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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 fitfor the dressat the same time. Is your mind blown yet?!

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

Things You'll Definitely Need

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

Other Essential Items

  • Fitted T-shirt (the longer its length, the longer your mannequin can be)
  • Duct tape (3 rolls, any color)
  • Scissors
  • 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:

Verily mannequin 1 copy

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.

verily mannequin 2 copy

Proud mama!

Courtney Kampa is from Virginia, and has an MFA from Columbia University. Her poetry has received awards from The AtlanticPoets & 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.