I’ve finally got round to reading the new book by Caroline Evans – The Mechanical Smile, Modernism and the First Fashion Shows in France and America, 1900-1929, which I previewed here.
OK, I’ve started reading the first chapter.
In it, she discusses the first models.
Who weren’t women.
They were men.
Apparently, from the 1820s til around the 1870s, male models, or “mannequins” as they were known, were hired by tailors to wear their new clothes in fashionable spots of the city.
“These early male models, far from being glamorous figures, were described by their contemporaries as poor young men who were obliged to display modish clothing at the races and other fashionable venues.”
Academic Alison Matthews David is quoted as saying the mannequin was “a man whose profession was to rent out his body… he had to be elegant enough to appeal to dandies and poor enough to require a wage”.
When Worth first sent female models to the races in his gowns, he “may simply have been feminizing an advertising practice long familiar to tailors”.
Evans argues that men may have been the first models, because at that time men were free to “parade unaccompanied” in the city, unlike women.
The name ‘mannequin’ was an insult. “Since the late eighteenth century it had been used to mean an empty-headed, fashionable man of straw,” writes Evans.
Modelling, or being a mannequin, was not something to which one would aspire.
More to come, the more I read.
(And I’m alternating between it and the new Margaret Atwood).
(Which I’m churning through).
(It ain’t that great).
(Not like the Ruth Ozeki).
(Which is AMAZING).
(Click here to see it etcetc).