39th Annual Meeting – Workshop, May 31st, “Museum Mannequins” by Helen Alten

Helen Alten’s “Museum Mannequins” workshop covered a variety of methods for designing, building, and adapting mannequin supports.  Construction processes were broken down into additive, subtractive, and cast-and-molded techniques.  The majority of designs were for male and female torsos.  Padded hangars, T-mounts, and full-body mannequins with cast-from-life appendages were also discussed.  Design and presentation issues were covered, emphasizing the use of appropriate undergarments and appendages.  The benefits and problems associated with many prefabricated mannequins were discussed.  Questions and discussions were encouraged throughout the PowerPoint presentations and hands-on activities, which was helpful as workshop participants had varying levels of experience and each participant’s contribution enriched the workshop.

A 29-page handout was e-mailed prior to the one day workshop.  This was appreciated, as a lot of material was covered.  The handouts that were provided on site expanded on the initial handout with a workshop outline, a five page bibliography, a list of material suppliers, “cheat sheets” for measuring garment dimensions, a basic bodice pattern, and six articles on designing and constructing mannequins.  Helen also pointed us to useful resources such as Patterns of History historic garment patterns, Museum Mannequins: a Guide for Creating the Perfect Fit (2002) edited by M. Brunn and J. White, and A Practical Guide to Costume Mounting (2007) by L. Flecker.

Each participant was asked to bring a garment to measure for the practical workshop.  Hands on activities included measuring the garment, creating a pattern for a rigid-board mannequin, and creating a foam mannequin.  Two groups made mannequins out of Ethafoam®, a material commonly used for mannequins, and one group made a mannequin from Plastazote®, a softer type of polyethylene foam.  As a molding demonstration, two participants cast their hands in plaster using alginate molds.  The workshop went about 1 hour over time and most participants chose to stay.  Samples of buckram were provided for experimentation at home.  All supplies and tools were provided.

Helen encouraged participants to contact her with future questions.