Conservation / Preservation

How to display delicate clothing on a mannequin?

External influences

When exhibiting clothing, external influences may affect the materials. These include light, moisture, insects. Sometimes, prolonged contact with the material on which the clothing is exhibited can also cause damage to textiles and leather.

We discuss here how you can minimise the influences of mannequins

Our most important advice is:
Avoid direct contact of the delicate clothing with the mannequin.
For this you can use acid-free paper or for example a chemically inert coverall.

We think that storing the clothing in boxes is the best way to preserve it. A disadvantage is that it cannot be viewed/enjoyed/studied by the general public. Therefore, with few exceptions, we think it is acceptable to display historical clothing and uniforms on mannequins.

If you choose to display your clothing or uniform on a mannequin, we will be happy to help you find the best options.

Use polyester mannequins for delicate clothing

Our mannequins are made of polyester. Polyester is a composition of fibreglass and resin, and a solvent is used to process the resin. Most of the solvent evaporates shortly after production and during storage. From one month after production, polyester is considered an acid-free and chemically inert material.

Avoid materials with plasticisers

Materials such as (soft) plastic and polystyrene contain plasticisers which can affect clothing, leather and accessories. Especially military helmets and caps with leather parts can be seriously affected in the short term.

Use flexible mannequins for non-delicate clothing

Many of our customers (museums and collectors) have been using our flexible mannequins for many years, without reporting to us any damage to the clothing. Flexible mannequins or limbs made of PU foam contain gas that can escape from the micro-pores (so-called off-gassing). We therefore do not recommend this material for very delicate clothing. The flexible figures are, however, very suitable for military museums that use sturdy or newly made historically correct uniforms to depict active combat scenes.

Ultimately, it is up to you, the customer, to decide whether or not to use these types of mannequins, depending on how fragile or valuable the clothing is.

Display mannequins with flexible bodies
Display mannequins with flexible bodies »

Paint is seldom acid-free

None of the paint manufacturers we know can guarantee that their paint is 100% acid-free. We therefore recommend using an inert layer between mannequin and fabric. If desired, we can supply unpainted mannequins, but the surface will be rough, more difficult to clean and it will attract dust more easily. We still recommend using the layer of acid-free paper.

Chrome-plated and powder coated metal parts are acid-free

In limbs with movable joints, we use chromium-plated hinges, which are therefore chemically inert and acid-free. Our foot and calf pins and stands are also chrome-plated or otherwise chemically inert. Other accessories are made from metal and powder coated (in black) and therefore acid-free.

What about testing?

Mannequins are handmade in workshops, not in controlled laboratories, and will therefore always have a slightly different composition. If we test the material of a mannequin, the result is not necessarily valid for another mannequin. Therefore, in our opinion, material tests such as the Oddy off-gassing test have little practical value.

Do research and use your common sense

The most important thing to successfully display your valuable artifacts on mannequins is to read professional advice on do’s and don’ts and use your common sense to make the right choice on whether and how to display your garments.

In case of questions, please let us know , we are happy to share our knowledge and experience with you.