Vintage mannequin restoration

I’m particularly proud of my collection of vintage mannequins, but they would be nothing without the skill of a good restorer. Circa has about twelve mannequins, dating from the ’20s to the ’60s and they all needed a lot of work when I bought them with the contents of the Sydney vintage clothing shop “Albert and Gladys”.

Left to their own devices, they’re prone to being knocked over – so they all had squashed noses and breasts. None of them have arms or hands either – but they seem to cope well without them and due to the difficulties of replacing vintage limbs, they remain (to quote a wit) ‘armless. Apart from Clark, who received his arms when his vintage head was put onto a modern body, which is why he towers over Fay and Marlene in the front window.

Circa’s current front window – the large sale signs also came from “Albert and Gladys”, or more particularly, they were made up for Sydney’s “Top Hat” in the ’70s. Top Hat was the first vintage clothing shop that I worked in, before managing Albert and Gladys (they were owned by the same person). I love how the Deco font compliments Circa’s logo.

Mannequin restoration is a long and painstaking process and is done by hand – several of my mannequins are currently at the “hospital”, Mannequin Revolution in Richmond. They didn’t look like much when I took them down, but I thought you’d like to see.

First, is half of a ’60s lady – you can see her bottom half in the second image, with a squishy foam waist for cinching – along with the bottom half of a ’40s lady (also with squishy middle). The squishy middle is fairly uncommon in my experience, but must have been great for the Dior “New Look” styles and tiny waists.

The ’60s lady (I don’t give them names until after their faces have been redone) has glass or porcelain eyes that had fallen back into her head, giving her a creepy look. I love her orange lipstick! Her highly stylised features make her easy to date.

Next is a ’30s mannequin – she has beautiful golden curls.

Phil sent me these images of my ’40s lady in progress – you can see how he’s filled in the cracks – I think they look quite beautiful.

Of course, most of what happens at Mannequin Revolution involves modern mannequins: it’s a magical place and quite filmic. Phil was kind enough to let me take a few snaps…I hope you enjoy them.


  1. Yay I love that place. I had my two vintage mannequins restored there and he did an amazing job! Hmm I’ll see if I can find a pic…
    You can see her there.
    She was a crackled mess when I got her. Missing fingers, all cracked and sprayed with silver paint. But look at the job he did!! He’s a magician isn’t he.
    I’ll go there forever.
    Yours will turn out marvelous (As you know πŸ™‚ )

  2. Thankyou so much for sharing this history, it is facinating. Great photos as well. But I do have to say I think I’ve watched far too much Doctor Who, as I find the photos very spooky.

  3. Hi Nicole! I just love this blog post. I found it fascinating to see these vintage mannequins. I had no idea that they could be restored. Amazing! By the way, your new shop front looks fabulous. Enjoy your evening.
    Suzi x
    For the Love of Audrey

  4. That really does look like a fascinating place to visit! I love the mannequins with the squishy waists – they make a lot of sense, given the fashions of their era. It’s just so intriguing to see the way mannequins have changed over time.

  5. I recently bought a toddler mannequin he’s about two and a half feet tall,jointed at the shoulder,holding a dog bone in his right hand.Just wondering if he’s worth restoring.

  6. Hi Henry, if you take him to a restorer they should be able to advise. It all depends on how badly damaged he is.

  7. Hi you can look forme on face book my big event is coming look for vintage and you will see Nicole i meet you in sydney i all was at the lisa ho i got 2 of her amzing lots wish o had got more i will have some on my event pleade tell friends xx

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