for friends of other sizes too.  Do you have any recommendations about the type of mannequin, or what to look for in a mannequin that is best for draping? Any good places in Vancouver-area to get dress forms from (I’m in New West too)? How do you (or do you even) make adjustments to the dress form when working on dresses for different clients. Do you use an adjustable dress form, or do you use padding?  Many questions, I could go on for a while.  I would love to hear any thoughts on choosing and working with dress forms that you might have a moment to share.”

Where To Get Them:
  1. In terms of retail, your best bet would be Dressew, located at 337 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. The prices are pretty fair, and they have a good amount of selection. It’s pretty easy to get there from New West – just hop over to one of our skytrains, get off at Waterfront, and it’ll be a 10 minute walk from there!
  2. If you’re looking for wholesale, N. Jefferson Ltd located at 22 5th Avenue, Vancouver is fantastic. Thing is,  you’ll have to tell them that you’re a business (or that you plan to go into business) AND you need to spend something like $500 the first time you shop in order to be put into their files. However, if you’re trying to build your sewing kit, spending that much money is a lot easier than you’d think.
  3. Last but not least, check out craigslist! Though this isn’t a surefire way to obtain a bust form, it would certainly be the most cost efficient.
Mannequin Type:
Contrary to popular belief, you really don’t need to get anything fancy. Yes, it’s convenient to have rotating dial wheels which adjust your bust and wait and hips, but it isn’t pinnacle. Here’s a picture of what the shop has:

No rainbows or butterflies coming out of this one – it really isn’t anything fancy at all. However, it does its job and is damn good at doing it. The measurements on this bad boy are: 35-27-38.

As you can see, there aren’t any mechanical size adjustment doo-dahs. Here’s how we deal with different body types:

Our mannequin has a very modest cup size, which is great because we can just load up on bra cups if necessary. For the dress we’re currently working on, we’ve upped the cup size to a B, but we’ve definitely gone through times where there’d be 3 or 4 cups on each breast.

The answer to that, all you modern-day Shakespeares, is to foam! Listen up, cause this is important stuff: If you get one of those hard mannequins, how are you going to pin anything on it? And even the ones which are sorta foam-y are such a hassle once you experience the luxury of having a fully foamed one. A foam mannequin allows you to really keep the dress taught on the mannequin, and being able to stick your needle straight in rather than do that whole in-and-out thing saves a ton of time. To further illustrate my point, check out the totally unnecessary gif I made:

I promise you that it’s not the end of the world if the mannequin is too big- that’s why you do dress fittings with your clients. The mannequin is there to pin and prod; I never have and never will allow it to take the place of a human model. It’s great when you’re doing bodice rushing and a godsend when draping. If your mannequin is too small, you can use padding, but again it isn’t a necessity.

Hopefully that helped! 🙂


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