Mannequin – A history of Fashion Dolls

When Louis XIV wanted all of Europe to know about Paris Fashions, he arranged for fashion dolls, dressed in the latest styles, to be sent to every European Court.  The ladies of the Court would then have their tailor/dressmaker make up their chosen designs, which would also include hats and footwear.

The beautiful clothes on the dolls were painstakingly correct and included every construction detail.  The dressmakers could remove the clothes and if necessary, unpick the outfits to assess the cut of the pattern.  They could then copy them as patterns and grade them to fit their individual customers, before remaking the dolls costumes and then passed on from Court to Court throughout Europe.  The miniature costumes were exquisite and represented the latest word in fashion and trimmings.  The dolls were made of alabaster or china and were also sent to America in the 19th Century.

Although paper patterns were developed during the Victorian era, fashion dolls continued to be used even after the Second World War.  In 1945, the Chambre Syndicale of Paris organised the Theatre de la Mode in an attempt to re-assert French couture.  Small scale couture models, designed by a collaboration of both fashion designers and artists, were sent abroad, intending to show the supremacy of French Fashion design and to re-assert French Couture.

This is my interpretation of what has gone before.  Using an 18 inch high wire mannequin and adapting a costume pattern for a 16 inch doll (Mimi’s Victoria Rose  The undergarments, made of fine cotton lawn, cotton sateen and lace, include a chemise, a corset, a petticoat and a bustle pad.  The outer garments, made of silk dupion, are a dickey waistcoat, and a fully lined jacket and skirt.  Each piece of clothing has been hand quilted.

There is an accompanying book of photographs which show each garment separately, together with swatches and samples of fabric, threads and haberdashery used in this project.