Toronto Metropolitan University
Body_Doubles_Alison_Matthews_David_Fashion_Studies.pdf (5.47 MB)

Body Doubles: The Origins of the Fashion Mannequin

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-03-06, 22:12 authored by Alison Matthews DavidAlison Matthews David

This article traces the origins of the mannequin and challenges the gender assumptions it has been cloaked in. In nineteenth-century Paris, the fashion mannequin became a key technology in the construction of normative bodies, a principal “actor” in shaping current clothing cultures, and literally embodied debates over creativity and commodification. It locates the origins of the mannequin and the advent of live male fashion models in the bespoke tailoring practices of the 1820s, several decades before the female fashion model appeared on the scene. It ties the mannequin to larger shifts in the mass-production, standardization, and literal dehumanization of clothing production and consumption. As male tailors were put out of business by the proliferation of mass-produced clothing in standardized sizes, innovators like Alexis Lavigne and his daughter Alice Guerre-Lavigne made, marketed, and mass-produced feminized mannequins and taught tailoring techniques to and for a new generation of women. Starting in the 1870s and 80s, seamstresses used these new workshop tools to construct and drape innovative garments. Despite the vilification of the mannequin as a cipher for the superficiality and lack of individuality of fashionable displays in the modern urban landscape, early twentieth-century couturières like Callot Soeurs and Madeleine Vionnet ultimately used mannequins to produce genuinely creative clothing that freed the elite female body and allowed it new forms of mobility. 




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