How can I call you? Mannequin – trier-on – model
The word mannequin comes from the Dutch word ‘manikin’, and it meant the wooden model doll used by artists originally, and there weren’t any posing ladies yet at all. In Hungarian language, a mannequin means a trier-on girl, and both expressions were used in the fashion world of Hungary. The employment of the first mannequins is usually related to Charles Frederick Worth’s salon. Allegedly, his wife Marie was the first trier-on, whom he used to send to the derby of Longchamp in order that high society could see his latest collection. She worked well as a living advertisement and could be a real innovation in the 19th century, because before that, customers could see the dresses only when they were ready and tailored to them, in a badly lit room mostly. It is likely that demoiselles had been employed to introduce new clothes even before that. Worth recognised that the more models he employed in his salon, the more dress-creations he could introduce.
When the ready-made is salvation
The most punctual expression for the days after the Second World War is shortage. Besides the rationing system, there was huge shortage of goods, and wad was given to rations too. This shortage was slightly relieved by mass-produced ready-made articles. The disappearance of fashion magazines was just an infinitesimal loss besides that. Later in 1950, when the situation improved, the Ruhaipari Tervező Vállalat (Apparel Industrial Designer Company) was established, which was the predecessor of today’s Hungarian Fashion Institute. RTV introduced several collections in a year. They also put great emphasis on fashion shows, not only in rural culture houses or factories – where models could walk before Lenin’s and Stalin’ vigilant eyes -, but they also organised shows in elegant places like the Gellért or the Grand Hotel of Margaret Island. It is not an overstatement to say that the wearers of clothes became the stars of events, besides the clothes.
Mannequins on stage
In Hungary, the rules of being a mannequin were learnt in autodidactic ways for a long time, as this position did not exist. In civil life, these girls worked for some kind of companies, because the socialist moral associated the “exploitation” of a woman’s figure with the idea of prostitution. Thus, our mannequins could be cutters and ironers. Typically, they all thought of their life after the catwalk. This is how Sztenya Bodó (Stefánia Spialek) became a Polish interpreter and Ági Pataki became a businesswoman. The solution was the model and mannequin training, introduced at the State Acrobat Training Institute. Applicants were enrolled after a multilevel selection; a height of 170 cm was the minimum criterion. The course included teaching jazz-ballet, acting and stage presence.
You can learn a lot about the lives of the most beautiful women of Hungary from their recollections. In fact, beyond the glitter and parties, only the ones who had a passport could expect jobs in the western world. The ones without connections had to stay in the eastern block and on Hungarian events. Every period had its favourites, whom the camera loved. They were allowed to go abroad for longer or shorter periods, like Sztenya Bodó or Mari Katona. Today, this is a different world and it is sure that there is life after the ‘Fabulon-girl’ and the Metal Lady. Here we have Barbi Palvin and Enikő Mihalik now.
Divat, kultúra, történelem, Divattörténeti tanulmányok, ELTE Eötvös kiadó, 2018.
F. Dózsa Katalin, Megbámulni és megbámultatni, Viselettörténeti tanulmányok, L'Harmattan Kiadó, 2014.
Translated by Zita Aknai