DRESSING YOUR DUMMY

By: Ann Seeton

You may be totally new to puppets, or you may be someone with good skills already in place, but everyone starts somewhere. I am guessing you are fairly new to this and at some point you will need a costume change for your figure.

Here is one way to go about it.

Decide what sort of clothing your dummy would wear based on his detailed character sheet. This is because the clothing needs to communicate his or her personality. A cowgirl will dress differently than a New York housewife for an example.

Goody here is a dapper fellow, but he needs some casual clothing too!

(This is his original body, by Alan Semok, who made Goody. I kept this body and outfit as is. No way I could make him look more dapper than this outfit Alan chose for him.)

Any clothing you choose should be held up against what you will wear on stage to make certain it will stand out nicely without being distracting. Goody’s clothing needs to stand out against a navy blue outfit. Because of this, I chose lighter blue, red and black for his new clothing.

The clothing should suit not just the dummy’s personality but also the coloring of the puppet. My Goody has sandy hair and brown eyes and light skin with rosy undertones. The colors I chose really make my dummy’s face pop!
Purchase the clothing in the correct size. Goody’s 2nd body, made by Chance Wolf, is a 3T. Having a body that is exact in size makes new clothing easy.

One way of figuring out what fits is to carry the dummy into the store to try things on them. I ordered mine online because Chance told me what size the body wore.

NOTE: This is NOT a method for sweaters! Choose clothing that won’t unravel when cut or melt under an iron. Basic cotton is best.
This is where it all gets fancy.

We’re going to put each piece of clothing on the dummy and decide where you want the slit in the back of the outfit. How long a slit? That depends on the opening in the back of the dummy and the size of your hand.

I made a generous dot with my marker beginning just below the wood at the top of the body. I marked a second dot down at the pants line.

Then I took the outfit off the dummy and drew a line between the two dots.

If there is an arm rod, be sure to mark where that is going to come through.

To do this, remove the rod, pull the sleeve down so it fits to the wrist the way you like, then take a black marker and mark the place where the hole for the rod is located.

Time to gather your supplies. I purchased mine at a local sewing and craft supply store. If you need help, just ask. I asked and was directed to exactly what I needed.

Pellon Perma-stick Tape — This is like double sided tape but designed to make a permanent bond between fabrics.

Bias Tape/Quilt Binding — select colors to blend into the clothing.

Iron — any type, it just needs to get hot enough to make a permanent bond with the perma-stick tape and the binding.

Ironing board or Safe surface for using the iron. I own an ironing board but I’ve put a doubled up towel on a counter and not ruined anything, so its up to you.

GOAL: a neatly trimmed opening that remains tidy over time.

We have at this point several pieces of clothing with marker lines and dots where we would like to have openings. This next portion is not difficult and will result in nicely trimmed openings.
Matching the color of bias tape to the fabric and reinforcing the hole for the elbow rod. Depending on where the opening is located, you may want to be certain that it is unobtrusive.

Small squares of bias tape are sufficient for the opening for the elbow rod.

Take two small squares and cover one side of each square with the perma-stick tape.

Peel the backing off the other side of the tape.

Lay one square on the inside of the sleeve centered over the dot.

Lay the other square on the outside of the sleeve, centered over the dot, and then iron carefully, from both sides.

I then cut a tiny bit from the center of this reinforced patch, just barely large enough to force the rod for the elbow through.

Cut pieces of bias tape slightly longer than the length of the future slit.

Fold them in half lengthwise. You will be folding them over the edge of your slit once you have cut it.

Cut a tiny slit on the fold at each end of your bias tape.

Place the perma-stick tape on both sides of the folded bias tape.

The perma-stick tape is double sided, so you stick down one side, and then peel the backing to stick down the other side of the bias tape.

Peel the perma-stick tape on one side of the fold.

Place the FOLD of the bias tape along the line on the fabric but not touching that line. Stick it down firmly.

Do this on both sides of the line. Now you are ready to cut the line.

Carefully cut the line between the two dots. Your length of bias tape should extend slightly past the dots.

Fold the bias tape over this cut edge and on the back side, peel the perma-stick tape and stick the bias tape down firmly.

The bias tape will extend beyond the cut opening. The slit at the end of the bias tape will allow it to pass over the end of the slit, and lay flat on both sides.

Now the two pieces of bias tape are wrapping the edges of the fabric slit. They should lay fairly smoothly.

Iron this tape to seal the bond. This nicely finishes the long edges of the slit but leaves the ends vulnerable to tearing so the next step addresses that problem.
Cut two, one & one half inch pieces of the bias tape.

Fold each piece lengthwise. Make a slit at each end of the fold leaving the center intact. Leave approximately 1⁄2 inch uncut.

These shorter pieces of slit-folded-bias tape will be reinforcing the ends of the slit over the dots.

We will place these pieces across the top and bottom of the slit creating a capital “i”.

Cover both sides of the slit bias tape with perma-bond tape, peel the tape, and fold each piece over the ends of the slits.

Take your time and do your best to set these pieces smoothly in place.

The slit in the fabric is now completely covered.

Iron these pieces into place and as flat as they will go. The heat creates a good bond between the bias tape and the fabric.

NOTE: If you WANT to do so, you may sew the tape into place. I have not found it to be necessary and I wanted this to be a method that did not require a sewing machine to complete.
While I was doing the setting of the bond I took the time to iron out the shirts I was working on, to get rid of wrinkles. It’s little touches like that which will help give your figure a professional appearance.
I worked on several pieces of clothing for my dummy at one time resulting in a small wardrobe. But one piece or many, this will work on simple cotton fabrics.
The end result is a well dressed ventriloquist’s figure.

Ann Seeton
I.V.S. Member #383

Contact:

Email:
tom@maherstudios.com

 

Mailing Address:
International Ventriloquist Society
c/o Maher Studios
P.O. Box 2131
Westminster, MD. 21158

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