A Guide to Dressmaking Mannequins – How to be the Least Popular Member of the Household.

19 Jun

I remember the day I first set eyes on my beloved mannequin. I was working in a well known high street retailer and she had been residing in the back corridor for some time. She was of course intended for the window display and not for sticking pins into and making toiles but I thought she had potential. So I enquired about her and since no one knew why she was even there I took her home one day(via the back fire escape with complete consent of course!). I remember taking her home and my flatmate and best friend was HORRIFIED. She already had an over active imagination AND a fear of the dark and now I had added a ghostly human sized upright figure into the mix. NOT POPULAR! I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t given myself a couple of frights with one of these but the good times outweigh the bad.

A mannequin is the ultimate dressmakers accessory. It opens up a world of experimentation with form and texture and helps you understand the drape and quality of different materials. It makes altering existing clothes a walk in the park and making new ones a great adventure! So if you’re not fortunate enough to come across your static partner in sewing crime like I did then where do you start and how much will it cost?!

You can spend thousands on a mannequin if you’re insane, hundreds if you’re a bit of a madman and very little if you’re a wise old burd like me! There are a couple of different types of mannequins out there. One is adjustable and it looks like this:

This allows you to turn the dials to alter the size of the mannequin. Sounds great right? Wrong! These are hollow and very lightweight which is great for taking her on holiday but not so great for working on. I find these fall over easily and are wobbly which is just annoying! My biggest problem with these however is I can’t stick my pins into it. I like to be able to stick my pins into the mannequin at any angle but this has a hard plastic body covered with a piece of material which means it’s quite awkward to get a pin in it at all. My advice is to steer clear of these despite the appealing changeable size.

So if this is the adjustable mannequin and I’m telling you to steer clear does that mean the only other option is a mannequin that is not the right size? Yes and no. I always advise people to buy a solid mannequin that is smaller than your body shape because you can then pad it up to your size AND stick pins into it in whatever direction you fancy. My mannequin is tiny. I would love to have her tiny waist but I actually don’t think it’s possible. After losing all the body fat I would probably have to have my liver removed to get rid of some bulk and I really need that liver! So I pad her up with about 20 beach towels. Take your measurements and keep adding fabric or wadding until she is your size. You can also put a bra on her if you need to take the bust up a size. You now have the perfect mannequin and the best bit it it does not have to cost you a bomb!

My Trusty Mannequin, Minus 10 Beach Towels

You can spend thousand on a top notch professional dressmakers mannequin if you like, but for those of us who have a tight hold of the purse strings(everyone just now, right?!) I have a better idea. Buy yourself a display mannequin! You can buy these from Morplan in the south side of Glasgow if you don’t want to order it online here for £49.95! What an absolute bargain!

The downside of this is eventually I think this will start to crumble a bit. It is essentially a polystyrene body covered with a fabric overlay so it’s not the strongest material. However I think if I was buying one of these I might take off the fabric overlay and strengthen the body with a layer of tape(masking tape or you’ll have sticky pins!!). Although I have never tried this I think it would work pretty well in keeping the body together.

But wait! There is at least one person screaming at the monitor right now about that Duck Tape mannequin. For those of you who don’t know this is a method where you put on an old t-shirt, wrap your torse in Duck tape and then cut the tape and the T-shirt off. The tape retains its shape thus giving you a mould of your body.Here are my thoughts on this method. Yes it is cheap and yes it gives you the perfect body shape to work on yourself but think about what you will use the mannequin for. Probably dressmaking right? Unless you are planning to make and wear a range of crop tops then this mannequin might be more bother than it’s worth. Although mannequins are usually just the torso, they are also always on a stand. So in order to use your Duck Tape body you’re going to have to stuff it with something that won’t fall out, and then locate something like a hat stand(?) to attach the two. You need to be able to see how materials drape, and cut things to length so using a torso on top of a table just doesn’t cut it. Not for me anyway!

I hope this is useful and helps you out if you are thinking of buying a mannequin!

Jenny x


2 Responses to “A Guide to Dressmaking Mannequins – How to be the Least Popular Member of the Household.”

  1. Konnie Kapow! June 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Cor thanks Jenny! This is very much a question I have been asking myself for a while now. Whether to pay a horrid amount fits an adjustable one or not. I still want to try making a duct tape one, mostly just for the hilarity of making Jamie help!

    • JenWHY June 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      I googled the Duck tape one and found it hard to resist putting up some of the HILARIOUS pictures of other people doing it. My better judgement prevailed though – as you can see 😛

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