Mannequin Dress Form creative ideas for mannequins

The Mannequin Makeover Story with 7gypsies

The gypsies walked the aisles of a local vintage market with finds in every nook and cranny.  Wonderful old books, vintage photos, classic records… but then we saw her… and we said “we have to have her,” but oh what to do with her… so we messaged Crew Member, Donna Budzynski, and sent her this photo and said “do you have any clever ideas for making this one over…”  Donna quickly messaged back and said,  “of course I have some ideas, send her my way.”  …so we nicknamed her ‘Perky’. Gypsy and Crew Member, Shannon Green threw her on her hip, we paid for our precious beauty and then we realized – oh my we brought the small car.  We proceeded to shove her into the back window – face up of course and luckily she fit and off we go.

With today’s crafting anything goes and it is so fun to find a new surface to craft upon.  What is amazing about a mannequin is the hard surface is easy to work with and most of them come with some sort of stand.  You can work with a full mannequin or choose a partial form like this one, they are all interesting and become more interesting when your creativity is added.

The History of the Mannequin – did you know the first mannequin was made in France in the 19th century.  It was made of papier-mâché and craft blank we still use to this day.  They were then made of wax, wow they must have been quite heavy and later plaster, which most are made of today.  We did find some that were made of fabric and these were a work of art in themselves.  Mannequins are still the number one way clothing stores show off their newest arrivals, even with clever ideas for displays, seeing how the clothes will fit is still the preferred way to show them off.  We do prefer to see them clothed however, how unbecoming when you walk into a store and they are not dressed to meet you.  What a fun challenge for Donna to help us dress our mannequin so she could help us greet people at our biggest craft and creative trade show of the year – Creativation.   If you are not familiar with the show, it is for wholesale buyers only and offers the widest selection of creative products you have ever seen.  It will be in Phoenix for the next few years and it is well worth traveling to if you are not in the area.  Ok so onto our mannequin story…

‘Perky’ was packed well to make the journey to Donna and we get a very sad message a few days later, oh my there as an injury during travel.

No worries on her part….and the creativity began and a 6 weeks later a huge box arrives and guess what is inside.  The most amazingly dressed mannequin we have ever seen.

Let us share some of Donna’s tricks and fun ideas for dressing Miss ‘Perky’…

Step 1:  Paint Her Up – hot pink was nice, but the skin tone of your choice is much more appealing.

Step 2:  Cut and Fold many pieces of paper.  Donna chose assorted papers from the 7gypsies Gypsy Seamstress Collection, but you use scraps or a different color combination.  Choose a simple design like these folded pennants and make them all the same shape and size.  Keep in mind you can use other shapes depending on the look you are going for.

Step 3:  Start Gluing – Donna’s glue of choice is Beacon’s 3 in 1 Glue and we have to agree.  The perfect glue to hold things in place and it dries quickly.  You can also use if for a variety of different materials and textures.  Start at the bottom and work your way up, creating a consistent pattern as you work your way up.

Work you way up to the waist adding one piece of folded paper at a time.

Step 4:  Making the Belt – once you hit the waste area you get to do something new.  Donna cut larger pieces of paper to create the belt from the card stock weight paper and then added ephemera pieces she cut from the paper to decorate it adding snaps, buttons, chain and other fun decorative pieces you might have around your studio.

To turn your belt into a corset style belt, add a few grommets and tie it up on the side, front or back.  We just love this look.
Step 5:  Covering up the TaTa’s – luckily for Donna our paper cut the the perfect chest size and seemed to form in all the right places.  Slicing the paper gave Donna the flexibility to work around the non-flat surface and give “Perky’ a top she could be proud of.

Trim with a bit of colorful paper, lace and a few pieces of folded paper peeking out looks terrific and then add a little creative jewelry, chains and any other fun details.

Step 6:  The back – The skirt and the belt continue all the way around, but we had to point out the amazing back Donna designed for ‘Perky”  So simple but it holds everything in place.

Step 7:  The Burlap Choker – We love our handmade flowers, but they are not always so comfortable to wear on one’s neck, but ‘Perky’ does not seem to mind at all.  Create a choker of burlap or ribbon and add a flower with a bit of decoration and wow.

Step 8:  Adding a little arm decor – as ‘Perky’ did not come with a set of arms on her, Donna had a little fun adding wooden decorative pieces of one arm and adding Canvas Corp Waxed Cotton to look like thread, so clever.

Step 9:  The Stand – ‘Perky’ came with a small wooden stand that Donna quickly moved to the side and replaced with a large wooden spool that she covered to ‘Perky’s’ stand.  Decoupage paper pieces onto the stand, leaving a bit of the stained wood exposed looks amazing.  Do this to the top and the bottom sections.

Add a hole if there is not to hold her in place and then wrap the center of the spool with jute, thread or yarn to make it look like a bit spool of thread.  Accent with smaller spools of thread which we think is just perfect.  An oversized needle is a simple piece of thread and a slit for the tread with a coat of silver paint and wow it looks amazing.

Donna packed ‘Perky’ up in two VERY LARGE boxes and sent her on her way to Phoenix for the Creativations Trade Show.  She was very carefully unpacked and put together and found herself front and center in the Canvas Corp Brands Booth featuring – 7gypsies, Tattered Angels and Canvas Corp. She was the hit of the show.

What Donna Used:
1 hot pink mannequin – beggars cannot be choosers, but don’t worry if there is a bit of damage, you cover most of her up.
1 found spool – paper or wood – you can ask at local businesses, the cable company or other places that lay wire or rope
1 piece of wood to create your very large needle
A collection of wooden spools you can add cord or jute to
Random chains, buttons, findings and jewelry to add to your creation
Skin toned paint – you can transform her to any skin tone and add shading an accents anyway you wish.
7gypsies Gypsy Seamstress Papers – Bias, Tape Measure, Patterns, Spools, Buttons, Seamstress
Canvas Corp Waxed Cords – chocolate, black and red
Canvas Corp Jute Cort – red, natural, black
Canas Corp Sisal Cord
Canvas Corp Burlap Flower Ivory
7gypsy Frames – Antique Silver -they are on sale or the Bi-Color Option – also on sale

So next time you see a lonely mannequin being tossed for a lost arm, maybe a bit of paint missing or just tossed for a new model, well take her under your wing, paint her up a bit, choose you favorite papers where the colors work together or choose extra random and it won’t even matter.  Remember these are life-size so the artwork you create is perfect for a corner in your studio or someplace special.  You can even make the clothes to be removable and have a change of clothes.

We found a great little shop on line called Mannequin Madness where they have the coolest options online for used or tossed mannequins.

Thanks to Shannon Green for helping us get ‘Perky’ home; thanks to Donna for transforming her into a work of art and thanks to Creativations for having such a great show where we could show her off.

Donna also loves to make over dress forms – check out these great designs.

To learn more about Donna check out this interview – Donna

If you are inspired to create your own we would love for you to share it with us.  You can join on online group on Facebook – The Canvas Corp Brands Collective – ask to join today.


Canvas Corp Brands is the home of Tattered Angels, 7Gypsies and Canvas Corp (Canvas Home Basics). We are a manufacturer of surfaces, paint and vintage reproductions coming to you from Springdale, Arkansas.

'The Mannequin Makeover Story with 7gypsies' have 4 comments

  1. June 11, 2017 @ 9:28 am Cathy Frailey

    ❤️?????! I adore mannequins & have 3 vintage of varying proportions/material & then 3 paper mache that I upcycled. My large paper mache (about 18″) has wings!


    • June 12, 2017 @ 11:19 am Donna

      Cathy I agree! Mannequin’s are so awesome! I love to work with them to see what I can do and how far I can take them!


  2. June 12, 2017 @ 6:40 am Dana Tatar



  3. June 12, 2017 @ 9:44 am Kimberly

    I love this… Amazing …thank you for for the amazing inspiration, you rock!


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This blog is a compilation of inspiration from the Canvas Corp Brands family including Canvas Corp, Tattered Angels and 7Gypsies.