The True Gender

Gender's Cat
Although my little excursion into Décors 3D yielded some decent photos, I was a little flustered when I left the shop and noticed that Gender, the actual mannequin sales showroom, had a doorbell, which meant they weren't partial to walk-ins off the street. But I had enough momentum in me to ring the bell and wait a few seconds in the cold.

The Very Convincing Rootstein
A surprisingly calm and casually dressed middle-aged man answered the door and ushered me in. After briefly mentioning that I had a blog and lived in the neighbourhood, I asked him if I could look around and take some pictures, to which he politely agreed. From where I was standing, I noticed a woman from the corner of my eye. I took a few self-conscious steps towards the back of the store and then did a double take. She hadn't moved. This was a Rootstein. An unsettling feeling came over me, but it wasn't the creepy valley sensation you get from a figure at a wax museum, a figure that bears a striking resemblance but still has a number of telltale signs that it's only a replica. This felt more like deception. At the 15-foot distance, the mannequin looked real, but there was no feeling of a human presence.

Rootstein's Young and Restless

I continued to the back of the store and looked around a little more, but I don't remember very much. The mannequins were all in formal wear, and the lights were bright (at least I was right about something). I asked about the Rootsteins, and I was offered a brochure on the Temptation line. Then I asked about the controversial Young and Restless, and I was offered another brochure and shown the very narrow-chested young men. Because of the natural sunlight from the store window, these mannequins had the usual pallor of mannequins and reminded me of vampires. Lighting was obviously key to Rootstein's realism. I commented on the chest size.

"This is just the style right now. We'll see a more muscular look again," said my guide and salesman reassuringly.

Although I'm usually a chatty person, I was having some problems formulating questions. I eventually asked them if they carried any plus-sized mannequins. I was told that the company did indeed do a lot of business with many plus-size suppliers, and again I was handed another brochure from a German company. I quickly flipped to the spec for "Venus," a plus-sized mannequin, looking more like an average Canadian woman, but still a little narrow in the waist. We had a short conversation about rib cages. Manufacturers were apparently asked to add rib cages because clothes fell more the way they were intended to, but to consumers, a mannequin's protruding rib cage signified anorexia.

I had been completely wrong about the type of people I was going to find at this shop. Everyone had been more than accommodating and very generous with information. Then, as I was about to leave, a young man came forward and gave me a folder for all my newly acquired information along with a USB key with all the specs of the mannequins they carried. As my husband reminded me later when I got home, these specs were expensive items, and he experienced some pure geek euphoria when he examined the USB key.
"This is a 4-gig key...very cool," I recall him saying.

And the key's contents were even cooler. I discovered that Rootstein carries a Barbie mannequin line. The various manifestations of Barbie are all six feet tall with a 23-inch waist...

As I crossed St-Laurent Boulevard, I realized that my excursion had been successful. I had photos and more than enough information to write something on size politics. At the same time, I felt sick to my stomach and strangely empty. I couldn't get over the fact that so much effort had been put into perfecting human replicas. Why couldn't that type of energy be put into feeding the world's hungry?

I guess I'd forgotten about the requisite post-mannequin heebie jeebies.

More posts related to the hood:
Almost a Visit to Gender
St-Viateur: the Polish Bazaar
The Mile End Buzz Around Beekeeping
For the Love of Vinyl
Airing Our Dirty Laundry
Filming on St-Viateur
A Sense of Humour With the Wilensky's Special
S.W. Welch: the Nicolski Coincidence
The Lure of Fishing on Bernard


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