Having a mannequin when you are working on costumes can be a very helpful thing. Rather than buying an off-the-shelf mannequin and then having to make adjustments, I decided to make my own.
The process is a multiple-step process that I learned from having a subscription to the Stan Winston School. In one of their courses, they go through the entire process. If you want to do this yourself, I highly recommend this course as it has a ton of useful information.
The first step is to take measurements. The reason you want this is that the process of making the mannequin is not precise, so I had to do a lot of shaving down, building up, and generally getting the measurements correct. Having the measurements of key points of your body is super helpful to make sure the overall shape is scaled appropriately. I found a sheet online from a theater company [click here to download].
Making the mold for the mannequin is a time-intensive process. It took a few hours with a couple of people helping. The basic idea is that you wrap yourself in plastic wrap($), and then using masking tape($), and laying multiple layers in different directions, you build up a flexible but strong mold that we will power expanding foam into.
So on a Saturday morning with a fresh pot of coffee on the stove, two of my friends, Shawn and Robin, agreed to encase me in plastic and tape. Overall, the process went pretty fast, but it was uncomfortable staying rigid for such a long time. We learned two important lessons during this process. Have a checklist of steps! We forgot to add a registration line in the bottom part, so I’m going to have extra work when doing the refining and assembly because I’m not 100% sure where I need to foam to stop. And secondly, the arms and legs need to be looser than you would think. Over time, the tape tightened down, and cutting me out was difficult, and my tights now have holes in them.
I took a timelapse of this process which you can watch below. This is about three hours compressed into a few minutes of video.
The important thing about doing it in two parts is that it allowed me to take a break, stretch, get some water, etc. You can do it all in one go, but I found this process to be much better. It does cause a small complication which is why you see that there is a piece of registration tape in a contrasting color. This allows me to trim back the mold to the registration line and use that to appropriate line things up before pouring the foam.
The following steps are still left to do to get a fully functional mannequin for costuming. Check back here periodically to see the progress.