How to Choose the Right Dress Form

Professional dress forms! Are they really necessary?

If you are interested in dress-making & learning to drape, one of the most important equipment you need is a good dress form. It’s as important as a sewing machine in my book!
Unless you drape on a real model and make the poor thing stand straight for hours and hours of fitting!
I’m joking of course, but hey, Madame Gres was doing it, so why not.. Lol

The idea for this post came to me when a subscriber asked my help, and I started to look online.

I had no idea how much trash and simply wrong content about dress-forms were out there!
I could not find a good one to share with her. I decided to do a little research & send her some information & links to buy a proper dress form.

I thought you might need this information too.
So let’s start from the beginning.

Which one is it?
Mannequin, Dress form or Dummy?

Dress forms are most often made to represent a body and are usually constructed with a hard interior and a foam or fabric exterior, which is helpful for pinning.
A mannequin, on the other hand, is what you’ll usually come across in a retail store. It generally has a hard outer shell and often represents an entire body. They are mostly not standing straight or their bodies aren’t in a symmetrical position, so don’t try to drape or fit on them.

I heard some people calling dress forms ‘Dummy’, but since I think it’s degrading to my lovely dress form, I don’t call her that.
I have 3 dress forms & they have names, Beth (size 4), Ashley (size 6), and Marge (size 16), and I do have a display mannequin called Jessica 🙂

We will focus solely on dress forms, and if you are looking online to buy one, you should search for a Professional Dress Form.

Dress Forms are categorized in 2-3 different groups.

1. Display Dress Form

These dress forms are lightweight, and cheap. They are mostly used for retail windows, displays etc. They are usually made out of plastic and covered with some type of linen or jersey fabric. Their sizes are not well represented in real body measurements. If you have one and are in the beginner stage of sewing and draping, you can mark your essential lines (CF, CB, SS, SL, SP, NP).

Practice with it for a little while, and if you decide to step up your work, buy a professional dress form.
Just note that any pattern or a sloper pattern you practice on might not fit a real person or might be way off.

2.Professional Dress Form

Professional dress forms are heavy, sturdy and come with a cast iron base and wheels.
These kinds of 
forms are usually made with papier mache, padded with a few layers of cotton wadding and covered in linen. Their height can be adjusted, and some will have collapsible shoulders so garments can be easily put on and removed.

These are usually available either as a classic dressmaker form with a skirt cage or as a full body with legs. If you are looking for a form that can assist you throughout the construction process with draping, pinning, fitting and more, a professional dress form is worth the investment.
They feature more accurate proportions and are available in a variety of sizes.

Just remember that since these forms might not match your measurements exactly, choose a size based on your smallest measurement(s) so you can pad the rest of the form later. That being said, if you’re willing to spend even more money on a dress form, consider a custom-made dress form.

If you are a designer or working to become one, be aware that your dress forms will be the base measurements and sizes for your base patterns. If your muse and client base are usually size 8 curvy women, prepare your dress form before draping your patterns.

These forms generally have a higher price tag (usually between $300 and $1,500), their features and longevity significantly outweigh other dress forms.
If cared nicely they can last 10-20 years at least.

3. Adjustable Dress Form 

Adjustable dress forms are exactly what they sound like. They are forms that can be adjusted with dials to match your body’s measurements.

They are often lightweight, like display forms, but their proportions are more realistic. They’re more affordable than professional forms, as they usually cost under $300. In comparison to professional forms, however, they are far less durable, the shoulders aren’t collapsible, the structure isn’t easy to pin and some you can’t pin at all, and they aren’t as ideal for draping.

The problem is, once you start turning the dials, the panels begin to expand away from each other, creating gaps at the seams. This can make it impossible to pin at the waist, center front, and at many other important marking points. In addition, it can be hard to mold these forms to your exact measurements, since they can only adjust so much. This means that if your bust is significantly larger than your waist, for instance, you may not be able to expand the bust enough to meet your needs, and you may still have to pad it to fill it out.

Here are some manufacturers & their links where you can check out Professional Dress Forms.

Stockman Dress Forms are one of the most prestigious dress forms, and mostly used by French Couture houses. Despite all that, the prices are not as high as you might think. Check it out. They prices range from €300- €500 plus shipping and handling.

Wolf Dress Forms are my favorite dress forms. They are made in the U.S, all handmade. They are one of the best quality out there you can find. Unfortunately I believe that they aren’t available in the market much, for some reason. Just check it out, especially in Facebook marketplace, Craigslist or any other places that might sell theirs.

They also have merged with a Philippines based brand,  Superior Dress Forms, that you can buy. They are less pricey., and their prices range from $400-$1200

I bought some PGM Dress Forms, they are very easy to correspond and do business with.
They have many varieties of all sorts of dress forms. They range from $300-$600

Dress Form USA is a family owned and operated business based in Los Angeles. They are providing many brands and schools dress forms as well. Their dress forms price ranges from $320-$650

Royal Dress Forms is based in New York. They ship everywhere.
Dress forms prices range from $800-$1200

Roxy Dress Forms. They are based in New Jersey. They might not be the best quality out there, but especially if you are on a budget or starting new you can take a look at these.
They prices range from $270-$600

Alva Forms, if you are willing to pay a little higher to get a very accurate 3D body measurement and custom make your dress form for your ideal shape of your brand’s clientele to develop your patterns. Alvanon company offers that. They are well known in the industry and chosen by many big brands. Their prices range from $1200- $4000

TSC company is also selling Dress Forms. The company based in New Jersey and they ship to everywhere in U.S and Internationally, they also can be bought on Amazon.


More places that sell dress forms are below.