The Way They Were

Mannequin-maker Adel Rootstein's genius was in creating forms that would look natural wearing the styles of the day. An exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising traces the chameleon-like way in which Rootstein's mannequins responded to the times.

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The '70s: Mannequins from this era are the most realistic and were the first to incorporate signs of changing social status and mores. The first braless models appeared during this time. Not that mannequins need undergarments, but these have breasts with nipples and pre-silicone sag.

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The '80s: Realism gave way to glorified perfection. Rootstein created a group of mannequins called "Body Gossip," whose muscle-sculpted bodies were designed to show off gym clothes. Another group from the era--"Calendar Girls"--was made to wear all those lavish party dresses and couture clothes that came along late in the decade. "They were a swing back to '50s style," explains Michael Southgate, Rootstein creative director. "There was a tremendous revival of couture, and stores needed elegant girls with what we considered old-fashioned attitude. They were tall, elegant and glamorous."

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The '90s: Interpersonal relationships factor heavily into display themes. "Girlfriends and Loverboys" is a group of male and female mannequins that perform a precarious balancing act: The male mannequins hold their female friends aloft in enthusiastic hugs. Another group in the series resembles a Greek frieze, with mannequins holding hands and pulling each other along.

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