As a preview to the opening of Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier, volunteer Kristin Bernstein explains the process behind building props and determining accessories for the mannequins featured in the exhibition.
In Making Mainbocher, mannequins are dressed from head to toe and no detail is lost. A gifted sketch artist who defined luxury in the early twentieth century, Mainbocher often included accessories in many of his fashion designs to present a polished, comprehensive look to his clients. To evoke his elegant style in this exhibition, a team of volunteers and contracted specialists custom built props for each mannequin and object, including paper wigs, ribbon shoes, and even prop dresses. Similar to the background of a painted portrait, exhibition props are included to support and complement an object—rather than draw attention, they subtly add to the visual experience. These details elevate Mainbocher’s designs in the hopes that the mannequins embody his full vision.
An example of how paper wigs and ribbon shoes can fill in a mannequin’s blank presence. Behind-the-scenes photographs taken by CHM staff