Bespoke Bodies for Bespoke Brides

Without a doubt, every garment that appears in the Conservation Studio is unique in some form or another, and as a result, every mannequin has to be custom built to a certain degree, be it through padding, as shown in an earlier blog, or through close collaboration with our mannequin makers.

There are going to be a number of bespoke figures made for Wedding Dresses 1775 – 2014, which I will certainly post more about at a later date. Just as a taster however, I thought I could show what we do when a standard off the shelf figure will absolutely not do, with a couple of examples from the exhibition which have already been made.

The first example was made especially to display the wedding dress worn by Dita Von Teese when she married Marylyn Manson in 2005, as the cleavage crated by her Mr Pearl corset and Vivienne Westwood dress was somewhat different to what was commercially available.

Normally we start by trying the object on one of the standard figures made by the mannequin manufactures and make notes about how the fit could be improved.  With very fragile objects we would also make a toile, to reduce the amount of handing the garment is subjected to.

Here you can see the standard figure we started with, alongside the finished mannequin before it was painted, as well as the finished product with the garment in place.

The standard figure we started with, alongside the finished mannequin. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The finished mannequin with the garment in place. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

To demonstrate what happens in-between these stages, the following images show another dress at the point of the second fitting. The back of the mannequin has been removed, and notes on the mannequin show how much the back should be brought back out by in order to better support the strap of the object and therefore evenly distribute the weight of the garment.

Wedding dress at the point of the second fitting. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Wedding dress at the point of the second fitting, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Once finished, a custom built mannequin requires very little padding, if any. Here you see the finished mannequin for the wedding dress worn by Gwen Stefani when she married Gavin Rossdale in 2002.

Wedding dress worn by Gwen Stefani when she married Gavin Rossdale in 2002. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Wedding dress worn by Gwen Stefani when she married Gavin Rossdale in 2002. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

As the project progresses, we are sure to have a few more bespoke figures, and even a few trips to the mannequin factory which I will be sure to upload soon.

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