From a concept to a custom body form: PART I

Today is our one year anniversary! So I want to take a second to thank you all for coming to our blog, for following, for commenting, for taking your time to read through our posts. We love sharing our pinteresting journey with you and we hope you stay with us for many more to come.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin

We’ve been teasing you guys long enough. Here she is, Coco, my body double. It’s been a long journey getting her here. But today, on the anniversary of 2 Girls and A Pin, Coco is finally complete! I am so proud. It literally took 9 months to get her here (she is my baby) but mostly because of all the mistakes I made along the way.

I will break down the process for you so you don’t make the same mistakes. But if you do, I have most of the solutions right here. I am thinking that, in total, it should only take you 2-3 weeks to complete the form. If you are up for it, of course. Please make sure you read each part through before you attempt to do anything. And buy lots of wine before you begin.

It’s going to be a very long post, so sit back, relax, and read on.

Here is what you will need for this part:

  • Proudbody Deluxe Pregnancy Belly Cast Kit – purchase 2 if you are more beautiful than size 12 and want the form to be long.
  • Roll of Premium Plaster Casting Material – I didn’t purchase the extra and very much regreted it. It could have helped to make my form longer.
  • Removable Top I.V. – it went up a bit in price ($3) since I bought it but look at the beautiful color. I wish I got this color instead of the ugly gray. Oh well! You don’t really HAVE to buy the I.V. pole now. You could purchase it later. I used it in the preparation a lot but if you have something to hang a wet form on, you can wait to purchase it for a week or so.
  • Great Stuff Insulation Foam Sealant – get the black can, not the red one. You should buy 4-6 depending on your size. We used 4.5 with my form and I am size 6 (ssshhh! don’t tell anyone)
  • Multi Purpose Lubricant – stop giggling! My hubby actually blames this lubricant for not doing it’s job and said I should have gotten WD40. But who knows?! I made so many mistakes along the way. Get 2 bottles of whatever you choose.
  • Medium Sanding Sponge – the kit includes sand paper but it worked only for a bit before I ran out
  • A small hack saw – you will use it all through the project.
  • A friend – someone you trust and comfortable with. I preferred not to get my husband involved 😉 So I waited until Jelena made a trip to come see me. What is more perfect than 2 Girls working on a project?!

I hope the list didn’t scare you off. It’s not that much and most can be ordered on Amazon if you are not much of Home Depot/Lowes visitor. The total for this part comes to around $85 and takes around 4 days to complete, depending on your schedule and the weather.

I’ve been dreaming about a custom dress form for about 4 years now. Never got the guts to do it. Then I got inspired after reading these two posts: How to Make A Custom Dress Form by one of Jezebel’s bloggers and What I Do in My Spare Time…a Dress Form, Of Course!! by Sew Not Work.

After my inspirational readings, I started to draft ideas for my very own body form. This is how Coco became a concept. Finally I I decide to start the journey so one day Coco can be a reality. It’s intimidating, I know, but don’t worry I broke it down so you can take it one step at a time.

Let’s jump in! As I said, this is going to be a very long post.

Make your own body form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 1: Start with going through your belly cast kit and reading the instructions.
Make your own dress body form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 2: Prepare the area and the rolls. The drop cloth comes with the kit. How awesome, right?!

Make sure you leave enough strips to be able to close the back once it is cut open.

Make your own dress body form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Put the person, I assume yourself, in comfortable clothing that you are not afraid to ruin.

I know I am standing in a trash bag but I suggest you don’t use one. You will see why in just a little bit.

Make your own dress body form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 3: Start wetting the strips and applying them. First with the waist to kind of set the center for the rest.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Continue going down the body and around and up from the waist, to the red line I marked.

Here is where the extra rolls of casting material would have helped. You could make your form as long as you would like. I would have loved to have it almost down to my knees. If that’s the case with you, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and let the person cover the bottom first before going to the top. The top is a bit restricting so you would want to do it last. The areas from the chest (red line) all the way to the bottom should be covered by going around (horizontally).

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Cover the top in the direction of the red lines.

You know how I said earlier that you shouldn’t use a plastic bag. Look at the circles, more like ovals, on the image. That’s why you shouldn’t use a plastic bag. It bunches up under creating all this uneven surface. More and more I worked on the form, more I regretted using a plastic bag.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 4: Once you are fully wrapped up, get some wine to relax. The few minutes it takes to stand and wait for the cast to dry will seem like an eternity to you.

Though I do say GET some wine, what I mean is, make someone get you some wine. Try not to move much. I barely could move my arms to bring the wine up to my lips.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Here is the cast almost dry. As you see, half of the wine is gone.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 5: Cut off the cast. Be very very careful.

You see how easily the cast is separated from the trash bag, so you don’t have to worry about it sticking to your skin. Plus the kit includes a special natural lubricant for the skin.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
You see the immediate issue once the cast is off.

Here is where I again regretted not having enough cast material to make the back stronger before it was cut off. Also, don’t forget (which I did) to mark the back so you can later align the cast properly.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
I applied the mixture left in the bowl from wetting the strips to the weak areas to try and reinforce them.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 6: Start to close the form by applying remaining strips onto the back.

Hold applied strips for a few seconds so they have a chance to set and don’t move much. Reapply pressure if it starts bending. This is a long and tedious process but it’s worth the time.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Here is a close-up of how it looks. Go very slow and make sure the form stays true to itself :)
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Here is how soft the cast is at this point, so be very careful closing it. Make sure you straighten it out as you go.

At this point I was almost crying because I wasn’t sure it would work at all. Jelena just kept on pouring wine in my glass and working on the form for me while I would drink and rant. That’s what true friends do!

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Keep on straightening out the form. Keep on going, keep on going.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
And here is the front. We didn’t have many issues with it.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Here the form is reinforced and almost closed up.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 7: Dry Dry Dry.

This was happening in February and it was pretty chilly even for Southern California. It was actually raining for 2 days at that point. Jelena was sure that California was doing it to spite her since it only rains here once every 2 years. So we were rightfully worried that if we didn’t try to help the form dry faster, it would come apart and the next morning we would wake up to a pile of strips on the floor. Since the directions allowed for it, we went ahead and used hot air instruments to assist the drying process.

After we felt that the form was comfortably dry (not easily bended) we left her standing in front of a heater set to low. It was time to shower and celebrate. She, I mean it, was left alone for the night, away from my picky fingers and dog’s curious teeth.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Next morning we discovered a little oopsie.

Don’t despair if this happens to you. We figured out a solution and everything worked out fine. Though, I did almost burst into tears seeing it.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 8: Whether or not you had an oopsie, go ahead and mix the plaster provided. Not all, just a little bit.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
It sets very quickly so this could happen to you. It’s very hard to work with once it starts drying.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 9: If you have any oopsies, force the cast into appropriate shape and cover with plaster.

The cast was still pretty soft at this point, so it wasn’t that hard to fix the bottom.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Search for weak spots like this one and start with them. Cover in a thin layer of plaster.

Once a spot dries a little and you still feel like it’s weak, apply another small layer of plaster.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Here we reinforced the neck with a few layers
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
We patched up a small area on the back where the cast sank in.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Here I am applying thin layer through most of the weak spots on the back, straightening out the form as I go.

Here is where I wish I covered the whole form in a very think layer of plaster inside and out. But I didn’t. I hope you don’t make the same mistake and do that. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to slowly mix small amounts of plaster as you go. Don’t forget to cover the back opening with a solid amount of plaster so it doesn’t rip open when you fill it with foam.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 10: Once the form is somewhat dry. About an hour later. Take a cardboard and outline the neck and armholes.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
You’ll have something like this.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 11: Cut out the covers for neck and armholes.

The next few steps are a bit moronic if you ask me now. I don’t know what I was thinking, now that I look back at it. I am captain Hind Sight here!

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 12: Tape the cardboard to cover the holes. Use good tape!

I shouldn’t have trusted regular tape on this one. But I wasn’t thinking. I’ve never worked with expanding foams before, I didn’t know what was to come.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 13: Cover the neck hole with plastic and wrap a few rubber bands around it.

At the end, the neck held up pretty good so I can’t complain about the plastic and rubber bands. But make sure that the plastic is very tight around the hole.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Cover the arm whole with a plastic bag too.

Here is where it all went wrong, and you’ll see why later. But trust me when I say, wrap the armhole covers with a rope or twine across the form.

Let me backpedal a little bit. As I said earlier, I wish that, at this point, I covered the inside with a very thin layer of plaster. And on top of that, I wish I had used the provided coat that came with the kit on the inside of the body form.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
The finishing sealant that came with the kit

I think that it would have helped cover the porous nature of the cast and help the lubricant keep the foam from attaching itself so hardily to the cast. All the problems to come could have been avoided right here. Captain Hind Sight is back in the house!

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 14: Gently place your form upside down in a box. Pick a small enough box so it doesn’t tilt too much.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Get your lubricant ready! [insert your joke here]
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 15: Spray a few coats of lubricant on the inside of your form.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 16: Pull out the Great Stuff and set it up. Go ahead and prep the first 3 bottles.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 17: Start filling up the form. Wait a bit between bottles of foam to see how far and fast it expands. I think a minute would suffice.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
This is what full first bottle looks like.

Remember, the Great Stuff foam expands drastically and if it didn’t bust on me, the form probably would have overflowed, thus making my life even more complicated. So stop about 4-6 inches from the bottom.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 18: Set it to dry overnight. This is a full form. I should have stopped a little earlier.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
About 2 hours later, my husband brought spilling foam to my attention. This is when a light bulb about a rope came to me.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Now just wait. And enjoy this picture of the creature I found resting. She rarely rests in her usual state. But it is auntie Jelena’s lap so I guess it is OK to be calm and sweet.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Here is the form ready to be taking out of it’s cast.

You may get excited at this point, as you should. You are going to see your form for the first time. Get out your working gloves, eye cover, and face mask. What you are working with here is toxic, so be careful.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 19: Start off by cutting off the bottom so you can stand your form up and work with it.

I am going to take another moment here to point out my mistake. I didn’t properly mark the bottom and cut it off unevenly which caused soooo many more issues in the future. Though if this happens to you, don’t worry, I will walk you through a solution in another part of Coco’s journey.

Cut off all the extra spillage that you may have had. So it doesn’t tip over your form and its balance.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Like this monster of a spill.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
You see, one armhole held up perfectly fine.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 20: Start ripping off from the bottom.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
The form I tore of the first layer. This is a long road but it’s worth it.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
If you have troubles with getting the rest of the cast layers off, use the extra lubricant left over from earlier.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 21: Keep on going. Keep on ripping the cast off.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
If you encountered the same problems, these two will become your best friends in the process.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 22:  Saw off all the remaining hole covers.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 23: Sand the form to get rid of any remaining cast material.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Sand it until it passes the pin test.

The pin test involves sticking a pin into the form to see if it goes through easily. If so, you are done sanding that part. And if your form is all perfect and not deformed like mine, you will be able to move a few steps ahead of me. For people like myself, whose form is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster, follow along.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 24: Locate all the major issues on your form. Like the one I had on the neck.

When I say locate major issues, that means find things that can mess up your fitting later on. A little hole (less than 1/2″) on the side of the form created by a few bubbles is not an issue. If you concentrate on those, you will spend days trying to correct things that will later be auto corrected by covering the form. I know it’s tempting, I was there. But it’s not worth the trouble. Concentrate on the larger holes or large defects caused by collapse of the cast.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 25: Start fixing issues by cutting appropriate size pieces from the cutoff bottom part. The excess you cut off in step 19.  In other words, you are using your extra foam that you cut off to fix any holes caused by bubbles or the cast collapsing.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Cut the pieces in the shape of the bubble hole (or collapsed hole in my case) that you are trying to fill. Fit the pieces to the hole. Don’t worry if they are not perfect. We will fix that later.  As long as they fill up the hole, we are good.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 26: Use aerosol glue to set those pieces in once you figure it out a good fit. I find this type of glue to work the best with porous materials.
Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
I applied the same technique to my slightly deformed armhole.

When I was sawing off the armhole cover, I wasn’t careful and took off a bit too much. Remember that foam can come off in pieces so make sure you are gentle with it.

Make your own dress form - by 2 Girls and a Pin
Step 27: Secure all the glued parts that need the extra push. Like the neck on my form. And leave it there for a day or so.

To test if the form is ready to move onto to the next part, make sure that the parts you glued are perfectly secured and cannot be easily ripped off.

Whooo, finally done with this part.

SUMMARY

Let’s go over the very basic steps outline to sum up this post.

  1. Get all the necessary items
  2. Follow the instruction of your kit and get the cast on yourself (waist-bottom-waist-top)
  3. Take off the cast and reinforce it with leftover cast strips
  4. Once the cast is dry, apply plaster onto weak spots. Apply a very thin layer onto the outside and inside of the form
  5. Once the plaster layer is dried, apply the finishing sealant. This step is option as I am not 100% sure it will help. But I do suspect it will
  6. After the form is completely dry, secure the holes by using good tape, 2-3 plastic bags, and a rope
  7. Lubricate and fill the form up to 4″ or more away from the bottom
  8. Let it dry overnight. Then remove the cast from the foam
  9. Clean up and fix issues if necessary. Leave the form to dry for another day

That sums up all the major steps that we took in this part. I hope it helps you with scheduling your form-making and figuring out when to do what.

Now let’s turn to mistakes I learned in this part and how they could be avoided.

  • Before you cut the form off the body, create marks to easily match up the sides
  • Don’t use the trash bag to cover your body
  • Cover the neck and arm holes with more plastic bags, do it tighter and follow up with a rope
  • Use the provided sealant
  • Use more lubricant before filling the form with foam
  • Mark the bottom to make sure it is complete even before cutting it off

I think this covers all the major issues we saw in this post. You have no idea how happy I was once I got most of the casting material off. It was such a relief. So if you feel frustrated or close to giving up, don’t. It can be done.

Stay tuned for Coco’s Journey: Part II.

Please share your thoughts and questions with us. Help us make this or any other projects easier. Leave a comment!

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6 Comments

  1. sewnotwork

    October 14, 2013 - 8:58 pm
    Reply

    You did a great job! Kudos! Glad my post helped you get it done. I have been extremely happy with mine and it just makes my clothing projects so much better. Thanks for letting me know!

    • Anar

      October 15, 2013 - 12:05 pm
      Reply

      Thank you for coming to check it out! We have about 3 more parts to go before we are done. Next part coming out next Monday. Come back and check it out. Also, feel free to point out anything that we could have done better :)

  2. Jennifer

    September 3, 2014 - 9:32 pm
    Reply

    I’ve been looking for Part II, etc. but have been unable to find it. I do have a few suggestions though. While I’ve never cast my body, I did cast my face using a similar technique some years ago. I would suggest doing this in just a bra and underwear that you can live without, and coating your body in Vaseline (or generic petroleum jelly). This keeps the plaster strips from sticking to your skin at all. Apply it liberally. You can also use the Vaseline (or generic petroleum jelly) inside the cast before using the foam. I would expect that it may work better than using a spray lubricant.

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