Style Never Goes Out of Fashion

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.

T.399&a-1974 Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress and Jacket with gilt embroidery. Ensemble previously mounted on a torso dress stand.

T.399&a-1974 Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress and Jacket with gilt embroidery. Ensemble previously mounted on a torso dress stand.

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.

T.399&a-1974 Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress and Jacket with gilt embroidery mounted for ‘Horst Photographer of Style’ on a full figure Proportion Ltd mannequin.

T.399&a-1974 Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress and Jacket with gilt embroidery mounted for ‘Horst Photographer of Style’ on a full figure Proportion Ltd mannequin. © Sam Gatley

As always, the choice to use full-bodied mannequins necessitated a tricky decision on hair: did the mannequins need any?

The Debutante Wave, a short perm fashionable in the 1930s. http://relivingalegacy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/blast-from-past-1930s.html

The Debutante Wave, a short perm fashionable in the 1930s. http://relivingalegacy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/blast-from-past-1930s.html

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.

Sample wig from Gems Ltd produced from period reference material. The paint finish was considered too pale and further layers were added to match the mannequin face.

Sample wig from Gems Ltd produced from period reference material. The paint finish was considered too pale and further layers were added to match the mannequin face. © Sam Gatley

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.

Work sheet with mannequin and wig information for the Schiaparelli Dress and Jacket ensemble

Work sheet with mannequin and wig information for the Schiaparelli Dress and Jacket ensemble © Sam Gatley

Mannequin fully dressed and ready for installation in the exhibition.

T.399&a-1974 Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress and Jacket

T.399&a-1974 Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress and Jacket © Sam Gatley

One thought on “Style Never Goes Out of Fashion

Abbie Hubbard:

These dresses are beautiful, the wonderful display complimented the exhibition perfectly.
My particular favourite is the dress in the above article, I also think the use of wigs on the mannequins (especially the hairstyle) were in keeping with the elegance of the displayed photographs. The dresses really did add that special touch.

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