Mounting Historic Costume

We’re in the process of mounting costume for our new history galleries.  I’ve been working on a shooting suit made by a Birmingham tailoring company called Allports in the early 20th century.

When you’re mounting costume you first have to order a mannequin (sometimes called a ‘bust form’) that is slightly smaller than the garment and then build it up if necessary to support the garment.  This mannequin needed a little bit of padding around the hips and the back and shoulders. We use wadding first of all – I had to create what looked like a pair of wadding shorts with an extra bit for the bottom!  (images 1 & 2).  

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Once the wadding is the right shape for the garment, we cover it with jersey, which protects the garment from fragments of wadding and also creates a smooth finish (image 3).  

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Rolls of wadding create the arms and one leg (the pole supporting the mannequin goes through the other leg). Undressed, the mannequin looks extremely odd – but once the shooting suit is mounted on it, it looks quite a natural shape (image 4). Mounting a garment like this can take two or three days to get right.  

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You can see this suit on display along with other Birmingham-made costume in Birmingham:  its people, its history, which opens on 12 October 2012.

Henrietta Lockhart

Curator of history

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