Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jehossee Rides Again: Part Two

Yes, I had WAY too much fun with the mannequins. Ahem. Moving along...

On the day of the set-up, assembling and dressing the mannequins required about 3 hours of work. At least half of that time was spent trying to figure out how to cram the arms into the sockets, followed by trying desperately to keep the arms from falling back out of the sockets. Dressing a mannequin with a full compliment of limbs requires skill and coordination. I do not possess these qualities, so I had to rely upon profanity and non-traditional dressing procedures that resembled the Heimlich Maneuver.

Boobs. They happened.

Every garment presented a new challenge. The most difficult was the Harriet Aiken dress, which had to be arranged on one of the lovely boobalicious mannequins. These mannequins belong to a nice, modern design firm which uses them to display nice, modern clothing to represent the nice, modern feminine ideal. Which meant that the nearly 6-foot tall mannequins had 25-inch waists and 38-inch bosoms. I had already decided to display Harriet in a seated position, if possible. Luckily this was the ONLY posture that allowed the dress to close at the waist and sit more or less correctly on the form around the... intrusive interior objects.

 Before the nerds among us get bothered by the sight of the 1849 dress arranged on the 1880's love seat, you should know that this was for an 1863-themed event. Bwahhahaha!!

None of the mannequins was designed to "sit," so this was an engineering marvel. Ultimately, Harriet was jacked up in a sitting position through the artful use of a fleece blanket from my car, three books that I relocated from the library shelves and one of her own legs.

The rest of the garments were arranged on the standing mannequins, with an eye towards giving them a "reason" to be wherever they were. The dress below was oriented next to the pianoforte as though the intended wearer (French Governess Pauline Boudet, in theory) was at attendance on a pupil.

I really did not want to have the mannequins lined up in the hallway, or clumped in a convenient corner. It was my hope that as people wandered through the house on the day of the event, they could catch glimpses of the garments in a "natural" setting. (However natural a gaggle of decapitated plastic women can be.) Despite the invitation to display the clothing and address the tour groups about it, I wanted it to be in the background. People came to see the house, not my stitchery. And truly, since I designed every garment to be as close to average day garb as possible for the intended wearer, the clothing made more sense "walking around" than it ever could have in a glass box.

 Plus, it was fun spooking people. (Including myself). Walking quickly from one room to the next was a perfect recipe for "finding" one of the mannequins unexpectedly. As I look at these pictures, I can still hear Pearl the housekeeper screaming as she came around the bottom of the steps...

 What mannequins, Pearl?

Next time: A little less talk and a lot more of my mother in a polyester dress!


  1. Fantastic! Yes the clothes look amazing in context with the locations, they would've also been great in a hallway line-up but I think this way they draw on the room and the room on them.

    The nasty-minded junior high-schooler lurking within me is mildly saddened that you didn't go one step further than the Dangerous Liaisons book and post the mannequins in unspeakably bawdy ways...The legs splayed about in your Part One post, last picture, were quite promisingly indiscreet amongst all the piles of clothing. I sniggered.

  2. I hate to disappoint! If it makes you feel any better, it got a bit more tawdry upstairs...
    For reasons known only to my sub-conscious, I posed one of the boobalicious mannequins in a chemise in front of a window. The back-lighting from the window guaranteed that she pretty much always looked naked. The best part? I posed her in front of a cradle.

    Because, ya know, lots of Antebellum women walked around the house nude while looking at their children. IT'S THE AMERICAN WAY.