Monday, December 10, 2007

A Brief History of Mannequins

When mannequins first appeared in store windows just after the Industrial Revolution, (1860’s England), they were far from perfect. The glass pane had just been invented, and as street lights became more prevalent, shop owners were eager to advertise their wares to evening strollers. Made of wood and stuffed with sawdust, these mannequins often weighed upwards of 300 pounds due to the iron fillings in their feet that kept them standing upright.

It was considered an improvement when they were finally made out of wax -- until they began melting under the hot filament lights of the displays. Even in their primitive and imperfect stages, mannequins served their sales purpose; women were drawn to the objects displayed on them. As retailers caught on to the sway that mannequins had over women, they began making them look and act more like their target consumers.

During World War I, for instance, mannequins became sprightlier as women began to join the workforce. By the arrival of the 20’s, “They tended to look a little tired-eyed...” said Robert H Hoskins, an assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in an issue of Smithsonian Magazine. “As if to say, ‘I know where the speakeasies are.’ ”

By the end of WW II, mannequins became noticeably voluptuous, almost as a treat for the boys who had just gotten back from the war.

Shortly after, mannequin maker Adel Rootstein decided that mannequins were not hip enough to reflect the latest trends coming out of 1950's London. She began scouting out real models to base mannequins on, infusing the dummies with life and an identity.

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