For the month of February I am going to feature my series on the African American mannequins that Rootstein produced.
This is Billie Blair from the series Billie Blair and the Spectaculars which came out in the 1980’s. Billie was one of the African American models on the runway Battle of Versailles Fashion Show in 1973.
That one fashion show is a pivotal moment that changed American Fashion History and you can read about it here: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/…/versailles-french…/At the end of that article is a link to the documentary about the fashion show.
Besides the clothing and the staging what made the event unique was it was the first time that African American models had a chance to shine on an international level.
Billie (along with Pat Cleveland ) was one of the break out stars and after this fashion show that were courted by American designers and press who had initially rebuffed them because they were Black.
Both of them brought a strong sense of drama and theatre on the runway.This sense of drama is captured in the types of poses that Rootstein used when they cast Billie’s likeness as a mannequin.As a result she is one of the most coveted mannequins among collectors.
Her poses are like “stop motion animation” In this video with Adel Rootstein there is a clip at the end of Billie Blair herself talking about her experience of being made into a fiberglass mannequin:
Notice that in the video the mannequin is in a skin tone several shades lighter than she is. But at least you can tell she is African American.
What is happening now is mannequin collectors love her poses, but they have her repainted as a white woman. 80% of the time when I see a vintage Billie showcased by a proud owner on Facebook, she is white. Sometimes with hazel colored eye.s
While I hate the whitewashing of black mannequins in general, I get most upset when I see a “white” Billie given her significance in fashion history. It is being erased and it sickens me. They take her body and crush her spirit.
If you want to buy a Rootstein mannequin, we frequently have used ones for sale here. You can also sign up to receive an email the next time we get more used Rootstein mannequins in stock or follow us on Facebook.