Friday, August 31, 2018

The Making of Violet & Abby: Bootstrap Fashion DIY Dress Form



In my previous post here I introduced my newest sewing buddy. It is a dress form that is a replica of my own body. In a nutshell, after providing my own measurements, a sewing pattern for a body shell was customized for me. After sewing it, I stuffed it with polyfill and put it on a stand and voila, I have my own dress form. Bootstrap Fashion Sewing Patterns is the site were one can purchase such customized patterns and they are available in standard, missy, and plus sizes. 

The Pattern

I purchased the pattern for the Missy Fit DIY Dress Form and the add-on Arm. The former costs $24 and the latter $10. 
You will need to provide the following measurements: 
  *low hip
Since accuracy is very important, it may help to have someone assist you with taking your measurements. 
In addition, fit adjustments will ask for:
  *neck circumference
  *bust height from center back neck point
  *front length from center back neck point
  *back length
  *back width
  *apex to apex width
Although the fit adjustments are optional, I highly recommend providing the data. 

In addition to the measurements, there is drop down menu to choose what kind of belly protuberance, buttocks shape, posture and shoulder slope you have. I love this feature because it really allows for customization. 
Regarding the pattern itself, there is the option to add seam allowance which is 3/8". There are also several options for paper size. 
After paying for the PDF pattern, it took only about half an hour or less for me to receive my file through my email. It also came with complete sewing instructions. 

Sewing Process:

Materials: all the fabrics I used were from my stash. For the main body I used a medium weight upholstery fabric. For the inner support, I used a heavy weight twill for Abby but I ran out of yardage so for Violet, I used a medium weight cotton fabric and sandwiched a stabilizer in between.
Fabric used for Violet.

Fabric used for Abby. 

Markings: I know sometimes we forego these but in the case of this sewing pattern, it is important to copy them to the fabric pieces accurately.

*Notches--important for aligning pattern pieces prior to sewing
*Triangles--one triangle indicates front and two triangles means it is the back
*T-shaped marks inside the seams--used to mark location of pieces

The markings are especially helpful when it comes to assembling the cups.


Straight stitch for seams: 2.0
Zigzag stitch for topstitching: 3.6 (height) 0.7 (width)
Feet: walking foot, zipper foot
Thread: polyester

Sewing Instructions: 

There are 44 pages of detailed instructions and photos for the Missy Dress form and 31 pages for the add-on Arm. Overall, the instructions are very easy to follow and for the most part easy to understand. With that said, I have jotted down some notes where I found  details missing or  a little bit confusing.

Missy Dress Form:

 p.18 #6. It says "optional." I would really do it, that is topstitch the bust/waist/hiplines. In my opinion, it will help in the long run with garment fitting. 

p. 18. Although illustrated, the written instruction is missing for sewing the front to back pieces at the side seams. 

p. 20 #8. Easy to miss what is being referred to when it asks to clip corners of front and back princess seams. It actually refers to the seams allowances of the princess seams at the topmost, near the shoulder seams. 

p. 21 #10. Seasoned sewists probably know to do this already but for beginners, it helps to sew with the neckline of the body topmost with the neck piece at the bottom, near the feed dogs. It is similar to sewing two pieces together where one is more curved or longer than the other. Putting the longer piece beneath the shorter one makes it easier to feed the fabric through the machine equally. It also helps do away with using a lot of pins. 

p. 23 Same as in above, sew with the neck top piece at the bottom, near the feed dog. 

p. 25 #13. When sewing the armhole cover, ideally the armhole should be topmost and the armhole cover near the feed dog but it is quite difficult to maneuver with the neckline sewn shut.

p. 27  Inner Support:

   *Make sure to cut the pattern piece on the fold. 
   *Disregard the markings for the different pipe diameter sizes for now. Cut the pattern piece     following the outermost edges regardless of pipe size. Adjustment will be done later. 

  #3. There are two pieces for both front and back inner support but no mention at all on how to treat them. You actually treat the two front pieces as one and same with the back piece. In my case, my fabric for Violet was not as heavyweight as I wanted so I added a stabilizer in between before proceeding. I used a Peltex interfacing from my stash. I don't have the label anymore so I'm not sure which kind but it is not too stiff or thick. 

p. 29 The staystitching mentioned here is more like "quilting." The important thing is to stitch first around the seamlines to make sure you do not quilt the seam allowances closed. This is crucial because the seam allowances have to be open when sewing the inner support pieces to the main body. 

p. 32 When sewing the inner support pieces, expect the bottom edges not to align.

p. 36 #3 Just a minor annoyance but what is referred to as "staystitching" is actually stitching two pieces of fabrics right sides facing. 

The instructions for the add-on Arm are more straightforward although the part where the shoulder cover is attached to the main arm may be a bit confusing. My advice is to just look at the photo of the final product and figure out what is required to achieve it. 

Here are some photos of the arm construction.

There will be some hand sewing to seal the upper arm. 

Stuffing the body:

I bought a 5 lb box of PolyFil from Jo-Ann's using a 50% off coupon. It was more than enough to fill up two dress forms and an arm. 

View of the bottom opening where poly fil will be inserted. 

   *Use small portions of the stuffing at a time. It is tempting to grab a big glob of filling but it makes the dress form lumpy. 
   *Measure the key points (bustline, waistline, hipline) as you fill for accuracy.
   *Compare you dress form to your body in the mirror as you go along. 
   *If your cardboard for the base support is thin, it helps to reinforce with another piece that does not have the two holes on the sides.

View of the underside, bottom of dress form which has two zipper closures. 

It's eerie how accurately the dress form captured my belly protuberance which is really prominent without undergarments!

As for the dress form stand, I just used the stand from my dress form mannequin. The pipe used to support the body was half of an adjustable closet rod. The length of the pipe you need is printed on the pattern pieces. 


I am quite happy with my two dress forms. I have already used Abby to fit a muslin of a foundation bodice I am sewing for my daughter. It definitely makes it easier to see where fitting adjustments need to be made. I am looking forward to using my own to fit some tops. Now I will be able to adjust for swayback without having to resort to numerous picture taking. The good news is the dress form can always be altered as far as the stuffing is concerned because of the two zipper openings in the bottom!

To see how the dress form compares to the real me, check out the photos on here.


  1. That's very impressive. I checked out the comparison with your body and it looks very accurate. I think I may try this at my Christmas holidays and thanks for the tips about what the instructions mean.

    1. Thank you! It’s definitely worth a try. I just wish I have done it sooner!

  2. Thank you, Maria, for all this information! I have read all the reviews for this dress form and it's on my wish list. My current dress form lost like that. Lol. Ok, I gained weight. I love your versions and you did an expert job on them. I appreciate all the tips. :)

    1. Thanks Nancy! Lol, I like to call it a “growth spurt!” The beauty of this dress form is it has an opening at the bottom so any minor weight fluctuations can easily be dealt with by adding or removing poly fil!

  3. Thanks for all your notes on the construction- very helpful! Tempting project.

    1. You’re welcome! To borrow from Nike, just do it😄

  4. This is incredible and amazing, Maria! I have a dress form that was given to me over ten years ago, from a sewing friend. I am so tempted to finally take the plunge and customize the dress form that I have. Thank you again for sharing all of the details of the construction.

    1. You're most welcome! This DIY dress form is really a good alternative to the more expensive custom ones that are being sold.