If you are looking for a sewing dress form this guide contains information compiled from multiple sources: sewing blogs and magazines, instructors at fashion design schools and our 12+ years of selling new and used versions of the dress forms described below.
Most of the products described below can be purchased on the Mannequin Madness website.
Not all sewing dress forms are created equal even though they may look alike. It’s kinda of like buying a car. All brands of cars have four wheels, an engine, seats, and a steering wheel – but there are big differences in quality, durability, style and added features.
A sewing dress form which you can find here will have these features:
- a cast iron base with wheels
- collapsible shoulders – these help when dressing the form in tighter fitting garments. When you try to get tight clothing to fit you rotate and contract your shoulders, something a stationary form can’t do unless it is equipped with collapsible or removable shoulders.
- thick padding that is covered in linen or muslin
- bump out side seams to enable you to feel them when draping with fabric
- a foot pedal so you can adjust the height of the form
- the half forms versions will have a wire skirt cage at the bottom
Many people (even those in the industry) refer to this item below as dress form:
It is a display form (sometimes called body form) which is designed to resemble a sewing form, but it is NOT.
This form is for displaying clothes in a retail environment or online – NOT for sewing. The foot pedal on these forms is decorative only. You adjust the height of the form on the stand by a knob underneath the for.
Technically since you can pin into the jersey cover (it has styrofoam underneath), it can be used for sewing. This is why parents often purchase this form for their teenage child who wants to be a fashion designer.
But it is not designed to take the heavy duty pinning required in sewing garments. These are “partially” pinnable meaning they will only hold pins at an angle.
A sewing dress form has a much thicker layer of foam padding which is beneficial when sewing or tailoring. It can accommodate the direct insertion of pins to hold fabric.And a sewing form is a full scale anatomically correct version of the human form. A display form often has body measurements that are not anatomically correct because they are designed to make clothes look good.
Professional sewing forms are prized in the world of design for their versatility and durability. Wolf Dress Forms located in Englewood, New Jersey is THE industry leader when it comes to dress forms.
An authentic Wolf form will have markings like this:
The company name is imprinted at the neck (or on the stomach, and sometimes the back) And there will be a sticker with the company logo (which often falls off after awhile so if you are buying a used Wolf form you, it might not have the logo)
It will also have on the stomach the year it was produced and the size of the form. And sometimes, but not always the Wolf name is printed there as well.
And the stand for the hanging style dress forms look like this: (notice the Wolf name)
The company has been around for 100 years and many of the steps to produce the form are done by hand – just like they did a century ago. The company doesn’t accept credit cards, has an outdated looking website and virtually no social media presence. They don’t have to because they are just that in demand.
People who don’t even sew will buy a Wolf form as an art piece in their home or display in a store. So that is why even an old ratty, tatty used Wolf form is expensive. They are collector’s items.
At Mannequin Madness we periodically acquire “gently used” Wolf forms from our mannequin liquidations. If we have any you can find them under our used mannequin section. Do a search for Wolf and you will see a list of any Wolf forms we have, like these.
If you want to be notified the next time we get Wolf forms in stock, sign up for our email list here.
Other professional sewing forms that are close to the caliber (and price) of Wolf forms are Alvanon, and Royal .
Professional dress forms from made by PGM or Roxy are much cheaper than the brands listed above because they are made by machine, made in Asia and are made with less expensive parts. (a metal or aluminum base versus a cast iron one for example)
Back to the car example, it is like comparing a Mercedes (Wolf) with a Toyota (PGM) or a Hyundai (Roxy).
PGM forms are known as the budget Wolf dress form. These forms can be seen on the reality tv shows “Project Runway” and “Design my Fashion Line” and many fashion schools carry this line. Their hardware has a three year warranty.
Roxy dress forms – are ideal for people who want the vintage style look and features of a sewing dress form but will be using it for occasional (versus heavy) sewing projects or for display needs. Say you want to use it in your bedroom room to display a favorite garment or jewelry.
Half Scale forms – These are scaled down versions of the full size dress forms. Very popular with fashion students and designers to use for creating design prototypes. It provides a pinnable cloth surface with seams to practice draping and designing at a fraction of the price of what a full size sewing form would cost.
All of these styles of dress forms can be purchased on our website here: And we have ancillary items for these forms like mannequin arms….
And protective dress form covers.
Lastly a word about adjustable dress forms. We don’t sell them because we have heard too many mixed messages about them. We recommend the Fabulous Fitting system adjustable pads instead to customize or enlarge the size of your dress form.
But since so many people ask about adjustable dress forms, here is a description about them from the blog Sew Mama Sew
Because the main advantage of a dress form is having an exact replica of a human body to stand in for a model at all times, a custom made dress form that will mimic your exact measurements would obviously be ideal.
But before dropping a boat load of cash on a custom option, consider the wisdom behind such an investment. Human bodies change all the time. Static dress forms however, keep their figure no matter what.
So, if you are a serious designer with a fluctuating body, adjustability will be a key feature. Luckily, there are many innovative options available on the market for the inescapable reality of weight gain or loss. Models such as the Prym-Dritz Twin Fit and My Double dress forms feature measurement dials that allow designers to adjust critical points like the bust or hips as necessary.
While these dials are super helpful for adding or nipping a bit here and there, they can pose a significant fitting and pinning problems because of the gaps and edges they create.
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