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    • #132748

      Hi All-

      I am looking to purchase a new mannequin for one of our exhibits. I am having a hard time finding a petite mannequin to fit historical clothing. Any suggestions of where to purchase? Thanks!


    • #132755

      Brittany,  You’re probably looking for a sixth to seventh graders size, today.  I once had the smallest seventh grader in a class try on a WWII WAVE’s tunic – very tight.  Ed Flesch

    • #132754
      Janean Van Beckum

      Since historic clothing was often made to measure, finding a form can be very difficult.  I have built my own in the past using PVC pipes and elbows.  That way you can get the exact measurements you need.  The PVC is then padded out with batting and encased in unbleached muslin to get the exact size.  I have done similar things with very old, smaller sized dress forms too.   I have had really good results in the past, and although the PVC will off gas there is a barrier between it and the clothing.  I wasn’t able to find a reasonably priced mannequin that wasn’t custom made for our small size and didn’t need some sort of barrier added anyway.

      You may also want to look at the child sized mannequins, and padding them out in the needed areas to simulate an adult.

    • #132753


      If  you go out on Pinterest and do a search for dress forms, you can find a couple of good tutorials on how to make your own dress forms to the exact size you need.

    • #132752

      The mannequin needs to be considerably smaller than the interior of the costume so that it can be padded up to conform to the body shape of the original wearer.  The best book we have found for this is

      which is out of print (but available online) and a small bustform. In the UK we use Proportion London Workroom bust forms such as and pad them up with polyester wadding covered with unbleached cotton jersey and soft cotton calico. You can also get ethafoam mannequins and carve them down to size.  Vital that the mannequin materials are chemically stable and inert and don’t have hard edges which could chafe and damage fabrics.

      Hope this helps.

    • #132751

      Gwen Spicer has a great paper with a really nice versatile design that you can build, although she recommends the internal armature be made by metalsmith.

      She does have a similar design using PVC as well.

      I believe that similar mannequins were built for an exhibit at the Wright Museum of Art at Beloit College while I was a student there. I’ll see if I can get a copy of the design for those if you would like.

    • #132750

      Hi Brittany,

      You might see if you can find Asian mannequins.   Years ago we had an exhibition of Asian costumes and realized that we needed to find smaller-sized mannequins.  As I recall, we had a couple of them specially made, and I think we also may have used child-sized mannequins and added padding.   We kept those mannequins for a long time but unfortunately, we no longer have them.

    • #132749

      Thank you all for your advice! So many options!! 🙂

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