Which Heads? Choosing Heads for our Brides

Part of the process of choosing mannequins for an exhibition is deciding what sort of heads to use, and this is never a straightforward task.

For Wedding Dresses 1775-2014, a team of V&A staff, including the Costume Mounting Specialist, the Curator, and the Designer have been out an about looking at the heads they might want to use for the display.

Just like the mannequins, the heads need to serve a number of functions:

  • They must be suitable for use with the wigs designed for the exhibition
  • They must fit onto the mannequins already made for the exhibition
  • They must work across the whole time period covered by the exhibition – 1775-2014

Visiting the Proportion London studio. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Visiting the Proportion London studio. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Visiting the Proportion London studio. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

On our first trip out, mannequin makers Proportion London showed us around their studio to see what heads they have on offer. Not only did we find a head we liked but also a mannequin style for the contemporary pieces in the exhibition, some of which we took delivery of last week.

Visiting H&H Sculptors Limited. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Visiting H&H Sculptors Limited. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

During our second visit, Sculptor Gary Hall of H&H Sculptors showed us a range of heads that they could adapt for Wedding Dresses 1775-2014, while we talked through the exact style we wanted. We left having asked to see a prototype mocked up on Photoshop, and fingers crossed we can develop the perfect head for our 19th and early 20th century brides!

I only came along to look at some heads! © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The visit to H&H, aside from being vital to our collaborative process, also brought about one of the strangest requests I have ever had. ‘Is there any chance we could use your arms and hands?’, requested H&H Sculptors Director Kathryn Hall at the end of our head meeting, as it turned out they needed to cast a model for a figure of a girl riding a bike, which is how I came to be wrist deep in alginate, with both my arms cast in plaster. Unsurprisingly, this will long remain the most memorable end to a meeting about heads I will ever encounter!

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