Museum Life: how to dress a mannequin

It is difficult to make a garment on a mannequin look good! I have spent hours in the Powerhouse Museum collection store padding, moulding and shaping wadding, tissue and foam to create just the right shape for a garment. It can be a frustrating process  and there is often a fine line between just right and plain awful. Some garments have strange shapes and other historic silhouettes are difficult to work with.  

Looking at the Powerhouse Museum’s database of photographs and old mannequins there have been many advances and changes over the years in regard to the display of dress on mannequins. Jenna has previously talked about attending ‘the body in the Museum’ conference, which looked at the history and future of the display of fashion and dress in exhibitions. There have been many recent exciting advances in displays and in light of  Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum in 2011, some very high standards to aim for!

In addition to exhibitions, a number of my colleagues and myself have been involved over the years in assisting regional museums and galleries in dressing garments in their collections for display. Often challenging in a regional organisation with limited resources, a fantastic ‘how to dress a mannequin’ document has been put together to assist with dressing mannequins for display and photography. I would also like to draw your attention to a range of other resources relating to the preservation, documentation and handling of historic garments on the Australian Dress Register website.

Finally I would like to hear from you. Do you have experience dressing mannequins and do you have any tips or tricks?


Photos: ‘How to dress a mannequin’, Photos: Nitsa Yioupros, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia

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