The first time I saw a small size tailors dummy was in the series Pattern Magic by Tomiko Nakamichi. The designs in this book are amazing and for me the small tailor’s dummy was equally interesting. I used it for the first time when I draped my Jalisco skirt with lots of gathers and it was very helpful.
I bought one woman’s half-size dummy for fashion design and consider it my best investment. Why?
Saves space in your study
A half-size dummy is much smaller than a big one so you just place it where it suits you. Depending on your taste, it may serve as your sewing table or interior window sill decoration. Mine usually rests on the windowsill.
Of course, the patterns for a dummy are small as well, so storing them requires little space. There is no need to look for special pattern hangers or for rolling them to avoid creasing when stored. A drawer or a box will do this job splendidly.
Great for beginning fashion designers
For a beginning designer like me it was really hard to work with flat patterns only. In many pattern construction books, there are patterns lying flat with style lines drawn across them.
Too many times I caught myself thinking “How will these lines look like when the garment is sewn together?” Sometimes it is really challenging to imagine. Deciding where to place new style lines or how to pivot a dart on a pattern might be even more. A 2D image and 3D garment are visually quite different.
However, once you have the basic blocks for a half-size fashion designer dummy, creating new designs is a pleasure. You can draw style lines on the tissue paper while have it right on the dummy. You no longer have to live in the world of flat patterns.
Saves time and fabric
Cutting tissue paper or fabric is done in no time. Pinning is much quicker as you need fewer pins. Instead of pins, you can also use adhesive tape; sometimes it is just more convenient or quicker.
If you are not happy with the result, you do not have to discard a lot of material.
If you work with a symmetric pattern design, you can work only with one half of the design. The speed of your design adjustments like slashing and spreading, yokes, gathering, tucks or pleating is a pleasure :).
I have made printer friendly blocks for my dummy. Sometimes I use the printed pattern and use it directly (see the image below).
Great for learning to drape
You may appreciate an example. Well, here it is. The first project where I tried draping was a Mexican Jalisco dress. Based on photographs I have collected on the internet, I needed to figure out the construction of this amazing dress. As it has a really big skirt (see the images below), draping it in a smaller size was really helpful and much more convenient for my experimenting. I made two iterations before I got the final skirt pattern right (you can see one of the iterations in the image below).
It may (or may not) surprise you, but the actual length of the fabric for the gathered hem of my life-size skirt is about 8 meters (almost 9 yards) long (see the image below). I am really glad I did the draping first.
Conclusion: Why You Should Use A Half-Size Tailors Dummy
Owning a half-size dummy is of a great advantage when you test or play with new design ideas.
Moreover, even the inventor of bias cut patterns and amazing fashion designer – Madeleine Vionnet used a small doll for draping. Why wouldn’t you?