How the history of mannequins reveals sociological changes in American society

You might not think to look to mannequins to learn about significant changes in American society:

Mannequins have a rich century-old history. They’re what Dr. Marsha Bentley Hale, one of the world’s leading experts on mannequins, calls “significant sociological reflections of our consumer society.”…

– Until the early 1900s, the most common mannequins had no head, arms or legs. But by 1912, with the rise of mass production clothing, full-fledged human figures became popular.

– During the Depression era, mannequins were inspired by Hollywood starlets as many Americans took refuge in movie theaters, according to Eric Feigenbaum, chair of the visual merchandising department of LIM College, a fashion college in New York City. But during World War II, the displays took on a somber tone to reflect more subdued fashions, he says.

– After World War II, mannequins started looking playful again. But sexuality was squelched during the 1940s and the 1950s. In fact, many American retailers removed the nipples of the older mannequins because they were considered too sexual, says Dr. Hale.

Read on to reach the present day where there are more realistic mannequins. I wish there was more analysis here to further explain how mannequins reflect American ideals and perceptions about the body. Plus, are there big differences in mannequins aimed at men or women or in different class settings (like differences between cheaper clothing lines versus higher-end retailers)?

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