What is the difference between a store mannequin and a custom museum mannequin?
Store mannequins are not a good solution for showing your costume collection. They are made of a wide variety of materials that can outgas, they have the wrong shapes, and they have the wrong physical attitudes. Modern fashion mannequins made for retail sales are designed to show off clothes on bodies that fit a very different aesthetic than those from even 30 years ago. Female mannequins are toned and fit, with broader backs to simulate having worked out at the gym. Shoulders are broader, the torso is generally more muscular, the bosom is natural, and the stance is active and even aggressive. Clothing from eras where corsetry shifted body proportions and raised or compressed the bosom, where shoulders and backs were narrower and posture was more demure simply doesn’t fit well, both literally and figuratively. The same holds true for male mannequins – an 18th century coat will not fit the shoulders of a modern mannequin.
A museum-quality mannequin, on the other hand, is made from materials designed to have minimal impact on the garment. Each mannequin has a sculpted, inert structural-foam core, covered by thin layers of batting and cloth to give your garment full support and the correct shape for its period.
How can I tell if my garment is safe to display?
Displaying a garment is inherently stressful to it. When you decide which clothes from your collection to have mounted, look at the seams to see if threads are strong or powdering away. Check stress-points, such as waistbands, armholes, and buttonholes, to see if the fabric is splitting or torn. Sometimes the weight of the decorative elements may be too much for the garment to bear. Sometimes the fabric itself is disintegrating – silks from the 19th century are vulnerable to shattering, they can snap into shards as the metals they were originally treated with deteriorate the fibers. SchaefferArts will do an evaluation before taking on your project so that garments too weak or damaged won’t be further harmed by display.
What is the process for having a mannequin made?
The first step is the evaluation of your garment’s condition. If the garment is safe to display, then a written on-site estimate will be given including the mannequin, stand, support garments, reproduction accessories, etc. Upon acceptance of the proposal, the garment will be taken to SchaefferArts for the mannequin to be made. Most work is done at the SchaefferArts studios in Maine, however some projects can be done on-site, per consultation. Reasonable fees for pick-up and delivery in the local New England area can be included in the proposal.
How much does it cost?
The cost can vary, depending on each specific garment, but in general a mannequin costs about $800, including materials.
Can’t I just stuff the garment?
How you choose to display your garment is, of course, up to you. But just stuffing a garment will not show the shape it really has and can stress the seams.