Paper Mache Dress Form?

I have received two requests recently for information on how to make a dress form using paper mache. Dress forms are very expensive, but they make life much easier for someone who sews her own clothes. I came up with sort of an answer – but it’s just a guess. Is there anyone out there who has actually tried to make their own dress form? Did you use paper mache, or did you come up with another solution? If you think you have a better solution, your comments will be much appreciated.

OK, here’s the email I sent to the first person who asked about paper mache dress forms:

The only thing I can think of would be to use a swimsuit that fits really well, but isn’t stretchy. You could stuff it with something soft (newspaper is fairly stiff so it would make little bumps all over it). I use a lot of cellulose insulation in my paper mache projects, and it’s soft enough to completely fill the swimsuit. If you stuffed it in tight enough it should maintain it’s shape, as well.

Cellulose insulation is used in attics and walls during remodeling, and is made out of recycled paper ground up into really small bits. It also has an antifungal agent, perhaps borax, to keep it from getting moldy. The ground up paper is a little dusty, which isn’t good for the lungs, but I use it in small quantities in my DIY instant paper mache and other projects around the house.

For a project the size of yours, where you might need most of a package, a face mask would be absolutely essential to keep the dust out of your lungs. A package is kind of big, perhaps 18″ x 24″, and fluffs up to 40 square feet when it’s used as insulation. Home Depot charges $12.65 for the bag. You would probably want to squash it in pretty tight, but one bag would still be plenty.

However, old rags would work just as well, or anything that doesn’t cause your dress form to have weird bumps where they don’t belong. You can paper mache over fabric. Just two or three layers would make a nice smooth, hard surface that would be easy to pin into.

You’d also need to sew something across the neck and arms to keep the stuffing from getting out.

I honestly don’t know if this would work or not. If you have an old swimsuit that you don’t use any more could give it a try, I suppose.

Thanks for giving my brain a little puzzle to work on! And good luck.