Dress forms have been an indispensable tool for pattern makers and designers for decades. It enables them to quick test patterns and drape new designs. It provides standardized sizing and an idealized shape. The come in a vary of sizes and shape profiles but finding forms designed specifically from brassieres are few and far between. There are forms available for lingerie and swimwear but often they are not ideal for bras.
While using a fit model is an important part of the development process there are a few disadvantages. Good fit models can often demand up to $300/hr which is a prohibitive cost for most independent lingerie designers. Unless you have an in-house fit model on staff they aren’t going to be available at every point in the process. You also can’t stick pins into them. Finding a fit model specifically for bras can be very difficult as bras tend to be developed around a set of synthetic measurements to ensure they fit a wide range of customers. Not only does the fit model need to wear a specific size they must have a specific underbust measure, a breast root that matches the wire profile you will be using and other points of measure. You also need to take into account variations in hormones during the menstrual cycle can cause measurements to change slightly. If you are having production done overseas they will not have access to your fit model. I have a friend who doubles as a fit model for me who flucuates between a 34C and 36B. However, she is not always readily available.
Companies like Alvanon are trying to modernize dress forms by creating fit forms that resemble the human body more closely but also to provide standardization. You do not want your dress form to be shaped exactly like a person. Dress forms will vary in shape depending on the style of garment they are meant for. A swimsuit form will have a different profile to a form intended for coats.
When I was in the market for a fit form I was interested in purchasing one of the Alvanon intimate and swim forms that I’d seen in use at Parsons and the London College of Fashion. I’d even resigned myself to pay the $1750 asking price. The full sized forms cost $3000+. However, when I was getting ready to place a purchase order I was surprised to find that in addition to paying the cost of the form itself I would also have to pay a $250 handling fee and $1200 in freight costs to ship the form from mainland China. Production would also take 3 – 6 months.
So I tabled that idea and looked for alternatives. I tried a PGM Lingerie form in size 8 with a B cups. Its measurements were close to a 34B. I have written my first impressions about this form in the past. Personally, I feel it is only good for display only or for designing panties and other lingerie bottoms. For a B cup, the breasts are very shallow and pointy and the form does not have a clear breast root which can make fitting an underwire difficult. I also tried a soft bust form which has a similar set of measurement to me. However, it is too realistic and its breasts have an unnatural “enhanced” shape. The material it is made from (possibly silicon) also has become sticky and dust has become almost impossible to remove. It is pinnable and a good way to test out a push-up type bra because the breasts will move.
So with my budget for a quality brassiere form burning in my pocket still I kept on with my search and ended up with two forms. I originally purchased this Wolf brassiere form in size 34C. It was a floor sample from the now-shuttered Wolf Form showroom. I paid $300 plus $150 freight for it from an eBay seller who was liquidating the remaining forms. However, Wolf Forms have now been taken over by Superior Forms and they are selling this form again. The retail price is approximately $1200. The eBay I bought mine did have a few leftover however he has increased his prices to $450 for the same form plus shipping.
This form is a half body on a cast iron stand with caster wheels. It is a traditional paper maiche form covered in french linen. It is pinnable if you insert the pins at an angle. The form is firm to the touch. The form is sturdy but easy to wheel around. It is adjustable in height but I haven’t installed the pedal yet. It can be removed from its stand and used as a table top form which can be very useful. The measurements are as follows full Bust 36.5″ 30.5″ underbust and 27″ waist. It is marked as a 34C but it fits better into an RTW 34D
It has a projected pointy breast shape. I consider this to be old fashioned but it will be perfect for creating some of the retro style soft cup bras I have in mind. It’s a lovely form and I’m very happy with the price I paid but it doesn’t fulfill all my needs. Admittedly I purchased this form on an impulse because I saw it on eBay and forms of this quality don’t show up at that price very often and I knew I could resell it on the LA market without any difficulty if I decided not to keep it.
At the same time, I’d been negotiating with a factory that makes forms of the same quality as Alvanon. Even after I’d ordered the Wolf form I decided I still wanted the form I had my eye on. So I took the risk and ordered it. The process was very smooth and my factory contact kept me informed at every step of the production process and provide pre-shipment photos for approval. The cost was $565 plus $420 freight. I find it interesting that this factory could ship me this form which is the same size and weight for 1/3rd the cost Alvanon quoted. However, this did come packed in a heavy duty cardboard box which is probably a lot lighter than the wooden crates that other companies might use. If you have a serious interest in purchasing this form I can introduce you to my factory contact. Another company that makes similar forms that have a website is Tak Wai in Hong Kong and I will probably purchase their 38E form in the future.
It is a 36B / Medium. The measurements are as follows, full bust 37.75″, underbust 32, waist 28″ and 39″ full hip. It fits very true to size. It has the same key measurements as the original form I was interested in. Most of the 36B samples I tried fitted perfectly. It is interesting to note that most sizing chart state that a B cup is 2″ larger than the band size and a C cup is 3″ however the Wolf 34C only had a 2.5″ difference and this form has a 1.75″ difference. However, both are much fuller than other forms I’ve owned that were supposed to be a B cup.
The form is made out fiberglass covered in a thin layer of memory foam and covered in linen. The details on this form are amazing. It’s hard to tell until you handle it but it has palatable clavicles, shoulder blades, and a belly button. There is a slight fullness to the upper thighs and reasonably shaped and defined buttocks. Of course, the breast shape and defined wireline are what I wanted this form for. It has a modern round profile with a subtle breast swell. The breasts aren’t spaced too far apart and they don’t east-west like the Wolf form does. The slightly flared ribcage is also nice.
The stand is a hanging style but the form can be removed and used as a tabletop form also. It is adjustable for a wide range of heights so I can have a part The base is heavy and has locking caster wheels which I appreciate. It has a fold ou rack for hanging patterns and samples.
So what don’t I like about this form? Two things. One the stand will shoot up to it’s fullest height with a tap of the pedal and it can be difficult to lower it down. The second thing is the reference points have been applied with an ink that bleeds a little versus being decals like other similarly marked forms. However, the reference points have thus far been very useful. Overall I’m very content with my purchase and will definitely be keeping this one. I’ll probably keep the other two since I have room and it’s nice to have a different breast profile for creating different patterns.
Neither form was inexpensive but consistently priced with other professional forms. Having used both cheaper forms and another Wolf form in the past I definately prefer paying more for something that will become an essential tool.