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how to get your hands on a dress form, new or used

dress formIf you want to drape, you need a dress form, period. There is no way around it. As professional dress forms are quite expensive, you may want to try alternatives — but I wouldn’t recommend it. I personally have tried most of them, and they are no substitute for the real deal. By ‘real deal’, I am referring to a professional form for draping, such as a Wolf or a Royal, that is height-adjustable, pinnable, collapsible, and rollable. Besides this, there are a couple more details you may want to consider:

  • size — Size 6 or 8 is standard, but if you are smaller or bigger than that, for personal reasons you might want to search for a form close to your measurements. One thing to keep in mind, though — don’t be too strict on your requirements for a form, as no form (unless custom-made for you) will be perfect. You will always need to adjust your pattern for a live model, and this is stardard procedure in the industry. So if your form differs from the measurements you or your model have, you will just have to learn how to adjust your pattern to reflect this. There is no way around it.
  • type of form — there are pants forms, lingerie & swimwear forms, sleeves to hook onto your forms, etc. Unless you are strictly a specialty designer and you will never drape ‘regular’ garments, then stick with the standard dress form. Pants forms, although you might think you need them, are typically unnecessary. You might imagine draping a dress on a full-figure pants form, but it really does not work well. Trust me. In any case, pants are usually created by flat-patternmaking and then fitting. Rarely do you actually need to drape a pant.

Next let’s list the best dress form sources — new, used, & alternatives:


  • wolf forms — THE standard of the fashion industry. You can order new dress forms from their factory in Englewood, NJ in standard sizes or custom-made to you or your model’s measurements. Check out their website for more details. Keep in mind though, new forms are expensive and take quite a while to produce.
  • royal forms — sold at Ronis Brothers, here in the garment district on 38th between 7th & 8th. They also sell display forms and every type of form (including dogs!).
  • superior model forms — owner Vito Montalto, at 306 38th St between 8th & 9th aves, runs this form company the old-fashioned way – practically everything is manufactured by hand. Years ago I visited his office, and true to his gracious old-world style, he personally showed me around his on-site factory, explaining every painstaking step of the figure-creating process.


  • Hecht Sewing Machines — at 304 West 38th St (between 8th & 9th aves), this family-run sewing machinery company specializes in fixing and selling old sewing machines & accessories, which includes used dress forms in all shapes and sizes. Like a cool vintage store, Hecht’s goods are constantly changing, so you should go and look around often, until you find the form for you.
  • retail store closeouts — this may sound like a longshot, but it is possible to find great used dress forms from retail stores. I did! Once I went to a closeout sale, and I noticed the store was selling their fixtures as well. I went up to the owner and simply asked if she was selling any dress forms (she had old professional ones as well as display forms). Long story short, I got a Wolf form for $60!
  • craigslist – also a longshot, but if you are patient, you may be lucky enough to find somebody trying to get rid of a nice dress form, simply because they don’t have room for it anymore.
  • ebay – of course! But be careful. Shipping fees are going to be high for a dress form, so you may want to find local auctions so you can pick up the form for free. Also, most of the search listings have been filled with display forms which won’t do a draper much good.


  • “acme” forms — from the cottage sewing industry of what looks like the 60s, these vintage forms were supposed to be adjustable by opening up the pieces to expose air and metal bars, quite simply, in between. For this reason, acme forms are unstable, wobbly, and difficult to adjust. They came in sizes a, b, & c, from what I remember, but they are so hard to adjust and don’t work well when expanded, so just forget about it. Even when ‘closed’, the forms lines do not match typical professional forms’ princess lines, etc, so it is just not a good alternative.
  • Dritz “My Double” dress form — the modern version of the acme dress form, this form expands to different sizes by turning a dial. Again, these are not good alternatives for a professional dress form. Unless your draping is basic and non-technical, I would avoid these too.
  • wire mesh forms — very vintage, I believe these forms were originally used at the turn of the century (or earlier), as you can still find some antique ones in the shape of corsets and bustles. These forms are completely see-through, and are gorgeous for display, with or without a garment.
  • Uniquely You — styrofoam dress forms forced into shape by a cotton cover. I bought one of these, stitched the cover to my spec, and forced the styrofoam (barely) into the cover only to find out that the cotton cover simply stretched out of shape again. I wanted to do a new cover out of a stronger, non-stretchy material, but never got around to it. While fitting it the first time, I realized that it is almost impossible to get the styrofoam into the cover evenly — there is no way to ensure that there are no lumps, or that it doesn’t end up lopsided. Needless to say, I gave up on that idea…
  • display forms — a bad alternative for a professional dress form, mainly because they are usually not cut to a real person specs. Display forms are for show, and are usually not pinnable or adjustable or anything. They also do not have lines to follow for draping.
  • make your own duck-tape dummy! — sounds cool, and I considered trying this. I think I did but I did not get very far. Try this for fun, but don’t expect much!

So, there you go. It is not easy getting your hands on a professional form for draping (at least cheaply), but if you are persistent, one will come your way eventually. In the meantime, don’t fret — the real alternative, flat patterns and live fittings, can do a lot for you, and it is actually becoming a new industry standard.

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19 comments for “how to get your hands on a dress form, new or used”

  1. i live and work in indi adn sew custommade ladies garments and bridal dresses..
    i was lookign to buy a styrophon dummy which woudl be light to transport back to india for my work if you knwo where in the US or UK that i can get one i woudl be happy. noreen.

    Posted by noreen coelho | November 21, 2008, 5:44 pm
  2. I am interested in buying a full length form for draping bathing suits. The form that I am interested in is from Studio 1. It a reasonable price and has all the amenities that a wolf form has. Can you please give me your opinion.

    Posted by les | February 18, 2009, 1:41 pm
  3. What do you think of My-Twin dress forms? They are custom made by wrapping the purchaser in bandages, from which a mold is made and filled with foam.

    Posted by Sewer | July 18, 2009, 5:10 pm
  4. Thanks that information was very helpful

    Posted by Christalena | January 12, 2010, 7:11 am
  5. Thank’s for the useful Information. I am looking for a new or good used dress form size 5 if at all possible. I live in the pocono area of pennsylvania and have no information on where to look for this.any suggestion’s near the Wilkes Barre area ? thank’s for the input.

    Posted by Johnine | May 9, 2010, 11:54 pm
  6. Thanks for the useful Information. I am looking for a new or good used dress form size 5 if at all possible. I live in the Pocono’s area of Pennsylvania and have no information on where to look for this.any suggestion’s near the Wilkes Barre area ? thanks for the input.

    Posted by Johnine | May 10, 2010, 12:00 am
  7. I am very new to designing my own clothes and have been looking for a dress form for awhile. I was going to buy the Dritz one but someone on Craig’s answered MY ad asking if anyone had one for sale and I ended up with a Wolf form MY EXACT SIZE!! I didn’t even know what I had until I started looking. I am SOOO excited about creating this weekend!!

    Posted by Sarah | July 23, 2010, 4:26 pm
  8. I saw a wolf dress form on craiglist yesterday Here is the link http://sanantonio.craigslist.org/atq/1855709741.html

    Posted by Heather Curtis | July 25, 2010, 9:07 am
  9. My 11 year-old daughter wants an adjustable dress form for Christmas. She is not a seamstress, yet, but would like to be able to fit clothes to her size and display outfits in her bedroom. A size 4 to 8 would be great!

    I really can’t afford to spend $100. or more on a new one.

    Thank you.

    Posted by Paula Gaertner | November 6, 2010, 5:08 pm
  10. I found a Plus size Wolf at a retail store that was closing. It beautiful!!! Has the stand, lowers and raises, has an arm, and is my size!! Luck favors the prepared. I knew what it was and how expensive they are and bought it on the spot. $150 and new they are $2200!!! I am soooooo happy, but sad the store is closing…. just have to make more of my own clothes.

    Posted by Susan | June 20, 2011, 12:00 am
  11. I’ve been out of the fashion business for quite a while… getting ready to jump right in and most definately need a dressform. I found your article very informative.. so i’m searching for a wolf.. help.. need used due to costing and looking for a size 14 or a little laarger.. will settle for a 12 if have no choice..

    Thanks in Advance for your help

    Posted by Ronnie | July 27, 2011, 9:06 pm
  12. Thank you. I was discouraged when I noticed the small vintage forms on ebay were being bought rapidly by those who always have the means to purchase what they want, but now I am encouraged to keep doing what I do, draft flat patterns manually, and somehow one in a petite or xs will come my way. This is the 1st time I read your article.

    Posted by Leah Carlos | October 22, 2011, 11:24 am
  13. looking to trade/swap/barter my vintage wolf dress form size 11 with a smaller size wolf dress form.

    Posted by kathe | November 30, 2011, 5:44 pm
  14. I’m looking for used Wolf dress form, I have boutique in Spokane Washington and sell handmade clothing

    Posted by Barbara Katze | December 13, 2011, 7:16 pm
  15. Looking to purchase my first dress form. Petite size 4 or Reg. Womens Size 2. Adjustabe would be good, but am open to input. Priced at not much over $100. Located in Portland, Oregon

    Posted by NanSee | August 3, 2012, 2:44 pm
  16. I am beginning to sew and was looking for a standard/basic dress form to start out with for clothing pieces i am working on. If anyone would like to donate one that would be wonderful…new or used, just something decent.Anything would be great! Thank you.

    Posted by Brittany Applewhite | January 6, 2013, 10:36 am
  17. i am looking for a dress form or 2

    Posted by vivian needum | March 7, 2013, 2:30 pm
  18. i am looking for a dress form ido need a adjustble vintage to make pattern draft. thank you vivian

    Posted by vivian needum | March 19, 2013, 2:01 pm
  19. Thanks for the information! Do you happen to know any online resources that could facilitate former-NY transplants? I would love to get an industry-standard 6 or 4 similar to the ones used at Parsons or FIT. Thanks!

    Posted by Mon | June 19, 2014, 2:59 pm

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