The evolution of dress forms
One of the first instances of dress forms can actually be traced back to ancient Egypt. When Howard Carter opened King Tut's tomb in 1923, he found a crude wooden dress form nearby – a stand that was likely used to display the ruler's clothing. In fact, this dress form was made exactly to the pharaoh's measurements, making it a valuable piece of information as well as a significant milestone in the world of fashion.
King Tut wasn't alone, however. According to Mannequin Madness, Nero's wife had a dress form of herself made to review her clothing choices. In the same vein, several European royals had forms made of themselves and fellow monarchs throughout the centuries, with many of these tools used as peacekeeping gifts.
Dress forms were restricted for the richest and most important people until the late 19th century, when electricity forever changed the way store displays were set up. As lighting and large panes of glass revamped window displays, more stores began integrating dress forms into their operations. It was easier than ever to show off the hottest styles and trends, and the fashion world wholeheartedly embraced these tools.
An Historical Tribute To The Dress Form.
The history and the understated beauty found in old dress forms.
We see and touch them every day here at the shop. In fact, we are constantly shuffling them around, pricking them with pins, looking at them with scrutiny as we mull over new designs and analyze the drape of a fabric. They are such a part of the everyday process, that we take them for granted. But our dress forms are actually precious to us, and we have quite the assortment! Some are over a hundred years old.
We thought it might be fun to share a brief history of the dress form. (Besides, it means we also get to look at pretty pictures from the past.)
Since the Edwardian era, the look and feel of the dress form, has not changedin any significant way. While we do see newer generations of dress forms with sizing dials and various colours, the preferred version for tailors and clothes makers, maintains an air of antiquity. We like that.
There is a difference between the mannequin and the dress form. The mannequin has seen many different faces, materials, and continues to evolve as production methods become more innovative. Mannequins are the quintessential storefront eye candy. They are the elegant model who never tires in the window. Today, the mannequin, usually comes in parts, is made of fiberglass or plastic, and has a standing life of just under a decade. While the dress form, in most cases, remains behind the scenes.
Commonly known as the “judy“, the dress form is less graceful, than the poised mannequin, always faceless, she nevertheless has her own charms. Unlike the mannequin’s ephemeral looks that always come and go, judy’s charms remain in the fabric, metal, wood and stitches that hold her together. She is practical and enduring, and the timeless simplicity of her architecture that continues to inspire.
Both mannequins and dress forms have been around for thousands of years. For centuries they served the same purpose: they were for the royal dress maker. They were made into the likeness of kings, queens and eventually the aristocracy. Privately made and kept only for the rich. There were not for commercial use. The dress form did become somewhat standardized in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were often made of heavy wood, wicker and papier-mache. Eventually, we saw the introduction of wires, and then fabric versions, and in the 18th, and 19th, centuries, the dress form could be seen in the local tailor’s shop.
It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that we saw a need for the mannequin as well as the dress form. The introduction of the textile industry and the established bourgeois class shaped culture and consequently fashion advertising. As the economic climate changed, access to luxury goods became more widespread. In order to accommodate the new European spenders with imperialistic pursuits the judy was pressed into action by tailors and dress shops. It also sparked the frequent appearances of mannequins in fetching window displays!