A Brief History of the Mannequin

by:Art Wing      2020-05-18
The female mannequin of the 21st century looks more like a 'real person' than ever before, and the same holds true for a male mannequin. Intricately detailed bodies, vibrantly painted faces with eyes that really seem to have a twinkle, the mannequin for sale to the fashion and retail industries these days is a far cry from their ancestors of just a few decades ago. Mannequins have been around for centuries in one form or another, but it wasn't until the invention of the plate glass window that they began to show up modeling clothes in retail stores. These mannequins were a far cry from the sexy mannequin of today; in fact they looked more like scarecrows than a real person, especially since their bodies were usually stuffed with straw. Still, they served their purpose well enough; they excited an interest in the clothing on sale within the store or showroom where they were displayed but there were those who realized that a female mannequin could be so much more. In the 1930s a mysterious woman began making appearances at such hot New York nightspots as the Stork Club as well as at the opera, the ballet and the theater. Wherever she was she sat motionless, a cigarette in her hand at all times. Her name was Cynthia and although she never uttered a word she excited interest all over Manhattan and beyond. Cynthia was, of course, a female mannequin, the first of six in a line of plaster dress mannequins created by a soap sculptor called Lester Gaba. His 'Gaba Girls' as they were known were almost unlike any other mannequin ever seen before, since they were considered so beautiful and so very realistic. From then on fashion retailers and designers all over the world began to see what a useful tool a good mannequin could be to grow their business. The mannequins that followed in Cynthia's 'footsteps' began to reflect their target audiences. In the 1930's female mannequin were far more charming than their somber 1920's predecessors and after World War II ended the shorter, simpler mannequins of the 1940s gave way to the happy, smiling creations that mirrored the optimism of the 1950's. In the 1960s the first truly sexy mannequins, both male and female began popping up in shop windows, some fashioned in the likeness of popular fashion icons of the day like Twiggy, others with expressions of defiance or worry, a signal of the changing times. These days mannequins come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. For the avant garde designer there is the slightly abstract brightly colored torso mannequin, or a headless mannequin that displays clothing perfectly without detracting from it in any way. However, it is the 'lifelike'mannequin that still dominates in storefronts and showrooms across the world, changing all the time to reflect the attitudes of those that they are designed to appeal to - the man and woman in the street.
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