tooling around: in good form

When I wrote my very first Tooling Around post in March of this year I invited you all to join me as I discover what tools I really need, which ones I want, and everything I never knew existed.

And then this month, I had an epiphany, my darlings.

I am never going to find out about tools I never knew existed if I don’t expand my circle of tool users!

This week, instead of me reviewing a tool for you, I invited blogger, designer, and seamstress extraordinare Amy Jo Tatum to talk about the tool that helps her take the picture on the left and turn it into the picture on the right.

The Marisol Dress. Click on the image for details

Aren’t you just dying to know more about Amy Jo and her miracle tool? Well let’s get started, then!

About Amy Jo Tatum
Amy’s design career started some twenty years back with a three-year stint as a bridal fabrics buyer. After that she opened Bridal Alternatives, a custom design studio, and ever since has been working with brides who want that extraordinary one-of-a-kind dress on their wedding day. Her best work has stemmed from translating the trends of fashion history into contemporary bridal fashion.

Based on her esteem for Hollywood chic and fine-tuned dressmaking skills, a design philosophy evolved that has to do with seeing fabrics drape well and mold to the skin like sculpture.

“A wedding gown should be comfortable and beautifully lined so the woman wears it like a second skin… the whole component moving with her as if it is part of her body…”

Amy likes to work with the retailers who carry her gowns in the same way she works with her individual clients: on a very personal level. She believes in keeping the one-on-one dialogue open to all her clientele whether they live in Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon.

In addition, she’s added blogging into her life with Bride Chic: An Online Fashion Resource for Brides. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Edgar, and Chihuahua, Piccalina.

From Amy Jo's "Q&A on a Custom Designed Gown." Click on image for details

Janice: You make amazing dresses (duh). What tools do you use to make that happen?
Amy Jo: I sketch and re-sketch a design before I ever cut it. Aside from the usual tools (scissors, cutting boards, pins, needles), my dress forms are my fave tools with the invisible ink running second. Yes, you heard right. There is something called invisible ink on the market and it’s a tool I’d be absolutely dead without. It writes on silks of all kinds and magically disappears in 24-48 hours. Third would have to be my Ginghers (scissors).  Gingher, BTW, is just another word for precision.

J: What if you had to pick just one favorite?
AJ: It’s my dress forms that do all the heavy lifting and save the day. Not only do they showcase my designs once they slide off the work table, a dress form is crucial to getting the job done. How? I work out my muslins on them, and hang fabric to see how it will fall once it’s sewn together and actually three dimensional rather than a set of flat pattern measurements.

J: How did you find out about the importance of a good dress form?
AJ: It took me forever to hook up with my Wolf Form. Once I moved my design studio to a location near my sister she loaned me her Wolf Form. And what, you ask, is a Wolf Form? It is the industry standard dress form for pattern making and draping. It also has marked tape lines vertically and horizontally for easier and exact measuring. Robin (sis) happened upon her form way back in the 1970s at some thrift store. And though she doesn’t sew, she once upon a time used it as a coat rack. Back then it sported a 5 dollar price tag. The going rate these days is $800-1500.

J: What else (other brands, earlier models, completely different tool) had you tried before finding the form?
AJ: Ah ha! I’ll give you a sneak peek into my trial and error days. I went through a couple really bad dressmaker forms that you screw and unscrew to get the right waist, bust, and hip measurement. I don’t recommend these as too many loose screws and the dress form can collapse, like it did on me. I don’t even know if they make these anymore but there are plenty of them in thrift and antique stores.

J: What should newbies look for when buying their first dress form?
AJ: A Wolf Form for sure. It works while you work; even though it is passive and just stands there, it’s sturdier than any other form out there.  They are also great for displaying your work once it’s finished. Like I said above, they are expensive but a great investment if you’re serious about fashion design or dressmaking.

Wolf Dress Forms available from Divine Orders. Please click on the image for details.

* A note from Janice: This may go without saying for everyone who is not me, but when looking for a dress form be sure you are looking at models made for sewing and not models made for display. Whole different set of criteria there.

Now it is your turn, my lovelies.

Do you use a dress form?

Is it a workhorse or just for display? Any other brand preferences out there or is Amy Jo’s Wolf the be all, end all?

3 thoughts on “tooling around: in good form

  1. Last summer there was a show of Roberto Cappucis dresses at the Art Museum in Philadelphia. I had never had much interest in fashion design, but that show woke me up.

    I can totally appreciate Amy Jo’s love of fabric as a medium, and I love the idea that a bridal gown should be comfortable. So often I feel they look like something the bride can’t wait to take off.

  2. I love wedding dresses, and enjoyed the interview. Wedding dresses has to be a special form of art and talent. The dress has to be perfect for the woman’s special day of her life. I also agree about the wedding dress has to be the most comfortable piece of clothing she will ever wear.

  3. Yes I too had a horrible srcewy type…hated it! Bought a couple in NYC 1 size 8 and 1 for size 2 for kids love them but looks like the Wolf brand is top notch! Gotta look for some .Aways learn something when I check your blog!
    PS Amy’s dresses are jaw dropping beautiful!

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