Confidentially Speaking #13951

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The Story

These old Wolf Collapsible dress forms live in a nearly abandoned sewing factory that is now used to store auto parts in the basement. The old three-story building in Pennsylvania was once a maker of children’s clothes and ladies dresses. It closed years ago along with most of the textile manufacturing in the country and once employed hundreds of women on the sewing lines. The building was in pretty bad shape being full of birds, having a basement full of standing water, and a totally ruined roof. In this picture, you can see the heavy wood floorboards under the dummies heaved by rainwater and the build-up of pigeon dirt covering the floor. The birds have perched on the dress forms for years and stained them.

I photographed these dress forms beside shelves of colorful thread on the second floor of three during a thunderstorm outside. Predictably, the water leaked through the building like a sieve through that holey roof above. It fell like rain in places inside, notably on this camera position! I was thoroughly soaked in the toxic brew as it passed through the floors, but I was determined…now or never, funk-water or not. This abandoned sewing factory reeked like a birdcage from lots of pigeons, and I felt the need to take bath in Clorox after this!

You can see the floors heaved from water passing through and the white bird dirtr thick on the floor. All the years of rain and bird damage didn’t affect the thread much because the shelves acted as a miniature roof to protect the brightly colored bobbins. Today, the thread wouldn’t be much good but the bobbins remain here in vivid pastels of decay. The dress forms are positioned together in a close conversation as if they were confidentially speaking.

I was able to move the mannequins around to make different compositions. To add to the toxic misery, to move them meant getting them around the waist and fairly dance with these girls. They were a little damp from exposure and stinky from bird whizz too. Being of commercial grade, these old Wolf Collapsible dress forms had a heavy iron frame underneath and the time-stiffened casters made the dummies a little hard to move. They were built to last and did until left to deteriorate here. They were in rough shape just like the factory building they were abandoned in, left to the birds like the rest of the place.

Once a mainstay in manufacturing clothing and with serious sewing people everywhere, I’ve found the Wolf Collapsible dress form company went out of business only a few years back with no reason given. Surely reduced demand for their product had something do with it as textile manufacturing decreased in this country. I’ve also heard someone out there has resumed making them. Older used Wolf dress forms can be found out there but are in demand, most likely for their cool provenance and character in today’s world.

From the same session, you can see the companion view of this mannequin pair which features only one of these two sisters. It’s titled Vintage Couture. In the Abandoned Industrial gallery, there are also a few shots of the very disheveled and dusty factory foreman’s office that was only a few feet away. Here’s one titled The Maid’s Day Off.

Location: Lansford, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Image and text © Andrew Dierks

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