My Beatrice Dress Form Journey

If you’re thinking about ways to improve the fit of your clothing makes or considering buying a custom dress form, or if you just want to know what I’ve been up to over the past year, this post is for you.


My clothing makes didn’t fit the way I wanted. Adjusting the pattern ate up time and yielded low-fidelity results at my skill level.

Adapting, I learned to choose styles to make that were more likely to fit me. That helped, but it was not enough. Constructing clothing to fit a standard dress form didn’t help either.

It is super frustrating to invest ~20 hours in making a garment and still not have it fit right. After roughly 4 years of working on this problem, I thought I would try a custom dress form based on a 3D scan of my body.


It is pretty cool what is possible today. I bought my custom dress form from Beatrice Dress Forms (and receive no compensation for this post). They ship you a pair of close-fitting shorts and a short sleeve shirt to provide a smooth scanning surface for their 3D scanning smartphone app. The app instructions take you step-by-step through the process. You can’t DIY the scan so a nearby sewing friend patiently learned the app and scanned me (thank you Cindy!) while I imitated a TSA wand search stance. 

BDF converts the scan into a CAD file used to carve a block of foam. Add a dress form cover, stand, and foot pedal and you’ve got a strange roommate that could turn into your best friend or a coat rack depending. SewCal Sewcialite has written a great post called My Custom Dress Form Journey on her decision to buy a custom dress form and the ordering and scanning process. 


When the dress form arrived I didn’t recognize it but my husband said, yes, that’s you! The body image reality distortion field is real. I looked sideways at B for at least a month. We circled one another, gradually making friends.

Dress form on a stand in a room
Dress Form from Beatrice Dress Forms by J. Hartnett-Henderson ©2021

I wasn’t sure how to use the form so I took Beatrice’s Draping class. Under Alison Hughes’ Zoom instruction, we learned to mark our dress form, drape a bodice, and create a pattern. Recordings from the 4-week class are available for a year.

Marked back of bodice
Marked Dress Form by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2021


Connecting with other Beatrice Dress Form owners who are also on a draping journey is the best part of this experience. BDF provides 2 ways to connect:

– the Beatrice Collective, a web-based community of BDF owners or soon-to-be. Join via subscription. Members share challenges, rabbit holes, and solutions. Members are from a variety of disciplines, occupations, and countries. Topics range from sustainable sewing and the technical details of sleeve caps to the perfect boiler suit fit. 

Whole Garment Lab, an every 2-week video conference office hour consultation on your pattern design, garment construction, and fit issues with a fashion industry professional. Bring your problems and dead ends and Gabby Brown will help get you moving again.

Back bodice drape with shoulder dart and waist dart
Back Bodice Drape on Dress Form


I’m kinda half way through figuring out what to think. I’ve made fewer things. In previous years, I’ve made between 10 and 20 garments each year. Since purchasing the dress form, I’ve altered one gown, and draped three bodices and two dresses using the dress form.

Side view of a bodice drape with side panel. Lots of pins
Princess Seam Drape by J Hartnett-Henderson ©2021

Alison Hughes of BD recognizes that the change from makes from existing patterns to draping the design, creating the pattern, and constructing the garment can slow your pace for a while. She encourages draping experiments with no plans to make as an essential part of the creative process. 

In addition, other Beatrice owners through the collective not only take a similar time to learn the form but also coach that good use of the form includes adapting patterns, partial drapes, and a mixture of both.


A year later I have designed, drafted, and constructed exactly zero finished garments from my dress form. I’m still learning how to incorporate draping into my design and make practice. I’m still learning to make things fit properly.

But what I have draped fits much better! And I am using the Beatrice Dress Form for more different things than I expected: testing out looks, deciding on alterations, and adapting patterns. In addition, I’ve found a great community to do this journey with. I can’t wait for Year Two!

Drape of a color blocked piece of fabric
Drape of a Dress on the Form by J Hartnett-Henderson ©2021