Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A dress form that looks like me.... uh-oh, does THAT really look like me?!?!?!

I don't know which is worse, that this strange being wrapped in paper tape represents my true body shape, or that I would actually dare put a photo of it on the internet for all to see!?! Both are pretty disturbing. :)

I arrived in this compromising position last week after I came to the realization that I need my own dress form. I experienced several highly unsuccessful attempts at redrafting the back bodice of a dress pattern, and threw up my hands in dismay. The experience was so frustrating, and I felt so hopeless in my ability to sew something that fits, that I realized I needed a body double to pin and fit garments to on a whim. Thus was born the idea of finding a body double dress form. I did some internet research, read a number of instructions and watch one highly informative video before I finally settled on the paper tape method of construction. Then, armed with a giant rolled of glue-backed, reinforced paper tape, an old t-shirt, some duct tape, and a sponge and bowl of water, we set to work.

The "we" I refer to is me and my husband. Did I mention that my accommodating, every patient, kind, giving (and let's not forget handsome) husband took the time and effort to wrap me in paper tape, in a mostly successful attempt to create a a custom dress form of me? He did. The experience itself was pretty humorous and more than a bit awkward. In fact, it occasionally felt like our efforts were bordering on some form of weird craft-related bondage play. "Stand still" he would say in his most authoritative and manly voice any time I craned my neck to try and see what he was doing. If I fidgeted too much he would give my behind a little swat, only I could not react, because I was busy trying not to contort the wet, paper tape swaddling my figure (or lack thereof, if you look at the finished form). You get the picture... it was highly humorous and more than a little weird.

In fact, I found myself bursting into laughter spontaneously, and while there was no mirror in the kitchen where we attempted this activity, I could catch my reflection in the microwave door and the pot lids handing on the wall, and it was too funny. There is nothing like watching yourself get wrapped in tape by your husband to inspire the giggles.

In all truth, I think a custom made dress form is perhaps one of the biggest blows to self esteem that any of us can face. For me, it highlighted all of the flaws that I work to camouflage through clothing on a daily basis. But then again, a custom made dress form is also a good dose of reality, and it is a very useful tool. Already my dress form is allowing me to piece together patterns and test for fit before I start sewing, and that is worth quite a bit of private humiliation and a wee bit of self loathing in my book.

Plus, seeing my shape in paper tape helps me to remember that I am more than the shape of my body. No matter how far my dress form's stomach protrudes or how lumpy its breasts look, I know that the dress form does not reflect who I truly am. It does not have my head situated on its stiff brown shoulders, so it cannot reflect my face, my smile, my eyes, my personality and the true essence of Kate. Looking at the form, I am reminded that I am infinitely more beautiful than my body shape. We are all more than the shape of our physical selves. That is what makes us beautiful, and that knowledge is what allows me to feel content with myself.

Even now, with a giant paper tape sculpture of my trunk laying on my kitchen table, I can remain confident in myself. Plus, it helps that I have a wonderful husband who wrinkles his nose every time he walks by the tape monstrosity, eying the dress form, than eying me up and down, before saying "I just don't think that looks like you" as he gives me a kiss on the cheek. Beauty really does remain in the eye of the beholder. ;-)


Anonymous said...

WOW! Kate - you are an awesome writer! This piece is worthy of items I've seen in sewing magazines! I've been thinking of making my own dress form, but the twinkle in my husband's eye when I mention wrapping me in tape has been a bit forboding... I tease that he might not let me out!

I am so glad to find you, your blogs are inspiring and your friends comments are noteworthy. I think the best seamstresses learn by trial and error and from their friends. Because every body is different, there is no one way to fit everyone. You are on the right track. I would recommend a collection of books, because sometimes you need more than one idea of how to solve a problem. The older the books, the better - my experience is they have more detail.

There is also a theory on sizing by Nancy Zieman. She says to base your bodice size on your front width, the distance across your chest between your shoulder sockets. If you measure 14", then you would purchase a size 14. The sizes go up and down by 1/2" increments. The theory is that a large bust might be out of proportion to neck and shoulders. Refer to her book, "The Busy Woman's Fitting Book".

For example, I fitted a bodice for a lady whose bust measurement said she needed a size 22-24, but front width was 15" or a size 18. By using the multi-sized pattern, I cut the neck and shoulders on a size 18 and the bust on a 22 plus. The result was an off the shoulder collar that didn't droop or sag, and a well-fitted mock-wrap bodice that didn't bunch or pull.

I realize this doesn't apply to your current project, but it might be helpful in the future. I do agree that multi-piece cups for your sundress might work better than one single piece.

I can't wait to read how it all turns out!

ohmypuddin said...

How is this not the banner photo for your blog? It should be, it's awesome.

Anonymous said...

Katie! I love you. You are so funny:) and beautiful:)

Anonymous said...

Laura M, Nancy Zieman's suggestion is not a bad one, but doesn't apply across the board. For instance, I measure 17 1/2 inches from crease to crease in the front. My back measures 13 inches, and my back neck length (length-to-waist) is 15 inches. My recollection from one of the fitting books (Nancy's, I believe!) is that my measure from scye-to-scye in the front is very nearly one of the largest (standard) pattern sizes offered; my back measurement is sprawling somewhere around a size 6 or 8 pattern. Am I a freak of nature? Well, without necessarily committing to that, it is one of the reasons that factors such as posture, so often overlooked in "how to make things fit" sections, can be absolutely vital. My dear mother always had me stand up straight- shoulders back - and this, in fact, is the result: a perfect shape. Perfect for 1903. And it results in many, many (many, many, MANY) pattern alterations for me, too. Just something to keep in mind if what seems like a perfect solution doesn't quite work the way you hope!