Vintage Adjust-O-Matic Dress Form and a Healthy Body Image

Have you ever seen one of these?


Made in the mid-1960s and costing only $6.95: “with your Adjust-o-Matic dress form you see in advance just how attractive and becoming your dress, skirt, coat or blouse will look!


Inside the box was a bewildering assortment of pieces. I have to admit, as a person who kind of sucks at puzzles, this put a bit of fear into my heart.


Thank goodness there was also an instruction booklet! And let me say right now, that all instruction writers in the world should read this instruction booklet and take notes.  Seriously! This was so easy to put together! I was amazed!


I spread the pieces out on the kitchen floor and proceeded to fit tab A into slot A and on and on until I was finished about an hour later.


The Incredible Adjust-o-Matic is a miracle of modern engineering. Honestly.


The form was built in three sections: first the hips, then the torso, then attach the neck piece and close the shoulders. When I built the hips section, I held it in my two hands and thought that surely there must be some mistake. These hips are too small. My hips are much larger than this. So I double checked the measurements. And yes…these are my hips.


I suddenly felt a little teary-eyed! So here’s something about me that you may or may not know. Several years ago I lost a great deal of weight. Yes. Yes, I did. You can read all about it here. At some point after that I suffered an illness. My brain chemicals and hormones went out of balance, brought on by a combination of stressful life events and menopause, and I was diagnosed with acute depression.  It took me a couple of years, but thanks to a lot of very hard work and the love and support of my husband and a couple of close friends, I recovered. Unfortunately, however, I am left with a 20 pound weight gain. I can’t begin to tell you how I have beat myself up over re-gaining those pounds! The vicious, terrible things I say to myself! Horrible, just horrible.


So holding those hips in my hands made me cry. Because I saw that they aren’t gigantic ugly hips at all! Yes, they are 3 inches wider than they were 3 years ago. That is a fact.My body-image is so out of whack, it’s scarey!


I will get back to a healthier weight again. It’s just taking longer this time. My body is different than it was when I lost the weight before. I’m post-menopausal now.  I’m not teaching 5 dance classes every week. But I go for long walks every day with Samson, and I’m making an effort to get back into my yoga practice. I still go through phases of being very mindful of what I eat and then binging on ice cream (hard not to do on these hot summer days!). Over all I feel like I live a very balanced life. So the weight will probably be much slower in coming off this time around.  And you know what? That’s okay. Besides, the incredible Adjust-o-Matic will reduce right along with me as I re-loose those inches. She’ll help keep things real.


She doesn’t actually belong to me. She is on loan from a friend. It belongs to my friend Jean’s mother.


Jean’s mother is in a nursing home now, and the dress form was taken apart and packed away into Jean’s basement some time ago.


I still think she looks smaller than me. But every time I check the measurements again, hers and mine remain the same.


She sits in my sewing room and I look at her every day. She reminds me to be kind to myself.



  1. so I have one of these what was given to me but Jones of the pins to keep it together were in the box, what do the little metal pieces that hold it together look like? or where could I buy some??

    1. Hi, Ray, I don’t have it anymore so I can’t check for you. But I think they were largish brass fasteners – like the kind with the two metal prongs that spread open to hold pages together once you’ve inserted it through the punch hole. Not 100% sure, though. Sorry.

    2. They are known as paper fasteners where I’m from, usually brass, sold at stationery stores, and they come in different lengths. They have a round brass head and two flat ‘tails’ which you spread out like wings once they’ve been put through the paper or cardboard you want to hold together. Google paper fastener, or there’s a photo on this site –

  2. Hello! Love your post! I am a small town librarian and a patron has been bringing me his great aunt’s old sewing implements for a display here at the library. He brought over a few pieces of one of these and we couldn’t figure out what it was for the longest time, till he found the instruction booklet! This one has not been stored properly, so a lot of the pieces are brittle. It wasn’t easy to get together anymore, but it’s been generating a lot of conversation among patrons about how women’s bodies are just different now than a generation or 2 ago. Just is what it is.

  3. Not pushing here: I have one–never assembled and with instructions– for sale if anyone wants to contact me through this page. I can’t use it because my hips will never be that size again!And Miss Nita I think you look marvelous!

    1. Any chance you’d be willing to make a copy of the instructions for the previous poster and I? I would gladly reimburse you for any costs or would be happy to receive a PDF.

      Thank you!

      1. Hi Katherine! I actually just bought the form from Debra, and I’d be happy to make a PDF copy of the instructions. 🙂 Would you like me to email it to you?

  4. Oh wow, I have one of these (original owner!) but the instruction manual disappeared during a cross-country move.and since I am no longer the size I was when it was assembled, it sits there looking at me accusingly: it is still my tiny, 25 year old size and I sadly am not, and I have no idea how to adjust it now!

  5. I just got one of these and actually want to use it but I can’t find the instructions for measuring it anywhere online. Would u be able to a novice seamstress out? Maybe point me in the right direction?

  6. I’m so glad you found one of these! It will make fitting your sewing so much easier! Now, all she needs is a name……Brass Button Betty? Cardboard Carol? You’ll have to ponder….!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!