Construction of Mannequins for Historic Costumes

This workshop discusses the factors that determine the best way to display historic costumes, including the condition of the object, safety and accurate representation of the period. Fabrication methods for four different types of mannequins are outlined, issues surrounding preventive conservation are covered and a variety of options for the construction of finishing touches (e.g. arms, legs, stands, bases, heads and hair) are presented. The hands-on component of the workshop includes the construction of a mannequin torso as well as experimentation with materials and methods for finishing touches.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • plan a costume display that takes into consideration the condition of the costume and the accurate silhouette of the period
  • assess, modify and utilize both commercial and fabricated mannequins
  • construct an inexpensive mannequin torso and use various materials for finishing touches
  • understand and implement preventive conservation measures for historic textiles


Planning a costume display

Importance of planning to ensure the success of an exhibition and the safety of textiles while on display. Assessing the condition of an object to determine if and how it can be displayed. Ensuring the costume reflects the period accurately by choosing an appropriate silhouette, accessories and hairstyle.

Mannequin types

Advantages and disadvantages of commercially available and fabricated mannequins, including availability, cost, adaptability, reusability, composition, support and silhouette. Modifying commercial forms. Other types of mounts for displaying and supporting costumes. Fabrication methods for key mannequin types.

Construction techniques

Hands-on session: construction of a mannequin torso, options for finishing touches, experimentation with materials and ideas.

Preventive conservation

Preventive conservation topics including light, relative humidity, temperature, pests, contaminants, maintenance, and safe and unsafe materials.

Finishing touches

Correct fit and posture. Use of undergarments to add shape and fullness. A variety of options for constructing arms, legs, stands, bases, heads and hair.

Target audience

Museum staff and volunteers, costume societies or organizations and individuals responsible for the display of costumes.



Enrollment limits

Minimum 10, maximum 18


Two days

Special requirements

  • use of a large room that can be darkened for presentations
  • access to water
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