Let me start out by saying if not for a facebook friend I never would have thought of this! She gave me the idea (which she found online) and I figured I’d give it a go. So here is our step-by-step process of making an inexpensive body form out of a large garbage bag and some water activated paper packing tape.
“But what would I do with a body form?”, you might be asking yourself. While it may not be as versatile or adjustable as a dress form, that can cost $100 and up, it definitely has its uses, especially for anyone in to cosplay! Since it will exactly (or pretty close to exactly) match your current measurements, you can use it to try costumes on during construction. You can use it to form armor on, or paint/weather costumes on. If the packing tape gets paint on it, who cares! Plus, if you do like I do and leave it in a corner of a room, or just at the top of the stairs, it can really freak out other people in the house!
So let’s get started, shall we? First, you will want to do this somewhere that is not too hot/humid or cold. This is more for the models sake than the “wrappers” comfort. Plus, if it is too humid or cold, the tape will take longer to dry.
To do this project you will need;
– A large trash bag
– Duct tape (or other strong tape)
– A roll of water activated paper packing tape
– Sharp scissors
– Bowl of water
– Something to protect the surface of the table where you will be gumming up the tape
First, after getting all your supplies set up, and making sure your model doesn’t need to use the bathroom, etc (lol) cut a slit in the bottom of the large trash bag right in the center of the bottom seam, and slide the bag carefully over your models head. DO NOT SUFFOCATE YOUR MODEL! That would mess up the project 😉 Oh, and your model should have on the minimum amount of clothing possible, to get an accurate form. She kept her bra on though, since she would be wearing one under any costume or clothing we make!
Once you have her head poked through the hole, carefully cut two slits on the sides (at the bottom part of the bag) for your model to stick her arms out. Using your duct tape, tape the bag in place as close to her body as is comfortable. Try not to leave any big lumps of bag as this will transfer in to your body form! Cut excess away if need be. Also, while you want it to be tight, don’t make it so tight she can’t breathe comfortably. Make sure to wrap a piece of tape directly under the breast area so the bag fits snug around the contours.
Now you are ready to start work with the packing tape.
But first, let me add a little information here about the tape. This is not the kind of clear plastic packing tape most stores carry for sealing boxes closed. You can sometimes find this at Staples (my local store was out of stock) but none of the other stores I tried (and I tried a lot of different types of stores!) carried it. I finally ordered it online from Amazon and got a pretty good deal on it. You want to make sure you get the PAPER packing tape that needs WATER to activate it. Don’t get the kind that already has a sticky, ready to stick to something, backing. Also, don’t be fooled by the stuff they sell at arts and crafts stores. This may be water activated, and it may be paper tape, but it is NOT water activated paper PACKING tape. This specific tape has threads of a string type material that runs through the paper, giving it a lot of added strength and support. I had no idea how much it would take for this and wound up buying waaaaayyyyy too much. The rolls I bought were 2.75″ x 375ft and I used about two-thirds of one roll for the torso and head together (I bought the DUCK brand of tape on Amazon).
So! You have your trash-bag-wrapped victim, oops I mean model, and all your supplies handy. Begin!
Cut a length of the paper tape long enough to go all the way around the model’s chest. Wet your sponge and squeeze out the extra, keeping it quite moist but not dripping wet. Slide the sponge along the back of the tape (it will appear shiny compared to the front, which is flat). The tape will very quickly start sticking to your fingers. Take the strip and wrap it snug around the model, right under the breasts. Press the tape to the bag, being careful not to tip your model over. Once it has stuck, repeat the step, placing this one just below the first, but overlapping the edge of the first strip. You will then want to cut some shorter pieces of tape, and cut them again down the center, making them half as wide. Use these smaller strips to form what will sort of look like a bikini top of tape on your model. Start under the breast and drape up and over the shoulder, down the top of the back. The smaller, thinner pieces help the tape more accurately contour to the errr… boobs lol. You might want to ask your model to press the tape pieces firmly to her breasts, as this is an important part of the form! You don’t want your costumes all baggy and floppy up there!
Once you get the all-important chest area done, continue to cut, wet, wrap and press the strips all over your model, trying to overlap edges and seams, making sure you don’t leave any trash bag showing through. Keep checking with your model to make sure she can breathe too, since it can get a bit snug under the tape.
Once you have two solid layers around your model, it’s time to let it dry. I used a hair dryer on medium heat to speed the process. Drying on it’s own can take around 10-15 minutes or so, using the hair dryer cut that to around 4 minutes.
Now the fun part! Getting her out of there! With a pair of nice, sharp scissors, start at the bottom of the form, near her legs. Carefully cut straight up the middle of the back, keeping the trash bag attached to the tape. So, you will be sliding the bottom blade of the scissors along the skin of your model. You want to move slowly and try just snipping with the very tip of the scissors so you don’t have to slide them in as much. Once you get it cut all the way up, have her lean a bit forward and kind of wiggle a bit as you slide it off her arms. Don’t bend it too much or this will all be for nothing!
Once she is free of the form, use more tape to tape the back closed (we found this part easier to do with two people, one to hold the edges closed and one taping). More tape is used to close the arm holes and the neck hole. I then partially stuffed the form with whatever I had laying around the house; empty grocery store plastic bags, newspaper and junk mail, lots of scraps of material, etc.
Next we made a stand for it. Using a plain dowel rod (from the local home improvement store), we drilled a hole the same circumference as the rod in some scrap 2×6 we had laying around. This was then bolted (from the bottom), and glued (with gorilla glue) to the 2×6. A second 2×6 piece was used as a cross support (forming an X). Felt pieces (the kind that goes on the bottom of furniture) were stuck to the bottom of the stand to protect the floors. On the top of the dowel rod we placed an empty (clean!) 2 liter bottle that had the opening cut to match the dowel rod. I then duct taped the bottle over the rod top. The bottle keeps the rod from eventually poking a hole through the neck hole.
A coat of Mod Podge was then brushed on to the body form. This gave it a quick, easy protective finish against casual moisture and will hopefully give it a longer life!
Once it dried, it was then stuck on the dowel rod and stuffed with more “stuff” until it was nice and firm. I used clear duct tape to close the bottom up. Finished!
To do a form for the head, it is basically the same process, but a bit trickier in some ways. For one, you must be extremely careful when putting the plastic bag over the models head, NO JOKE! Loosely put the bag over her head, quickly mark where the eyes, mouth and, if you want, nose holes are. Remove bag immediately, then cut the marked holes. Place the bag back on the models head, make sure she can breathe, then secure the bag in the back of the head with tape.
Begin applying the tape, just like you did with the body form. I found I used mostly short and/or thin strips on the head. Pay particular attention to the nose area, the dent under the nose, and the mouth/chin area. This form will be perfect for making masks or helmets on!
Once you have at least two layers on let it dry. Then get out your nice sharp scissors again! Cutting this form off took even more care and patience than the last one did! For this, I really did only use the very tips of the scissors to snip a little at a time. I also placed one of my fingers between the inside of the form and her head, then slid the scissor blade in between the form and my finger. That way my finger acted as a cushion so I wouldn’t accidentally scratch or cut her head, nor would I cut her hair (heaven forbid!).
Once I cut it off, I applied more tape to the seam, the various orifice holes, and a little more all over until it was nice and firm. After it dried I stuffed it, weighted down the neck area with a heavy object so it would “stand” correctly, stuffed it and taped the neck area closed. Quick coat of Mod Podge and voila! Done!
If you would like to watch this whole process on video, please visit our YouTube channel….