Monday, July 9, 2012

The Doll as Mannequin

In "Dictionary of Costume and Fashion", author Mary Brooks Pickens defines the mannequin as a model of the human figure for display of garments, hats, furs, etc.  From early 15th Century "milliners' mannequins" that were used to display the latest fashions for customers to the Theatre de la Mode fashion dolls to the miniature counter display mannequins and sewing kits found in fabric stores of the 1940's and 50's, mannequins have long been a source of fascination.

Sydney Australia, 1947
These wonderful department store mannequins are the big sisters to the miniature mannequin.  They were used to display fashions in an effort to entice the customer into the store to purchase.  Photo courtesy of

Supporting the war effort, this patriotic store window from the 1940's pays homage to the various women's uniforms of WWII.  Photo courtesy of

Love this window display from B. Altman & Company in NYC, circa 1940's.  The impeccably dressed mannequins provided inspiration for my own "window" display.  Photo courtesy of  The T-Cozy

Here's my take on the B. Altman window display with Mel Odom's 15.5 inch Gene Marshall doll as my mannequin.  And a good excuse to utilize the stand!  Details of the dolls and fashions in my next post.


In the Spring of 1945, Paris Couturiers began to rebuild their industry by creating a traveling exhibit of more than 200 miniature 27.5 inch mannequins dressed in designs by such notables as Balenciaga, Lanvin, Balmain, and Worth.  Pictured from left to right:  Marcelle Alix day ensemble, Simone Cange hat; Anny Blatt suit; Henry a la Pensee day ensemble, Jacques Heim hat.  Photo courtesy of

Margit Nilsen, a noted mannequin sculptor, designed this marvelous 22 inch miniature mannequin used by the Traphagen School of Fashion.  Many of her mannequins were also sold to McCall Pattern Company where they were used as counter displays in fabric stores.  Photo courtesy of

Isn't she fabulous!  A 1940's mannequin in original costume.  She is approximately 21" high.  Most of these display mannequins had removable arms for ease of dressing just like their full-size counterparts.  If you would like more information, I highly recommend the following books: 

"Miniature Mannequins, Identification & Price Guide" by Doris Mixon. Published by Hobby House Press, Inc.

"Theatre de la Mode: Fashion Dolls: the Survival of Haute Couture".  Published by Palmer/Pletsch.


  1. Fascinating! It also might explain the size of Cissy dolls - they were really utilizing a "standard" in the fashion world.

  2. We have several labeled Margit Nilsen display mannequin figures including one dark skinned model with her entire original lavish costume. Will be happy to post a photo of her for study.