I’ve been collecting mannequin patterns for several years. I have always been fascinated by the little miniature fashions and the practical idea of teaching young girls to sew using the small dolls. Patterns were designed to be easy to sew, required very little fabric and only the very basic of sewing knowledge.
A little bit of Fashion history
These store dolls were called manikin, mannikin, manniquin, or minikins.
The small toy dolls had names like Peggy the fashiondol, Joanne, etc.
During the late 1920′s and through the early 1960s most stores used 30 inch mannikin dolls as displays for sample outfits. They were common sight in fabric or dry goods stores during the depression era of the 1930s and the WWII era of the 1940s when fabrics were rationed. They were still in common use during the 1950s when my grandmother would take me shopping. The mannequin doll were made in 1 piece with removable arms to make dressing and undressing the dolls easier. The dolls had pegs in the bottom of the feet that fit into a wooden stand. Store mannequin dolls from the later 1940′s and 1950′s would come apart at the waist and were maid in plastic. Making the doll size outfits used little fabric, did not take much display area, while still showing the details of the new patterns that were available in full sizes. Each month certain patterns were designated as “pattern of the month”. These patterns were miniaturized to the size of the 30 inch mannikin and sent to the stores to be sewn and displayed. As new patterns arrive, most of the previous patterns were usually destroyed. The ones that survive to the present give us a glimpse into the past when many fashions were home sewn and every little girl was expected to learn to sew for herself, her family, and her home.
Smaller mannikin or “fashiondol” (the spelling is correct) sets were sold as toys designed to teach little girls to sew. Several different types of sets were sold from different pattern companies. Each company seemed to have their own style of doll. The least expensive sets were just a $1.00 and included just the doll with removable arms, a small wooden stand and a few basic sewing supplies. The 1946 Sears Christmas catalog listed a 7- piece rubber mannikin set for $1.79. The set included the doll, three patterns, fabric for a dress for the mannikin, tape measure, and a sewing book, “Hints For The Young Designer”. The 12 piece mannikin and dress form set listed for $3.19. It included a mannikin doll and wood stand, dress form, three patterns, fabric for a dress, thimble, thread, tape measure, needles, dress trimmings, and is 66 page instruction book. The top of the line sets included a small sewing machine, the doll and stand, a dress dummy, fabrics, patterns and various sewing supplies. The doll sizes vary from company to company from 11-3/4″ to 20″. The most common size appears to be 12-1/2″. Most of the earlier dolls were made from composition and haven’t survived since the composition will crack or craze and flake off and the dolls were very fragile and would break easily if dropped. Later dolls were made from rubber or plastic. You can sometimes still purchased one in good shape.
Extra patterns were available separately for these dolls. The price range was 15¢ each or 25¢ for a set of three and was usually a mail away item.
Similar dolls usually 20 inches to 30 inches in height, were used in sewing classrooms as a teaching aid. I know of at least three special pattern packages as well as many individual patterns that were available to schools. Although the use of these mannequin dolls in stores and classrooms has long since been discontinued they are still part of our fashion history.
The patterns offered in the catalog or shopping cart area of this web site are reformatted copies from some of my original patterns for fashion dolls and miniature mannequins. These are offered as download only patterns and are from my private collections.