Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

A Chick on a Stick

I have a virtual “family” of dressforms: one adjustable junior size, one adjustable woman (medium size), one toddler size, one half-scale size, and one that is more of a free-standing hanger in the outline of a woman – Barbie, Lucy, Baby, Minnie, & Wanda, respectfully.

So when I spotted a worn & slightly neglected vintage Singer dressform for $20 at my neighbor’s garage sale this past weekend, I had to ponder whether I really needed another.

The original label was still affixed to the front and it read:

I restrained myself after a brief inspection because I knew she would need some work – part of her stand was missing and some of the bolts that held the adjustable panels together were long gone. Overall, she just needed a good cleaning and a little love, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted another project right now. So I walked home and told myself that if she was still there by the end of the day, I would save her from the donation pile – I hate to see useful sewing tools go to waste!

Back at home, I weighed the pros and cons. Did I really want another “body” in my house? Did I have a use for her? I already had a junior sized form…

The deliberation turned my thoughts to how and why I had acquired all my others.


Barbie was my first. I bought her before my wedding, when Hancock Fabrics had dressforms on sale and because I had been wanting one in my size for years (and I truly needed one for my wedding gown construction). I gave her the name Barbie because she was the first “doll” I bought myself just to dress with clothes. (As a child, I liked to dress my Barbie dolls but then I never really did anything else with them.)


I obtained Wanda after Barbie. She was a splurge from IKEA when my husband and I drove all the way to Houston and back on Memorial Day the first year we were married. (We were so happy when they finally built us a local IKEA!) Years later, my father-in-law named her Wanda because he decided she needed a name too – I think it was because he said she had a “wand” for a head.

Lucy was a quick purchase when a sale coincided with a prom dress project and Barbie wasn’t quite big enough. Lucy’s average size has made her the most useful of all my forms. And she was dubbed Lucy because she wore the I Love Lucy costume for an absurdly long period of time.


Baby was a mall display store-closing purchase. Since it can be used as both a toddler boy and girl when fitting clothes, I kept the name somewhat gender-neutral.


Minnie was sort of a gift to myself. I plan to use her for an unusual future project, but I also have her in mind for draping and pattern-making practice. Since she is a to-scale miniature woman, the name Minnie was somewhat of a pun.

So now it was time to decide whether or not to expand the “family”. I eventually came to the conclusion that another junior size dressform would be useful, since wearing my wedding dress has been Barbie’s full time job for nearly 10 years (she ended up being more of a living room display than a tool). If I cleaned and repaired the vintage form, I could put my dress on her and start using Barbie as a sewing tool again!

And then I knew the debate in my head was over when I thought of a name without even trying.

The vintage form is a Singer brand, and since I am a bit of a film set geek, I decided to call her Abby. (“Abby Singer” or “The Abby” is film slang for the next-to-last shot of the day – told you it was geeky! I’ll explain more about film slang in a future post.)

After my internal debate had ended, I told my husband about the dressform at the neighbor’s garage sale. His immediate response was “Let’s go get it – you’ve already named her!”

So I returned to the sale – with husband in tow this time – just as it was winding down, and I offered $15 for Abby. I had contributed a handful of my own items for the sale, and it turned out that some of my stuff had sold for a grand total of $18.50. So in a way, I got Abby for free!

Abby had obviously been forgotten in an attic for a while – once I brought her inside, I noticed she smelled faintly like Independence Day (with that slight odor of fireworks or gunpowder that fabric gets when it starts to decompose in extreme heat). I’m glad I saved her from that type of slow death.


As soon as I make a trip to the hardware store for a few parts and sew a new cover for her, I think she will be exactly what I need.

I wonder if she has ever worn a wedding dress…

2 responses to “A Chick on a Stick

  1. Michelle Wyrick January 31, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Found you blog! Love it! Found the email about our group…silly me. I thought I was the only one who named her dress forms. Love it! Minnie is fabulous. She’s beautiful. I’ve found several I would love to have on etsy for displaying garments in photos. I only have two right now. If I get children’s patterns or men’s in our project I may need a new one! 🙂

    Michelle (LillieMaesSteamTrunk)

    • Brooke January 31, 2012 at 8:02 am

      You are more normal than you thought – I can’t think of a costume shop I’ve worked in where someone didn’t name at least one of the dressforms! =)

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