Fashion’s Form & Function: Haute Couture’s “Dress Form” & Its Embellishment Within The Interior

The Forebearer Of The Modern Mannequin:  The "Dress Form"
The Forebearer Of The Modern Mannequin: The “Dress Form”

The “Dress Form”. A three dimensional form of fashion’s function. A model of fashion historically used for fitting garments being designed or sewn, a “Dress Form” is termed by the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry as a “replica of a human form made of cloth, padded and mounted on a metal base that is used for draping and fitting garments”. Dress forms have been hand-crafted for centuries. History states that mannequin dress forms date back to the time of the Egyptian Pharoah’s. Who knew? In fact, within King Tut’s tomb was discovered a crude, wooden dress form that is thought to have displayed the Pharoah’s clothing. With exact measurements to King Tut, the link to fashion’s form of function proves eternal. Regularly utilized throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, it is said that the royalty had personal mannequins so as not to inconvenience them while holding court, perched on their thrones. Luxury, indeed. Restricted for the wealthy and the prominent until the mid to late 19th century in Europe, it is believed that the advent of “Haute Couture” fashion design provided the demand for the fashion industry designers from which to create garments of high style. A necessary tool of form and function that has endured. Beyond the fabric toussling Haute Couture designers, the advent of electricity and the Industrial Revolution is also credited with the dress form’s rise as a fashionable function in merchandising. Lighting of store front windows allowed the dress forms to continually display the fashionable designs and accoutrements. For certain, a new form of merchandising had formed that is still considered a vital store fixture in merchandising. One that transformed the world of fashion to come. A rich history with intended purpose.

The Historical "Dress Form"
The Historical “Dress Form”
The "Dress Form":  Fashion's Function Of Form
The “Dress Form”: Fashion’s Function Of Form
Fashion's Three Dimensional Shape Of Function:  The "Dress Form"
Fashion’s Three Dimensional Shape Of Function: The “Dress Form”

Of fashionable interest, the technique called “draping” was developed because of the dressmaker form. Draping of fabric on the dress form to envision the fit and drape of a garment as it would appear on a body while providing the designer to adjust or alter certainly is true function of form. Over the last 100 years, established companies such as Wolf, Royal and Modern Dress Form, have crafted enduring figures of fashion’s form that range is shapes and sizes to cover practically any article of fashion’s clothing that could be created. Versatility with size, for certain. In addition, history has brought forth the practicality of adjustable dress forms that allow garments to further tailor-to-fit specific individuals. Said to have been referenced as a “Judy” for the female form and a “James” for the male. Again, who knew?In today’s world, dress forms serve two purposes: function as a form for dressmakers, tailors and fashion designers and as fashion display as well as decoration within the interior. And why not adorn our spaces? For those of us who adore the world of fashion, a reminder of its link to the past presents a profound visual when boldly standing within our interior spaces. For certain, contrast of interest within the interior is gained. An unadorned fashionable aesthetic of sculptural interest

The "Dress Form"  History Of Intended Purpose
The “Dress Form” History Of Intended Purpose
The "Dress Form":  Timeless Appeal Of Form & Function
The “Dress Form”: Timeless Appeal Of Form & Function
Fashion's Embellishment Of Form Within The Interior:  The "Dress Form"
Fashion’s Embellishment Of Form Within The Interior: The “Dress Form”
Interior Display:  The Function or Form of the "Dress Form" Within The Interior
Interior Display: The Function or Form of the “Dress Form” Within The Interior
Unadorned & Adorned Elements Of Display:  The "Dress Form" As An Interior Embellishment
Unadorned & Adorned Elements Of Display: The “Dress Form” As An Interior Embellishment

These statuettes of fashion go beyond the world of fashion design. When incorporated into the interior, the impact is unexpected and bold. Fashion and function as a statement within our spaces. And of the vintage mannequin dress forms that add a sense of history with their striking sculptural quality? Instant character is provided to a room. Dress forms, absent of the features of the mannequin (such as the head and limbs) provide a three dimensional object of interest to any space. Of further interest, the Middle Dutch word “Mannekijn” referenced a small form of “Man, person”. In 1570 the Modern Dutch took the word further by referencing the word to mean “An artists jointed model” and utilized the French spelling “Mannequin”, a word commonly used for a dress form sculpture. Who knew? Alas, the art of the mannequin has been a focus of my appreciation in a past post on the Art of the mannequin. An appreciation of fashion’s forms, either way…

Iconic "Supermodel" Linda Evangelista & The "Dress Form"
Iconic “Supermodel” Linda Evangelista & The “Dress Form”

Consider the historical element of fashion. Perched on a cast iron base with wooden wheels, with or without a “neck cap”, covered in thick padding with or without the added asset of adjustability or a modern rendition of shape and style, the appreciation of the dress form as a historical element of fashion is a worthy focus. Whether for fashion’s designing purpose or as an interior embellishment that iconically visually denotes that link, the “Dress Form” has held its own throughout time. An appreciation of fashion’s form and function of “Haute Couture”, indeed…



3 thoughts on “Fashion’s Form & Function: Haute Couture’s “Dress Form” & Its Embellishment Within The Interior

  1. Such an interesting read – really well done!
    I also enjoyed all those fun pictures with clever ways to display the dress forms throughout a home – I have a bunch of them from when I owned a boutique and think I may have to drape a few ties in my husband’s closet on one – looks cool!

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