A visit to the Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition at the VA Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA was both inspiring and educational. This museum label explains perfectly how fashion is crafted.
"The toile, made of white cotton, was the first translation of the artist's sketch into a garment. Later, taken apart and transformed into flat shapes, it became the pattern that would be used to cut the garment out of the chosen fabric.
For orders from haute couture clients at least three fittings were required with the première d'atelier, the workshop head, or the premiere main qualifièe, the "first qualified hand." The pattern was adjusted to the client while remaining as faithful as possible to the original design. The first fitting provided an opportunity to check the measurements of the "Stockman" dress form that is like the imprint of a client's body in wood and canvas. The measurements were recorded in the fitting book. The workshops could work on the garment between each fitting using the Stockman form."
Stockman dressmaker forms have been hand crafted since 1867 near Paris and the craft continues today with a small group of 20 employees who pass these skills generationally. Used by seamstresses, tailors, and haute-couture houses, including Christian Dior and the famous 'New Look' dummy in 1947, these forms are handcrafted from papier mâché. The paper is applied to a mold, removed by cutting, stapled together, sanded, and covered in white cotton or organic cotton. The busts require 24 hours of drying time and 9 steps of construction.
They also carry a line of busts and accessories for window and stores displays used by luxury and concept stores around the world. In 2012, Siegel & Stockman received the living heritage Enterprise for their 150 year commitment to the craft of making mannequins.
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