How to Adjust a Dress Form


Dress forms are a fresh way to display clothing in stores or for photographs, and the best way to get the perfect fit when sewing. They are shaped like a human and adjustable, so you can make the shape of your dress form mimic your body. Modern dress forms have dials, which allow them to be adjusted according to measurements, taking the guesswork out of their use. However, since everybody is different, using the dress form is still never an exact science.

Things You'll Need

  • Dress form
  • Sewing tape measure
  • Pins
  • Pantyhose
  • Batting
  • Measure yourself, assuming you are adjusting the form to fit your body. Measure around your shoulders, around the chest above the breasts, around the chest at the peak of your breasts while wearing a bra, around your ribs just below the breasts (this is the breast line), around your natural waist (the thinnest part of your body), around your hips and around your behind. Measure vertically as well, from hip to shoulder and hip to breast line.

  • Use the dials to adjust the settings on your form to the measurements you recorded. Not all of the measurements listed are adjustable on your dress form, including the vertical measurements, but they will come in handy later.

  • Measure your adjusted dress form. Ensure it matches the measurements you wrote down. If it does not, make minor tweaks with the dials. In places where the dials do not adjust, use padding to make up the difference. For example, if the form needs more inches in the rear, it will require padding. The padding must be smooth, so stretch the pantyhose over the section you need to add padding to and insert the batting. Smooth it out and measure. Pin the pantyhose in place. If necessary, add inches to the breasts. Do this by putting a bra on the dress form and stuff it with the batting until the measurements match up. Pin the batting and bra securely in place. If you need to add inches to the shoulders, rip shoulder pads from an old shirt and pin them on top.

  • Tie a ribbon around where your true waist is located, and use it as a reference point when pinning patterns onto the dress form.

Tips & Warnings

  • The most important size when choosing a dress form is breast size, since these vary widely and not every dress form accommodates every breast size.
  • Flat quilting batting that can be cut into oval shapes with scissors and layered is often easier to use than pillow batting.

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  • Photo Credit fashionable female dress image by terex from
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