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How to Make Your Own Mannequin

Updated on September 19, 2014
Mannequin Doodle by Rachel Field
Mannequin Doodle by Rachel Field

A Resource for People Who Want to Make their Own Mannequin

These are just some of my ideas and haven't been fully tested - you may find that you can think of a better way to do things.

Even if you already have your own mannequin you might want to make something that's exactly your size - I remember talking to a dressmaker a few years ago who wanted to make clothes for herself, but she kept having to adjust her mannequin to different sizes because of jobs she took on from other people. She decided she'd make her own duct tape mannequin so that she didn't keep having to lose the right settings on her adjustable mannequin.

Maybe your mannequin doesn't adjust up to your size (I have that problem too!) - don't worry about having to spend hours padding your mannequin up to the right size - make a mannequin that is exactly your size - with all your bumps in the right place!

You Will Need...

Mannequin Kit List

An over-sized t-shirt

or a trash bag

Duct tape

or gummed paper tape

Some form of stuffing

A friend

Scissors

An Over-sized T-shirt

You need to use an over-sized t-shirt as the base of your mannequin, unless you love the feel of your skin getting ripped off!

Choose any t-shirt you like, whatever colour you want. It doesn't matter.

You'll want the t-shirt to be a large one that covers over your hips.

Note: This process will ruin your t-shirt so use one that you're not worried about saying goodbye to!

Perry Ellis Men's V-Neck Tee Shirt,Bright White,XL
Perry Ellis Men's V-Neck Tee Shirt,Bright White,XL

I picked this t-shirt because it was the first one I came across but you can really use any old t-shirt that you have.

It's probably best not to pick anything too lightweight - although the duct tape (or gummed tape) will make a good shell for your mannequin - you don't want it to be too flimsy as the shape might be lost during the "stuffing" process.

Also, don't pick anything too thick as you'll be adding to your measurements.

 

Trash Bags

If you don't want to ruin a perfectly good t-shirt then raid the kitchen!

Find a trash bag, cut a hole for your head and two holes for your arms and you're ready to get taped!

Some Duct Tape Or...

The duct tape is going to form the outside of your mannequin - we're going to use it to pull the t-shirt into the shape of your body.

Warning! Don't tape it directly onto your body! Don't tape it so tight that you can't breathe properly!

3M Scotch 1160-A Multi Purpose Duct Tape, 60 yds Length x 2" Width
3M Scotch 1160-A Multi Purpose Duct Tape, 60 yds Length x 2" Width

Duct tape is pretty cool stuff - you can use it to make wallets and apparently it even gets rid of verucas!

This tape will make a great outside shell to your mannequin.

 

Gummed Paper Tape

You can use gummed paper tape instead of duct tape but it may not be as sturdy as the duct tape.

Stuffing

You need stuffing to fill the outer shell of your mannequin.

You don't need to use this stuff - you could use old clothes or an old pillow or duvet!

Mountain Mist Pillowloft Pillowforms, 12-inch-by-12-inch
Mountain Mist Pillowloft Pillowforms, 12-inch-by-12-inch

The advantage of using stuffing over fabric or old pillows etc is that it's lightweight and you're also not going to get any weird bits that are forcing your mannequin into the wrong shape.

You might need more than one pack to fill a whole mannequin!

 

Scissors

The other reason for using a t-shirt as a base for your mannequin is that you're going to need to be cut out of all that tape at the end - you can't cut a decent line in tape when it's stuck to a body! Not to mention the fact that you'd lose the shape of the mannequin in the ripping-it-off process.

Making Your Mannequin

1. Cut off the sleeves of your t-shirt.

2. Put on your over-sized t-shirt.

3. Get your friend to start taping you up with the duct tape - make sure that there aren't any unsightly creases in the fabric. You want the extra length to the t-shirt, not the extra width so feel free to cut away some of the excess t-shirt at the sides - or carefully fold it against your skin so it's trapped under the tape in an even and neat way.

4. Get your friend to start taping you up - draw the tape horizontally around your body - making sure it clings to your body shape. Be careful not to tape too tight as you want to be able to breathe still! You want to tape from below the hips and right up to the neckline.

5. Once your body shape is all taped up get your friend to cut the t-shirt carefully off you - do this up the back and always be very carefully not to cut someone's skin!

6. Get your friend to hold the shell of your mannequin in place whilst you tape that back seam up - make sure you do it thoroughly because this edge will be a weak point.

7. You can make a neck for your mannequin by taking a piece of fabric and stuffing it with stuffing or old fabric to make a ball. Shove this ball up from the bottom of your mannequin into the neck hole and hold it there in place whilst your friend duct tapes over the top of it to attach it to the main body of your mannequin.

8. Next turn your mannequin shell upside down and begin stuffing it. You can use toy stuffing, kapok, old pillows, fabric scraps, old clothes. The choice is yours.

Be careful not to stretch the shape of your mannequin by over-stuffing and don't under-stuff! Try to get a good solid shape.

9. Once you're done with the stuffing then duct tape over the bottom of your mannequin to complete it.

10. Now you need to think about making a stand.

How To Make A Paper Tape Mannequin

Put Your Fashion Skills to Use!

If you already know how to draft patterns then why not make a mannequin using your own pattern drafting skills.

You will need a heavy weight or sturdy fabric, your sewing gear and some stuffing.

Just draw up a pattern for your body, cut the pattern out in fabric, sew it together, make a "neck ball" as described in the previous section, sew a base in place at the bottom of your mannequin and stuff it!

Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear

One of the things I still cherish from my costume degree is a selection of instructions I was given for drafting patterns.

If you know how to draft a basic block of anything then you have the map for making your own clothes. You don't need to continuously keep buying different patterns for different styles - all you'll need is your imagination and an overview of how pattern pieces fit together.

Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear
Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear

If you don't know how to draft patterns from scratch then find a book that will teach you.

Pattern drafting can often be quite difficult - some people find it much easier to use a mannequin and drape fabric over it - but a basic female or male block isn't so hard to produce and the process will give you a good idea of the shape of the human body.

 

Ideas for Making a Stand For Your Mannequin

Mannequin Stand Kit List

Broom handle

or a suitable branch

Tree stand

Bucket

Plaster

Please bear in mind that I haven't tried any of these processes myself so if you can think of something better then go for it!

Broom Handle

You need a long pole for your mannequin stand so that you can use your mannequin for making dresses as well as making tops!

You need to find something that will give your mannequin the right height that makes it comfortable for you to use.

Think about how far into your mannequin you want the pole to go - if it goes right in up to the neckline then it's going to make your mannequin much sturdier.

Boardwalk 136 Metal Tip Threaded Hardwood Broom Handle, 15/16" Dia x 60" Long
Boardwalk 136 Metal Tip Threaded Hardwood Broom Handle, 15/16" Dia x 60" Long

A broom handle would be perfect for a mannequin stand. It's easy to find these in hardware stores, or on Amazon, for example!

You might find that you've got something else you could use - maybe there's some sort of metal pole hanging around - or even a nice smooth branch.

 

Rotating Tree Stand

This is an idea that came from the Threadbanger Paper Tape Mannequin video shown above.

A tree stand is a simple way to clamp the pole of your mannequin in place and let it stand up.

As Christmas trees can be pretty hefty I imagine that this stand should do a good job.

The cool thing about this tree stand is apparently it rotates - a feature which might come in useful when you're working on your mannequin.

Do it Best Rotating Tree Stand for Artificial Trees Up To 7.5 Feet Tall
Do it Best Rotating Tree Stand for Artificial Trees Up To 7.5 Feet Tall

I'd never heard of tree stands before, but apparently these are for keeping Christmas trees upright (we always use a bucket and some rocks in my house!).

If you've already got one of these in your home then even better - it should be easy to take your mannequin on and off the stand for when Christmas comes round again and you need to display your Christmas tree.

 

Plaster of Paris

Plaster of Paris could be used to make a stand for your mannequin.

Warning! Plaster of Paris gets very hot when water is added to it. So, if you're going to use it to make a stand for your mannequin then please be very careful - do not stick anything other than the broom handle into it! I've heard horror stories about people losing their fingers.

I've added a link to a metal bucket below as I thought a plastic bucket wouldn't be able to hold Plaster of Paris without melting or splitting but please be aware that metal conducts heat!

If you're going to try making a stand this way then please take all the precautions you need to and make sure you're doing it outside and away from anything that can be damaged by heat.

Dap 10312 Plaster of Paris Exterior 25-Pound
Dap 10312 Plaster of Paris Exterior 25-Pound

Bear in mind that once you've stuck your broom handle in plaster it's not going to come out again - so you'll need to think about how you're going to use your mannequin.

Do you need your mannequin to rotate?

If you do then think about making it so that the body part of it will turn on the stand.

 

Bucket

If you're using the Plaster of Paris method to make a stand then think about what to use as a sturdy container for your mannequin.

Bear in mind that the plaster will probably be quite heavy and that it will heat up a lot as it's setting.

Also think about how much plaster you might use - you don't necessarily need to fill the whole container up! You just need enough plaster to set the broom handle in place.

Don't Want to Make One?

Thinking of splashing out on buying an adjustable dress form?

Or just think that it would be cheaper to buy one than buy all the individual components and spend your time making one?

How about these?

Adjustable Dress Form (Medium)

Adjustable dressforms are great if you're going to be making clothes for lots of different sized people - remember of course that these forms will only adjust through a certain set of measurements - the dressform below is a "medium".

SINGER 12-Dial Fabric-Backed Large Adjustable Dress Form, Gray
SINGER 12-Dial Fabric-Backed Large Adjustable Dress Form, Gray

This is an adjustable dressform which means you can make it just your size by turning a few dials.

This dressfrom is a medium - other size ranges are available.

I have a similar dressform to this one, except mine is a "small" - not much good to me without extra padding!

 

Female Jersey Dress Form with Base & Necktop

I like the look of this mannequin - it looks nice at sturdy.

When I was at university we used dressforms similar to these and padded them up to the size that we needed - this is a good technique if you're only going to be working with one size for a long period of time - for example, if you're just dealing with making clothes for yourself.

New Female Jersey Dress Form with Base & Necktop.
New Female Jersey Dress Form with Base & Necktop.

This mannequin isn't adjustable but is probably a lot more sturdy than the adjustable ones and less can go wrong with it (broken dials for example).

You can build it up to your size by padding the body out with batting or wadding (use your measurements as a guide).

 

Share Your Thoughts - Reader Feedback.

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    • oddobjective profile image

      oddobjective 3 years ago

      Cool Lens and good instructions. May have to try it.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 4 years ago from USA

      This will come in real handy. I happen to need a mannequin at this time.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 4 years ago from Vermont

      Great idea and fab tutorial - now all I need to do is lose the 20 pounds I'm trying to shed so I can make my body double mannequin.

    • profile image

      MissMalaprop 4 years ago

      It's been awhile, but I've made one of these for myself! The only problem - when we were trying to cut it off of me after taping, we accidentally cut my bra too! So um... be careful not to do that!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks, Guys!!! I was desperate trying to find a used mannequin for myself... this resolves the problem and will make my family laugh as they get to tape me! I am sewing an elk hide Native American "war shirt" and tried without a mannequin but quickly realized it wouldn't work. You saved my project!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't understand why people don't just get the shirt and measure it out, and sew those areas. Then, sew the head and sleeves shut then stuff it with alot of pillow filler - then seal up the bottom. then when it's done - starch it with alot of (cold water starch?). I think this would work better then having a lumpy duck-tape mannequin and it would be easier also if you made it about a half inch tight so when you stuff it - it really fills up the areas you need.

    • dawnsnewbeginning profile image

      dawnsnewbeginning 4 years ago

      Great idea!

    • ArtzeeChris LM profile image

      ArtzeeChris LM 4 years ago

      This is a super great idea! I had heard about this before in general but did not know the steps to go about making one. and had not even thought about making a base. I look forward to trying this one out!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      You guys ar great. I'm going to try making a Mannequin too. Thank You. Iliana.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      hi I'm really interested in the video on how to make your very own personalized mannequin but i don't quite get how you're supposed to stuff it with both end open

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I thoroughly enjoyed your friendly tutorial..great ideas and simply stated. Am currently "building" a child size form to hold my fashions while photographing them for my Etsy shop HeavenlyKidz. Next effort : a "making" form..Yay and "ta".

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Fantastic information. Thank you!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Awesome Lens and Information. Thanks for sharing ;-)

    • profile image

      Denims_Home 5 years ago

      Wow!! & ty

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 5 years ago

      Practical for those aspiring for making own clothes and desiging them. Congrads on your Squidoo level 61. Thanks.

    • ragtimelil profile image

      ragtimelil 5 years ago

      Great! I've got to try this!

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      Very useful And when you don't need mannequin, you can put it in front of door as a guard;-)

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      How inventive to make your own dressmakers mannequin! I really liked your woven material dress too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      dats cool i need it 4 a project

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 6 years ago

      I gave my friend at work an old t-shirt so she could make one of these, she was supposed too post a youtube video about the creation process, but she hasn't made it yet. I can't wait to see how one comes out.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @hlkljgk: Thanks for visiting :)

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @darciefrench lm: Thanks for visiting :D

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 6 years ago from Western Mass

      cool, never thought of that

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 6 years ago

      Brilliant ideas! Blessed.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 6 years ago

      What an interesting and unique lens! It never occurred to me one could make a mannequin - very cool.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @DelightfulDanie: Thanks for visiting :D

    • DelightfulDanie profile image

      DelightfulDanie 6 years ago

      Interesting! I will be sure to come to this lens if I plan on making a mannequin.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @CofCJenny LM: Thanks so much for visiting :D Hope the sewing goes well!

    • profile image

      CofCJenny LM 6 years ago

      Love this lens! I've been meaning to get back into sewing, and learning how to do it properly, so this was quite inspirational to get my butt back into gear to make clothes.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @SofiaMann: Thanks for visiting :D

    • Rachel Field profile image
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      Rachel Field 6 years ago

      @Heather426: Thanks :D

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Very useful and interesting lens.thank you!

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 7 years ago

      Fantastic lens. Congratulations.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @spritequeen lm: Thanks for visiting and commenting :D

    • spritequeen lm profile image

      spritequeen lm 7 years ago

      This is a really fun project!! Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @howdoyouspellst: Thanks for visiting! Glad you enjoyed it! Good luck with your mannequin :D

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @emmaklarkins: Thank you so much :D

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 7 years ago

      The most I've ever sewn is aprons from a pattern, but if I ever decide to get more into it, this is a genius idea! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel!

    • howdoyouspellst profile image

      howdoyouspellst 7 years ago

      Awesome ideas!! I read all of the instructions on how to make a mannequin, and I'm really considering doing it!! It's an awesome idea -- I don't know why I never thought of it before!! I've always wanted a mannequin -- I'm a fashion student, after all. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Now I kind of thought that duct tape was going to be in this lens somewhere.

      This is a good resources for making a mannequin. ~ Thanks for sharing it!

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Sylvestermouse: Thanks so much for visiting! :D Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      What a fabulous idea and great instructions! I love my mannequin, but you are right, I sew for others and I hate to keep changing the measurements. It really would be nice to have one just my size :)

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Sami4u LM: Thanks for visiting and what a great idea!

    • Sami4u LM profile image

      Sami4u LM 7 years ago

      Hi,

      Good instructions. I am thinking that these could also be used for dummies for Halloween decorations. Thanks for the idea on how to make mannequins.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @nukemdomis lm: I wouldn't recommend any of the methods here for heads!!

      Thanks for visiting.

    • nukemdomis lm profile image

      nukemdomis lm 7 years ago

      I want to know how to make my own mannequin heads.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      What a great topic for a lens, I would have never thought you could make your own, I love learning something! - Kathy

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @retta719: Thanks so much - glad you like it :D

    • retta719 profile image

      Loretta 7 years ago from United States

      This is a brilliant idea! Standard mannequins are never the right shape in the right places, so making your own to fit YOU is just a fantastic idea.

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Carmel Aaron: Thanks so much :D Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Carmel Aaron profile image

      Carmel Aaron 7 years ago

      Great Lens!

      This makes me want to begin sewing again. It's been a while.

      I love this, as most people who actually sew want to have clothing that

      fits well. A custom made mannequin would fit the bill.

      Thumbs-up

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @PromptWriter: Thanks for visiting! I hope they find it useful :)

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 7 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      This is awesome. I've forwarded on to some plus size friends who sew!

    • Rachel Field profile image
      Author

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      @Blue_Sphinx: That's an interesting tip! I'd not thought of actually making patterns pieces out of them!

    • profile image

      Blue_Sphinx 7 years ago

      I've been making duct tape patterns for people for years. In my Medieval/Renaissance recreation group one sometimes needs very customized, close-fitting patterns, and a generic, off-the-shelf pattern just won't do. I've occasionally considered making dummies out of them, but most often I use the results to make pattern pieces that fit the individual. I haven't tried using the paper.

    • Laniann profile image

      Laniann 7 years ago

      I don't know about making a duck tape mannequin. But, the paper tape mannequins are great, one was made on me for me. They are perfect for the perfect fit.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      You really can use duct tape for just about anything!