How to choose the best dressmaking mannequins

For designers and dress-makers, having the right mannequin or body form is imperative to ensure that the measurements and fit of your garment is correct. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, mannequins truly come in all different sizes, which can make choosing the right one for you a bit tricky. Luckily, we are here to help with our handy guide on how to choose the best dressmaking mannequins.

What are dressmaking mannequins?

Dressmaking mannequins are, well, exactly what it says on the tin really. Otherwise known as dress forms, dressmaking mannequins are a model of the human body (or parts of it), that allow designers and seamstresses to make, fit and drape different clothes on a stable, never-changing body stand-in. These mannequins come in a variety of materials, and often just include the torso, however others can include detachable limbs to help you make clothes that fit exactly how you want them to.

Different types of dressmaking mannequins

Dressmaking mannequins are available in various materials, each serving different purposes. The conventional professional dress form typically features a sturdy base covered with canvas or fabric. Depending on the design, it may have gentle padding in specific areas to facilitate trying on snug garments more easily. For example, forms intended for fitting lingerie prioritise flexibility and are entirely squishy, to mimic the suppleness of the human body. Regardless of the material used, it is essential to ensure that the dress form is pinnable, allowing you to insert pins as you work. This feature proves invaluable when draping fabric and using draping tape to determine style and seam lines effectively.

Professional dressmaking mannequins

Professional dress forms are specifically crafted to be used by professionals in the fashion industry. Constructed from top-notch materials, these dressmaking mannequins often feature robust metal bases and can offer a range of additional functionalities, including collapsible shoulders for trying on tops and jackets; detachable arms and legs; “skirt” bases equipped with a metal cage beneath the hips; rolling bases that can be adjusted in height; and markings indicating essential measurements such as bust, hip and waist.

When investing in a professional dress form, you are not only purchasing the physical product but also benefiting from the company’s extensive data and body metric research, making it easier to craft garments to fit specific, universal sizes.

Foam dressmaking mannequins

Foam dressmaking mannequins are exclusively crafted from foam and typically lack certain advanced features found in professional dress forms, such as collapsible shoulders or detachable body parts. Due to their foam construction, these mannequins have flexible and pliable bodies, making them a cost-effective alternative to pricier industry-standard options.

Adjustable mannequins

An excellent choice for those seeking affordability, adjustable dress forms prove particularly useful if your body measurements fluctuate or if you frequently create garments for others. 

These dress mannequins are usually hollow and covered with soft fabric, such as felt. Depending on the model, they can be easily adjusted to accommodate varying bust, waist, and hip measurements easily by turning a dial. Some models even offer the flexibility to modify neck circumference and body length. It’s important to mention that these forms may create gaps as they expand, making them more suitable for fitting and hemming tasks. 

Fabric Covered Mannequins

Fabric-covered mannequins are mannequins that have a layer of fabric or textile material wrapped around their surface. Unlike traditional mannequins, which are typically made of materials like plastic, wood, or fibreglass, fabric-covered mannequins provide a different aesthetic and functional appeal.

These mannequins are often used in retail settings, fashion displays, and clothing exhibitions. They are especially popular in stores that focus on showcasing delicate or high-end garments, as the fabric covering gives a softer and more sophisticated look to the mannequin. The fabric can be of various types, such as linen, cotton, jersey, or even custom-designed fabrics that match the brand’s image or theme.

Proportion London are proud of our unique conservation-grade fabric covered mannequins. These mannequins have been covered in conservation-grade materials that have been specifically designed to meet the high standards required for preserving and protecting valuable and sensitive artefacts. They minimise any deterioration and damage to the objects they come into contact with, and so are perfect for museum use.

How to choose the right size dressmaking mannequin for you

Dressmaker mannequins can come in many different sizes – either in the form of S,M,L,XL (etc) or in numbered sizes, similar to clothing. It is important to refer to the manufacturer’s measurement chart, as different manufacturers will use different standards of sizing.

Make sure to choose your mannequin based on measurements, rather than your clothes size – these tend to vary from store to store. When measuring yourself, take measurements of your bust, waist, hips and body length, and do this over well-fitting underwear to ensure the best fit.

How Proportion London can help

Proportion London have a range of different eco-friendly mannequins available to hire and for sale.

We can tailor your mannequin to your requirements. For example, we can add double wadding to your fabric covered mannequin to enhance its shape, texture, or visual appeal. This additional padding might offer a more realistic body shape, better draping of clothing, or a softer appearance for the mannequin. 

We can also create bespoke paper mache mannequins, depending on your requirements.

We also have extensive experience in mannequins and helping businesses to choose the best forms for them, so contact us today and one of our team will be happy to help.

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