Ever since reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, I've wanted a dress maker's dummy. Being an antiques enthusiast it had to be old. I've been on the lookout for one for quite some time, but just didn't want to pay the going rate. Finally after years of pining, I've found my girl.
I saw her on ebay and paid a price I could live with. Her fabric was in good condition, all adjustments were operable, she had a solid base, and the original manufacturer's label was still attached. She's an ACME L&M dress form from...my guess...the 1940s or 50s, the golden eras of this old soul of mine. Her name is Bianca in homage to a favorite movie called Lars and the Real Girl. It you haven't seen it, you should.
Anyway, I spent at least 2 days taking my measurements and adjusting hers. Pushing, pulling, twisting, shifting, lifting, spreading, squishing, molding. After much sweat and a bit of struggle, we were finally about as close a body match as I believe we'd achieve. Certainly, I could have just left her set to the smallest settings, but I planned to put this girl to work. She had to be the real...me.
It's hot here in Texas. I don't enjoy trying on clothes to find outfits that will work (especially ones that are appropriately professional.) Now I don't have to. I just assemble potential outfits on the dress form, trying different accessories and combinations to find which give the best overall look and are most flattering. (NOTE: I do wear jeans or leggings with the second outfit.)
I like to sew and plan to eventually make a few of my own garments. It will be so handy to fit the garments to my dress form and have confidence they'll end up fitting me.
No pesky poking pins to deal with. That's the plan anyway.
Something I really hadn't planned on came up serendipitously. I recently bought several men's dress shirts at the thrift store for a decorating project. I threw one on while I was working and discovered it was remarkably comfortable. I kind of wanted to keep it...and wear it. So when I finally did take it off, I slipped it over my dress form and started playing around with alteration options. I think I just might be able to create something uniquely chic!
If you've ever toyed with the idea of splurging on a dress maker's form, here's my advice. Read A Prayer for Owen Meany, watch Lars and the Real Girl (It stars Ryan Gosling for God's sake!), set your thermostat to 103, and try on every work-appropriate outfit you own. When you're hot, sweaty, sticky, and frustrated to the point of crazy rants worthy of a raving lunatic; take a deep breath and a cold shower, log on to ebay and find your perfect match. You'll be so glad you did.
All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez.