Blackcabbit's World

Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.

A Bumpy Ride for my Dress Form

Pattern Fitting ToolBefore I go right in to air my grievances, I think it is only proper that I fill you in with my reason to get a dress form in the first place. Ever since I started my life in Japan, I find myself churning out more ideas for sewing projects than for illustrations. And lately, the determination to make my own evening dress (to attend my brother’s wedding in September) had strongly prompted me to pick up dressmaking skill.

Initially, I began by searching for a fashion school to get the necessary foundation. However, the cons seem to outweigh the pros. There is no english-speaking class near my area. Attending any regular Japanese-only fashion school will definitely freak me out. I cannot afford to splash time and money for self-indulgent, I have a one-year-old to think about. Plus, I don’t need additional paper qualifications at this point of time. I rather acquire skills and experiences at my own pace.

So after much contemplation, autodidacticism is the only way to go. (Wow, finally a chance to use that big word, which basically means self-teaching LOL). Hence, I bought two reference books to start me off. I may buy more advance-level books in the future once I’ve gain confidence with the fundamental steps. I love the flexibility and that it only costs a fraction of any dressmaking course fee.

Dressmaking Pattern book

Let’s Get to the Meat of the Matter

For some reason, I cannot find any adjustable dress form in Japan. The lady “torsos” here are only available in fixed sized, which is unsuitable for my constantly fluctuating body measurements. Furthermore, they are so expensive and out of my budget. So I decided to buy the basic and reasonably-priced FashionMaker Family Adjustable Dress Form by Yamata from USA.

Unfortunately, most online stores do not offer international shipping for the dress form. I can only find ONE! is willing to ship to Japan but it will cost me a hefty sum of JPY20,652 (about USD258; with shipping and tax included). At, the dress form is only USD109 + local shipping USD11.98. What a huge difference!

Not wanting to bother my friends in the States, I decided to use package forwarding services instead. Based on the recommendations I got from related forums, I visited and compared numerous websites. I finally decided to use Viaddress after I checked their shipping rate, which was less than USD75. Additionally, their website really looks amazing and they offer free services such as consolidation, repackaging to lower weigh etc., which is great since I’m planning to get more sewing patterns from USA. So I registered with them and got my own US address. I proceed to buy an evening gown pattern from Etsy and the dressform from Amazon.

Now hang on tight, the ride is about to get bumpy…

The dress form took five days to reach Viaddress in Elkhart. They promptly send me an invoice to notify me the very next day. To my horror, the shipping rate was USD204.70! Hey, wasn’t it USD75. That’s nearly three times more! I almost faint. I checked with them if there was any calculation error. The package weighs only 9lbs. Its dimensional weight (79 x 37 x 27cm) is 17kg (about 36lbs). Yet, they were charging me for 41lbs.

Well, here is the rest of horror:

  • They did not answer my questions directly, instead they tried to distract me with the links to FedEx calculator and a wikipedia article on dimensional weight, which I was already familiar with.
  • Despite what’s written on their website, they only offered me FedEx and NOT other shipping options (e.g. DHL, UPS etc.)
  • They could not locate my sewing pattern until 11 days later.
  • The sewing pattern weighed 1lb. for both actual and DIM. Yet, the shipping rate on the invoice was $35.86! I bought similar items before, which cost me only $3 to $5 for postage from USA to Japan.
  • Pretty sure that I was scammed, I goggled Viaddress online for more information. I was shocked to find many negative reviews, which didn’t appear in my initial searches. Furthermore, Viaddress is not Better Business Bureau (BBB) accredited because of many complaints.

“In short: avoid unless you’re of a mood to gamble” was what Jon Hancock said in his witty review of Viaddress. Since my stuffs were already with them, I had only two options. Either, I cut my losses and bless them with my dressmaking tools. Or, pick up the tab and trust in the Lord.

Yup, I did the latter. Buying another dress form from will only incur more cost. And I really want that out-of-print vintage sewing pattern. Though fully aware that I may end up with nothing, it was a risk I was willing to take. So I asked Viaddress to consolidate both items and opted for the slightly cheaper Fedex Economy Standard, which was USD180.33. Thank God, Viaddress honored their part of the deal and I got my goods after nine days. Yipee!


Well, it was truly a nerve-wreaking experience. I doubt I will ever attempt any package forwarding service provider ever again. Nonetheless, this whole ordeal had made me treasure my dress form and sewing pattern even more. Thank you Lord.


4 comments on “A Bumpy Ride for my Dress Form

  1. Elis
    October 15, 2011

    I have been looking for an adjustable dress form forever. Can´t find a website that offers reasanable international shipping. A Singer dress form in my country is very expensive and I heard it is a basic one too.

    • blackcabbit
      October 15, 2011

      Hi Elis, Glad you drop by. Yup I wonder why adjustable dress form is so hard to find in common sewing stores since it is such a great idea. In case you wondering about the one I bought, I thought I’ll briefly feedback about it here…

      My dress form is a basic “lower-end” type with unjustly shipping rate >_<". In fact, the adjustable dials on it seems breakable and frail. So I had to adjust it as gentle as possible. Hmm maybe I did not adjust it correctly (the 1-piece instruction sheet does not say much anyway), I tried to set it to my size based on my measurements but it end up too large. I cannot even fit my dress over it. So in my opinion, it did not "represent" my size accurately. Hopefully, someone will come along to let me know what I did wrong.

      Anyway, after the bad fit… I reduced it to its original size in order to display my dress (for picture taking). Since I only tried to use it once so far, my verdict on it is not conclusive.

  2. Creative Mama
    June 24, 2011

    How is the dress form. Do you find it helpful and efficient, is it adjustable? i am from India and the problem is same with as i can’t find any adjustable dress forms here where i live.

    • blackcabbit
      June 26, 2011

      Dear Creative Mama,
      I have yet to start on my dressmaking project as I’m still reading the books to learn more abt sewing patterns and what materials to use for an evening gown (i.e. linings). So right now, I can’t really tell how helpful or efficient the dress form actually is.

      However, it was easy to assemble and is quite sturdy. The pinable surface is just a felt material on the plastic shell so it is non-so “pinable” in my opinion.

      I did tried adjusting the dress form to my size. Hmm, there are markings on it but if I follow them strictly, the size will be too big for me, so I try to gauze and adjust it with a measuring tape. The knots are very delicate, thus I was trying hard to be as gentle as possible. (Scary if you have shaky hands like mine as a result of too much coffee :P)

      Overall, I think the dress form is suitable for a beginner like me. Just a basic dressmaking too and its price range is reasonable (minus the hefty shipping fee I paid for of course LOL). I think veteran seamstress may want to get a higher end product instead.

      Yup, I always wish more countries will offer feasible international shipping and share with the rest of the world their goodies. :D

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This entry was posted on June 22, 2011 by in Craft / DIY Projects and tagged .
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