Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Discovery - McCall's Alice Sewing Pattern - Minikin Display Pattern

I have recently acquired the following, something I had never heard of before. What at first glance looks just like a standard McCall's pattern from the 1951 promotion with Indian Head Cotton, is in fact something pretty unusual - and quite cool.

This is a pattern for a display minikin. What is a display minikin you may ask? That is a very good question, something that I did not know myself until I found this item and received some assistance from people in the know sewing-wise.

Once you know what it is, it makes perfect sense. A minikin is a miniature mannequin. These were used in fabric stores to display finished clothing made from the featured patterns. These were of course smaller versions of the regular pattern, presumably to save money on fabric and time to sew them together. My wife actually has a minikin, it looks like a miniture dress form. We did not know that it had this special name until we found this pattern.

Apparently there were LOTS of these patterns made for use in stores, conceivably there are minikin versions of EVERY pattern, but that is probably unlikely, probably only those patterns that were thought to be big sellers got a minikin version. I would love to see photos of minikins in action with these Alice clothes...there must be some out there somewhere!

UPDATE: Sandra commented that the photo of my wife's 'minikin' is in fact just a miniature dress form. I'm on the hunt for a photo of a real minikin, if anyone out there has one, I'd love to see it!

UPDATE #2: Thanks again to Sandra, she provided me with this fantastic photo of a real minikin. I think she looks like Scarlett Johansson.

Apparently minikins are about 30 inches tall, and are essentially big (sometimes) articulated dolls. The ultimate Barbie ;-)


Sandra said...

Hello, Matt.

I am a big Alice fan, too--it's one of my favorite books. However, I found your post as I was searching for minikin patterns. Would you be interested in selling a copy of your pattern?

Here is some info for you about minikins.

These were actually miniature mannequins, about 30" tall and had heads, arms, and legs so that they looked rather like dolls (the picture you show in your wife's sewing room is a photo of what is properly called a dress form since it is only a torso).

Minikins generally have the head, torso and legs as one fixed piece, and the arms are removeable to make them easier to dress. Often the faces were painted in a very stylized manner, with blank eyes, but you can find them with realistically painted faces, too.

There were miniature mannequins used in department stores displays to promote or sell commercially available products, but you are correct that minikins were used in fabric stores to promote home sewing.

I hope this info is helpful.


Matt said...

Hi Sandra, thanks for the updated info! I'll take a look at the patter and see what it would take to make a copy of it.

Do you have a photo of a real minikin? I thought what my wife has was in fact correct since it was so small.

Sandra said...


I have taken pictures of a couple of minikins that I have, but I'm not sure how to post them--maybe you can advise.

They are both 30 inches tall. The older one is from the forties. She is made of composition and has molded painted hair. Her arms are removeable.

The newer one is from the sixties. She is made of plastic and has a stiff mannequin wig. Her arms and waist are jointed. She came with her original shipping box with the original shipping label showing that she was sent from the Margit Nilsen studio to a high school Home Ec teacher. She is dressed as a bride, presumably in a dress made by the Home Ec class.


Matt said...

You can just send the photos to my email and I'll post them in the original article.

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