This image above is from a series by Museum photographer, Geoff Friend capturing the secret world of mannequins. Sometimes when venturing into the basement or workshop areas, particularly late in the afternoon I feel I have interrupted murmurings between mannequins.
Perhaps critiquing the last show they were in or complaining as they are de-constructed yet again to be dressed, or spray painted a different colour (usually white or black) for a new display.
As exhibitions are developed and constructed or dismantled, whole or parts of mannequins are often in the Museums workshop area or down in the basement object store. Sometimes you come across parts of bodies, freshly painted lying or hanging in rows, looking slightly disturbing like dismembered body parts (without the blood) from science fiction or horror films.
Most of the Museums mannequin collection is used to display costume in an exhibition. Over eighty were used in the Back to the 80s exhibition. The mannequins are usually fibreglass, however wire mannequins have proved more adept in displaying costume that needs a suggestion of movement like the Cathy Freeman running suit in the Museum’s sport exhibition.
We also have some grey mannequins on display in the Museum from it’s opening in 1988. The grey was to distinguish them from objects, the face and bodies were casts from Museum staff, the mannequins remain in Loco No 1, and the in Kings Cinema behind the glass, as a ghostly audience
Some mannequins have become part of the collection, like this particularly buff specimen below. Chesty Bonds was made by the Bond’s Industry in 1950 to model the Bond t-shirts.
We also have acquired into the collection the fashion designer Jenny Kee Archive including five full size mannequins with the moulded facial features of Jenny Kee. They are made of fibreglass and painted flesh colour with red lips, orange eyeshadow, black eyeliner and short black hair. The mannequins wear flat black painted shoes that are moulded as part of the feet. They were used in the Strand arcade shop, Flamingo Park,in Sydney.1
The heads face in various directions and the arms are in various positions. They come in seven parts, torso, leg and groin, leg, arms and hands. Each mannequin comes with its own glass and metal stand.
Recently these model heads were used in a ‘how to tie a headscarf or hijab’ educational program linked to the Faith Fashion Fusion exhibition.
Written by Anni Turnbull, curator, 2013
1/ Documentation for the Jenny Kee fashion collection written by Glynis Jones, fashion curator, 1999.