In the nineteenth century, the first living mannequins, or “manikins,” took their name from the static dummy or lay figure they were soon to replace as the principal form of display in the dressmaker’s salon. While the word “mannequin”—in French, le mannequin—described the woman, the word “model”— le modele — designated the gown she exhibited in the salon.
The model gown was a one-off that did not go into production; it was thus both an exclusive dress for sale to an individual client, and a prototype (hence the term model) sold to a fashion buyer for adaptation to the mass market. Both model gowns and model women were at the heart of the commercial development of the French
Charles Frederick Worth is generally thought to be the first couturier to use live models. However, many nineteenth-century dressmakers had a young woman available to put on a dress for a client, although their primary mode of display was a wooden or wicker dummy.Indeed, Worth met his future wife, Marie, while she was employed to model shawls to customers on the shop floor of their mutual employer, the mercer Gagelin et Opigez. The couple set up their first maison de couture in 1858, and Marie modeled in the Worth salons until the 1870s, after which she remained responsible for training the house mannequins. Maison Worth’s real innovation was thus to institutionalize the profession within the increasingly bureaucratic structure of a couture house, having several trained house mannequins, rather than using the occasional petit main, or seamstress, as a model.
The Early Twentieth Century
Lady Duff Gordon, trading as Lucile, claimed to have started the first mannequin parades in London in the late 1890s. She trained her mannequins in carriage and deportment and gave them stage names such as Hebe, Gamela, and Dolores. Often six feet tall, they struck dramatic poses during the parades but barely smiled and never spoke. When Lucile opened in New York in 1910 and then Paris in 1911, she took with her four of her London mannequins whose glamour was widely reported in the press of both continents. Dolores later joined the Ziegfeld Follies, and there are many parallels between the fashion model and the chorus girl.
In the same period, fashion magazines began to use photography alongside fashion illustrations, but the women in these photographs were often actresses and, later, society women, rather than professional mannequins, and, with some notable exceptions, the two career paths—photographic and catwalk models — remained separate until well into the 1960s. Catwalk modeling was always a specialist option. Mannequins were full-time employees of the house andsometimes even lived in.
Department stores in the United States were, if anything, ahead of Parisian couturiers in pioneering the use of models in dramatic fashion shows. In 1924, Jean Patou traveled to New York to recruit six American mannequins to model in Paris for his American customers whose physique, he claimed, was longer and leaner than that of the “rounded French Venus.” Paquin, Poiret, and Patou understood the importance of showing on live models in the marketing of modern fashion. All were able to harness innovative publicity techniques to the early twentieth-century desire to see fashion in motion.
The Mid-Twentieth Century
John Powers opened the first American model agency in 1923; the Ford modeling agency was founded in 1946.By contrast, the first French model agency opened only in 1959, perhaps because French fashion houses had always employed their own models. In New York in the 1920s, there was also a mannequins’ school dedicated to teaching fashion modeling techniques. By the 1920s, fashion journalists were beginning to report not only on the seasonal fashions, but equally on individual mannequins from the Paris “openings.” Captain Molyneux’s principal mannequin, Sumurun (Vera Ashby), was well known; in the 1930s, the in-house mannequins of the London department store Selfridges were popular figures, while Schiaparelli’s mannequin Lud was reputed to be married to a lion-tamer.
By contrast, when, in 1947, Christian Dior showed his “New Look,” he encouraged his models to do theatrical turns, knocking over ashtrays in the audience as their coats swung round. However, in general modeling styles remained staid and the 1950s’ model was required to look haughty and disdainful. Paris fashion houses maintained a cabine of fourteen to eighteen models, and there tended to be a “house style” of modeling, although each model was a different physical type to represent the range of clients’ looks. It was therefore, revolutionary when, in thelate 1950s, the British designer Mary Quant first showed on photographic mannequins who danced frenetically to jazz music and then froze in graphic, static poses on the
The 1960s to the Early 2000s
Quant laid the path for the innovations of the 1960s when the development of ready-to-wear required a different kind of presentation. Now models were required to dance, act, and clown on the catwalk. In Courreges’s futurist collection of 1965, grinning models danced in experimental kinetic movement to musique concrete. Marie Helvin recalled that haute couture modeling in the 1960s and 1970s was about contact with hand-made, one-off clothes, whereas showstopping modeling techniques, photogenic beauty, and the showgirl instinct were the prerequisites of the ready-to-wear show. Until then, models had been poorly paid, but their compensation went rocketing up in this period; top models could command $1,000 for a one-hour show in Milan and even a little more for one in Paris. The strict separation between house mannequins and photographic models began to be eroded and the proliferation of media images of the young, beautiful, and fashionable in the 1960s ensured that photographic models like Jean Shrimpton (“the Shrimp”) and Twiggy became iconic figures of their times.
The rise of the supermodel in the early 1990s was followed by a fashion for more waiflike models with slighter frames and quirkier looks. Their salaries, however, did not shrink correspondingly. By the end of the twentieth century, models were firmly established as the new celebrities. Feted in gossip columns and highly compensated, they were far removed from their early twentieth- century predecessors with their dubious status and poor pay. Nevertheless, and despite the high visibility of the black model Naomi Campbell, models of color continue to be underrepresented in the industry at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Source: Fashion Bank
Category: Fashion modeling
Tags to article: Models