I remember walking into Eckburg Hall at Savannah College of Art + Design for my first “real” fashion course. I was in awe – all the industrial sewing machines lined up in classrooms, giant drafting tables with equally giant rulers on top, fashion sketches littering the hallways, and dress forms scattered throughout the entire building. Some were bare, some had works in progress and others had the most creative garments hanging on them that I asked myself, “How the heck did they design that?”
For home sewists, professional designers, and pattern makers, dress forms are an essential tool and serve many purposes – standard and consistent sizing, testing patterns, draping new designs, photography, display and more. Finding dress forms for “normal” clothing is quite easy. There’s a dress form for every purpose and budget. Finding a dress form for lingerie, specifically bras, is much harder. Much, much harder.
Dress forms for lingerie has been a hot topic lately on IG. I don’t know what or why it is, but I have received too many DMs asking for advice and recommendations that I had to look into it. I reached out to a company that I have worked with in the past – Royal Dress Forms – to ask if they carried any. They did! They informed me that they had a dress for specifically for lingerie – Penelope. They sent/gifted one to me, which I am reviewing in today’s blog post. Even though I was gifted this dress form, all opinions are my own.
To provide the best overview for dress forms for lingerie, I’m also including my thoughts + suggestions if you are in the market for lingerie dress form. I am also including other dress form companies so that you can make an informed decision that works for best you.
USING A FIT MODEL
Before I get to dress forms, I’d like to discuss fit models. Dress forms are an a great tool, but they will never replicate a human body. Dress forms are perfectly symmetrical. Humans are not. We are imperfectly perfect have a posture, some of us hunch over, others stick our butts out, many people have one shoulder higher than the other. So please keep in mind that a dress form is just a tool, and I highly recommend fit checking any garment on a human body. I understand fit models can be expensive. Some modeling agencies charge over 1k for the day, or hundreds of dollars for the hour. You don’t need to hire a fit model. You can try on the garment yourself, or have a friend try it on. Just be consistent. So, don’t try a garment on one of your friends, make corrections, and then try it on another friend with completely different measurements.
DRESS FORM FOR BEGINNERS
Next thing to bring up – if you’re a beginner sewist and looking into buying a dress form, just ask yourself if you need it right now in your sewing journey. Madalynne offers PFAFF sewing machines for sale, and a lot of new sewists that come to me to purchase a sewing machine ask for recommendations on where to buy a dress form. I always tell them to spend their money on a solid sewing machine first and get some experience with a variety of projects. I get it – they’re excited about sewing! After all these years, I am too! But don’t go down the same rabbit hole of buying a sewing machine that has 300+ stitches if you’re not going to use them. Focus on one thing at a time.
TYPES OF DRESS FORMS
Next thing to discuss are types of dress forms:
1. Adjustable- Adjustable dress forms have dials that allow you to make the mannequin bigger or smaller at different points, such as bust, waist, hips, shoulders, etc. Here is an example on Amazon. These are very easy to find at hobby store and super affordable, which make them attractive to newbie sewists who may be on a budget. They have a huge drawback though – once you increase the measurements, there will be open spaces, and you can’t put pins into nothing! Since you’ll be pinning a lot using a dress form, I don’t recommend these.
2. Fully pinnable: Fully pinnable dress form is just as it’s named – fully pinnable. Depending on the type of dress form you purchased, you can either stick pins in all the way, or at an angle.
FINDING THE RIGHT SIZE
In an ideal world, when searching for a dress form, you’d find one that is exactly your measurements. Unfortunately, there will be a measurement(s) that doesn’t match yours mos of the time. If this happens, I suggest buying a smaller size and then adding padding to get your measurements. There are padding kits for dress forms on Amazon.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEEDS?
Last thing before getting to dress forms specifically for lingerie is what are your needs? Will you be mostly draping, or do you only need a lingerie dress form for display/photography?
ROYAL DRESS FORMS PENELOPE
Here are some fun facts about Penelope:
FULLY PINNABLE: Made of elastic polymer material, therefore you can stick pins all the way.
RESISTANT TO IRON AND GARMENT STEAMER. You can iron and steam your clothes directly on the dress form which is impossible on traditional mannequins made of plastic or papier-mache;
COMPRESSIBLE: 3 times softer than a usual mannequin. The waist can be pulled down to 15 CM!
COVER: Dense jersey cover that you can take the cover off for washing
SHAPE: clavicles, scapulas, submammary fold, and space between leg for easy designing of knickers
SIZE: Only 1 size available
PRICE: $389 plus shipping, which will depend on where you live.
SHIPPING: Super fast! Shipping time from Russia to the United States via DHL was less than a week.
OVERALL: I was really impressed and love it! The pictures don’t show it, but it’s super compressible – almost like a memory foam pillow – and this makes lingerie look so good on a form. I have several types of dress forms at the studio – one from my college days, two antique forms that are for display, a plus size form. Hands down, lingerie looks best on Penelope. I’ve never had a form where the panty doesn’t get bunched up in the crotch area. Actually, that’s why I always photograph it flat! I only have 2 cons – it only comes in one size and it doesn’t have style lines on it (i.e. side seam).
Madalynne readers receive 10% off any dress form – use code MMADALYNNE at checkout.
OTHER DRESS FORMS COMPANIES: