Meet Diana

I’m always thrilled to receive sewing-related questions from readers using the contact form! I secretly love it, I’m flattered that you guys trust my opinion and want to hear what I have to say. Luckily I always have plenty to say about sewing, fabric, patterns, et cetera!

One of the questions I see most often is about dress forms. What kind do I have, what would I recommend, what features are most important. Well, I can’t speak for everyone but I certainly can tell you about mine and what I love about it.

So… Meet Diana! Yes, I’m terribly uncreative when it comes to naming my stuff. She’s Diana because that’s what her nametag says. Although my grandmother’s name was Diana, so I think it’s a pretty great name.

Things I love about her?

  • She’s adjustable! I can be anywhere from a 84 cm to a 100 cm bust. (That’s 33″ to 39.5″ for the imperial folks.) So when I’m on the larger side, I can turn a few handy dials and make her my size, again. Technically, I’m a 32″ bust but it’s close enough to work with. You can adjust the dials separately too, so I can widen the hip and keep the waist and bust small.

  • She’s also adjustable in height! Although, I’ll admit I usually leave her really tall, at least six inches taller than me. I think she looks better taller, and clothes look better on her that way. Let’s just imagine she’s me, with permanent 6″ heels.
  • You can pin into her. I love to pin fabric around her, imagining what it will look like as a garment. I also tend to pin the cut pieces of a project to her to visualize the finished item.
  • She has a handy hemmer-tool. While I don’t use it that often, it’s nice to have. I use it to mark the hem of circle or bias skirts, and then I’ll try the garment on to make sure it looks equally even on myself.

  • She also has a mini-pincushion where her head should be. I’ll still sometimes leave the pins in her neck but there is a proper place for pins as well.

Anything I don’t love about her?

  • It sounds ridiculous, but I wish she wasn’t purple. Isn’t that so silly? I wish she was beige or tan or white so the things I make don’t always clash with her. I have seen royal blue versions of Diana, but no regular-human-coloured options.

People have asked me where to buy one, too. I was lucky enough to get mine as a Christmas gift years ago! And since you guys are located all around the world, I’m not sure where to recommend.

I’d suggest your local sewing store as a first option, to touch and feel and see if it will meet your needs. They do carry dress forms at Fabricana if you’re local, and at Dressew as well. However, they rarely go on sale. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!)

A great place to buy dressforms, if you’re not picky about newness, is from Craigslist or Kijiji or Ebay. A lot of the time, people are cleaning house and don’t realize what they’re worth, or just want them out of their house/garage/attic. You could also Google ‘Diana Dress Form’ and see what comes up.

Hope this was useful! Do you have a dress form, and what brand would you recommend? Are you one of those adventurous types that made your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts & opinions in the comments!

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23 Responses to Meet Diana

  1. Stacy August 6, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    Great info thanks for sharing. A Dress form is on my wish list. I agree with you about the purple thing. It would be nice if they came in more neutral/flesh tone colors.

    • an May 4, 2015 at 10:41 am #

      i do not have a dress form, i have learned about it from catalogs.
      I have been sewing freeform, custom designed clothes,, for myself and family.
      you could say i can sew almost anything from a sample and the measurement of the person present.

      I have not even seen one from close, i just saw the one in this photo, it seems to be of knit type of fabric, i thought it was of something else!

      Reading your writings, I could see that you all are so experienced and knowledgeable!

      I would like to buy one, but would like one that is adjustable to different sizes, and not too costly.

  2. Stephanie August 6, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    I got one off of ebay from a thrift store for $20. It doesn’t have a stand but some PVC holds it up well enough. I also scored a vintage one from my friends garage sale. Her husband’s grandpa had passed and they were cleaning out his house…they were going to toss it in the garbage when I walked up and flipped over it. I have to work on adjusting it to fit me though.

    p.s. I got the buttons already!! THANK YOU! They are amazing. I already picked out an assortment of colors to add to my bib necklace. Now I just have to figure out where I packed the rest of them!

  3. Sarah August 6, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    Hello, Diana! I have a Mrs. Singer at home. Almost the same as your Diana, but red.

  4. S√∏lvi August 6, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    I have a homemade dress form, Betty Grace, as she´s called. The problem with her is that she is a short and chubby version of me, so nothing really fits her. I made her using some different tutorials out there, and she is made out of duct-tape, an old t-shirt and stuffed with batting. I don´t really recommend this, as it is very difficult to shape curvy areas.

    About Diana, I know that she is available in Scandinavia at Stof og Stil. Good to see that you are happy with her, I´m secretly wanting to replace Betty Grace at some point, just don´t tell her! ;-)

  5. cat August 6, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    I got mine at Fabricland in New West – it was 50% off for members last summer!

    I have hardly used her at all because I found the initial adjustment so difficult – even though you can dial in your hips and bust, you can’t really capture your unique body. As a beginning sewer, I find that really frustrating as I still don’t know how/if things are going to fit and I still stand in front of the mirror trying to awkwardly pin things behind my back. argh!

    Love your blog – I went to button button last week and had the time of my life.

  6. afreckledlip August 6, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    I recently got a little spending money for my birthday and am looking for a dress form. I may be going with a similar one as I have a difficult body shape to fit. I like that you can adjust different parts of the form.

  7. ~Sherry~ August 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    My dummy was given to me by the designer I first worked for. It used to sit in the back room getting in the way, and one day she gave me a ride home and put it in the back seat of the car. I was so thrilled! And it was my measurements exactly! Not now though – she seems to have shrunk a bit…..!

  8. Kat August 6, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    i so agree about the colour thing! My dressform (Molly) is bright red. I mean what person is bright red. Whenever I make clothes they clash so badly with her colouring. Its rather annoying!

  9. Alana August 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Oooo… I really need to get one of these but I think I’ll need to save up for a while. Have you thought about sewing a skin-toned slip cover for her? I don’t know if that would work and probably doesn’t really utilise the adjustible part so much but Gertie did a good post on one here.

  10. Jessica August 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    My dress form is a Singer. I hardly use it except for photos or holding works in progress. I have a 31.5″ bust and the dummy goes to 33. Plus I have a really small ribcage, so often projects that fit me great won’t even button over the dressform at its smallest measurements!

    I long for one of those custom dressforms, but not enough to actually buy one!

  11. vicki August 6, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I was going to buy a singer form but luckily I took my trusty tape measure with me. It is too long from neck to waist (even on smallest settings) and upper chest is far too big as well. Sigh!!

  12. Rachel August 6, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    I don’t have one, but wish I did. It would make fitting so much easier. Thanks for your recommendation!

  13. Amy August 7, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    What a gorgeous dressform! I got my Bertha from Freecycle, but she doesn’t have a stand at the moment. She’s quite old and the adjustable bits are a bit stiff, but I’ve screwed and padded her to my shape.

    Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

  14. Frogstitcher August 7, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    I also have a “Dianah”, purchased on sale at Fanny’s some time ago. You’d know it had to be a while back as Fanny’s is no longer in business. I bought the petite Dianah because she was the only one I could get that adjusted down far enough to match my upper body measurements. She still matches me on top, however, let’s just say that time can be cruel along with sitting at a computer all day, and my lower parts aren’t what they used to be. Alas, petite Dianah does not adjust that high. I now use her for hanging semi-completed outfits on until they are done and in the closet.

  15. Beth August 7, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    I have a dress form very much like yours, also received it for a surprise Christmas present. One of my best presents ever ! how did I sew without it?
    and it is great for contemplation – putting works in progress on it and pondering changes, fit etc. Mine is grey, kind of dull. I like the purple.
    the adjustable feature is great. And then someone gave me a larger one, very helpful to have the whole size range.
    happy sewing.

  16. Shannon August 8, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    My mother had a gray dress form just like yours-20 years ago. It was magic to be able to adjust it. I had it for years after her death and I sincerely don’t know where it went. I got mine at a flea market. It’s vintage from 1960s. It says size 10 but it’s probably more like a 4. It’s much smaller than me (6-8ish). I’m looking for instructions to pad her up. I swear I read somewhere how to do it. I love how they look with work in process on them. Makes me feel pro.

  17. Fourth Daughter August 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    I have a Singer one too but I don’t especially love it as I foolishly bought one in a woman’s size whereas a child’s is more appropriate for me (my bust is like 81cm and the dummy’s is 84 at the smallest setting! I can’t believe your bust changes so much!)
    Even though it’s not that practical for me, at least I can use it when I make stuff for normal people!
    It’s fully adjustable but quite wobbly. I think professionals don’t actually recommend the ones with dials as they can break (mine is starting to feel the wear and tear a bit, I don’t think the dials are that sturdy). Gertie did a post about how to pad your dress form so it’s exactly your size a while ago, by the way…

  18. Lizzy August 9, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    I love it!!! I REALLY want of those….I’ve seen it in a store during looooooong time….sadly, yesterday went to the store and it was gone……….well, I wasn’t going to buy it but I thought if it was still there perhpas that was a sign it has to be mine…….I saw it for the first time last year, exactly a year ago and it was there..waiting for me …..but yesterday it wasn’t .

  19. Lori August 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    I recently purchased a dress form from Jaycotts, which is in the UK. I love this dummy! She’s adjustable and has three wooden legs that provide a very stable base – no wobbling at all. She was very reasonable in cost and arrived in great shape. I can’t recommend this dummy enough! By the way, I am in no way connected with Jaycotts, but this is the best dummy I’ve come across in 5 years of research.

  20. Maureen August 26, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    I actually have two forms (Judy and Betty). Judy I got at a garage sale and is fairly small – I can adjust the form a bit. My husband found Betty from a website – she was sold as used although she had never been taken out of the plastic. I think she is probably the same size as Diana and can adjust. I make costumes for musical theatre, so these ladies have been invaluable to me. I’m looking for a plus size form as well.

    I have to agree with you on the colour – both my ladies are red and it can be a bit disconcerting to see the colour of the costumes clash with their natural “skin” tones!

  21. Lulutilova September 8, 2010 at 6:02 am #

    I bough a dress form yesterday and I agree with you that the purple color is too strong. I adjusted and old white t-shirt on to cover the color and the disk. It’s much easier to work with. Today, I will have a lot of fun with.


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