If you’re someone who intends to make clothes, you’re probably aware that a dress form can come in handy for fitting purposes and for draping and developing patterns, but with so many options online it can be hard knowing which is the best dress form to invest in.
And yes, these great tools really are an investment.
Today, I’m going to cover the different types of dress forms, how to choose a one based on your needs as well as the costs of different dress forms so that you can be better informed when it comes to buying your own.
Dress Form vs Mannequin vs Tailors Dummy
Let’s start by clearing up the different terms that are used. I actually refer to mine as a dress stand. It may be an British thing, but that is what they were called when I studied for my fashion design degree.
While that term is less widely used, three that are frequently used to describe the same thing are:
- Dress form
- Tailors dummy
So how do they differ?
This is the standard used by home sewers and fashion designers alike. The standard form is a torso and includes the hips and the upper leg area, though usually without the crotch separation.
A mannequin is usually a much more stylised version of a dress form, used for display purposes. They may be torso, legs, or full body, and you’ve doubtless seen body part mannequins too, from hands to display rings and bracelets to heads for displaying hats.
A tailors dummy is much like a dress form (indeed people do use the two interchangeably in the home sewing community) but a tailor’s dummy was originally one used by traditional tailors!
6 Things To Consider When Buying A Dress Form
When you’re ready to buy a dress form, it’s important that you consider the use that you hope to get out of it. Without thinking about how you plan to use your dress stand, you’ll likely end up buying one that isn’t right for your needs, and will then feel frustrated.
Here are six things to consider when buying a dress form:
Having a dress form that has adjustable options is great if you’re a dressmaker planning to create clothes for people of different sizes, or if you are a home sewer and anticipate losing or gaining some weight.
Adjustable dress forms allow the girth of the body to expand or contract in different body areas and the length of the torso to be lengthened or shortened.
This type of form is great for differently shaped bodies as well, as we’re more able to control the individual measurements:
- Torso length
Further down I’ll be sharing the best adjustable dress form that I have found and use!
If you plan to use your dress outside of your dedicated space, then you’ll want to consider how portable the dress form is.
My dress stand is a Kennett and Lindsell which I invested in while at university. It is a professional dress form and quite heavy, because of the way it was constructed. I’ll cover this in more detail further down.
Usually, adjustable dress forms and display forms are more portable, but they both serve different purposes.
As previously discussed in my article on body proportions, every human body is different when it comes to proportions and shape.
A dress stand therefore needs to be tailored to your needs based upon body shape.
As well as body shape there’s also gender and age to consider: male, female and child being the obvious.
Dress forms can come in a fixed size, or with an adjustable size range, and it is essential that you consider the size that you need.
There’s nothing worse than buying a dress form and realising that the size is inappropriate.
Be sure to take your body measurements and use these as a guide when researching your options and buying!
5 Types of Dress Forms
Ok, we’ve now covered the six considerations when thinking about buying a dress form – let’s now dig into the five types available to you!
There is also the duct tape dress form. While this is an option for people who are not yet ready to invest in a manufactured dress form, there are often inconsistencies when making your own duct tape version.
That said, if you’d like to learn how to make your own duct tape form, this step by step tutorial from Burda will help!
Adjustable Dress Forms
As mentioned further up, an adjustable form provides a lot of flexibility.
They often come with a tripod stand making the height adjustable, a slightly more realistic body shape and are lighter than a professional form, making it easy to move around your sewing room.
The sizing is adjusted with an adjustable dial to modify the body form to better suit the meaurements you’re planning to use.
Bifurcated Dress Form
A bifurcated dress form has legs included, so it isn’t just the torso.
This is great for anyone really serious about design – you’ll be able to design and fit trousers using a bifurcated dress form!
Custom Dress Form
A custom dress form is also known as a made to measure dressmakers dummy. They are typically not adjustable, and are created using your body measurements, either provided to the company yourself, or as part of being scanned.
There are several companies that provide this kind of form, one of the newer ones being Beatrice Forms.
Display Dress Form
A display form is not a sewing mannequin, but used to diaplay garments instead.
It is not possible to use pins on this type of dress form as there is no padding.
They also come in specific set sizes, often with adjustable limbs making them great for designers who want to display garments in their design studio or in a store.
Professional Dress Form
A professional dress form is an investment for any fashion designer, more so for a fashion design student.
A professional form is created in a fixed size, often with a fibre glass interior form covered with a very light layer of padding and tighlty woven fabric shell, making it great for easy pinning, when you know how!
I have a professional one from Kennett & Lindsell, and the dress form size is fixed at size 12.
There are many companies that make professional forms – I’ll list them towards the end of this guide for those interested.
So, with all the above covered let’s move on to the best dress forms that you can buy!
Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase at no further cost to you.
Best Dress Forms
Unsurprisingly, the top three dress forms are actually adjustable forms, from the two most well known companies.
1. Dritz My Double Designer Adjustable Dress Form
In my view top of the list for best adjustable dress form is the rather amazing Double Designer Adjustable Dress Form from Dritz. Why? It comes in four sizes:
- Full figure
This means that you’re more likely to find the perfect size range for you and your body type! It is the most expensive option of the three listed here, but it’s also the more versatile option.
Let’s look at the sizings of this adjustable dress form in more detail!
Petite Size Double Designer
- Bust: 28″ – 35″ / 70cm – 87cm
- Waist: 23.5″ – 31″ / 59cm – 77cm
- Hips: 31″ – 38″ / 77cm – 95cm
- Neck: 14″ – 17″ / 35cm – 42cm
- Back length: 14″ – 16″ / 35cm – 40cm
- Shoulder: 13″ / 32.5cm
Small Size Double Designer
- Bust: 33″ – 41″ / 82cm – 102cm
- Waist: 26″ – 34″ / 65cm – 85cm
- Hips: 36″ – 44″ / 90cm – 110cm
- Neck: 15″ – 18″ / 38cm – 45cm
- Back length: 15″ – 17″ / 38cm – 42cm
- Shoulder: 14″ / 35cm
Medium Size Double Designer
- Bust: 39″ – 47″ / 98cm – 117cm
- Waist: 32″ – 40″ / 80cm – 100cm
- Hips: 41″ – 49″ / 103cm – 122cm
- Neck: 15″ – 18″ / 38cm – 45cm
- Back length: 15″ – 17″ / 38cm – 42cm
- Shoulder: 15.5″ / 38.5cm
Full Figure Size Double Designer
- Bust: 45.5″ – 53″ / 114cm – 132cm
- Waist: 39″ – 46″ / 98cm – 115cm
- Hips: 47″ – 54″ / 117.5cm – 135cm
- Neck: 15″ – 18″ / 38cm – 45cm
- Back length: 16″ – 18″ / 40cm – 45cm
- Shoulder: 16.5″ / 41cm
This dress form model from Dritz has easier to turn adjustable wheels and has an ‘offset’ option for the pole, which allows you to also fit trousers too!
2. Singer Adjustable Dress Forms
We all know Singer as a sewing machine manufacturer – I have two of their very old hand cranked sewing machines and love them.
But how do they fair when it comes to their adjustable dress forms? The answer is, very well!
This form comes in two sizes:
- Red: size 4 – 10 (US)
- Grey: size 10 – 18 (US)
Let’s look at the specific measurements for both sizes!
Red (Size 4-10)
- Bust: 33″ – 40″ / 84cm – 101cm
- Waist: 25″ – 32″ / 64cm – 81cm
- Hip: 34″ – 41″ / 86cm – 104cm
- Neck: 13.5″ – 17″ / 34cm – 43cm
Grey (Size 10-18)
- Bust: 40″ – 46″ / 101cm – 116cm
- Waist: 31″ – 37″ / 78cm – 93cm
- Hip: 40″ – 46″ / 101cm – 117cm
- Neck: 13.75″ – 17″ / 35cm – 43cm
There are twelve dials to help you get your form as close to your perfect size as possible and the height is adjustable too.
There are some complaints that the form is ‘boxier’ than the Dritz below.
3. Dritz Sew You Adjustable Dress Form
Next on the list is the Dritz Sew You form. This form is adjustable from a size 2 all the way in, out to a size 18 when opened all the way up, but it is relatively flat chested.
This of course isn’t a bad thing as we can easily pad out a bust with a bra – it’s what I have done with my adjustable dress form to accommodate my bust.
The exact measurements for the small size are:
- Bust: 33″ – 40″
- Waist: 26″ – 33″
- Hips: 36″ – 42″
- Neck: 14″ – 17″
- Back waist length: 15″ – 17″
For the best results when adjusting this form, make sure to adjust the dials evenly as you go, rather than one at a time.
Learn more about this adjustable dress form on:
My New ‘Full Figure’ Dress Form
At the start of June, having realised that it would be helpful to my draping students to see the process of draping on an adjustable dress form, I ordered the ‘Celine Standard Plus Full Figure’ dress form from a company here in the Netherlands.
In the photo below, it is the one on the far right.
As you can see, it is VERY different in size to my beloved professional dress form in the centre. I opted for the ‘Celine’ because it was a sensible price point (on sale at €145), had an adjustable torso length (I have a longer than average upper body) and was similar to my body measurements meaning I could drape more clothing for myself.
I am personally not a fan of the adjustable dress forms. The last one I owned was a blue Singer model, and while it did the job, I struggled with how different it was to work with compared to my K&Ls. But, as I said, if my draping students are learning to drape on a more affordable and adjustable dress form, it is only right that I teach them on one that is similar.
You can learn more about my beginner friendly draping course here!
I’ve had some emails from my readers about this particular adjustable dress form so have included as much information as possible on similar models, as the ‘Celine’ only appears to be available in select European stores!
In the UK, you can get the Adjustoform ‘Olivia’ 8 part dress form from Amazon – it’s the same company that made my ‘Celine’. The large size looks exactly like my ‘Celine’ except the color of the cover is darker.
In the US, there is the Dritz Twin Fit Full Figure dress form which, looking at it and comparing it to my ‘Celine’, looks exactly the same and the price point is inline with what I paid in The Netherlands.
I had wanted the Dritz My Double Designer Full Figure dress form, which has the pole offset so better for draping trouser / pants, but I could not get it outside of the US and the cost of shipping to The Netherlands and the import duty made it a very silly price!
Non Adjustable Dress Forms
If you’re looking for a dress form that is a fixed size – not adjustable – you’ll be better off buying from a company that makes professional forms.
- Andy’s dress form
- Kennett & Lindsell
- PGM dress forms
- Royal dress Forms
The above companies make professional dress forms with a variety of options including collapsible shoulder, base plate and castors for a more stability over the tripod leg style and even attachable arms can be included too.
If you’re a fashion designer planning on a lot of drape and contour as part of your design process, one of the above brands would be a great choice, but note that second hand are always an option. Ebay is one location where I’ve seen Kennett & Lindsell and Morplan dress forms available at a reduced price.
For home sewers wanting to achieve a fabulous fit with they home sewn clothes, one of the above adjustable forms would be the best dress form for you to get started with.
There you have it. Let me know if you have any questions about dress forms – I love my current one and cannot wait to have a larger work space so I can add one or two more to my collection!
Of course, once you have a dress form, you’ll probably want to learn how to drape on a dress form which will help you create a basic bodice block!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.