I had talked My Honey into helping me make a paper tape dress form. Using the instructions from Threads magazine, we had made one about 6 years ago. Now, 50 pounds heavier and a little “settling” having taken place, I wanted a new one.
Actually, it was an adventure making the original one. We had followed the instructions for the duct tape double, but were dissatisfied with the results. Plus, My Honey is an artist (McFann Artwork Website) and he was appalled that I would be making a dress form out of duct tape when he had the ability to create a double for me out of plaster. Well, the first plaster for the first mold ended up burning me. His supplier forgot to mention that it heats up as it cures. The second plaster for the mold worked just fine. But, My Honey wanted to reinforce the mold so he placed a rebar “cage” on me that was encased in the plaster. It weighed A LOT! And I had to stand there while the plaster cured. The plaster mold worked, he made the double but…he decided that it needed fixing because the shoulders weren’t even, etc. I tried to tell him that MY shoulders aren’t even, etc. Anyway, by the time he was done, there was a beautiful torso that did not resemeble me. I like to think that he just always viewed me as perfect! That was when he sheepishly helped me with the paper-tape double.
So, like I said, I finally got him to agree to help me make a new double. But I couldn’t find paper-tape anywhere. I bought duct tape, but we were reluctant to use it because of how dissatisfied we were when we did it before. “Why not just use papier-mache?” we thought. It seemed reasonable to us since paper-tape really is just paper and glue. We decided to use liquid starch as the “glue.”
I took about a week’s worth of Wall Street Journals and tore them into strips lengthwise and poured some starch into a pasta bowl. Then My Honey went at it. Now, I must admit that My Honey and I have different styles of working. He is used to working with messy stuff so he just dipped and placed the paper on me. When I had experimented, I had wiped most of the starch off of the paper. The paper on the floor–put down to protect it–was pretty useless. I recommend plastic if you decided to do this experiment.
As you can see in the photo, the papier-mache’ made a realistic double of me but it was soaking wet and the newspaper started ripping apart whenever I tried to do anything like, oh, say, breathe. And, my legs were starting to KILL me because I’m not used to standing still for that long in one place. My Honey got the hair dryer and started to dry me off that way.
Then he got “that gleam” in his eye. It was the same gleam he got when he decided to “fix” the plaster version of me all of those years ago. The artist in him had taken over. Without saying a word, he handed the dryer to me and went outside. I figured he wasn’t abandoning me but was going to get something from his studio. A few minutes later, he came back in with gesso. He was going to paint the newspaper to try to keep it together. I whined. By this time, it wasn’t fun anymore and I just wanted out of it.
In the end, he decided to get the duct tape and tape it over the papier-mache form. Because the paper was still pretty damp, the duct tape had trouble sticking to the paper. But, he managed to create a dress form for me. He was going to make me wait until it was completely dry before cutting off of me but I really started whining and asked to be cut out of it.
Apparently, it was still so wet underneath, he didn’t need to cut the t-shirt off of me; he just cut through the paper and the duct tape. He was afraid that it would start drooping and become misshapen. However, I put it over my vintage dress form and it seems to be holding its shape pretty well. My Honey has said that that if I decide I want to make a double again, we will get plaster impregnated gauze “and do it right.” Yes, Dear….
Before writing this blog, I checked on the moisture level of the papier mache and it is still pretty damp in some areas. However, the duct tape seems to be sticking to the paper fairly well.
I think where we went wrong was that we used starch instead of water and glue at a 1:1 ratio and the paper just got too wet. The newsprint started to disintegrate at stress points because of the wetness factor. Also, I’m not sure newspaper is strong enough for this type of project because it takes too many layers to build it up. I know I started getting impatient for it to be done. For someone trying this experiment, perhaps mailing/kraft paper would be better.
Looking at the finished body double, though, has startled me. Do I REALLY look like that? I must admit that I do.
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