Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All Your Dress Form Questions Answered (Or Some of Them)

We're moving dangerously close to "Dress Form Theme Week" territory. And not a photo to show for it - as yet.

A few of you have asked me about the fitting system, and about doing a fitting system tutorial, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to address those topics. But let's start with a detour...

You know when you hear a word, or you see it on a page, and all of a sudden it starts to look wrong. Like bizarre, almost hieroglyphic? Well, that's what each part of your torso starts to look like when you stare at yourself with utter intentness, trying to reproduce the uniqueness of your every contour. It's awful on so many levels:
  • It's so difficult to interpret how you are put together. Sure, you have a basic idea. If you are excellent at sizing or if you sew, you're probably better at this than most. But try to understand the intricacy of how your stomach blends into your waist and breasts. Oh, my.
  • Two women can have exactly the same measurement - exactly - and have entirely different shapes. For example: I can reproduce, on the dress form, my hip measurement (38.5 inches) any number of ways - padding the stomach below the waist, widening the upper legs, adding weight to the derriere - and only one combo will work on me. Note: It's not either / or, it's a bit of everything - except derriere. Unfortunately really, because that's the least unpleasant of the padding techniques. (Note: I'm not one who dislikes a curvy bum.)
  • Unfortunately, the fitting system only provides a certain complement of foam inserts. For what it's worth - no way are there enough of them to increase the size on the form by 3 dress sizes. There are barely enough of them to do what I need to do, and I'm not modifying the size that extremely.
  • The foam inserts are insufficiently precise, for the most part, to recreate the curve of my body. I don't know about others, I'm just talking about me. I think they are designed to work with a longer torso and wider hips. The breast and stomach augmentation options are not as targetted as I would like them to be, given I'm a large-breasted, short-waisted person. Having said this, they aren't horrible - they're just not sufficiently "right". Something tells me it's not a sustainable business model, but I'd advise Fabulous Fit to create fitting systems for different body types i.e. the "hourglass set" and the "juicy pear".
  • I have body tone. The dress form does not. That means it's lumpy (due to foam positioning) where I am not. Again, the measurement is correct, but the shape isn't. I'm going to get some cotton batting to fill out the holes in the hopes that it gets rid of the problem. But don't you think the FF people might have included some with the fitting system? I mean, it's not expensive - it's just not the kind of thing one tends to have on hand.
It has been very difficult - understatement implied - to look at myself during my "dress form sessions". The way I appear is entirely different than the way I feel. Statistically, it seems unlikely that I'm uglier than your average dress form customizer. I have to believe that many, if not most, of you are or would be challenged in a similar fashion. I mean, in general, I think I have a positive self-image. Can you imagine if I were judge-y??

Let's back track. I should concede that the linen-covered resin form is top-of-the-line. Before I started fucking with it, it was a thing of beauty. I don't mean cuz it was mini - I mean because it had no lumps and it was of perfect "standard proportion". It is also beautifully manufactured.

I now understand - and you will too, if you've ever undertaken this kind of exercise - how models grow to loathe themselves, even as they develop in their careers. Try looking at yourself critically - while a bunch of tailors and designers are looking at you that much more critically - and observe how you feel after 2 hours, much less 2 years. Those tailors aren't unkind. They're trying to adapt fabric to a specific shape.

When one sees one's body as a means to a (three-dimensional) end, it's fascinating. But let's be real, chances are you can't easily disassociate your "body haver" with your "body viewer". We are, few of us, hearty enough to observe ourselves with utter objectivity.

I've decided that the only way I can manage this is to compartmentalize. In the short term, I intend to design for my dress form (once I finally get it into some workable "Kristin-like" shape - which hasn't yet occurred) - a "real woman" of a certain size and shape. If those clothes happen to fit me too, so much the better! :-)

Will I do a tutorial?: I don't know how I can. Every woman is unique. The fitting is straight forward. You take measurements; you reproduce them on the dress form to the best of your ability. Of course, I would be happy to talk, off line, with any of you in specifics. If you get the same system, I would be willing to look at a photo of you and advise how I think you might optimally proceed.

Will I show my dress form?: The answer is "very likely". Once Mardel told me that the clothes I make (which I often hate immediately after completion) would grow on me as I let go of my criticality, of the challenges of the construction process. She was so right. I have to imagine that I'll get over my self-hatred and self-consciousness as I come to view the form simply as a means to an end. But it's not there yet. I will definitely photo my garments on it. I mean, that's half the fun of having this thing!

Would I buy the fitting system again?: I really don't know at this point. I'm not vilifying it, but I haven't got it right yet - and I've already invested hours. Mind you, maybe that's the cost of this exercise.


  1. Isn't it interesting to learn first-hand how challenging fit is? Gives you a whole new perspective on mass-produced clothes!

  2. I'm fascinated by your so-articulate attention to this process and the way it challenges your image of yourself. As I said at your last post, I know this would be seriously difficult for me to do without unearthing way more self-loathing than I want to be aware of, never mind deal with. Bon courage.

  3. I hate to admit this, but I must. I couldn't walk into the room with my dressform, once she was padded to look me, without saying, usually to myself, "OH MY GOD" and walking out.

    And those little padded things weren't enough. I found that quilt batting was much more useful; so I used a combination of the batting and the fitting system, assigning some of the foam pieces to new anatomical locations.

  4. Wow. This is so interesting. I am amazed by your courage and persistence.

  5. W: You are SO right about that!

    F: Thank you for your positive thoughts! I'm doing this for all of us, btw. I want to see how self loathing flips into acceptance once the shock wears off.

    M: I'm going to get quilt batting - I hope that FabricLand sells it. And I'm also going to ask for a couple more breast foams. I think they're in order :-) I've heard a lot of people express their dismay at their dress forms (shaped to their dimensions). It's nice to know I'm not the only one. Because it feels very lonely in the moment...

    Susan: Thank you! Persist I will - stay tuned.