how to make your own dress form clothing display from Va-Voom Vintage

I needed a new dress form for my etsy shop. I love antique dress forms but they're very delicate and can be quite expensive. I considered buying a new one that looked vintage but I didn't want to drop over $200 on a new dress form right now, just because mine isn't as pretty as I would like- so I decided to make my own.

I've been working on this project for a few weeks and she is finally finished! Her name is Pandora.

I should have taken pictures as I made her to show you the process but honestly, I had no idea if this would work out. Since it did, I will probably make another in a smaller and a third in a larger size in the future and I'll snap more pics of the process then. In the mean time, here's the text how-to:

First, I set my current dress form to the desired measurements and wrapped her in plastic wrap, secured with duct tape. If you don't have a dress form, you can make your own to your measurements with duct tape and a friend

I picked up a tub of wallpaper paste on clearance at Ace Hardware for $2 and a pack of brown paper bags for yard waste. Pj ripped the bags into strips while I thinned out about 3 cups of wallpaper paste with about 1 cup water. The water to paste ratio really doesn't matter a whole lot- just thin it so it isnt quite so thick. Off with the wedding ring and into paper mache!


 Using the paper and paste, I paper mached the whole dress form, careful to keep the strips smooth around her curves and overlapping them slightly so every bit of her was covered. I did 4 layers, letting each layer dry completely in between (each layer takes about a day to dry).

When the 4 layers were finished and dry, I cut all the way up the center back and across the shoulders and Pj helped me peel the new shape off of my dress form, which was a little tricky!

 Next, I sealed the center back with a strip of duct tape and covered in a layer of paper mache.

 I stuffed the entire form with brown paper bags and newspaper, packed very tightly. This helps to give her a sturdy shape so she can support the weight of clothes and stand up to being used for more than decoration.

She needed a pretty stand so I went to Store Supply Warehouse, which is only about 20 minutes from home and picked out this pretty white wooden dress form stand for $25. They have lots of other stands if the white wood isn't your style. I bought a finial for her neck as well but it was bigger than I had hoped and looked kinda silly so I didn't use it.

We bought a length of PVC pipe from the hardware store, which fits over the stand so she has support all the way up through her neck. Without the pipe, she wobbles all over the place. I cut a large piece of cardboard to fit over the bottom of her to act as a base. I drilled a hole through the center of the base and  Pj wiggled her "spine" all the way through the packing materials. So her height is adjustable for longer gowns, we fixed a small C clamp at the bottom of her base.

I covered her in one more layer of paper mache for good measure and coated the edge around the base so the cardboard is covered around the edges.

upcycled dress form via Cut Out and Keep

I saw this dress form covered in pattern pieces from Cut Out and Keep so I did the same with a 1950's dress pattern from my stash. I used the wallpaper paste to coat the top of the pattern pieces and let her dry overnight.

It's a very long, messy process- more difficult than I expected but if you're a fearless crafter like myself and want to give it a whirl, it's very fun! It's not a toddler friendly project so if you're a mama of little ones, it helps to have someone to keep the children at bay. I did this in the basement with one of the paper bags ripped open and spread out on the floor. Next time, I may ask Pj if he can build a wire cage for her bottom half like those beautiful antique dress forms that I love. Here she is at work...