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Extreme Makeover: Dress Form Edition

Blog readers, meet Sugar.

My intrepid and dedicated dress form for the last eight years. She was gifted to me those many years ago by the grandmother of a boy I was dating. She outlasted that boy. (And possibly that grandmother.) (Is that joke gross?) (Anyway...)

She's had her problems. Namely, she has adjustable sizing, but her proportions make no sense if you adjust her to be bigger--because, for instance, usually women with big chest measurements have large busts. Not wide backs.

Plus, about five years ago, her neck mechanism got stuck in the widest possible setting and wouldn't size back down so even if I was making something for a size 2 person, they had to have an 18" neck. Which is unusual for most people.

More recently, the fabric has started to unglue and the years of painting and distressed clothing on have gotten her splattered with paint and plaster and dirt.

Needless to say, it was time for a makeover.

I went back and forth about whether I should just recover her as is and keep the adjustable sizing even though it makes no sense. But what if I need to make a costume for a small person. But you can't even pin into those openings that adjusting her creates. But versatility! It went on and on. Eventually, I decided that since I really mostly make things for myself, I should just give her the curves I've always wanted her to have and call it a day.

So to start, I took all the hardware I could off--the neck cap and inner bits that hold her up. I can't take off the adjusting wheels because of the way they're attached (this also helped with the above decision).

Then I got adjusted her to my approximate waist size and put a bra on her. (This is an old costuming trick--dress form doesn't have the right dimensions?--put a leotard or bathing suit and pad it until she's the right size. I've done this to Sugar in the past but it doesn't look very cute. And it's a bit of a bear to squeeze her into a leotard.) This is one of my bras that I don't wear much because the fit is weird. It was probably going to go in a bag for Goodwill, but this is an even better afterlife for it.

Shout out to Leo McGarry back there who's about to have a very bad walk in the woods.

I padded her out with 1/4" quilt batting, covering her in varying numbers of layers of batting to get the measurements right. She's not proportioned exactly like me. She's still fairly broad, but at least she's got a little more junk in the trunk now.

Shout out to Marley back there who's asleep on my pile of excess batting.

That done, it was time to get some fabric to cover her. I knew I needed something with a lot of stretch. And it had to be cute. I only found two fabrics that matched those two criteria and wandered back and forth between them in the store for much longer than I'd like to admit before choosing.

Back at home, I draped the fabric over the my newly juicy dress form and started pinning the sides, working from one side to the other, pulling it ever tighter to get the puckers out of the fabric. I used some spray adhesive around the chest to keep the shape, but other than that, the whole thing is just stretching and pinning.

When it was all pinned and smooth, I trimmed off the excess fabric and stitched the edges with a dark blue embroidery floss, creating a raised seam. I worked down both sides at the same time for reasons I can't really justify.

Once the neck seams were sewn, I put the neck cap back into place--a trickier task than you'd think now that there weren't adjustable openings to reach into and hold everything in place. Oh. And regarding the broken mechanism in the neck? I had to break it in the other direction to fix it. But it's fine because she's not adjustable anymore anyway.

Then I just had to finish the seams and put her back on her stand. And speaking of that stand that has looked tarnished since the day I got it and never could get shiny no matter what I used to clean it....I used a 3" wide matte black tape wrapped vertically around the pole to give it a tidy, even look. (Please ignore the cables that are in need of some wrangling...)

As a last touch, I gave her a bit of jewelry to match her new spruced up look and she's never been happier.

Blog readers, meet Sugar.


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