Making a Custom Dress Form


Dress form base

PVC pipe with drilled holes

One of the challenges in displaying garments from the EHF collection is changes in body shapes and sizes over the years.  Many of the dresses in our collection come from a time when women wore corsets and other complex undergarments to fit into smaller clothing.  The EHF’s dress forms are a standard size for modern clothing, but are too large in the hips and waist for clothing like Munda Anderson’s 1880s dress.  Miss Munda’s waist was around 22 inches, or about a size 0 in today’s clothing.  In fact, her dress is too small to even fit on our child’s dress form.  Archival forms can cost thousands of dollars, so we needed to find a different way to display our smaller garments.  Thanks to Dave, our dedicated handyman, we came up with a great solution.  In this blog, we’ll show you how we made a dress form with minimal materials and cost.

Broom handle pieces at shoulders and hips

Broom handle pieces at shoulders and hips

The frame for our homemade dress form consists of the following: a wooden base with a PVC end cap attached, a PVC pipe with drilled holes, and a broom handle.  The PVC pipe fits snugly into the base’s end cap.  We measured across the shoulders of the top, and cut the broomstick handle to about an inch shorter than that measurement (so the wood wouldn’t put any strain on the garment).  We did the same at the waist of the skirt, cutting another piece of the broom handle.  These two pieces slid into the holes in the PVC pipe, providing the structure for our dress form.  A range of holes were drilled into the PVC pipe, allowing us more flexibility when placing the shoulder and waist supports.

T-shirt stuffed with batting

T-shirt stuffed with batting

Next, we put a boy’s white t-shirt over the form structure.  We stuffed the shirt with batting, which is firm enough to support the top and flexible enough to rearrange as needed.  It takes some time to get the batting just right.  It shouldn’t be straining the fabric or buttons, but it needs to be full enough to support the garment.  It’s important to firmly pack the batting around the wood piece, as the wood should not be touching the historic garment.


Second t-shirt sewn at bottom, with historic garment on top

Once the top was stuffed, we sewed an upside down t-shirt to the bottom of the stuffed shirt.  This allows us to stuff around the hips and give the outfit some shape.  We first tried using a men’s XXL t-shirt for the entire dress form, but it was impossible to form the batting and keep it in place with so much extra fabric.  When the second t-shirt was stuffed, we put the skirt on and adjusted the batting as needed.  Finally, we used archival tissue paper to stuff the sleeves, and cut a piece of fabric to cover the PVC pipe showing at the top’s neckline.

The finished dress form

The finished dress form

A lot of trial and error went into making this dress form.  One of the major concerns with a homemade form was minimizing the use of any materials that could harm the garments.  Anything with chemicals, dyes, or metals that might rust could potentially harm fabric.  When this dress form is complete and dressed, the only thing that should be touching the garment is a white cotton t-shirt, which will not damage the clothing.

Due to the minimal cost of construction one of these dress forms, we will now be able to display clothing which is too small to fit on any of our existing dress forms.  We can also customize the shape and size, providing more support for our historic garments.  This completed and dressed form will be on display in the Anderson Store Museum, showing an outfit similar to what Miss Lizzie Anderson would have worn.

-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin

Welcome to the EHF Blog

Welcome to the Ephraim Historical Foundation’s brand new blog. We thought it would be fun to publish little snippets of information every so often to keep you abreast of upcoming pleasures, events, and happenings, and to remind you of stories from Ephraim’s past. There is so much history in our little village, and since we love every single bit of it, we simply have to share it.

I remember that when I was a little girl, the “old timers” would talk about past happenings with great pleasure and interest, but I didn’t give it much thought.

Store Summer exterior

Anderson Store

As I got older, I began to realize the value of old stories, often repeated, and I began to store them in my own memory bank. Now I am fast approaching “old timer” status, certainly “long timer” status.

Here are a few things from my memory bank:

Did you know that: at one time there were three general stores in our little Ephraim?

That after finally getting one sawmill, there were suddenly five of them?

That our post office is currently occupying its sixth location, and that the first one was just a metal box on a shelf in the bedroom of a private home?

People often ask if we have written it all down, or recorded it. The blog will be our answer to that. Jotting down some stories for you to read will provide something of a local historical journal and may cause some of you to recall stories as well! Please let us know when that happens, as we hope to have guest bloggers occasionally to keep things fresh. Send an email to EHF Marketing and Volunteer Director Emily Irwin at  We will move from one topic to another, and from one time period to another to keep interesting.

Thanks for reading,
Linda Carey

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Miss Munda’s Dress


Miss Munda in the dress on her 80th birthday

Winter is the perfect time for working in the Archives and the EHF staff started an important collections project last week—cleaning Munda Anderson’s dress.  Miss Munda helped run the store for many years and is an important figure in the Anderson Store’s history.  She made this cotton dress in the mid-1880s and even wore it for her 80th birthday in 1949.  The dress has been on display for many years and is an important artifact in sharing the history of the Andersons and the store. Read More

A Shoe Collection


Shoes in the Anderson Store Museum

If you’ve ever visited the Anderson Store Museum, you’ve likely noticed the display of shoes in the back corner.  These shoes were once available for purchase in the Store and vary widely in type and style.  This winter, the EHF staff decided to undertake a big project: inventorying the shoe collection which, at last count, consisted of 173 shoes (81 pairs and 11 single shoes).

We began by collecting all the shoes from the Anderson Store and bringing them to the EHF offices.  Here is the process that each shoe or pair of shoes will undergo to be properly documented and cleaned. Read More

Log Cabins in Ephraim…and the World

The Goodletson Cabin (photo by Tad Dukehart)

The Goodletson Cabin (photo by Tad Dukehart)

Because Ephraim was settled a long time ago, (in 1853), we are sometimes surprised to discover that there are still some very old log cabins in our little town.  With all the modern building going on, who would want such an old dwelling? The answer is MANY people. There are old buildings that have been wonderfully refurbished, as well as brand-new-but-made-to-look-old cabins. Read More

Cemetery Walk 2016

Visitors at the 2015 Cemetery Walk

Visitors at the 2015 Cemetery Walk

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to visit with someone who lived on this earth 100 to 150 years ago?  If you come to the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery on September 12, you will have the opportunity to do just that.

For the last several years, the Ephraim Historical Foundation, in conjunction with the Ephraim Moravian Church, has presented a cemetery walk called the “DEARLY DEPARTED.”

Each year, several people agree to enact the part of a specific person from Ephraim’s past, while wearing appropriate costuming.  An effort is made to portray both men and women, and to choose personalities who have been gone from Ephraim for various lengths of time. Read More

The 2016 Ephraim Geo Trail

The 2016 Geo patch

The 2016 Geo patch

Ephraim has a new activity this summer involving geocaching. Geocaching is the outdoor treasure hunt that uses a GPS enabled device or smartphone. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and try to find the hidden container at that location. The 2016 Ephraim Geo Trail consists of four separate geocaches placed (very discretely) in the village. Within each cache is a piece of information that is only available at that geocache. When you have all four answers, you can submit them to the Ephraim Business Council’s Information Center or to the Ephraim Historical Foundation’s office to be awarded an embroidered patch featuring the Fyr Bal logo. Only 100 patches were made and as of mid-August there were only about 35 left. Once all the patches are awarded, the four caches will be deactivated. So if you want one of these patches, you better get moving. Read More

Beyond the Horizon

Folda, marcelle wedding dress

Marcelle Folda on her wedding day

This blog post was inspired by a photograph from the Ephraim Historical Foundation collections.  The black and white image features a young woman in her wedding dress, with a long, white train and a floor-length veil.  Her name is Marcelle Francesa Folda and she was once a summer resident of Ephraim.  For more than twenty years, she spent summers with her family on Horseshoe Island.

Marcella Folda 1 in 1907

Marcelle Folda, c. 1907

The Folda’s history on Horseshoe Island cannot be covered in a single blog post, so today’s story will instead focus on one resident, Marcelle, and her life in Ephraim and after.  Born on July 24, 1906, to Engelbert (better known as E.F.) and Alma Folda, Marcelle spent her early years in Omaha, Nebraska.  In 1909, the Folda family purchased Horseshoe Island and began building an estate known as Engelmar. Read More

Camp Peninsular

Camp Peninsular (photo courtesy of Peninsula State Park)

Camp Peninsular (photo courtesy of Peninsula State Park)

In early 1935, speculation began that Door County was about to receive its own CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp, and when three federal employees visited Peninsula State Park, the creation of a camp seemed certain.  After months of discussion, the first group of CCC enrollees arrived at the newly established Camp Peninsular on August 10, 1935.  The name Peninsular comes from the park, which was sometimes called Peninsular State Park in early writings. Read More

Camp Meenahga

Alice Clark

Alice Orr Clark

In 1915, two St. Louis women named Alice Orr Clark and Francis “Kidy” Woodward Mabley hatched a plan to open a girls’ camp in Door County.  The women selected a site in Peninsula State Park, an abandoned farm on Shore Road that provided the perfect location for the camp.  Several existing buildings were easily converted; the barn became the “One-Hundred-Foot Lodge,” with a recreation area, kitchen, and dining room, and several cow sheds were converted to cold storage buildings.  With the arrival of a five-seater outhouse, the construction of wooden platforms for tents, and the addition of a diving raft and clay tennis court, the camp was ready to open. Read More