CRAFT CURIOS: Mannequin of Mystery

by Jamie on December 8, 2014

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Welcome to my first Craft Curios post!

One of my favorite pastimes is fossiking for hidden treasure amongst collectibles, bric-a-brac and junk markets.

Over the years I have found many a splendid thing  – not always to do with sewing, but if I come across a vintage sewing book or a rare pattern find, it goes in my collection – no questions asked!

My collecting started when I was given one of my Grandmothers 1950’s sewing books – complete with cut-out sewing projects from the newspapers of the time, carefully folded and placed within the yellowing pages of the sewing resource. My grandmother clearly valued this book and so do I – not only for the wonderful information contained within, but its connection to my own family sewing history.

I suppose it is this connection to the past that motivates me to continue to collect sewing-related objects today. Like treasured sewing relics, these objects become my touchstones I go to regularly to examine my own sewing knowledge and skills.

Not everyone shares my delight in finding an unusual 1930’s dress-buckle or a 1970’s sewing book – or may I add, vintage sewing machines… Yes, I have a few of those. However, I am certain that there will be readers of this blog able to share in my excitement as I highlight findings from the sewing and craft world that I find particularly interesting or mysterious… Perhaps we can solve a few mysteries together.

Talking of Mysteries, I have one today.

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On a very recent trip to a collectibles market, I came across what I thought was a fascinating find. It was a mannequin, but not like any I had seen before. Describing itself as an adjustable dress form, this mannequin was made completely from cardboard, held together by round metal studs. It appeared that the form could be adjusted in or out by changing the position of the studs along the perforated holes strategically placed for the sizes required.

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Branded ‘Perfect fit, Strata Fashion, Dress Form’, I thought the mannequin was a beautiful piece of engineering. On closer examination it was clearly vintage – I thought maybe 1950’s or 1960’s.

I loved the utilitarian nature of the form – the clearly marked points of reference to guide the assembler and the studs and tabs that cleverly held the sections of card together to mold the figure. Like observing the inner workings of a clock, this mannequin was a good example of form following function.

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The graphics and branding placed on the upper right torso were clearly from another era. The design depicting everyday sewing implements identified the dress form as a mannequin for the home dressmaker.

Tempted to just buy it, I checked the price… It would set me back around $80AU, a bit more than I was willing to spend that day.  I elected to take photos instead and research it when I got back home.

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To my dismay I could find very little about the form. It was made in New Zealand, as described on the body, but not much else was forthcoming from my Google searches.

There had been a few of these dress forms placed on trademe.co.nz over the last few years but the only other reference to the Strata Fashion dress form I could find was a black & white negative from the National Library of New Zealand’s archives, depicting the flat unassembled pieces of card laid side-by-side.

Strata-dress-form-flat-Image: National Library of New Zealand

What I have been able to find so far is:

  1. The form is most likely from the mid to late 1960’s.
  2. I’m guessing it was sold to home dressmakers as an adjustable mannequin.
  3. The dress form, or one like it, was either manufactured or distributed by a NZ company called Kenyon, Brand and Riggs (KBR) – although I could not find any other reference to KBR on the internet… dead end!

Still a mannequin of mystery it seems.

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Do you think I missed out on a bit of priceless sewing history? Perhaps $80AU was a bargain… I may never know, but I still have my photos and blog post to ponder over from time to time.

I’d love to add to this page and piece together the history of these types of adjustable mannequins… If you know anything about them please do tell.

Sew, Wear, Love

Jamie-Sig

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Janene Trickey December 8, 2014 at 9:13 am

Great post Jamie. I think $80 would have been a reasonable price, but it would take up quite a bit of space I imagine. I look forward to reading about more of your special fashion finds in future!

Reply

Jamie December 8, 2014 at 9:56 am

Yes Janene, I regret not buying it now.
At the time I doubted I could store it in my studio, as it is already bursting at the seams.

Reply

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