Presenting Vintage Clothes with Photographs
Should You Buy a Mannequin
garments look much better when photographed on either a mannequin or a
has arms, legs, hands, feet and a head and usually a wig. It is the
sort of model you see in shop windows. Dressmaker's dress-forms
are usually just torsos, but the dress-form below is a couture model and
has a half arm with a jointed elbow increasing display possibilities.
A lower arm and hand is often available for such superior models.
Mannequins are not cheap. When new, those in department stores cost up to £1000 or more if they are the current version. That would mean it would have the latest facial
expressions, hair style, body shape and posture. But second hand and even vintage dress mannequins and forms can be obtained.
This photograph right is a couture
model dress-form and is the model which Linda Ames frequently uses to display many of their fine
couture pieces. The slender form makes it ideal for antique and
vintage clothing which pre-1960 will have smaller waists and
smaller measurements in general.
I recall in the 1980s there was a mannequin called Laid Back Larry and
he slouched in an ever so casual way and had huge iron pumped 1980's
shoulders. Likewise many 80's mannequins had head features modelled
on the Princess of Wales, Diana. 15 years before that many had
head features modelled on Princess Anne. Some of the older models
at the V & A, London costume section in the 1980s had Princess Anne's face. Now in the UK many
mannequins look like Victoria or David Beckham, or the latest celebrity
such as Gwen Stefani. More recently whilst checking out vintage
sites, I noticed that many model heads used actually looked as if they
had been modelled on Vivien
Detachable limbs that unscrew on a model make it
easier to dress and undress. Any screw fitting or limb stiffness can usually be sorted out
with a spray like WD40, but not of course near textiles! Be lavish
with kitchen roll when applying the spray to just a joint and for cleaning up excess spray. If you have very
expensive vintage garments think twice before using such a product.
It may be preferable to spray kitchen paper instead and wipe the
lubricant precisely just on the stiff fitting.
Just don't frighten the life out of your neighbours as
I once did when I stacked one in a box in my garage and then one day
left the garage door open and they wondered who the naked lady, legs up
in the air in a TV box was! Although second hand prices of ex-shop
model mannequins must vary a great deal worldwide, I paid £20 for a
second hand one from a small ad in the local free Advertiser newspaper
about 8 years ago.
Dress forms can be almost as effective as mannequins,
but try to put a nice filler in the neck either of contrast fabric or
toning stockinet or make a little bib filler. There are also briefer half girl models on the
market and these are a good investment.
If you have no mannequin or dress form do you know
someone the garment might fit - could you pad them out a little or
hold the back of the garment in with clothes pegs so that no one will
see poor fit in the photo. As a last resort hang the garment from
a door frame and photograph it against a plain door, but hanging freely.
The best way to show for example skirt or sleeve shape
is to use a long thread and secure it from another point or get someone
to hold the other end of the thread whilst you take photos.
It will be easy to crop the person's hand out of the picture if the
elevated thread is a distance away from the garment. Make
sure you use a
good length of sewing thread or invisible thread lifting the garment
sleeves or skirt up in a delicate manner as often seen in window
Dress forms are often sold by vintage clothes sellers
too. Modern forms can be obtained from many stockists such as the
USA Greenberg-hammer web site or MacCulloch and Wallis of Dering Street
When you photograph items for placement on internet
auction sites try to use a special daylight bulb to gain colour
accuracy. Household bulbs cast a yellowish light, fluorescent
light a green cast and halogen lights a blue cast.
If you have the expertise and your photograph colour
looks a little off compared to the actual garment or perhaps too dark,
try to lift or enhance the colour, or lighten it using software
features. Try correcting colour backgrounds or flood filling them
with colour using the magic wand selection tool. I can highly recommend the software Paint Shop Pro 7
or higher from JASC to help you
manipulate pictures in this way. This is the software I use for all my
Whatever you do, don't include cornflake packets and
the like in the photograph as I have sometimes seen on numerous eBay
Here is an example of an 'old' saved leather handbag I have,
now fitting into the vintage category.
The handbag was originally from the well known exclusive London shop Mappin and Webb.
The handbag shows a small amount of wear on the edges, but otherwise is in very
good condition and is still useable and is suitable for sale. It
has a lovely clean suede interior and a zipped pocket. Best of all
it is in a currently fashionable textured skin, classic in style and is brown, making it suitable for
the fifties look now.
These thumbnails enlarge and the last one shows
the label clearly. There is no extra clutter in the pictures to
distract the viewer.
You don't have to be an expert photographer to take
clear uncluttered photographs. A corner of your desk will do as I
have used here, but I made sure
nothing else in the picture was distracting the viewer's attention.
Focus on the object you intend to sell and if there is clutter try to
crop that away or colour a new background using graphics software with
perhaps black or off white to isolate the image.
Notice too how each image has a border of white that
is not proportionate size wise in all these pictures here. The first two
I'd probably pass, but the last image should be adjusted when it's
adjacent to another.
This may seem fussy and unimportant and it
happens to us all using graphics, but you need to be aware it's not
quite perfect and at least think about it next time, aiming for
consistency and improvement. The reason this happens is that the images
have been resized to different pixel height so when the border is added
the proportion differs.
photo right shows an example of a cluttered setting and a bad angle so that the box file clutter is more noticeable than the handbag.
In this image shown left the light is shining on the label
making it unreadable. Investing in a digital camera and graphics software can
help you quickly and instantly sort out problems.
Finally nothing makes a full length garment look duller than
laying it flat on a table or bed when no flowing drape is possible.
However one exception to the rule is beaded knitwear, which can
sometimes display much better if laid flat to show the whole pattern.
On the next
page I look at Couture Vintage from vintagetextile.com and you will see
there how beautifully displayed the models are.
(Page Date 18 Feb 2005)
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