The mannequins in the above photo are wearing vintage Diane Von Furstenberg dresses circa 1976.

If you were an adult during that time, then you probably recall that this dress was EVERYWHERE. And then suddenly it wasn’t.

This is exactly what is happening about mannequins, especially realistic mannequins now. Once ubiquitous in every major department store window and in store displays. But they are disappearing quickly.

So many of the large department store chains that once had stables of mannequins are going out of business.

And many of the mannequins that are being used today are the egghead style or headless, not the mannequins with realistic faces, wigs, make-up and lashes.

As a distraction during the current COVID19 crisis, I decided to focus on something lighthearted and fun – the history of Rootstein mannequins. Please read my previous posts which explain why I chose Rootstein as the mannequin company to highlight.

To help me document this information I turned to one of my customers who has over 100 Rootstein mannequins in his private collection, many of them he purchased from me. (My company recycles mannequins for retail chains and periodically we receive Rootstein’s from retailers like Macy’s, Ralph Lauren and Neiman Marcus.)

This collector was formerly the head of visual merchandiser for several national chains for over 30 years. Back in those days, every retail store had multiple displays of mannequins inside the store and in the store windows facing the street.

Unfortunately all but one of those retailers he worked for is out of business and that one is teetering on bankruptcy. Although he never worked for Barney’s that is example of a retailer that was known for their eye-catching window displays with mannequins, but is no longer in business.

Anyway, back to my Rootstein collector. Although I have never met him in person (we live on opposite coasts) I consider him a trusted resource and friend. He is my “go to” person anytime I need detailed information about a used Rootstein Mannequin I have for sale.

In addition to his extensive mannequin collection, he has almost every catalogue that Rootstein ever released. He is essentially a curator and his home is a mannequin museum. Not in a creepy way, but more of a historical significance way.

I pleaded with him to record a youtube video on each of his mannequins and share his insights on the mannequin and retail industry back in the day. He said no because he is a very private (and camera shy) person.

To protect his privacy I will refer to him as “Sam” for Smart About Mannequins.

It is ironic that Sam wants to be anonymous since he is “one degree of separation from Andy Warhol.” Sam had a very close friendship with a cousin of Andy Warhol. I told him this could be his “15 minutes of fame” as a mannequin historian. But he still wasn’t budging.

Anyway, I finally convinced Sam to photograph, rather than video each mannequin in his collection and email it to me with a description about each mannequin.. I told him then I could post the photos as a series on my Facebook page for other mannequin collectors to enjoy.

Sam photographed the mannequins wearing clothing that was the style of the period the mannequin was manufactured. And he included commentary about the outfit along with the profile of the mannequin. Sam is a walking encyclopedia of information not just about mannequins but fashion & design.

So my series provided a dab of fashion history along with the mannequin information. In addition Sam often had specialty and period props (as only a former window dresser would) to add to the photograph.

Like the mannequin class in Halston attire above. He accessorized her with Halston props and not just ONE, but 2 of the iconic Halston perfume bottles.  Who else in the world has that?

After posting these mannequin vignettes on Facebook and getting lots of comments and engagement I decided to chronicle them in this blog. Upcoming posts will feature 3 or 4 mannequin vignette’s in article. I just wanted to give you a frame of reference for the series.


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5 months ago

Very insightful

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