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Break the Rules, Not the Bank: Make Your Own Mannequin

To anyone who suspects they’d feel uncomfortable waking in the middle of the night to the sight of a shadowy, headless silhouette propped up on a lamp-stand in the corner of their bedroom: you need not read on. To be honest, I’ve only had my mannequin for a few days and it’s already terrified me twice.

There is, of course, a reason that I now own a mannequin in the first place. A reason I fully attribute to my sister Meggie’s example, who long ago hand-crafted one to her own body, and has used it in smart, budget savvy ways ever since.

When it comes to clothing alteration, my sister’s ingenuity has always been a source of inspiration. For starters, the girl’s a magician with a clearance rack. She finds amazing deals in sizes that aren’t her own (often way too large), brings the clothing home, and alters them—with the help of the personal measurements of her mannequin. By using a template of her own body, she can both alter the dress and be fit for the dress at the same time. Is your mind blown yet?!

Below are some instructions for this ultimately simple, crafty undertaking:


Shameless, unbridled enthusiasm
The willingness to look ridiculous
A trusty assistant who is patient and also not overly protective of their personal space


Fitted T-shirt (the longer its length, the longer your mannequin can be)
Duct tape (3 rolls, any color)
Paper towels (plastic wrap works great too)
Foam board (1 sheet)
“Fiberfill” AKA polyester pillow fluff  (2 bags—you can find this at your local craft store)
Either a very sturdy hanger (as seen in the video), or the base of an old lamp. I recommend using an ultra cheap lamp-base from a thrift store and snipping off all the wires
your personal choice of fabric (optional)

Follow the video for the basic premise, but feel free to veer off and make your own decisions. Remember: while mannequin-making does involve an understanding of basic anatomy and physiology, this is not rocket science. For example, instead of hanging my mannequin up by a hanger, I opted to use an old lamp-stand (a la Meggie’s advice) so that it could stand erect, the way traditional mannequins do. Since this strategy requires a firmer, more substantial base, I taped a fitted piece of foam board to the bottom, instead of just duct tape.

Once this foam-board base was secured to my mannequin, I poked what felt like a barbarically-large hole in its center and pretty much harpooned my mannequin with the lampshade. Again, this will only be possible after snipping the lamp’s wires and removing any remnants of its electrical past (it should now look like a bare pole with a stand).

A few embarrassing snapshots of the process:

1. plastic wrap stage  /  2. duct taped / 3. getting cut out! / 4. pre-assembly

Since I found the whole exposed-duct-tape look a bit creepy, I decided to hot glue-gun fabric to the mannequin in order to end with a more polished finish.

Proud mama!

Courtney Kampa

Courtney Kampa is from Virginia, and has an MFA from Columbia University. Her poetry has received awards from The Atlantic, Poets & Writers Magazine, North American Review, and elsewhere. She has worked as a writer for Seventeen Magazine, lobbied at the United Nations, and modeled for Levis Jeans.
By: Courtney Kampa

Courtney Kampa was recently honored as one of the best new poets of the year and has an MFA from Columbia University. Her writing has received awards from The Atlantic, Poets & Writers Magazine, North American Review, and elsewhere. She has worked as a writer for Seventeen Magazine, lobbied at the United Nations, and modeled for Levis Jeans.


  1. LaLaLand says:

    Normally I feel refreshed and more positive after reading some of your blog posts. After this one, however, I’ve been tempted to start starving myself again, and I’m constantly hating the reflection in the mirror. That girl in the post has the smallest waist I have ever seen, and a PERFECT body. It’s not fair. All I can think about now is how fat and ugly I am. :-( I thing I should stop reading your blog, but I keep coming back to compare myself.

  2. Lacey says:

    Oh my goodness I am so happy i found this!!! I have been struggling with the thought of making my mannequin out of papier mache and just had a “duh” moment! of course! duct tape! genious!

    Thank you so much for this idea i cannot wait to try this over the weekend!

  3. Person says:

    Thanks for the idea to use the foam board and lamp stand! I will probably use this when I get around to making my own mannequin!

  4. Laura says:

    To everyone out there who has some extra rolls like I do, here is an idea. After checking this out and other mannequin ideas, I thought how about using wire to help create each part of the body. You can do that yourself. Find flexible yet wire that will stay in shape when you put is around your curves from back to the front. Then cross each one in the front. Mark them as you go down your body to know where each one goes. Then use wire to put them all together in the right order from top to bottom.

    You can use the ideas above for the stand or any other part you need, but use the wires for your own unique body structure. I’m so excited to do this and will work on it this year. I want to learn more about sewing. My step mom would not let me go into home economic class in school, so now I think it is well over due to learn and just do it. I would love to make all kinds of things for women who are curvier like me. I hope I helped you out.

    be warm and safe,

  5. Annabelle says:

    Love it! Thank you you for sharing. I’m in the process of making my own and your enthusiasm in your final picture definitely is catchy! My husband was nice enough to wrap me in duct tape, lol and he kindly cut it off. Can’t wait till I’m finished!

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