Make a DUMMY

my perfect cloned dress form
My body twin dummy

my perfect cloned dress form
My body twin dummy with masking tape hand.

The story of how I've created my dress form, which is my body twin dummy.
It incorporates Plaster of Paris Cloth Bandage Roll and a genius idea that helps solve some problems.
The process is not simple, it involves time, patience and some hard work.
Firs I'll tell you some failures that we've had before, so you'll understand the whole process better.

The story:

I wanted to make a dress form, that will have an exact measures of my body and that will not change its shape with time. After some research on the topic, I understood that the duct tape and paper tape will not work for me. It will be thicker so the measurements will be bigger, but the fact that it will not hold its shape with time, bothered me more.
So I like an idea of making a mold from my body, and use it in order to make a perfect dress form body twin.
The inspiration for the idea was the video "How It's Made: Dress Form".

The first question was, what is the best and the cheapest way to make a mold from a body?
I found two options, silicone mold making and Plaster Gauze. Obviously, I dropped the silicone mold idea, because it is very expensive. I liked the idea of using the Plaster Gauze strips, in terms of cost and affordability.

The second question was how to make the dress form itself out of the mold?
I've also found two options here too, first Papier Mâché in its chewed paper state or as glued strips of paper. The second option was polyurethane foam, the one that's used in building constructions. The polyurethane thing is not expensive but it is hard to control because it dries so fast that you can't fill the mold uniform. You'll end up with holes and bubbles. And the other problem of polyurethane is that it expands. I've read some cases where the mold cracked. So we stopped on the Papier Mâché option.

First mistake: we bought the Plaster Gauze in a hobby shop, it dries really slow. My body was wrapped with it for about three hours, and it was still wet. If you'll remove it before it is fully dried, you'll distort the shape.
Second mistake: Scissors. You need a good scissors that can cut through a thick layer of plaster. We've used garden scissors that broke in the middle of cutting. Meanwhile I was inside the plaster bandage having problems with my breathing. At the end we used heavy duty knife (the one with the removable blade). It was very scary to see it point towards the skin, never again!

We've let the mold to dry completely for about a week. So we had time to prepare the Papier Mâché from a toilet paper, sawdust and white glue. We've noticed that the front and back side of the mold had some deformations in the shape, but we didn't stop. We covered them with the Papier Mâché paste, about 5 cm thick. After a month we throw everything, because it was a disaster, the shape deformed totally.

After some time we tried to make a masking tape dress form, but I wanted to use the Plastic/Nylon food wrap instead of the old T-shirt, in order to get as little thickness as possible. I've had some problems with the breathing too, because it is like you are in a sauna. But at least I knew that we can cut it fast. I used it as a pattern block.

After all those failures we gained some knowledge.
"When you know the problem, it is easier to search for the right answer." (by me)
I knew that the Plaster Gauze that we used was bad. So I started to search for others, with the qualities of fast drying. The best ones are those that doctors use, they dry really fast. They cost a little more, but still it's less than the silicone mold option.

plaster bandage that are used to make a dress form
Plaster Gauze that doctors use
This is the one we've used.

After that I started to search for some scissors, that can cut the plaster. But than we came up with an incredible idea that will solve this problem in other way. Later we understood that this is the smartest thing we've done in this process, because you don't need to cut anything on the body, and you'll be able to breath without a problem. Actually this is why I posted this article.

The genius idea

plaster mold for creating a dummy
separated mold
Front & Back view
The big idea is to cast two separate mold "shells" from the body, but make them at the same time in order to get a perfect "match" between the two.

dress form with marked mold separator placement
border placement
marked with red line
We've decided to place some sort of borders in the center front and back seems, onto my body. In this way the plaster will be separated by this border all the working time.

The border needs to be placed at the center front and back seam lines, for these reasons:
1. The plaster cast is heavy, basically the shoulders hold most of the weight. That means that you can't separate the cast in the shoulder area, it needs to be as one piece there. Consequently you can't place the separating border at the side seams, because you'll be unable to remove the cast.
2. It has something to do with the way the rib-cage moves when you breath.
This way of separating the mold shells allows the chest to move them a little to the sides when breathing. It's just easier to breath,and you'll be able to stay sturdy longer in the whole process.
3. You don't need to cut it on the body.
4. You can remove it fast, anytime.

The border must be continuous, one long border in the front and another at the back. This way you'll be sure that the parts will not stick to each other.
I came up with an idea to make the border from a duct tape, but as long as you understand the idea you can come up with other sort of border.
The important thing is to be able to stick it to the skin, and that it will not fall apart because of the sweat.

masking tape used for creating the mold separetor
I used a paper masking tape - "Sicad Group".
This thing was attached to my skin all the time, and after I removed it, the skin was OK, no problems.

Making the border:

masking tape mold shells separator sketch
Masking tape border diagram.

This is the way I did the border, but you can make it the way you like:

masking tape on tables edge glued with one long side
Masking tape on the edge of a table
Stick 1/4 of the masking tape to tables' edge.

masking tape on tables edge glued with both long sides
Stick the other 1/4 side of the masking tape to tables' top.

masking tape on tables edge glued with both long sides, glued center to itself
Create the border by gluing the center part to itself. Now you can remove the border from the table and stick it straight to the skin.
Just make sure that the table is clean before you stick the masking tape to it. This will ensure that the glue of the masking tape will be strong.

finished masking tape border separator that can be stuck to a skin
This is the border.

The right material for the dummy:

So the Papier Mâché paste was a bad experience. And it was time consuming!

polyurethane foam close up image
polyurethane foam
I liked the idea of the polyurethane foam because it means that the dummy will be very light in weight. When I've started to study the polyurethane option, I found that polyurethane is sold as two separate liquids. Which is far more "user friendly", than those sold in building construction shop. When you mix them, you have some time to pour it into the mold, where it begins to expand. And it dries fast.
There are at least three types of different polyurethane density you can buy, and I'm talking about the hard foam. The denser the dried product the smoother the surface, but you'll need more liquid to buy. This can be expensive. We decided to buy the least dense, one liter of mixture expands to 30 liters of dried polyurethane.
Be sure to know the volume of the body trunk, and how big in volume the mixture expands.
What is your body trunk volume?
You can tell that your weight is the approximate volume of your body.
So if I weight 55 kilogram, the volume is 55 liter, but I'll need less than this, because I'm planing to do a dummy without the volume of my hands, head and bottom side of the legs. It will be approximately 10 liter less ( Human head volume ~4.5 liters, I just Google it.)
So when I bought the mixture I knew that I need 45 liters of dried foam. In my case I bought two liquids in bottles of 1 liter each, it yields 2 liters of mixture. It's more than I need because from this amount I can get 60 liters of dried foam.
Just be sure to check the total volume of foam you'll get, from the mixture you'll buy.
Mission accomplished!!! We've bought two bottles.

After all this theoretical part we stepped on the path, of actually creating the perfect body twin dummy.

Create the "mold shells"

I'll describe what we did and how we did it.

You'll need:
1. A person.
2. A patient friend that will do the most important part (two is better).
3. About 50 meter (10 cm wide) Plaster Gauze (Plaster of Paris Cloth Bandage Roll) It's important to get the best you can. Doctors use the best one, usually. This thing sets/dries in about 5 min, fully dried after 30 min. The amount depends on the size of the body. I'm 55 kg 163 height.
4. Plastic/Nylon food wrap
5. 2 long "masking tape border" strips. The length depends on what height of the body you're gonna cover. This amount covered my torso and bottom part (just beneath the buttocks) in several layers, about 0.3-0.5 cm thickness
6. A lot of Vaseline.
7. Plaster of Paris powder. White powder that is used in building construction, dries fast 5-10 kg
8. Container where you'll mix the plaster with the water.
9. Nylon/Synthetic mesh. It is used in building construction too. You'll apply the plaster on top of the mold along with strips from the mesh. It will hold the plaster better.
10. Tools: Scissors to cut the mesh and the Gauze strips.
11. Disc cutter/ small saw or any other tool that can cut a cast that is 2-4 cm thick (cut not on the body).
12. Sand paper
13. Gloves if you prefer to stay with clean hands.
14. Nylon/old newspaper covers for the room/place, it will be messy with the plaster. 
15. Bowl for the water.
16. Black marker.

Preparations - tools:

Cut the Gauze to different sizes. 5x5 cm; 5x10 cm; 10x10 cm. The smaller pieces you'll need for small areas like breasts and very curved shapes.
Cut the synthetic mesh to long strips about 5-7 cm wide and 15-20 cm long, you'll need about 20-30 of them, approximately.
Prepare the working area by covering it with old newspapers or some nylon.
Put a bowl with water, you'll dip the Gauze in it. Maybe one more bowl with water, so you'll be able to wash your hands without touching anything.

Preparations - body & mind:

Wrap the bra with Plastic/Nylon food wrap, so it will not stick to the plaster. Put it on.
Wrap the hip area with  Plastic/Nylon food wrap, it will look like a skirt. Don't wrap it strong, because it will distort the natural forms of the buttocks. And not too lose, because it needs to hold the plaster. Make it as long as you need the dress form to be. Try to make the lower edge parallel to the floor. It will be your guide for the Gauze strips.
Tape the "masking tape border" to the skin, in the center front and back from the neck, down along the "Nylon food wrap" skirt.
Apply a generous amount of Vaseline on the skin. As more as you can, to ensure that the tiny hairs will not stay in the plaster mold :)

Visit the bathroom :) From now on, you'll need to hold the body in a regular straight position. Try to be as close to you natural pose as possible. Prepare your self to stand for about 2 hours or more, but it really depends on how fast your friend will work. We did it straight in the morning, when the body was not fully woke up. Oh, and don't drink too much fluids :)

Plaster of Paris Gauze stage:

The working process is from top to bottom. You'll need to cover from the neck to the shoulders tip only, because you'll remove the cast through the hands holes. Do not cover the upper arm.
Take one strip of Gauze at a time, wet it in the bowl of water, place one on shoulder press and slide/glide with the fingers. Take another piece and place near the first one overlapping it a little bit (10mm).
We covered the chest area including the shoulders (until the shoulder tip) and including my waist. It was about 0.3 mm thickness.
It was a little hard to breath, so I took a deep breath in order to move the shells apart, but not too much cause it can break. I remember feeling the tiny hairs all other the covered body, because they were stuck in the plaster - just remember to put a generous amount of Vaseline.
The shells moved apart and I could remove them, we've put them back in place and continued to the bottom side. It is better not to move them if you can breath without a problem.
The processing time depends on your friend because the Gauze dries really fast. So the faster he/she puts them the less time you'll stand.
The body was covered with a thin Plaster Gauze layer about 3-5 mm. It was time to make it thicker with the Plaster powder/paste and synthetic mesh.

Plaster of Paris paste and synthetic mesh stage:

This stage is important because it makes the cast thicker and stronger so it will not break apart when handled and filled with polyurethane.
First we've added a layer of paste on the bottom side of the cast when it was still on the body. Waited for it to dry, and only after that I've remove it.

three angles of one plaster mold dummy, from which the dress form will be created
We've attached the two sides of the cast with masking tape.

synthetic mesh close up in hand and on dress form's mold
You'll have to prepare the paste several times, because it dries fast. Just spread some Plaster of Paris paste on top of the mold and put in between strips of synthetic mesh.

dress form mold thickened with plaster paste
We've attached and closed the center seams together, by sealing them with Plaster of Paris paste.

dress form's mold after thickening stage
We've end up with one cast with holes at the arms, neck and bottom. The cast was about 2-4 cm thick. But you can make it as thick as you want, just remember that you need to be able to cut this thickness.

You may ask: Why not to cover the body only with plaster paste and the synthetic mesh. Which is chipper than the the Plaster Gauze strips. Theoretically it is possible but! We tried it too, the Plaster of Paris paste gets really hot when it dries, unbearable hot, you can get burned. Maybe it is so hot because the layer is very thick, but its hard to work with the paste in thin layers because it sets really fast.

Cast cutting stage:

The cast must be cut on the side seams, otherwise you'll not be able to use it.

The fully dried cast marked with a black cutting line. Try to make the line as vertical as possibly, it is easier to cut, and the gap will be thinner.

We choose to cut it with a disc cutter, it's faster. We did it outside the house because of the dust.
Use the tool that suits you, and remember to cut the thinnest seam/gap that you can.

close up of a cut edge on the dress form's mold
The disc cutter made a ~2 mm seam/gap.

This is a closeup of a notched seam, so it will be easier to close the sides of the cast. Those notches are perfect for a thick twine, that will hold the shells securely.

The shells.

Prepare the cast for mold:

The cast need to bee as smooth as possible from the inside.
Seal the front and back seams from the inside with Plaster of Paris paste. When it is dry sand it until smooth. Try to seal and sand all the imperfections from the inside, with minimal shape changes.

Apply a generous amount of Vaseline inside the mold on both sides.

Attach the sides together and secure them with rope.
Make sure that the sides are attached correctly.
Try to make the gap between the shells as small as possible.

Here you can see the gap from the inside.

Wrap the bottom side with generous amount of Plastic/Nylon food wrap.

Close the neck and arm holes with masking tape. This way the foam will not escape.

Wrap the whole cast with generous amount of  Plastic/Nylon food wrap.
Make sure to add Vaseline to the seams from the inside. It is important to apply the Vaseline to the whole surface, so the foam will not stick to the plaster mold.
Do not close the bottom opening.

dummy is turned up side dawn
Place the mold upside down, so that the widest part will be up.Will pour the mixture from here. It is a good idea to secure the mold the way you prefer, so it will stay sturdy all the time until the foam will dry.

Polyurethane foam stage:

By now you know the approximate amount of the volume you'll need. Try to work in layers. We filled the cast in three steps/layers of the mixture, giving it some time to expand and dry, about 20 minutes in between. You can make more layers if you want.

Empty cast.

First layer of polyurethane. After some time we've made holes with a stick, to test if its dry.

Second layer of polyurethane.

Third layer of polyurethane.

Unwrap the present:

It was very exciting. The whole thing looked like a big present that you need to unwrap.

First we checked if the foam is dry, by opening the holes of arms and neck.
We've opened it after about 5 hours. But I think less is OK too.

Cut the leftovers of polyurethane at the bottom of the mold. I've cut it with a bread knife.

In some places the foam stuck to the cast. Those places were the neck and arm holes. It happened because I didn't brushed there enough Vaseline. Just remember to brush enough Vaseline outside these holes too.
We used some wood spatulas to release the dummy from the mold, because of the stuck foam.

My precious :)

The dummy was a little greasy cause of the Vaseline. I've dusted it with some talc :)
My perfect dummy! It was so perfect, that for the first time I've noticed that my right shoulder is lower than the left.

me and self made polyurethane Dress Form

It is really unusual to see you body shapes not in a photo or a mirror. All that's left is to top it with a fabric, here I used the pattern block we've made from the masking tape.

Hope this post will help someone too...

P.S. Now you can make as many dummies as you want, using the same cast shells.

Tip for drapers:

You can add between the polyurethane and the covered fabric, a thin layer of batting or some sort of thin sponge. Just remember to add less ease to the created pattern. Actually the "breathing ease" can be almost eliminated from the pattern that was created on this dummy. Because the cast, in most cases, will capture the breath expanded rib cage.

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  1. Thank you for documenting this. Now to source a few things...

  2. This is a great tutorial. I am re-inspired and now I want to try the plaster mold method. I had thought it was too much trouble, but it looks like it's the only way to really get a perfect replica. Your method seems the best I've seen.
    Thanks so much.

    1. Jean,
      I'm glad it inspired you! This is why I've posted it.
      Thank You and feel free to ask anything.

  3. My husband helped me to create the one with duct tape. Shortly after I created it, I walked into the room to see it blown wide open and oozing batting...actually would have been quite funny if it didn't take two hours to put it together...this looks actually doable. Thanks for giving so much detail!

    1. Thank You Diane,
      I guess, duct tape dummy is the beginning for a lot of us :)

  4. Irena,
    this is GREAT! i loved it. thank you. your photo with your twin is beautiful.

    i do have questions before i start mine. did you place all strips vertically top to bottom keeping them separated by the masking tape? or did you place some strips horizontal after you put some strips along the border? were the strips at the breasts all top to bottom or some horizontal?

    2. After doing this, do you think it is possible to make a dummie that is for making pants from a little above the waist to 1 or 2 inches below inseam? and do you think it is even worth all the work? I was not thinking of going to knees, but if i do this how far down the leg is very useful? What do you think of : wearing panties, a plastic wrap, make a horizonal border 2 inches above waist, and vertical borders at torso center back and front, horizontal borders and on inseam and outside seam of leg. Then doing the right and the left sides of the body separately - one buttock and leg at a time, so you could keep the one leg you are working on straight, and move the other leg a little so you can manage to place the strips, then let it dry remove it and do the other leg. With the 2 leg borders and the center borders, the shell will separate to a total of 4 pieces to put together. i have scoliosis and a twin dummie could make it much easier to work on better fit.

    3. are you able to get pins into your twin dummie, or is the dried foam too hard?

    your approach was so well thought out, i welcome any advice you have for me.

    Geezey on Pattern Review

    1. Thank You,

      I’m not so happy with the result...hope I’ll have time to make a new one….

      I’ll try to answer your questions, hope I understood them right...if not, feel free to ask again...this are the things that might help others too.

      1) If you refer to Plaster Gauze strips placement, it was in chaotic directions. It all depends on comfort of the person who does the job.
      In my case the covering process was from shoulders down, along with the gravitation, but the single stripes were placed in different directions.
      I’m not sure that it is an important issue - direction placement...More important is to think about gravity, will the part hold in place and work fast…

      2) It’s funny that you ask this, because last months I’m thinking of how to do a dummy with legs and detachable hands...Hope I’ll find the time…
      For now I can only say that it will be great to have the precise body copy of the bottom part too…
      How far down the leg, I would go? I guess, maximum I can or want…

      Im just confused if you want to make the upper torso too, or just the bottom (from the 2 inch above waist), so I’ll answer both.

      For the record my answer for this question is based on theories and not physical tests!
      If you're planning to make just the bottom side, you don't need the upper border, and you can end up with two parts, front and back.
      Just place the masking tape borders on both sides of each leg, so each leg will have a separator (masking tape border) at the inner part of the leg.
      The other separator will be at the side part of the leg. You can continue with the separator to the waist. So you can make this without any horizontal separator.
      The question is: will the shells stay in place during the work? Cause nothing except the “sticking” to the surface, is holding them…Of course it depends on the body shape too, for example the buttocks will help to hold the back side. But if a person for example has a big belly; I wonder if the front side will stay in place.

      If you’re planning to make the upper torso too at the same time, than it is hard for me to say something right now...I’m still thinking on how to do this too, because this is what I want…
      But putting a horizontal masking tape border line above the waistline? Hm...It can be nice, it will ensure that the bottom part will get some extra holding from the waist…
      But it can be tricky, since its a moving part...the rib cage is expanding and contracting. In the future when the upper part and bottom part will be connected they can make a “stair” because of the difference. But maybe the stair will not form, I guess its worth a try…
      I had some failures too, so making a good dummy from the first time, is not in my case :)

      I prefer to think of how to make both legs at the same time...but maybe you're option will work fine too?!…
      Sorry if this is not very informative, I just have a lot of thoughts but none of them is tested...when I’ll do I’ll surely post.

      I guess a twin dummy is something every seamstress will be happy to have.

      3) Yes I can pin the foam its like a cake, but I don’t do it! I’m afraid that too much pinning will destroy it. But then again...I can make another one, I have the mold :)
      4) The arm was wrapped with plastic wrap and covered with pieces of masking tape. The pieces are relatively small, in order to get the most of the shapes. Then it was cut, reattached with some more masking tape and filled with polyester padding.

      I'll be happy to see any experience that you'll have, so a comment or a link is welcomed!

    2. Maybe if you did the masking tape border at the waist, and also the legs, but left a small area of a couple of inches where there was no border at the point where the leg and the waist borders would have met? Then you would only have a little bit to cut when it was dry, but it might hold. Just an idea, it may or may not be a good one. :)

  5. i forgot to ask about the arms. Is you masking tape arm molded from your arm? how did you make the arm? thanks.

  6. Hi, I don't know if you're going to see this, but this is amazing.
    I have a question, though.
    This nylon mesh is the one use to protect windows against mosquitoes? Like these:
    Thanks in advance

  7. Thanks so much for this. This reminds me so much of the time when I had to go for a body cast for my scoliosis. I remember having to wear a tight gauze garment and the doctor put a long sharp razor-like strip on top of the gauze. The razor was placed in the middle of the cast and stretched from top to bottom. Basically, they plaster of parised me with the gauze strips and w/in an hour it was all dry. The doctor then sawed me out of the cast using the razor. I think if you know someone who works in the hospital then you can find out where to by them :-)

  8. Thank you so much. I had many questions but you answered all of them for others. I too tried the duct tape one. now I have shedded paper for paper mache', that was my next attempt. but the paper is going in the fire pit. Thank you again.

  9. Can you tell me where to find the doctor quality plaster gauze and the foam, finding the right products is my biggest problem . Thanks for the input

  10. Is there video for this process anywhere does anyone know?

    1. Here you go! Brick in the Yard Mold Supply does excellent instructional videos for projects such as this.

      Alternative companies that make expanding foam are Alumilite and Smooth-on.

  11. Hi there,
    were you ever able to put your body double on a stand?

  12. I did this and had issues with the plaster and the foam intermixing with each other, so make sure that your plastic wrap is extra tight (I almost would recommend duct taping the head and arms shut to prevent leakage). I probably also worked a little too fast/foam layers were to big, because there were some gaps in the foam around my waist.

    After the first layer of foam, I put PVC pipe in the center of the cast to be part of the stand. During each subsequent layer, I would double check that it was still centered. Still working on affixing to the base, but so far, so good.

  13. I have used the same company for many years to refit my artificial leg. They cover the area/areas with an elastic stocking material that fits a part of the body (I have a slighter build). The material is easily sewn together to cover the body. After soaking the plaster gauze rolls it is then wrapped around the body part/parts where needed. I have seen an entire torso wrapped in such a manner. What I like is that it dries fairly quickly and a pair of shears are used to cut it before it dries entirely to remove it. It is best to let the form finish drying overnight. I will have to ask where they purchase their supplies and update my post here. Just thought I'd share another idea with your readers.

  14. Ask you local pharmacist to order "quick" setting plaster bandages from his supplier. I did a project of making quick set face masks for an after school program; My druggist order the supplies from the local hospital which was across the street. Seems that hospitals and druggists have a working arrangement to provide each other with medical supplies from out of their warehouse/stock rooms. Ordered the fast-setting plaster bandages one afternoon and picked them up the next morning. They were cheaper than I had imagined. The bandages come in various widths. I used the two inch wide. The three inch wide ones would probably work better for covering larger areas pm a full sized body-cast mold.

  15. Hi! This is awesome! I want to do this for my birthday present to myself. But how did you calculate how much plaster bandaging you needed? I have a bigger body.

  16. Very generous of you to post all this! Hope you enjoy the form and it lasts a long timefor you.

  17. Many thanks for the detailed tutorial. I've been looking for such information for months :-)