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Should you use a dressmaker’s dummy?

My sister has a dressmaker’s dummy in her bedroom. “This is so cool!” I said , the first time I saw it, perched elegantly on its long wooden legs next to her full-length vintage mirror, its neck strewn with rows of beads. I picked up a skirt and scarf and absent-mindedly began to dress it.

“Do you use this all the time when you make your clothes?” I asked my sis.

“No, not really,” she replied.  “I find it easier to just measure the material against myself. And anyway, I think that thing’s actually bigger than me!”

“What about dressing it up, do you use it to tell which outfits will work?”

“No – I just do that in my head!”

Many home-sewers swear by the dressmaking dummy. Fiddling around with paper patterns to get those tweaks and fits just right can take hours, and it’s far easier to make adjustments when you can see it on your body (or, at least, something resembling it!)

However, my sister comes from a very non-traditional school of sewing. She has never used a pattern in her life, and nor does she intend to. Her home sewing journey started by wrapping bits of material against herself, sticking in pins where she wanted it to join, and sewing it together just like that. Something as old-skool as a dressmaker’s dummy was never going to suit her.

I, on the other hand, am a half-and-half girl. I studied textiles at school so am comfortable using patterns, but I’ve also been influenced by my sister’s approach and taken to wrapping material around myself, pattern-free. However, I find the measuring-against-myself process something of a nightmare. I can’t always figure out what I’m doing when I don’t have a 360 degrees view of it, and end up with wonky waistbands and diagonal seems. Great. A dummy really would come in handy sometimes.

The only thing putting me off is the cost, and the nightmare of having to buy another one every time you loose or put on weight. But luckily I’ve stumbled across a fab little guide to making your own. Even though they don’t look quite as cool in your room as the real thing, all you need is some duct tape, scissors and filling material, and you can re-do it any time your body changes. Amazing!

So really, whether you use a dressmaker’s dummy is all down to your personal style and how you go about making your clothes. But as for me, I reckon I’ll be off to purchase some duct tape pretty soon…


1 Comment so far

  1. I just found this as I was searching for an answer to a question (and it was answered in a round about way so thanks!). Dressmaker dummies are expensive as you say but it is possible and even fun to make one for yourself (a mini you) that is not adjustable but shaped to your body shape wonderfully. It costs little, duct tape, some filling material, a hanger or stand (for a stand you want it about your hight, a hanger just needs to hang from the right hight), a tee shirt you can cut and a friend to help. It is actually quite a lot of fun so have your camera ready for funny pics! My link in my name is an article where I describe the process in greater detail if you are interested.

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