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June 24, 2010


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Sharon Breshears

It is amazing that you broached this subject now. I have recently been looking at your blog and noticing the forms that you use. I am a retailer and have been trying to decided which forms would be best for photographing items for our web site. Some of your displays have been helpful and this entry was a very interesting discussion of why you make the choices you do. Thanks!

FIDM Museum

Sharon, glad we could help you out!


I think there is certainly an argument for both sides. On the one hand, clothes were intended to be worn and how a fabric moves IS an integral part of that design. On the other, preservation of the garment from the many hazards of wearing must be a priority.

This is where living history and reproduction garments can help fill that gap. A faithful replica of historic garments is enormously instructive to all participants; the builder, the wearer and the observer. I’d love to see our museum do a special event with some of our signature pieces in collaboration with the Theater Costume program, which has a strong emphasis on historic methods, studies and construction. I am intrigued by the idea of displaying this dress, its photo and a reproduction worn by a model.

Surely there are garments, special ones, which would merit this treatment. Couldn’t our Textile students be involved in producing some Op Art fabric for the reproduction of one of our original Rudis?


In a perfect world, of course the garments would be shown as they were intended to be used - on the human body. But since that is not the case, then museums and exhibitors should take each case individually and base exhibition decisions on the nature of the clothing (I'm assuming this is how such decisions are already being made.)

I find that I prefer as few distractions as possible, and so I like the headless form.

And I love exhibits where the garment is seen in the round, from all angles. To me, lining mannequins in a lifeless row is what contributes to the static nature of many exhibits.

Another thing that helps see the living nature of clothing is the inclusion of period film footage of the garment being worn, but that is not always available.

I don't know, but couldn't all the wonderful technological advances that the movies are using be employed? I'm thinking of movies like Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, where the appearance of the actors was altered digitally. Could the clothing not be digitalized in the same way?

Christian Esquevin

Another dimension to the dress form is the viewpoint of the dressmaker, fitter or seamstress who would have seen it displayed that way (and worked on the garment on such a form). Unless the exhibit needs a life-like appearance, say for sports clothes, then I think the floating form is more appropriate.

FIDM Museum

Sounds like the floating forms win! They do look fantastic, but if you read our blog entry on the process, they're a lot of work to create. We plan to use them for our next major exhibition...we're already working on them now!

Kara, really interesting idea! As you know, we have a few repro items (corsets, bustle & petticoat) for students to try on. And the study collection allows students to touch/examine historic garments. But, I think you're suggesting that students work directly from a garment in our collection to create a reproduction. Email me directly and we can talk further about your ideas! We're always looking for more ways to integrate FIDM curriculum and the collection.

Lizzie, what you're suggesting is a great idea. I'm sure there are digital technologies that would allow the simulation of a dress on the body. Unfortunately, I think that integrating those technologies into museum exhibits would require a significant investment. But it would be fascinating!

Christian, you've articulated something I'd never thought about. You're right that sports clothing might look a bit odd on a floating form. They're meant for movement and wouldn't read as well in a totally static form.

La Rosa Italy

Indeed, as Christian Esquevin said, the floating form is more pratical at least from the point of view of the dressmaker. The mannequin is more appropriate in other contexts, for example in window dressing.

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