In many ways, the fashion model has much more to do with the doll than with the artist's model who most people assume to be her immediate predecessor. Indeed, the first fashion models were dolls: they were the models for models, if you like. And, like her predecessor, the fashion model exists on the cusp of the organic and the inorganic, between the animate and the inanimate, bridging the worlds of the living and the dead.
In the eighteenth century, before fashion models existed, French dressmakers commonly promoted their work internationally by sending dolls around Europe, fashionably dressed in the latest modes; most likely because fashionable women themselves couldn't travel as freely. The dolls, few of which survive today, made regular trips to foreign capitals. They were about 75cm high and had adult figures, rather than the child-like bodies of nineteenth-century toy dolls.
Literary scholar Julie Park identifies the eighteenth-century fascination with dolls as part of that century's burgeoning culture of consumption, in which the use of fashionable commodities cemented the construction of fashionable identities. ‘Being a woman in the eighteenth century', she writes, ‘was an intensely mimetic and modern project, capturing not what women are, but what women are like'. This mimetic relationship was later to underwrite the connection between the first fashion models and their audiences. In the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century fashion model, contemporary observers, both writers and illustrators, saw the same ‘charged encounters between the natural and the artificial, the original and the copy, and the human and the inhuman' that Park finds in the eighteenth-century fashion doll.