Friday, July 29, 2011

Adventures With Duct Tape

Before anyone reads onward, please realize that the process I am about to describe was an experiment. I am in no way an expert at pattern creation. I just had a hunch and went with it.

My hunch? What if I wrapped myself in duct tape to create a perfect replicate of my own body? I went searching online and lo and behold, others have done it before with success. Most of my search results came up with something along the lines of "duct tape dummies" where people were interested in making their own mannequin for dress-making. I was not interested in this idea. I was more interested in just creating a pattern that would fit my body as best as possible.

I embarked on my hunch by first visiting my local second-hand shop to purchase a tight fitting top that I wouldn't care about destroying. I wanted to find something as smooth as possible and that hugged my body. I found a long sleeve stretch top that fit the bill just perfectly.

At home, I asked my lovely husband to donate some of his duct tape for his SCA equipment to my cause and had him wrap me up in it! I made sure to wear a good supportive bra and we first started by taping right underneath the "girls", making sure they were well uplifted. Then my husband taped all around, up and down and covered all areas very well. Here you can see the beginning of the process (yes, hubby looks rather amused at this!) and two photos of the end product: I then had my husband carefully mark a centre front, a centre back and side seams underneath my arms before very VERY carefully cutting me out of my sexy new bodice up the front. We also cut off the arms and I trimmed around to make reasonable armholes. Here is the bodice as it came off my body: I then proceeded to cut the bodice into it's four pieces: 2 front pieces and 2 back pieces, making sure to mark them appropriately. To make the "pattern" I laid the individual pieces onto some brown paper and then flattened each piece out as best as possible, cutting into the areas that were curved to create room to flatten it out. Then very carefully, I traced around each piece to make the bodice pattern pieces.
Once the paper pieces were traced, I took some scrap fabric and traced out the pattern pieces onto the fabric, adding a seam allowance and adding a little "skirt" at the bottom to make a mock-up. I sewed the mock-up pieces together and this is what I ended up with:
I had to sew myself into the front of the bodice as it was so perfectly tight fitting, which is why there are some gaps in the front. But other than that, I was amazed at how well it fit! Even the back fit better than any other mock-up I had ever made before:
And finally, I took the new pattern pieces and used them to trace a whole new 14th century gown pattern. It wasn't an exact copy of the pattern pieces as I had to modify slightly to make sure it would fit with a chemise underneath, to accomodate sleeves and to change the neckline. I made a mock-up dress, made modifications to the seam allowances to fit properly and then used the mock-up to trace out the entire dress pattern. And finally, here is a view of the beginnings of a new 14th century gown in a beautiful 100% wool oatmeal coloured plaid: (It is worn with a bra in the photos...preferably I would wear it with a chemise or one of my supportive bathhouse babe shifts.) I am SO excited at the results of this experiment! It worked out way better than I thought it would and it was not as difficult as I thought it might be either. I realize there are more period ways to make patterns, but since I have no intentions of entering my duct tape plans into any A&S competitions, I am extremley content with it!


  1. LOL! I think mom had to do the same thing to get her exact measurements....gotta love duct tape!! Looks good!

  2. it works really well in this type of application. I would never want to try and make a corset from this ever again though, as the duct tape can move flesh in uncomfortable ways if applied too tightly.

    Great job Chris!

  3. Funny enough I actually found one online reference to someone using duct tape to create a corset pattern!

  4. Okay so I know you posted this a long time ago, but I'm draping my kirtle pattern right now and this came up in google. =) I have three duct-tape dummies in my basement and have used this method many times before to make patterns for leatherwork, so if my broadcloth attempt doesn't work maybe I'll try this...