Mannequin: Window dummy or model?

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Did you ever wonder if there is a difference between a model and a mannequin? And where the profession model has its roots? In this blogpost, I’m going to take you with me on a little time journey from the early years until now to learn more about models, mannequins and co. Furthermorde, I’m going to show you a wonderful and elegant retro outfit for autumn. So keep on reading!

RetroCat in einem grauen Retro-Kleid aus der Love Crimes Kollektion von Gracy Q

The Story of the Mannequins

Mannequin means, by now, usually simply model. But where are the roots of this term?

Mannequin: Conceptual Foundations

As you maybe already guessed, mannequin has it’s roots in the French. It can be translated with both, model and dummy (in a shop window). The French word mannequin, on the other side, has it’s roots in the Middle Dutch word mannekijn (in English „manikin“). And now, after talking about the origin of the word mannequin, let’s have a closer look at the story of the mannquin as a dummy and model.

Vintage-Mode-Bloggerin und Mannequin RetroCat in einem grauen Retro-Kleid mit schwingendem Rock


The Mannequin as a Dummy

Creating images or statuaries of popular personalities is not a new phenomenon, but rather can be traced back until early days. The first window dummys were used during industrial revolution. About 1870, shopping changed from being a necessary evil to a popular leisure activity, especially among the prosperous urban population.

To better present the clothes, mannequins got in use. However, they mainly were made of wax, which was quite impractical when it got very warm, as they simply melted. So in the 1920s, mannequins made of papier mâché were launched. In the 1930s, Käthe Kruse added a skeleton made of metal which made it possible to move the joints of the mannequin.

Of course the appearance and proportions of the window dummy changed over time and were always a reflection of the predominant fashion.

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat mit langen schwarzen Vintage-Lederhandschuhen von Fräulein Anders


The Mannequin as a Model

The fashion designer Frederick Worth is not only said to be the founder of the Haute Couture, but also was the first one who showed his designs on real persons instead of wax dolls in 1858. However, at this time, being a mannequin wasn’t a respectable profession. Women who were selling their beauty often had a dubious reputation. Nevertheless, due to the growing prosperity and interest in fashion, mannequins were in demand.

But the reputations of the mannequins didn’t change before the 1920s. Then, with the era of Coco Chanel, also the era of the models started. Chanel not only had a huge impact on the fashion of her time, but also was the first one who showed her designs at an event were she even invited the press. Before, it was usual to show the designer’s collection in the private rooms of the wealthy customers.

Until the 1980s, there often was a difference between catwalk models, who usually were really tall, and photo models, who often were very beautiful, but smaller.

Vintage-Bloggerin und Mannequin RetroCat in einem klassischen grauen Winter-Kleid im Vintage-Stil von Gracy Q


Popular Mannequins

One of the first popular mannequins was the photo model Lisa Fonssagrives. Her career lasted from the 1930s until the 1950s. Other popular mannequins of the 40s and 50s were Dovima, Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker and Jean Patchett.

In the1960s, the ideal of beauty changed and very thin models like Twiggy became successful. Gia Carangi is said to be the first real supermodel, her career started in the 70s.

The 1990s were the era of the supermodels. Women like Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Christy Turlington and Kate Moss became extremly successful and popular, even off the catwalk.

Sandra vom Vintage-Blog RetroCat mit grauem Kleid und Petticoat in München


Mannequins/Models nowadays

Until now, topmodel is a dream job for a lot of young girls, not least due to casting shows like America’s Next Topmodel or the German version Germany’s Next Topmodel. Male topmodels, however, are a quite new phenomenon. Furthermore, model industry is one of the only sectors in which women earn more in average than men.

Nevertheless, there seems to occur a difference between campaign models and catwalk models again. While famous personalities like actresses or even influencers are the faces of most of the big advertising campaignes, almost noone really knows the catwalk models. But of course the exception proves the rule.

Just as the shape of the window dummies, the ideal of beauty has always had impacts on the preferred type of model. But also the poses changed over the years. For my photo series, I got inspired by the elegant poses of the mannequins from the 30s to 50s. Modern streetstyle poses simply don’t suit my style that well. 😉

PS: Find my best posing tips and advice in this blogpost.

Die Münchner Bloggerin RetroCat mit Retro-Mantel von Hell Bunny und einem Fascinator

A glamorous Autumn Outfit for a Day in the City

My beautiful grey dress with the name “Notorious Dress” is from the current Love Crimes collection by Gracy Q. Unfortunately, this is also the last collection of this amazing German repro brand, which makes me quite sad as they always offered such pretty and high-quality garments.

The Notorious Dress has three-quarter length sleeves and is made of a warm wool fabric, which makes it perfect for cold autumn and winter days. The huge bow at the neckline is a wonderful eye-catcher, but can also be removed for a more subtle look. Thanks to the classy cut with a tight top and flared skirt, the dress is very flattering. For a little bit more wow, I’m wearing a petticoat underneath.

Long black vintage gloves match the dress perfectly. I found mine at Fräulein Anders in Berlin. Fancy tights by Wolford, a small hat as well as an elegant coat by Hell Bunny finish this glamorous daytime outfit perfectly.


More grey retro Dresses:


Vintage-Mode-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Vintage-Kleid unterwegs in München


Outfit Details:

Notorious Dress: Gracy Q

Petticoat: similar here

Coat: Hell Bunny, similar here

Gloves: Vintage, via Fräulein Anders

Tights: Wolford, similar here

Fascinator: very similar here

Shoes: Miss L-Fire, similar here

The Story behind the Mannequin & a wonderful retro Outfit for Autumn

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