Mannequins at a Glance
Mannequins have a rich century-old history. They’re what Dr. Marsha Bentley Hale, one of the world’s leading experts on mannequins, calls "significant sociological reflections of our consumer society."Until the early 1900s, the most common mannequins had no head, arms or legs. But by 1912, with the rise of mass production clothing, full-fledged human figures became popular.
Here’s a look at how mannequins have changed with the times:
During the Depression era, mannequins were inspired by Hollywood starlets as many Americans took refuge in movie theaters, according to Eric Feigenbaum, chair of the visual merchandising department of LIM College, a fashion college in New York City. But during World War II, the displays took on a somber tone to reflect more subdued fashions, he says.
After World War II, mannequins started looking playful again. But sexuality was squelched during the 1940s and the 1950s. In fact, many American retailers removed the nipples of the older mannequins because they were considered too sexual, says Dr. Hale.
With the sexual revolution in the 1960s, nipples were brought back to showcase braless fashions. The decade also saw the trend of mannequins being made in the image of celebrities. Rootstein, for example, created a mannequin based on the elfin model Twiggy in 1966.
The late 1970s and early 1980s ushered in an era of hyper realism, with mannequins showing belly buttons and even back spine indentations, according to ChadMichael Morrisette, an expert in mannequin history.
By the late 1980s, the trend moved away from realistic mannequins again, and more toward ones that were either headless or had faceless heads.
The industry in recent years has been moving more toward more realistic-looking mannequins, with wigs, makeup, chiseled facial features, full waistlines and even tattoos.
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