Costume mounting is the topsy-turvy task of making a mannequin fit a particular object, a job that can often make you feel more like plastic surgeon than a museum employee, as the following post explains…
First up on the Undressed costume mounting schedule is this charming cotton corset dating from 1825-35.
Don’t be deceived by its intricate stitching and pleasing patterns however, she has been a challenging initial mount!
Despite trying her on one of our ‘petite’ dress stands specially designed for historical costume and boasting a waist measurement of 17 inches, she was still too small.
As we don’t have time to wait for our mannequins to lose weight the natural way through healthy exercise and a balanced diet, immediate and drastic surgery was required…
A whole new meaning for the idea of backless fashion?
After stripping down the outer cover and removing the entire upper back we then re-built the mannequin using buckram (scoured linen strips applied using wheat-starch paste) and FOSSHAPE (a low melt synthetic polyester fiber that can be moulded using heat) to achieve the required across back measurement.
The butchery involved gives both a fascinating and worrying insight into how far corsets like this are able to alter the natural shape of the body. It’s a privilege to be able to work so closely with the objects and the bodies beneath them.
With the corset now actually fitting the mannequin the next step was to create her enviable curves. In costume mounting terms this means some serious sculpting using the inert foam plaztazote.
The early 19th Century silhouette of this corset gives Kim Kardashian a run for her money in the curves department: the breasts should sit wide and pushed up above a very small waist, accentuating the voluptuous hips.
After carving some basic shapes to fill out the figure to the dimensions of the corset, the lines are softened using layers of polyester wadding, adding a more natural softness to the figure and providing a padded support for the costume. With a bit more padding on the front and the back she will then be covered in black jersey and dressed ready for display. See the final version in the gallery next year!