Thursday, July 25, 2013


Remember the 1958 movie The Blob?  Classic B-movie fare -- weird red oozing matter from outer space takes over a town.  The thing is, it really wasn't that scary.  You could outrun it and it's krytonite was cold - you could easily defend yourself with an ordinary fire extinguisher or you hide out in a meat locker till it moved on.  Definitely not as scary as zombies, or Godzilla for that matter. What does this have to do with dress forms?  That's what step 3 of the body double is all about -- weird oozing matter!

Miss Hallie

It's really enlightening to look at your plaster cast because it reveals your body's peculiarities.  For example,  I have bony shoulders and Hallie has one shoulder that is higher than the other. Not a big deal, of course, but these things definitely affect the fit of a gown.  If you don't know about them you're probably wondering why you always have to make adjustments to your shoulder straps every time you make a gown.  Do you have one hip higher than the other?  That will show up in your form, and you can make the proper accommodations when you fit your gown. Few of us are perfectly symmetrical and a body double will help identify where you have fitting issues and you can anticipate them rather than let them frustrate you.

Now for some sci-fi! With our plaster molds all dry and prepared, we're ready to fill them with foam.  We're using a two part mix that creates a foam that expands slowly -- kind of like The Blob.  A faster or more aggressive foam might blow out the cast.  So slowly we filled the forms. Slow moving oozy matter!  (And like the original Blob, it doesn't like the cold!)

The Blob

Next: The Unveiling

If you can't make our workshop this weekend, we're taking appointments to help you create your own body double --  We supply the materials and do most of the work -- you end up with a great dress form.  The cost is $175. By the way, for those of you who do different time periods -- this method works great for you too!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Fembots, duct tape, paper tape...none of them really gives you a great 18th century shaped dress form that you can use over and over again.  One that will keep its shape and not require you to keep your stays on the form.

Enter the plaster cast method! There used to be an on-line site that had the directions on how to do it, though it's not longer available.  But we at the Hive learned how to do it, have tested it out and are making it available to you.  But first, here was how we got plastered...

Now most of you are probably too young to remember that wacky book that came out in the seventies that suggested a good wife should greet her husband at the door wearing saran wrap.  Well, if you ever want to try something that nutty -- you can practice with step one, where we wrap you in cellophane.  Step two we make a body cast of you.  Here's me during step 2.

Now unlike the duct tape dummy, this did not feel constricting and unlike the paper tape, the plaster was cool.  I must say it was a welcome feeling since it was over ninety the day we did this.  After letting the plaster set up a bit Miss Hallie cut me out of my cocoon, which we sewed up and prepared for step 3.

Next step 3: The Blob!

If you can't make our workshop this weekend, we're taking appointments to help you create your own body double --  We supply the materials and do most of the work -- you end up with a great dress form.  The cost is $175. By the way, for those of you who do different time periods -- this method works great for you too!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Duct Tape Disaster

In the quest to find a dress form that will allow you to fit an 18th century gown, you inevitably encounter the infamous duct tape dummy.  In theory, it's kind of a cool idea.  Cover your body with duct tape, creating a form, then fill the shape with stuffing or expandable foam. Here's the down side -- duct tape stretches!

When I tried this, I had my husband, a professional duct tape practitioner, apply the duct tape to my stayed body.  As he wrapped the duct tape around me, it got tighter and tighter until I could barely breathe.  Add a dash of claustrophobia and you are talking panic attack!  I couldn't get cut out of it fast enough!

After being released from my constriction by duct tape, the resulting form looked like a cheesy sci-fi alien torso. I stuffed it with polyfil and did attempt to use it as a dress form, though the distortion factor was pretty high and I'm guessing an expandable foam filling would have stretched the duct tape even more. The form actually became quite misshapen over time. Duct tape stretches, which is great when you are using it to seal things but not so much when you need a stable form to work on (or are being wrapped in it). Conclusion: interesting idea but like duct tape itself, a little Rube Goldbergesque.

The second cousin to the duct tape dummy is one that was featured in Threads Magazine and the instructions are available on-line. This method uses pre-glued kraft paper tape -- the kind used to seal up corrugated cardboard boxes.  Though I've never personally tried this method, especially after my traumatic duct tape experience, I suspect this might be a better option.  However, it takes a long time to dry and am not sure that it's as strong as they contend it is.  If I were going to try this option, I'd probably end up filling it with foam.  Conclusion: inexpensive to do, might work - but wouldn't want to do it in the summer since it involves blowing hot air all over yourself till the tape dries.

Next: our experience with plaster and expandable foam

For more info about our body double workshop visit The Hive website.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dress Form Dilemma

If you have ever made an 18th century gown in a period manner, i.e., using period construction techniques, you know that eventually you will need to put it on a body to fit the top of the sleeves and to tweak the overall fit. This is not a big deal if you are making the gown for someone else and they are available whenever you need a fitting, but if you are making it yourself... that's where the real challenge lies.

So unless you have a friend who is experienced in fitting gowns and has the time to work with you, you will need a dress form.  The problem is that modern dress forms bear no resemblance whatsoever to an 18th century stayed body. The former is an hourglass the latter a cone.  And yoo-hoo, Dress Form Manufacturers: Real women don't have boobs like Barbie Dolls!!!!  So what's a girl to do?

Singer Dress Form
First, if you own a dress form like the ones made by Singer or Dritz, you can make them work (sort of).  Dial down the shape so it is a couple inches smaller than your body in stays.  Then wrap the form with quilting batting taking care to fill in the space under the boobs.  Add shoulder pads from an old jacket to the breasts to simulate your breasts at the top of your stays.  Put your stays on the form, making sure to recreate your measurements (bust, half way between the bust and waist, your waist, and the distance over your shoulders.  You will have a reasonable facsimile of your stayed body - but by no means perfect.  And if you need to wear your stays - there goes your dress form.

Another alternative, (believe me, I've tried them all) is to find a vintage wire form. They were a clever idea in their day.  The concept is that you put the wire form on you, then have a friend adjust the shape to fit.

I've had pretty good success with these, especially if you cover it with your stays.  The catch is, that if you find one, they rarely have all their parts, especially the little rods that hold the shape in place, and if you stumble upon one in mint condition, you'll pay over $100 for it.  Most of the time you have to buy two in order to get all the parts you need. So unless you get score a real deal, this can get pricey.

You'll also have to put your stays on it to really get a good fit. Then you have to make sure the measurements match your own. The good news is, that you always know where your stays are.  The bad news is that you end up always putting them on the dress form and taking them off, which over time starts changing the shape of the wire form. Plus the wire form, even with the original knit cover (if you can find one) is not pinnable.

Then there's the "Uniquely You" dress form that retails for around $200.  The concept is that you start with a shape that looks eerily like a fembot, that gets covered with fabric sleeve that you've altered to fit you. This cover goes over the mushy foam form, and in theory, it's your body.  It takes a lot of effort to make this one work.  And for the price tag, you still aren't getting a body clone.

Next: Duct Tape for Dummies

For Information on your upcoming Body Double Workshop visit  The Hive Website