[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 pattern pieces.

Here you can see how I altered the Armhole Seam Allowance down to 1/4”. Until you start to cut out you can make any changes you need to so it is always worth stepping back and checking everything before you get out your blades.

All pieces are then cut on the Seam

Allowance lines (double layer remember).

It is very very easy to mix around these pattern pieces and sew them together incorrectly so I made labels and very carefully separated the two fabric pattern pieces for each piece and added the label at the correct orientation to the second piece (i.e. flipping it horizontally) keeping the first fabric piece attached to the pattern. I used the initials of the name of each piece for the labels for example Top Back A would be labelled TBA. Use whatever works for you, but it is important to track everything at this stage.

Here you can see the first column of fabric pieces on the right split up into labelled piece and piece with pattern attached. I did pin the labels onto the fabric to ensure that they did not drop off.

That process is then repeated for every pattern piece until they are all separated.

Here is the next row separated.

.... and a close up of the first seperated column to make it clearer for you to see....

I decided to sew thisTest Garment together with red thread as although it does not show through too much you can see on this test piece (pinned to another completed Body Form) that it does make the Seams and therefore the Guidelines stand out a little more visually, which will help with garment creation, but this is just a personal a design choice.

All of the seams are then stitched, pressing each seam stitched as you go gives the best results. Don’t forget to use your Fork Pins to get the seams perfectly matched up. To keep a little order to this process as with making any Test Garment I stitched all seams below the Waist first and worked on the labelled pieces. Then the other side of the Lower pieces were stitched together.

Here are all of the upper pieces stitched and the lower pieces stitched leaving the Waist and Centre Back Seam open.

Then these two pieces are stitched together.

Bias Binding Strips are then cut the width is personal choice somewhere between I allowed ½” for seam allowances and 1/2” for the binding so 1” strips would be sufficient. The length needs to be long enough to join them to the neckline and the armhole with 1” extra for any overlap so check the measurements on the Base Template to determine Neckline and Armhole lengths.

Refer to Auxiliary Reference Information - Draft - Bindings, Facings, Linings and Auxiliary Reference Information - Sewing – Bindings for further information on Bias Bindings. There are a few ways to sew on Bindings and here you could get creative or just keep following these instructions. Remember to keep the position of the edge of your Base Template Neckline and Armholes correct for your final piece. In other words if you cut a 1/4" Seam Allowance for Neckline/Armholes when you cut the shapes out then use it exactly when sewing on the Binding, no more and no less, these positions are important Guidelines for you.

The Bias strips are then pressed in half lengthwise.

For the Neckline a bias strip is pinned to the anterior side of the Test Garment lining up all raw edges from Centre Back to Centre Back.

Here is a close up.

The binding is then stitched with a ¼” Seam Allowance as in this example ¼” was used when cutting.

All the way across.

The Seam Allowances for the binding edge can then be snipped to the curve help with the curve when the binding is turned to the posterior side. This seam could also be graded if you prefer but on this Test Garment not really necessary.

The Binding is then pressed upwards and could be left like that if you prefer. But you would need to remember that you have now altered the Neckline Position on the Base Template.

Or just turned the Binding into the posterior side and pin in place favouring the garment, i.e. the Binding is around 1/16" inset so that it does not show on the anterior side.

The binding can be under stitched which does assist with the turn and I would usually do this on a garment but on this Test Garment that is not being worn and just staying in place on the Body Form I simply edge stitched along the bottom edge.

Here is what it looks like on the inside.

Then if you prefer you could bind the

Armholes in the same way.

Here you can see how I have marked on the Hem just to highlight it for the photos.

The hem is then turned up to the posterior side and pinned and stitched down, nothing fancy required – it is only to neaten the bottom edge really.

It does help if you mark the seam allowance for the Centre Back in pencil all the way down on both sides before you carry on at this stage too.

Next is the fun part. Set the Body Form to just under the size that you require and try the Test Garment on it that way you will be able to see how much you need to pad out and in which areas. You may have to keep trying on the Test Garment periodically and it is a little trial and error until you get it right. Cutting padding and pinning on is an easy process and you just have a play around with it really. I do think it is a good idea to pad out then for a larger bust by placing on an old bra with your usual strap position and pad the bra out.

At this stage it is not a pretty sight but you will not see any of this once it is done and you can see how it is coming together.

To create the pads for the bra simple make a collection of circles grading the sizes and pinning them one lay at a time to fit into the bra. Of course you could just place gown pads in but making them yourself is a little more cost effective and you have more control over the shape.

The Test Garment is then positioned on the Body Form finally and the Centre Back seam can be clipped with the Quilting clips in place ready for stitching.

Before you stitch it up just check that everything is fitting snuggly and ensure that the Bust and shoulders are padded sufficiently to properly fill the Test Garment.

Then starting from the bottom start to stitch up the seam using a ladder stitch which is essentially a Blind Hem Stitch going vertically up the seam taking a little from each side as you go up.

Here is what it looks like as you pull the stitches to start to close up the seam, and invisible stitch to the anterior.

As you move up the seam pulling the two sides and ensuring the stitches are on the marked seam line.

Here is the same shot on another Body Form, you can see here that a slightly crisper fabric was used and the result is really nice.

That really is all there is to it and you now have the completed Body Form.

This finished Body Form looks very square in shape which reflects the shape of the actual Body. A little extra shaping could have been added under the Bust but be careful of getting carried away and changing the Base Template too much.

Its not perfect but for me it is enough to create all the help I need.

Here is a quick look at another Body Form created for a different body shape using slightly crisper fabric.

Please post your pictures and ideas in the members gallery so that we can all see your creations!

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