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A history of mannequins

Mannequins are our business and we are always interested in what’s happening in the mannequin world, both historically and in the present. Did you know that their use began in the Victorian era when dressmakers in Europe would use them whilst making clothes for Kings and Queens? It prevented embarrassment while doing a fitting as the dressmakers would then fit their clothes to the exact size mannequin of whichever Royalty they were fitting. The dressmakers and tailors in Victorian times were extremely skilled and the the degree of workmanship involved in making these clothes meant that the clothes themselves were expensive to make and totally inaccessible to the middle classes.

The Industrial Revolution in 1790 created a new Middle class with money to spend on items that were only previously available to royalty and landed gentry. Fashion then became available to the masses and mannequins were then used to display the latest clothing trends. The mannequins were nothing like our mannequins today, they were made from wax, wood or heavy cloth with iron feet and were extremely heavy and cumbersome.

In the early 1900, starting in the UK, department stores became more widespread and so did the window displays with mannequins that became more detailed by using glass eyes, real hair and facial expressions.

Mannequins have now become not just vehicles for the fashion industry to showcase their creations to potential customers. They now communicate more than we might think about attitudes to body image in any given era.

Mannequins have typically symbolised what the fashion industry thinks its customers would ideally like to look like in their clothes, rather than how they might actually look. In 2014 more and more shops in the UK have started using mannequins that reflect more of the shape of many of their customers.

Mannequin companies now have to adapt to many different sizes, shapes and styles of design and the price of a mannequin can range from £30 to £10,000 for a custom made mannequin for a designer like Chanel.