Alexis Lavigne and his inventions

Behind the scenes of the invention of the tape measure and the mannequin


Alphonse Bertillon's anthropometric system (1853)ESMOD INTERNATIONAL

In France, the 1840’s were marked by the state’s desire to standardize the systems of measurement and apply the metric system in every field of activity (sciences, medicine, justice, etc.)

The anthropometric measurement system created by Alphonse Bertillon and used on convicts, is a good example.

ESMOD Alumni tape measure (2016) by ESMOD EditionsESMOD INTERNATIONAL

The tape measure

A revolutionary tool for tailors.

Sketch of the machine used to manufacture the tape measure (1847) by Alexis LavigneESMOD INTERNATIONAL

In this context, Alexis Lavigne registered the patent of a complex machine in October 29 th 1847 designed to manufacture the renowned tape measure, used nowadays by every fashion professionals.

Patent application for the tape measure (1847-10-29) by Alexis LavigneESMOD INTERNATIONAL

Master tailors used to keep scissors marked paper ribbons for every client despite their fragility.

Le mètre étalon de la Place Vendôme à Paris, ESMOD International, 2011, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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Ils utilisaient des mètres étalons disposés sur les murs de la capitale.

Modern tape measures, ESMOD Editions, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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Les centimètres souples édités aujourd'hui, rappelent la plus pure tradition de cette invention révolutionnaire...

utilisation cm souple, ESMOD, 2014-09-10, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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...encore utilisée aujourd'hui par les étudiants d'ESMOD ainsi que par toute la profession.

Mechanical blouse (1847) by Alexis LavigneESMOD INTERNATIONAL

Since 1837, Alexis Lavigne had been working on an adjustable “mechanical corset” designed to reduce the number of fittings by first taking a client’s measurements and then adjusting the buttonholes. This professional tool, along with his work on measurements, will lead him to the invention of the mannequin.

Unusual female physiques, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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Since adapting to every morphology constitutes the art of tailoring, Alexis Lavigne is thinking about creating custom molded mannequins.

This reduces the number of fittings and enables him to work at a distance from his international clientele.

Bust casting, ESMOD, 2016-09-25, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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Aujourd'hui, le programme de 1ère année d'ESMOD intègre un procédé similaire afin de permettre à ses étudiants de comprendre la notion de volumes...

ESMOD—bust casting, ESMOD, 2016-09-25, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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... et son passage en 2 dimensions, à savoir : le patron.

Old and modern mannequins by ESMODESMOD INTERNATIONAL

The mannequin

From custom-made to ready-to wear.

Patent for manufacturing the bust mannequin (1854)ESMOD INTERNATIONAL

In November 5th 1854, Alexis Lavigne registered the patent of the production method for plaster molded mannequins, 5 years after presenting a noticed prototype during the 1849 Industrial Exhibition.

Parisian basket (1865) by Alexis LavigneESMOD INTERNATIONAL

He molded a form for Empress Eugenie in 1857 whose curves were supposedly “ideal”.
He thus became known as the “Empress’ tailor for riding costumes”, a prestigious tittle for an effective advertising campaign.

Riding habit, trousers, and hunting outfit (1860) by Alexis LavigneESMOD INTERNATIONAL

3 pieces riding costume for woman included trousers which could only be produced by men master tailors.
For decency reasons, women could not wear trousers by law except when riding a horse.

As a reminder, this law was officially abolished in France in January 31 st 2013!

High quality bust mannequins (1870) by Alexis LavigneESMOD INTERNATIONAL

Alexis understands that fashion is moving towards clothing manufacture, moving away from custom-made.

He standardized his mannequin production, offering a range of different sizes based on his previous work on body shapes.

It is a success !

Lavigne's high quality bust mannequins for window displays and workshops (1880) by Alexis LavigneESMOD INTERNATIONAL

Despite his success, his Levallois-Perret factory was bombarded during the 1870 war.

Holder of mannequin production, he registered the patent of a process designed to enable tailors and dress makers to produce client mannequins themselves.


At this time, one of his employee and disciple, Frederick Stockman, starts an industrial-scale production of mannequins.

His brand is now a global reference in the fashion industry since the beginning of the 20 th century.

Half-bust, European size 38, Julia Martiano, 2015, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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Aujourd'hui, ESMOD propose une nouvelle version du buste Lavigne : le demi buste, proposant les mêmes proportions que le buste classique mais réduites de moitié.

Atelier découverte en modélisme, ESMOD, 2017-02-25, From the collection of: ESMOD INTERNATIONAL
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Cela permet une manipulation plus facile et une économie de toile lors des travaux de recherche de volumes et de drapés.
Ici, un atelier de découverte du modélisme à ESMOD Paris.

Saga de mode 170 ans d'innovations (2011) by Catherine Ormen - ESMOD EDITIONSESMOD INTERNATIONAL

L'ouvrage Saga de mode retrace en détail l'historique d'ESMOD ainsi que les nombreuses inventions de son père fondateur, Alexis Lavigne.

Credits: Story

Merci à tous les contributeurs étudiants et staff ESMOD

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