Today, we have normalised and internalised the existence of mannequins. We are used to seeing them in window displays and shops, and perfectly understand their function. However, the mannequins that we know today are the result of centuries of history that we want to share with you in this article.
When was the first mannequin made?
How, when and by whom were the first mannequins made? This object that is so present in our daily life was invented centuries ago and has undergone several modifications throughout history.
Discover how this journey culminated in the mannequins we have today:
History of mannequins I: from ancient times to the 19th century
Definitely what marks the beginning of the story are the artisanal wooden torsos. The first known precursor to modern mannequins was discovered in Ancient Egypt by Howard Carter, a renowned Egyptologist and archaeologist, who found a replica of a human body without limbs made from wood, the measurements and features of which corresponded with those of pharaoh Tutankhamun. It is believed that this piece was used by tailors to allow them to design the pharaoh’s clothes, as they were absolutely prohibited from touching the king.
In the 16th century, fashion dolls appeared, made from papier-mâché, with the purpose of spreading French fashion throughout the rest of the world. In the 18th century, these dolls were made of wood, with articulated limbs and with an average size of 35 centimetres. In the same century, dressmaking mannequins also appeared for the first time, often made from wood and wicker, and used at the recently established fashion schools of the French capital.
History of mannequins II: the Industrial Revolution
During the 19th century, and with the creation of dressmaking mannequins, the first full body mannequins appeared. For shops to be able to sell the garments created thanks to this new invention, it was necessary to present them in an eye-catching way in a window display.
These first mannequins were women’s bodies, and their faces often included glass eyes, false teeth and natural hair. They were carved from wax or wood and/or made of iron, and had to be shown clothed.
However, the wax used had the disadvantage of melting when it was exposed to high temperatures, while the other two materials were very heavy. Despite this, the mannequins made with these materials continued to exist until after the First World War.
History of mannequins III: 20th century
During the 1920s, mannequins were made from papier-mâché, particle board, plaster and/or plastic, which led to lighter elements, while the bodies rendered were more stylised, flatter and without waists.
However, the use of plastic became problematic, as it contained resin and glycerine, which caused the colour of mannequins to vary due to reacting with paint. Despite this, and having explored alternatives, plastic continued to be used until being replaced by resin and fibreglass in the 1960s.
During this century, different forms and volumes were also explored. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, the figure of Marilyn Monroe was present in the majority of window displays, while in the 1970s, mannequins with few or no facial features became fashionable. In the 1980s, athletic bodies were opted for, while in the 1990s, very slim figures were used.
History of mannequins IV: today
Today, there is a trend toward seeking increasingly sustainable materials with minimal environmental impact for manufacturing mannequins. Specifically, at Atrezzo Mannequins, we refuse to use PVC, and only use RS-07 LSE resin, a resin with a low styrene content, Bio 30R PU with at least 30% bio-components, and MM-R2R PS which can be recycled to manufacture new mannequins.
Additionally, in recent years, proportions have increasingly become less standardised, and both new forms and creative concepts and new technologies are explored, such as 3D design and printing.
The history of mannequins is constantly evolving, in terms of both the materials with which they are manufactured and their design.
Since it was founded thirty years ago, one objective has guided everything that we do at Atrezzo Mannequins: offering the highest quality and design standards to the visual merchandising industry, combining artisanal tradition with the most advanced techniques.