The photographs in the exhibition will be supplemented by a selection of 9 ensembles showcasing the work of designers that collaborated with Horst. These include some of the most prominent and influential fashion designers of the 1930s, such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet.
For the 9 exquisite ensembles, some of which have never been displayed, we needed a mannequin that would be sympathetic to the era and glamour of the costume as well as complement the photographic works that are central to the exhibition.
Having assessed the garments’ condition for potential problems and measured the dress sizes, the textile conservation team felt confident that full-figure mannequins could be used to mount the garments. This was the preferred option as full-figure mannequins were considered to be more expressive than torso dress stands, which are often used to mount fragile period garments.
As always, the choice to use full-bodied mannequins necessitated a tricky decision on hair: did the mannequins need any?
We looked at commercially available mannequins that had hair sculpted onto the head as the project team thought this approach would produce a suitably statuesque look. Unfortunately we couldn’t find an example that in any way recalled the fashionable hair-dos of the 1930s, and so opted instead for styled nylon hair wigs provided by Gems at Proportion London Ltd.
The white Nylon hair was sprayed with several layers of the mannequin paint finish to make it look as though the wigs were intrinsic to the mannequin figure.
Having studied each of the garments and considered the date, condition, shape and size of the pieces, the textile conservation team produced a worksheet for each ensemble.
These sheets provided information on mannequin size, pose, arm position and hairstyle. Each specific mannequin had an overall look that attempted to echo Horst’s 1930s photographs for Vogue.
Mannequin fully dressed and ready for installation in the exhibition.