Monday, April 30, 2012

Vintage Millinery Mannequin Heads

I was on my way to an annual American music festival, one of the largest in the US--Merlefest, when I received an email from a woman who makes mannequin heads.  This woman, Marge Crunkleton, lives here in the state I live in--North Carolina.  I had never heard of her but boy am I glad she contacted me!

I traveled to Denver, North Carolina, on my way to Hickory, North Carolina, to meet my best friend so that we could attend Merlefest, the music festival.  Denver was about a 4.5 hour drive from the Atlantic Coast (where I live), up toward the mountains of North Carolina.  Marge lives on beautiful Lake Norman, a huge lake near Charlotte.  I did not know what I was about to see!

Marge, a very young 80 years old, makes vintage mannequin heads, about 20 different styles, all from the 1920's through the 1950's.  They are fabulous!  They are actual reproductions, directly molded from true vintage mannequin heads her son finds throughout his travels in the US.  Marge makes them all differently by changing eye color, skin tone, hair color, lips, and even how she paints the eyeliner and eyelashes.  You cannot believe how changing even one of these elements changes how the 'lady' looks.

When I first came into the room where these unfinished manny heads were...I felt like I was seeing the Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors!  There are over 20 different styles of mannequin heads, and you can choose the color of the hair, make up, etc.  Marge had several dressed out in vintage hats.

I just knew this was a vintage hat, but upon further inspection it appears to be a fabulous reproduction of a 1940's hat.  She had mink and evening bag to further accessorize 'Susan' or 'Pilar' as Marge's son calls her.  She was my favorite!

Here she is 'unadorned' so to speak.  I love her high cheekbones!

Marge had quite a few vintage hats...some quite remarkable.  She just uses them as props, but they really make the 'girls' come alive.  I was impressed.

Another example of the style of mannequin heads is above.  This one is really a jewelry display head, because of her neck and the way a necklace can be shown to advantage.  She will be my next purchase since I sell vintage costume jewelry in my shop--aMuse.

In fact, Marge has a few heads that are historically used for jewelry, not hats.  The headsize on these would be too small for almost any adult women's hat.  And speaking of that, even the manny heads that ARE for hats, usually are going to be 21.5", when the average American woman's head is 22"-22.5"  Something to think about when making and displaying hats.

I looked at a number of heads, all with different hair color and eyes.  I'm big on eyes!  The 'girls' on the right--Susan and Liz are the two I took home with me, but it was a tough choice!

BTW, when I got home with the manny heads, my dogs went NUTZ!  The 'girls' look just a bit too real sitting on the dining room table. 

Marge tells me she is very interested in milliners knowing about her vintage 'girls' and hopes to sell them to those who appreciate them.  However, at 80 years old...she wants to be busy...but not too busy.  I think you will love her and her mannequin heads.  Find her at  Please tell her I sent you.

After I left Marge's house I went on to Hickory to meet my friend.  Next day we made our way for an hour to Merlefest to hear some of the most amazing Americana music you will hear anywhere.  The festival is in honor of legendary bluegrass musician Merle Watson, who died young.  His father, even more legendary, Doc Watson, is 90 years old and still a force to be reckoned with musically. 

Not too big on fashion hats, and why would they be?  This is more about hearing great music!  You will see lots of sun hats, Western (cowboy) hats, and baseball caps.  But look what I found!  They were so energetic and I loved their take on hats at festival!

Hope you enjoyed this post.  Next post will be a tutorial on making a hat I created for Kentucky Derby.  Til then, happy hatmaking!  And thanks for reading!


  1. Fascinating story! Do love those 'shoulders' on the jewelry gals; too bad their heads are so petite. Thank you!

  2. There were 3, I think, jewelry models, which were quite different from the hat models. I want them all! And yes, they are 'pin' heads.