Monday, November 21, 2011

Duck Tape Dress Form, Part 1: the model

A moment of silence, please, for my husband's old Dress Form.
The John Doll is dead, Long live The John Doll!

So, yeah. The old John Doll is officially toast. "He" doesn't stand up anymore. It leans so far back that I can't get a decent picture to save my life, even with the shoulders propped on the wall. It was a good run, nearly 4 years for something that shouldn't have lasted 2.
My wonderful husband (who either really, really loves me or is tired of being pricked with pins), agreed to stand for another dress form. Yay!

As promised, here is how I make duck tape dress forms (Part 1).

1: Supplies & Tools
Get thyself a willing model who will neither whine, complain nor press charges after not being able to move for 2.5 hours.
Get thy model a sacrificial t-shirt (preferably old & stained).
Get thy model an entertaining movie to minimize whining & complaining (Alice in Wonderland).
Thy model must have comfortable shoes.
Get thy model to the lavatory before the taping begins! (and yourself).

***Your model should stand straight with their hands on their hips. This helps to keep pelvis, back & shoulders aligned & will make your life much easier in the sewing room. Lift hand when necessary for taping.***

You'll also need several rolls of duck tape (preferably different colors - it'll make your life much easier). We went through 6 small rolls.
Some form of flat, flexible outer bracing: cane, plastic boning, zip-ties, etc.
A center pole of some kind (most important): PVC pipe, broom handle, dowel, etc.
Cross-bracing material: wood, cardboard, wooden hanger etc.
Something to fix the cross-braces with: glue, screws, tape, etc.
Something to reinforce it with: more cane, cardboard (heavy & cereal box), more duck tape, etc.
Stuffing: shredded paper, polyfill, scrap fabric (heavy), spray foam *Don't do it Past Gail! You'll regret it!*, plastic bags, whatever.
A sharpie marker.
Band-aids - these are critical!
Light weight fabric that you can easily pin to, needle, thread.
Hot glue gun & glue sticks that actually fit in the gun.

Keep in mind that you don't want this to get too heavy, but you need it to be sturdy. Decide ahead of time if this is going to be a shelf-sitter or a hanging design.
Mine is going to be a shelf sitter.
In "Part 2" I'm going to use spray-foam for a (hopefully) sturdy body around a lightweight wooden frame.

2: Taping Basic Body Lines:
First, mark the center Front & Center Back in pieces of duck tape. Don't try this with one long piece, use 4" - 12" pieces.

Next, tape the chest, waist & hips. Tape the front & back first, then pull the t-shirt in at the sides. Be consistent, what you do to one side, do to the other (unless you know it was wrong).

3: Cross-marking the Body:
Put X of tape across the shoulders at the Center Back & across the chest at Center Front.
Also diagonals above the chest around the underarms, sides of the belly, etc... anywhere that is "in" needs X taping. Anywhere that is "out" should still be t-shirt (breasts, belly, shoulder blades).

4: Taping "With the Body"
Continue around in the X patterns or just diagonals... like walking up or down a hill (easier to take a diagonal than go straight). Tape the underarms & shoulders, small of the back, belly, etc.

Anywhere that is "out" (breasts, belly, shoulder blades) use shorter pieces of tape in a herring bone pattern. If the tape starts to buckle, use shorter pieces, or cut the tape lengthwise & overlap the ends so they lay flat. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the fewer creases you have to fight, the better.

5: 1st Layer Done.
When the torso is totally covered with duck tape, let your model walk around... you take a break too. No bending, twisting or stretching, that will distort the shell.

Leave the shoulders fairly open at this point, that way your model won't be totally encased for a while.

6: Outer Supports
I'm using 1/2 round 1/4" basket cane (same stuff I use for stays) to help support the outside. It's flexible, easy to use & sturdy.

Tape the center back down the spine. You may want to do 2 of these one beside the other for maximum support.
Tape 2 across the back (try not to cross the canes in the same place - this will reduce bulk).
Tape one either side from just over the shoulder down the outside of the shoulder blade to the bottom of the shirt.
1 on each side from underarm to hem.
1 on the outside of the chest, from just above the shoulder (overlaps/next to the one on the back), to the hem of the shirt.
2 crossed over the front just at the bustline from shoulder to hem.
(You are actually going to end up cutting through the front braces, you can re-brace this later)

Basically, brace it anywhere you can that makes sense on that particular body.

7: 2nd Layer
Now, start covering the shell with another layer of duck tape. Use a different color so you can keep track of how many layers. Overlap each piece so it forms a harder shell.
I start with the shoulders because it's very important to get that done as soon as possible.

Start building out the shoulders & hemline.
Go right to the bottom of the hemline on the t-shirt, you can always cut stuff off later.

8: Get Embarrassing Photo of Husband In Hot Pink Duck Tape Shirt!! (this is the most critical stage of the whole process).

Oh, also, put some cross-bracing across the shoulders, that will stabilize the weight-baring portion of the dummy... it'll also make it impossible for Poor Husband to move.

Take a break... a short one.
You may notice that at this point the duck tape has eaten the skin off your fingers. This would be past the time when you want to put band-aids on. The tape won't stick to the band-aids & it'll save your skin.

Before moving on to the third layer, make sure all the tape is actually laying flat. Smooth it with your hands (gently) and press down any bits that are sticking up. If it's a friend & a sensitive area, ask them to do that.

9: 3rd Layer
Cover pretty Hot Pink with Boring White.
Again, start at the shoulders & work as fast as possible. By now you are both saying "ow, ow, ow!" He because he can't move, you because you have no skin left on your fingers.

Really pay attention to areas that need reinforcing. Build out the shoulders, neckline & hem. Fill in the waist a little extra. This is a stress point & what you lose in measurements you will gain in stability.

10. 3rd Layer Done!
Take a step back, let your model walk around. Look for any weak areas & fill in last-minute gaps.

Your model should be in massive amounts of pain about now & you should barely be able to rip more tape off.

Isn't it pretty? OK, let's get him out before he calls the paramedics.

11. Draw your "Exit Line"
Very important to actually DRAW THE LINE. Don't make it neat. You will need the marks to line up the cut-away to re-tape it in a few minutes.
Or be neat & make cool little cross-marks to help line it up.

Plot the line where it breaks as few supports as possible, and will be easy to cut. Usually in the "low" or "in" spots. Avoid any sharp curves, they are a pain to tape up.

(See that little half-smile? It's because he knows he's getting out in a few moments).

12. Cut Me Out!
If you are cutting over bare skin, make sure your model "sucks in" and that you put your fingers between the scissors & your friend.

Don't Cut Your Friend!
Don't cut your husband either, he knows where you sleep.

If you are working over a bra or corset, make sure you don't cut that either. Girls get a bit testy when you cut their underwear. Also beware belt loops, etc.

13. Actually Getting Out
Take your cues from your model. You want to get them out of this with as little bending & deformation to the dress form as possible. Remember, they can move, the dress form can't.
It took me & Mom holding the shoulders up & John sliding out by kneeling down to get him out of this.

BEHOLD! My husband has escaped! (he literally threw his shirt on & ran for the door to get dinner - we were both starving by then).

14. Sealing the Escape Hatch
Now, you've cut this giant gaping HOLE in your pretty dress form, you've got to tape it up. This will take 2 people. One to hold it in place, one to stick the duck-tape band-aid on.

Start at the top, line up the cut & tape it. Overlap your tape marks as you go to the bottom, but Do Not overlap the edges of the dress form.
Now, CAREFULLY tip it & gently support it and tape the inside of the slit.

Set it back up.
Cut 8" long supports to lay beside the ones you cut. Overlap the cut in the same direction and tape. This will stabilize that section of the dress form again.

It's pretty fragile right now, so you have to work fast & gently.

15. Stabilizing the Dress Form.
Tape the neck line from the outside in. You may have to cut a slit in the duck tape to get it to lay flat on the inside. This is important because you are going to be sticking your hand inside there several times & you don't want it to deform.
Do the same with the hemline. Go ALL THE WAY to the bottom of the hemline.

After you do that, take more cane & tape/wrap it around the bottom edge of the dummy. This will give it some horizontal support & help it to not distort too much as you handle it.
Cut long cereal box cardboard strips & tape them to the inside bottom edge. This will add further stability to the bottom without adding outside bulk.
Once that is done, check that the shoulders are even & the front/back is straight (not leaning one way or the other). Even it up by cutting "low" areas off. Re-tape for stability.

On the shoulders, make sure the tape is evenly spaced (same on right as on left) and cut the sleeves off. Wrap tape from inside to outside to create a smooth armhole.
Bend some cane around the top of the shoulders & the edge of the armhole for added stability. The shoulder area can't possibly have enough support - this is what holds the clothes up.

When you are sure the dress form isn't going to collapse while you sleep, stop for a while, clean up, (save the duck tape rolls - you'll need those!) & go to bed.

The rest will be continued in "Part 2: finishing a duck tape dummy," (or something like that).


Madame Berg said...

Great post, and funny :D I admire your husband, he looks great in hot pink! I too need a new dummy, for myself. Another project on the "to-do"-list...

Gwendolyn said...

Gail, Great job! You have several ideas here that I haven't seen elsewhere:
1) Use three different colors of tape, to define layers.
2) Put chair caning into it to give stability.
3) Cut it open on a meandering line!
4) Put tape as binding around the neck, armholes and at the hem.
5) Provide a movie or TV for the amusement of the victim!

I love it! Thanks!