[Project] Creating a Body Form for your body shape

If you are making clothing for yourself it can be a little tricky getting them to fit well every time if you don’t have a friend available on call to keep pinning for you, so that is why you create a Base Template to get you as close as possible to start with.

Once you have this completed then you have an opportunity to create a Body Form that is very close in shape and size to your own body. This will allow you to pin fabric pieces on for any garment or drape fabric and stand back and look at the shapes, outline and overall design.

It is not a perfect solution but I feel the help it gives me is well worth the effort in creating it, after all quite a bit of work is already done once you have made your Base Template. Its also a great weekend project that you know will save you so much time and money and after having made a few I actually enjoy making them its really fun to see the Body Form taking shape and looking at the final result to see how close it actually is to the body that you made it for. You will only need to make one if you are just doing for yourself and you never loose or gain over 10lbs in weight. If you do find yourself making more than one, each time you make one you will get better at it, and come up with new ideas of how to improve your technique.

There are of course many ways to create a Body Form close to your own shape but I have made a few using the following method and I am very pleased with the results and I am happy to share this with you if you would like to have a go.

It is recommended to read this whole Unit before starting which will help you form your plan of action.



You will need to have worked through each of the Modules up to and including Module 4 and also worked through creating the Test Garment for the Base Template (or at least Module 3 and 4 and created the Test Garment). These Modules and Units work though how to take your body measurements for a Bodice, how to draft the Front and the Back Base Template and then how to construct it, fit and alter the Master Base Template.

Of course if you already have a Sloper that you have made previously (not detailed in the Threadbox), and you are happy with it then you could use that or that pattern, but read on first because you will see that by using the Base Template you get lots of Guidelines that will help you when you come to creating garments especially if you intend to work through the draping modules.

Tools Required

The two lists provided in Module 4 for Creating a Draft and a Test Garment are also useful for upgrading the Body Form so it is good to keep these to hand.

1. Tools for Creating a Draft

2. Tools for Creating and Testing a Garment

Extra to these lists are further items required to upgrade the Body Form;

  • Body Form or some sort of dress makers’ mannequin. Any style will do, the more you pay for it the more features you can get. But I don’t believe you need to pay too much especially if you are just starting out.

  • I have never used any of the really expensive Body Forms but I prefer the adjustable Body Forms simply because my weight is continually on the move and I can go up and down 3 dress sizes and if I am making clothes for anyone else I can alter the size of it quite easily.

  • I think the best thing is to get a size close to your body size and then pad it up from there, what you can’t do is make it smaller than the dress size you are, for example if you buy one size 10 – 14 then you can’t use it for size 8 garments but you could pad it up to a size 16 or even 18.

  • Adjustable body forms do create gaps as you make it bigger but if you are padding out then you do fill the gaps so it is not an issue, for example if you were a size 10 you would adjust down to its smallest size and tape up any gaps. If you were a size 12 you could either adjust it or pad up to your size. The interesting thing is that it is not just size that differs between people but it is also shape so by padding you can change the shape, it’s simply a matter of looking at your body and then trying to match that to the mannequin, and the Base Template is a good way to do this.

  • Fabric Clips (optional). They can help pinch the Base Template/Test Garment into place at the back once created while you sew up the Back Seam.

  • Pins. For pinning in padding, a good way to use up any bent or more blunt pins that you would usually discard (I have a jar with a small hole in the top and if I have a bent or scratchy pin or worn needle I discard it into there and sometimes will restraighten pins with my jewellery making tools and reuse the pin).

  • Quilters Padding. This is assuming that you are upgrading the Body Form to a larger size so the amount of padding required is reflective of the amount of extra you need to add to the Body Form to fill out the finished Base Template/Test Garment.

  • Bra. An everyday worn bra is sufficient. Although you can pad out without one, having one helps you map out the position of the breasts better as you have already set the bra straps in the correct position.

  • White sticky labels. To identify the pattern pieces once the fabric is cut out.

Creating the Test Garment

After making your Test Garment for your Base Template and doing any necessary adjustments to the pattern you would be in a position to either use the Test Garment you have made for the Body Form or you could make a fresh Test Garment for your Body Form.

I usually create a fresh Test Garment for the Body Form as generally they do get chopped up during fittings and you do want all seams to be as accurate as possible because you will be relying on these seams to set the position of some of the fabric pieces you may be using in future garments.

An advantage to creating a completely new Test Garment is so that you can also do a final test fitting to confirm that you are happy with the fit. After all the Body Form is only as good as this garment.

Also on this Test Garment I make sure that I do have seams at all Guidelines Vertically and Horizontally as these help with determining positions for fabric when making other garments. I also then have an opportunity to manipulate the Test Garment a little for the purpose of using it on the Body Form for example I allow 1” – 2” for a Back Seam to help with the stitching of this seam when closing the Test Garment onto the Body Form. I never put a zip in the Back because I like to be accurate with my pinning on a Body Form and don’t like working around a zip although it is your choice.

I also make my Test Garment a little longer so that it covers the Body Form to the Base and add in an extra 2” for a hem and also add a Bound edge to the Armhole and Neckline just to keep it all tidy and neat.

Bindings are covered in Auxiliary Reference Information - Draft - Bindings, Facings, Linings and also in Auxiliary Reference Information - Sewing – Bindings.

So by creating a new Test Garment you can think ahead and plan a better finish, of course you also get the opportunity to use a different colour or patterned fabric if you prefer, although I like to just use a standard cream quilters cotton which I think helps not to distract too much from what you might be working on.

If you are going to use a Test Garment you have already made then you can skip down to near the end of this unit and just look at how I padded and closed up the Test Garment on the Body Form.

A Fresh Start for the Test Garment

Assuming you would like to recreate the Test Garment with the few changes detailed above then the follow describes how I created this.

Using the Master Base Template pattern either draw around it if you preserved it or trace it off Front and Back draft onto a new sheet of paper. Ensure you trace off the Outline and all dart positions, Waist and Back Shaping and all Guidelines. The Back draft in this photo has an extra-large Back Waist shaping due to a sway back adjustment, yours may not be quite so deep.

I wanted to cut each piece of this Test Garment down the Princess line and across every Guideline to create seams to define guideline positions on the Body Form (although this is personal choice). To keep track of all of the pieces I labelled every part of the draft on the Front and the Back and also noted on each piece where the Side is or Centre Back/Front which helps with identifying Seam Allowances later and helps with construction.

At the Base of both the Front and the Back drafts I also extended straight down a few inches to ensure that the whole of my Body Form was going to be covered to its Base (just measure it from the shoulder to get a rough idea of what you would need to add and also added a couple of inches for a hem to tidy it up a little across the bottom, but that is of course your choice.

Once labelled and extended cut out the Front Draft and the Back Draft and it is useful at this point to add Grainlines, adding Grainlines to each pattern piece will help when positioning on the fabric later.

Then the pattern pieces need to be cut up. Here all the Horizontal Guidelines on the Back Draft have been cut and Waist Shaping cut away.

Then the vertical lines for the Princess Line is cut, the Waist Darts and the Shoulder

Dart and the Back Shaping is cut away.

The same is done for the Front Draft leaving one piece to deal with the Armhole Dart.

The Top Front piece (as I labelled it), with the Armhole Dart is cut down the Dart and

the Dart is then closed up.

I did not pre-treat my fabric as this is not a garment that is going to be laundered and I like the crispness of the fabric. In fact if I was going to do anything it would be to add starch to make it crisper, I have not done this yet but maybe on my next Body Form. Other than that the fabric is prepared in the same way as preparing for creating a Test Garment, folded in half-length wise pinned down the selvages and ironed flat.

Each pattern piece is laid onto the fabric following the grain leaving around 1” between all pieces to allow for ½” Seam Allowances on every side. It is personal choice but you may choose to only use ¼” seam allowances for the Necklines and Armholes especially if adding binding to get a neat finish. Also adding a larger seam allowance for Centre Back between 1” and 1 ½” should be sufficient to help strengthen the Back for clipping and stitching the Test Garment onto the Body Form.

The pieces are small enough to play around with the positions a little to make the most of the fabric space. I pin out as much as I can for the size of my table and then work on that when those pieces are completed shifting the fabric up and then working on the last pieces.

As each piece needs a Seam Allowance and this is not fashion fabric I don’t feel the need to be precious so I am happy to simple draw the Seam Allowances on to the fabric with pencil. Using a ruler marking out ½” on each piece or the respective amount of Seam Allowance that you need.

Here is a ½” Seam Allowance drawn down one side of a pattern piece.

This photo shows the adjoining seam that is curved drawn at 1/2” than I later changed to 1/4” as I did make a mistake and forgot I was binding this seam……we can’t be perfect all the time!

Here you can see the extra sized seam allowance for the Centre Back.

In this photo the dotted line for the Neckline was firmed up (but remember that I later changed this to ¼”!)

Seam Allowances are then added to all of the other pieces.

Here you can see how close the Seam Allowances can get, to save fabric and avoid wastage it is worth spending a little time over where you position your