That old dressmakers model

That old dressmakers model

Sometimes people ask me: Is it worthwhile to have a dressmakers model?  My answer is usually no.  Dressmakers models have their uses though…

They lend an “authentic” air to your sewing room.

Useful to store half-made jackets, tops and dresses on.

Great for shaping collars.

Spook family members when they walk into the room and think a stranger is standing in the corner!

For displays or clothing exhibitions.

If you want to do draping on the stand.


There are limitations too.  Dressmakers models usually have no arms, legs or head.  They don’t move or squish as we do when trying on clothes.  They can’t talk!  They stay the same size and don’t lose weight or change shape when we do.  They take up space.

Some fashion designers set much store by the size of their dressmakers models, but many prefer to use a professional fit model (as in, a real live person) or simply to try the garments on as many people as possible of the approximate size.

I do own a dressmakers model but I use her so infrequently she’s stored in the shed.

I got her from a skip, for free, twenty five years ago.  I’d gone to a training session for something and ridden my bike there.  I was invited to chain my bike in an inner courtyard instead of on the street (in case it got nicked), and in the courtyard I spotted three “surplus to requirements” dressmakers models leaning upright against the rubbish skip.  I asked about them and two had been spoken for but I could have this one.  She didn’t have a stand, and I ended up cycling home very slowly holding her under my arm.

It turned out she was exactly my (twenty year old) measurements, except that I didn’t have a monobosom.


That old dressmakers model with no stand


Some years later my husband made a wooden stand for her and I mended her shoulders which had frayed.

That old dressmakers model repaired shoulders


Need to mend her neck as well.  Her calico covering is very fragile and I store her wearing a dress.

That old dressmakers model unrepaired front neck

That old dressmakers model unrepaired back neck


She made an appearance at this exhibition, wearing wedding guest attire.  She has a pale blue ensemble on, with a white fluffy hat hiding her frayed neck.

I got her out of the shed on the weekend because in the near future I’m planning to do some draping on the stand.  I thought I would make a cover for her and try and make some arms.  I’ve been doing some research on arms for dressmakers models.  Some models like this one come with an arm option.  This model has wooden poseable arms, which my children thought looked a bit creepy.  Stockmans of Paris make separate arms that are pinned on.  Fabulous Fit make bendable arms that are also pinned on.  I think Stockmans-type arms might work the best, which are pinned to the model’s shoulder.

I got started on the arms yesterday.


That old dressmakers model initial sleeve pattern

For a pattern, I used an ordinary sleeve pattern and removed all the ease.


That old dressmakers model trying on the first toile

I ran one up and tried it on my own arm.


That old dressmakers model cardboard armhole template

I made an oval template for the armhole.


That old dressmakers model making a shoulder piece pattern

Made a tentative pattern for the shoulder part


That old dressmakers model the second toile

Made some changes to the pattern then ran up toile #2, this time with an oval sewn into the armhole. Not bad; I think I could make a few changes and then cut out the real thing and stuff it.  Come back next week for a progress report!


Do you own a dressmakers model?  If so, do you use it very much?





  1. Tsu Dho Nimh on August 24, 2018 at 1:17 am

    This is a great idea.

    I am planning to have a dressmakers form because fitting on myself is not possible.

    Victorian dressmakers fitted those large tight cuffs on an arm – just the arm – they padded out to match the customer’s size.

    • lizhaywood on August 25, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      Thanks Tsu Dho Nimh. Have you heard of a Sew Sister? It’s a dressmakers form made from your body scan.

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