Thursday, March 14, 2019

My new alter ego

A while ago I mentioned that I was immersed in fitting experiments. The bit about being "immersed" was an overstatement - it took quite a while before I was able to fully realize on those experiments, as life intervened.

However, I persevered and wish to introduce you to my new alter ego, made with the Bootstrap custom-fit dress form pattern. I should call her Dot.

The idea of making this dress form to replace my aging duct tape double has been percolating in my mind for quite a while. I had seen many photos of the finished dress form on PR and on the Bootstrap Facebook page and they all looked very ... ah ... realistic, in relation to the real bodies of the people who made them. Moreover, I had a look at the pattern pieces, and a completed dress form "in the flesh" at PR weekend. These convinced me to give it a go. Then I was lucky enough to win a copy of the pattern in one of the many give-aways that weekend. All I needed was the time to get my measurements figured out, and then to make the thing.

Before ordering this pattern you do require a comprehensive set of personal measurements and you have to make some decisions about your body type. I already wrote about how I decided on the measurements but not about the body type questions.

You assess your belly protruberance on a scale of A through E. I chose B.

Then there is your buttocks shape, from "very flat" to "very curvy" (5 options). I am pretty sure I picked flat, but the website seems not to have remembered my selection, so maybe I got a pattern for an average butt - more on that below.

You need to specify your posture - I chose straight back, which seems most average to me.

And finally there is a series of choices for shoulder slope. I think I am pretty unremarkable in that department so I chose "normal".

Inside-out "skin"
So the pattern is very shapely, as you might expect. At right is an in-progress inside-out shot of the semi-finished form, clearly showing the seams.

The bust is shaped through through horizontal and vertical seams. The construction is a lot like a bra pattern. After I had sewn and pressed the seams as drafted I had a look and decided that they had drafted me as a C cup which I am definitely not. I trimmed the upper cup shape to reduce fullness, and also took a smidge out of the horizontal bust seam. This was totally non-scientific, based on my gut feelings about the amount of curvature in the seams in places where my figure is not so curved. I'm confident this was the right choice, although I notice that I could have stuffed the left boob a little firmer to fill it out somewhat more.

The belly is shaped with the "princess" seams as well as the inner structure pieces. Having specified a smallish belly, the pattern had little bumps on the princess seams, which after some consideration, I removed. Again, they just didn't look right to me.

I also noticed that the side seams were quite rounded, placing quite a lot of hip fullness just below the waist. Quite a few of the finished forms depicted in reviews and elsewhere on the internet have quite a pronounced round hip at the sides as a result of this shaping. My figure isn't like that - my fullest hip measurement is quite a lot lower. So I shaved some of the roundness off, to make the hip shape flatter and lower and to conform more to my figure.

Inner structure pieces
The non-measurement figure variables are translated into the pattern mostly through the ingenious inner structure of the dress form pattern. These pieces are shown at left.

These pieces are what convinced me that this is a genius pattern. When I made my duct tape double, I realized that while the duct tape outer shape had my dimensions, I could never stuff it to be me without distortion. This is because without inner structure, the stuffed form will always have a more or less circular cross section. However, my body is not circular in cross section. It is oval, wider from side to side than it is thick from front to back. The inner structure pieces in the Bootstrap pattern allow the finished form to avoid this problem. They basically tie the CF to the CB in a fixed shape, and this can force the dress form to be narrower front to back than it is side to side, if that is your shape. (These pieces are sewn in the centre to a casing for a pipe or tube that sits on top of the stand you have chosen.)

So in my case, as you can see, the back piece has a moderate hip and upper back curve, and the front has a slightly protruding belly. I think the pattern reverted to a "normal" rather than flat buttocks shape, and when I saw the pattern pieces I decided that they would make my dress form too deep front to back. So I shaved some off the butt area, and also off the belly.

These on-the-fly adjustments did not change the outer dimensions of the dress form - these are dictated by the dimensions of the pattern pieces which I didn't change except to distribute the fullness  differently. However, they did allow me to make my dress form more me-shaped.

I eviscerated my late lamented duct tape double to recover its stuffing. I remembered stuffing it with fibrefill from old pillows, but not with the interesting selection of 80's pantyhose (including off-white and textured ones) I found inside it. All have been repurposed - not surprisingly, the amount of stuffing was pretty well exactly right.

You have to take the stuffing process slowly to avoid creating bumpy asymmetries in your form.

I've also repurposed the stand from my old form - it consisted of a strong cardboard tube and a light stand with a heavy base. It was already the right height.

The construction of this interesting pattern was somewhat finicky but easily accomplished as the instructions, which are copiously illustrated, are really good. If you want more information on how to put the thing together, there are other resources on the internet, including a video on the Bootstrap website. I also found a pretty comprehensive four part tutorial on Kelly Hogaboom's blog.

I'm looking forward to sewing with Dot for years to come.


  1. interesting to hear the adjustments you made. I sewed one up for someone else's shape, and it was pretty good, a bit too large across the shoulders but otherwise good. However I think I overstuffed it and it measures about 1" too large in circumference. I want to unstuff it and start again but it seems like a lot of work :)

  2. Ah the elusive dress double. She looks great. Do you need to use a particular fabric? Your choice is great.

    1. The pattern calls for woven non-stretch fabrics (upholstery fabrics) and you block fuse it to eliminate all residual stretch. The fabric I used is a home-dec weight cotton twill.

  3. Wonderful fabric choice for your snazzy duplicate!

  4. Thank you for the review! I've been pondering this pattern for awhile. If my body weight/size stabilizes I'm going to go for it.

  5. I appreciate the review. I'm wondering, could I pin myself into the form in order to tweak the shape?

    1. I doubt it. The form has slight negative ease and no way in or out for a body. Bootstrap sells a pattern for a cover for a too-small d ses form and I think you fit that one on your body.

    2. Thank you. I'll check into it.

  6. How close to your body do you think Dot is? I made a dress form with the Craftsy class and it totally doesn't show the drag lines I get on the right rear. On me a garment has drag lines on my dressform, not. I also have a low shoulder on that side which seams not to have transferred.