Saturday, January 30, 2010

Papier-Mâché Dress Form

Caitlin loves to make dresses and skirts and has made some really great pieces in the past but has always wanted a dress form that would help her make her creations. A good dress form usually costs more than $100 and we both figured it would be a lot easier to try to make one ourselves. We found a site that suggested we use papier-mâché to make a mold of Caitlin's body. We would then wait until it all dried, cut it up one side, and glue it back together. We both hid the fact that we didn't have high hopes for it from each other and faked our confidence in our ability to do it correctly.

We didn't want to get flour and water all over Caitlin's clothes, so I wrapped her in saran wrap, and, as she asked me desperately to turn down the heat, we were surprised to find how insulating saran wrap can be. We shredded a lot of newspaper (more than we needed), mixed up the papier-mâché, and got started. Even though we used warm water, the mixture was pretty cold when I actually started layering the strips of paper on her, but there was nothing we could do about it. We also didn't give much thought to the fact that she was not able to move very easily without ripping some of the paper, so I had to hold her cup as she drank, let her use my head as a balance, and rip newspaper off of her feet when she got stuck. Also, even though we were smart enough to lay newspaper on the floor, I managed to get spots of flour and water everywhere - oops!
At this point in the process, Caitlin was suffering from a bit of claustrophobia due to the fact that she couldn't get enough air into her lungs, but pushed through it by telling herself she'd be so happy when it was done. Having her arms stuck to her sides and in one position for about an hour also started to take its' toll. Her hands were getting really cold (as was the rest of her body) and she started getting pains in her arms due to the lack of movement. Again, she advised me to keep going because we had already come so far.

Now, we had to blow-dry the first layer of newspaper to make sure it hardened like it was supposed to. This was when we realized that the dress form would not be sturdy enough as-is and we would have to put a second layer of papier-mâché on! Caitlin's positive attitude was starting to wane as her back and legs became sore from standing, her hands turned red and her veins stuck out and she started to get a little crazy from being so constricted for almost two hours. I felt really bad about starting a second layer, but Caitlin had already suffered too much to throw it all away!

We finished the second layer, blow-dried it again and then set to cutting it off. Even though we knew the first layer wasn't completely dry, Caitlin told me that she couldn't handle it anymore and that I needed to just get it off of her. For some reason, neither one of us thought through the fact that I had stuck the newspaper so close to her body and would now have to shimmy scissors in between her body and the form without being able to fully see what I was doing. I was successful in not cutting her or her clothes, but she did get poked with the end of the scissors quite a few times. Luckily, she was so frustrated with her restricted breathing and movement that she didn't mind a few harsh pokes every now and then.

We are still waiting for the form to dry completely so we can assemble it and we really hope it comes out the way we want it to and she can actually use it. If it works out: this method was awesome! It was basically free because we already had a bunch of newspapers waiting to be recycled, flour, and water. It took about 2 1/2 hours to create, but we both thought it would take a lot longer. If it doesn't work out: this method was stupid and a waste of time. It definitely was not worth the discomfort and shallow breathing that Caitlin had to do for 2 1/2 hours and would have been way easier to have just saved up money and bought a dress-form.

Check out the results of this project here!


  1. I was wondering about doing the same thing! Just read your hilarious adventure, which you told SO Well :0) Thanks for sharing this "lesson" so that I can maybe save myself the pain and go and by a dress form, too!

  2. What happened at the end? Did it work?