Mannequins: Fashion, Ideal Beauty & Politics

Mannequin Neiman Marcus SF may-07-2013-01Fashion and mannequins have always been linked with each other.
From the store windows to the catwalk, mannequins are used to show the latest in fashion.

Mannequin manufacturers has one common goal – make mannequins that will be used to display clothes.

Of course, there are other uses for mannequins such as the movies, either as a prop or to be an actor’s double. Mannequins are also used widely in crash testing of cars. They are also used in teaching human anatomy and medical sciences from saving lives (CPR) to veterinary medicine.

Among its uses, the fashion mannequin is the one which has captured the imagination of a lot of people.

Mannequins reflects the “ideal beauty” of the time it was designed and manufactured.

According to Claudia Kidwell, head of the costume divistion at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American history, “The idea of having idealized three-dimensional forms of the human body from different time periods is fascinating.”

“The way different generations learn to align the skeleton and distribute weight has to do with the culture a person grows up in and the posture of their time,” she says. (From: Mannequins: Fantasy Figures of High Fashion, Smithsonian Magazine)

If you look at mannequins from different time periods, you will see that each era has its own characteristics – from facial expression, to body language (pose) and of course, the measurements.

Modern mannequins look like life-sized Barbie dolls – tall and slim, with great body tone, looks bored and usually a size 4.

Compare them with mannequins fifty years ago, and you will find that mannequins manufactured after World War II were shorter, and had a happy facial expression.

Mannequins were shorter because there were not enough raw materials, and they had “happy” expressions because they were “welcoming” heroes.

In short, mannequins also reflect the political and socio-economic situation of the times.

So, next time, when you look through the glass of a store window, remember that the mannequin inside reflects humanity more than what is obvious.