Decorating for Dummies

This cluster of Belgian wig moulds (circa 1890) would look great on a console. $899

Make that decorating with dummies. Mannequins and dress forms seem to be quite the design fetish du jour these days as many interior designers seem to be utilizing them more and more in their projects  as unique accents and alternative works of art.  I confess to a personal fascination with them myself as to me, they represent existential manifestations of our alter egos. There is something so poetic about the stillness and muteness of these arresting human forms that seem to evoke a profound sense of vulnerability and fragility.  I can easily see why they have historically inspired artists to use them as poetic apparitions in order to relay social and political commentary.

Originally created for commerce, mannequins and dress forms gradually found an evolution into the art world. They were countlessly used as haunting metaphysical subject matter in many works of fine art and photography notably created during the Dada and surrealist art movements of the mid-20th century.  The most famous artists utilizing the subject of mannequins sometimes disfiguring them in order to relay an allegory of the human condition were Giorgio de Chirico, founder of the metaphysical art movement (pittura metafisica), Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp along with photographers Clarence John Laughlin and Man Ray, to name just a few.
"The Disquieting Muses"
by Georgio de Chirico
The current trend of using mannequins in interior design tends to elicit more of a light-hearted and humorous response rather than a philosophical or political one as a work of art might do. As the profession of Interior design most assuredly encompasses many aspects of fine art theory and philosophy, it differs in that it is a trade created solely for clients. It is another form of art, but in the end, dictated mostly by practical concerns. Having been originally been manufactured as decorative objects for commercial use, mannequins allow interior designers to insert a bit of whimsy and perhaps even a more quiet human statement into their designs.

Weathered mannequin
Dress forms and mannequins add a unique addition to any room, not to mention acting as conversation pieces. Much of the fascination of them lies in the fact that they exist both as utilitarian and sculptural objects. They can be placed in the bedroom, used to drape a beautiful shawl, fill in an unused corner to stand alone or maybe be grouped within a variety of differing sizes and shapes in order to make a unique design and artistic statement.
Elegant apartment in France
Isn't this fascinating that the wicker dress form and iron chair mimic and complement each other at the same time? They have been brought together as an odd couple to create a marriage of lightness and elegance offset by the charming vintage-style shoes.

Angel dress form, $145

Mannequin with cone and sphere by Man Ray

Vintage hat mannequin head.

Broken Mannequin, $13.95

 Flank these on either side of a modern
white sofa accented with black pillows.

Zig-Zag Dress form, $300

Mannequin hand, $275

I found this doll-like bevy of lovely vintage mannequin heads and small mannequin all for sale on Ebay.
Robert Doisneau, Paris, 1968

Manuel Abravo,
 "Mannequin with a Voice", 1930-35


1950's shop display mannequins, $499

  "Mano" Roubini rug.
 To the trade.

Mannequin cushion, 49 British pounds.

James Dean


Buster Keaton and twin friend
Mannequin and Sculpture, 1940's.
I love this photo. Possibly shot for a fashion publication, it is an exquisite example of alternative reality.  There is profound poignancy represented in this image as the seemingly perfect fashion mannequin seems to be the one full of human emotion. She looks to be ironically eyeing the fuller figured feminine torso with envy.  It's as if we can read her mind and she is saying: "If only I could be a real woman". 
This art mannequin
belonged to my father.

Edith Head

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