Dressing Mannequins | FASHION AS DESIGN


My name is Tae Smith and I’m the dresser
for the Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” Most often you see garments in exhibitions
on mannequins. But mannequins are difficult because you have
to think of so many aspects. You have to think of, what color do you want
the mannequin? What kind of gesture? The history of mannequins themselves is the
history of what people look like or what the ideal is. So, you have to be very careful about what
you’re portraying. You know, what your garment looks like and
what the mannequin looks like may be saying two different things. So you need to make sure that they’re both
talking about the same thing. The most important aspect of an exhibition
is the storyline. And so, the first thing I do is I really talk
to the curator of the show. They have to have their object list. If they don’t have their object list, I can’t
point them in the right direction because it’s all about the object and how they want
to portray these objects. So this is the little black dress section
and, as you can see, they represent dresses from the 1920s, which is the Chanel, to the
90s. This is the Versace Safety Pin Dress. This is the early 60s, and this is from Givenchy. This is the Kinematic dress. This is a 3D printed dress. So what we’re going to do for this exhibition
is put all of these on invisible mannequins. It’s going to look like it’s floating,
and you can really look at the outline and just how they interact with the other garments
on that platform. Where we could we really tried to stay away
from the body as much as we could because this is not a traditional fashion exhibition. And so we didn’t want it to look like a traditional
fashion exhibition. These are one of the four types of mannequins
that are going to be in the exhibition. This is the buckram mannequin. They start out as this. This is millinery fabric that hat makers use
and once you wet it down, you can mold it. You need…I used a dress form to create this
mold. This is what it looks like when it comes off
the dress form. As you can see these are the pencil marks. This is a halter top black dress for the Little
Black Dress section. And I’m going to come back and cut away at
the arm holes on both sides. This buckram, this is for a strapless dress,
a strapless Christian Dior dress. So as you can see, I cut away at the top. So this has already been cut. And this is a finished mannequin. This is padded, it has felt and then batting
to give it some shape. It needed to be a little bit more curvy. The garment, the black dress that’s going
to be on this is a Givenchy. It’s a chemise style but it has a bit of peplum
at the bottom. Once you put the garment on this mannequin,
all you’re going to see is the garment. This whole thing is going to disappear. The lining is going to match the inside of
the dress, so when you look at this, you think that… Visually it’s going to look like the inside
of the dress. So none of this white or any of this is going
to show. This is all just to support and create the
silhouette of the dress. These two buckram torsos were made from different
mannequins and when you first look at them, they look very similar. But kind of like people, they may have the
same measurements but the proportions are really different. If you look at the bust line, the bust line
is really different than this one and the shape… The shoulder line, the slope of the shoulder. This is a lot more square, but since this
is the jacket that is going on this is a very form-fitting jacket, it needed to have the
slope of the jacket. That was important. So little details like that, measurements
and you know, the back of the shoulder blades…those proportions. We also have fiberglass mannequins, which
are the traditional mannequins that you see either in stores, in retail stores, or in
most exhibitions. It’s the high fashion posture, sort of that
slouch. The bust line is different. It’s a little bit lower, some from the 1980s,
the bustline would probably be higher and larger. The 1980s the shoulder would be broader, this
is a smaller shoulder, more of a sloped shoulder. More of a relaxed, if you could say, natural
silhouette. We have dressmaker’s torsos, and we also have
a 2-D mount, which is a form, and it’s interesting because it takes away the conversation from
the body and it really makes you focus on the object’s form. You know, I’d just do a strip here. Oh yeah. And then wrap it around and come back. We don’t need to wrap it around the whole
back? Maybe just not as much. Maybe half of that. Because you will see up slightly. So, if it falls away, but I think half of
that will be fine. You start here. This is the entrance. The little black dresses, they’re going to
be on platforms and they’re going to be viewed from the front and the side. There’s a divider here, which is a scrim,
so from this side you’ll see a silhouette of the other black dresses. So you can see them from the back, but you’ll
just see the silhouettes of the dresses. People project their experiences, their opinions
on to clothing. Men and women are going to go through this
exhibition and look at these garments, and they’re all going to feel something different
based on their perceptions and based on their experiences. That’s the great thing about clothing. It has that other layer that is so undefinable.

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