Let’s Build a Mannequin

mannequin 10While building this cyberman something became clear, I needed a mannequin.  I just did. I kept building parts and then put them on myself and looking in the mirror to see if they were fitting right and it just wasn’t working.  I investigated getting an adjustable dress mannequin but those are costly and don’t have arms and legs.  I’m a real sized middle-aged lady, not a size 0,so I couldn’t just buy a store mannequin. Then I saw a post in the 13th Cyber Leagion on Facebook. Some fellow who had built a full sized Groot costume had put up some youtube tutorials, and one was on how to build a duct tape mannequin.   My birthday was coming up so I decided that this is what I wanted to get/do for my birthday.  I know. Crazy.  After watching several tutorials, and having to make modifications for being female, we gave it a try.

What you’ll need:

1) A healthy body image.  No really.  You have to stare at a 3d image of yourself.  You have to pad out those thighs and stomach pudge to their full dimension or this won’t work.   I’m an average size for my age, but this was still hard, and a bit creepy, for me.

2) Volunteer(s) that are willing to give up 2 hours of their life, and who you don’t mind touching you and invading your  personal space.

3) 2-3 rolls of duct tape

4) Old clothes and possibly plastic wrap

5) Medical scissors, the kind that are blunt on one point for cutting off bandages.

6) Empty bladder, high blood sugar, sense of humor.

7) PVC pipes to build the framework.

8) Padding of some sort. soft foam, packing peanuts, newspaper, batting, bubble wrap, whatever.

mannequin 2Some people wear old clothes and tape right to the clothes, and then cut the clothes off at the end.  However, I found the feeling of scissors against my bare skin quite uncomfortable so I chose to be wrapped in plastic wrap, over old clothes.  The tape sticks to the plastic wrap. If you choose to go the plastic wrap route, be sure to still wear old clothes, as they will get a few nicks along the way as well.

mannequin 1Wrap tightly all the areas of your body you want included in your dummy. I wanted down to the ankles, wrists, and up my neck.  I’ve seen some people who have also included head and feet. If you just want a dress form then just the torso.

mannequin 3For the ladies out there, start with a tight row right below your breasts.  Then a cross your heart to define them. For guys, I don’t think it matters where you start.

mannequin 4Just keep wrapping tightly with 4-12 inch pieces of tape.  Don’t wrap on the body right from the roll because this will not allow the tape to lay flat and will wrap too tightly.

mannequin 5See what I mean about healthy body image.  In this picture, teenage daughter is wrapping right from the roll. The tape doubled up on that arm and by the end I was losing circulation in my fingers.

mannequin 6An hour or so later and we are done.  I can hardly move, it’s quite claustrophobic and I’m mildly aching in my arms and legs.   At this point I had a family member label where my knees, elbows, waist, wrists, and shoulder blades are with a marker. I also had them measure up from the floor and mark the six inch mark on my ankles, this was so I would know exactly how tall the dummy would need to be.

mannequin 7Before you are cut out, have your helpers draw hash marks about every six inches along the cut lines. These hash marks will help you know exactly how it goes together again when you tape it up.

mannequin 9I built this framework out of 2 1/2 inch PVC, measuring my own height + 6 inches (because i wanted it off the ground a bit) and my own shoulder span.  I glued it all together with that PVC glue stuff.

mannequin 11I got this tip from a website where the lady was making a dress form.  Ladies need to find some way to pad out their breasts, because over time and use they get smooshed down.  Because I’m an EVA fabricator I just made some EVA breasts with a bowl and a heat gun and taped them right in.  (My husband doesn’t even look at me strange when he sees me in the kitchen holding up bowls to my chest to find one the right size.)

mannequin 12Start filling at the wrists, taping a few inches and filling, then taping a few more inches. You want to fill it rather firm, so you can press against it while costuming and it won’t collapse.

mannequin 13Once the arms were done I slid it onto my frame and started packing the torso. Taping six inches or so and then filling it.  I’m not going to lie, this process took me hours. Like maybe 6 hours to build the frame, fill and re-tape the whole thing.  Just be sure you’re filling in all the space and not leaving any soft spots as you go.

mannequin 10Here is my completed mannequin.  Since I wanted mine a bit higher than my actual height I marked on the PVC where my feet would be so when I costume on it I will know.

cyberman progressAnd here it is finished with my in-process cyberman on it.  It really has been helpful in getting the right shapes on my pieces. Once I put my chest piece on it, and saw the problems, I was able to modify the piece so that it now fits much better.

One warning – it freaks out my kids when they see it.


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