A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Katie Loudermilk
Hobbies are a healthy escape from reality. They give people something to help focus their passion. John Whiting, a resident of Riverview, has an unusual one: he loves dolls. Big dolls. His home is a display case for his unique collection of vintage mannequins he has gathered since the 1990s.
His collection began at the age of 19. Whiting was working at JCPenney and his boss had a room filled with mannequins that he was planning on throwing away. Not wanting to see the mannequins end up in a landfill, Whiting asked if he could take some home with him. His mother found out the next day and told him he could only keep them if they were kept in his room.
With limited space, Whiting ended up having to sell a few of them to local boutiques. This began his life-long hobby. Throughout the years, Whiting has bought, traded and found mannequins that were thrown away by department stores. Most stores now use dressing forms for displays as opposed to the realistic looking mannequins.
The trend of mannequin displays started in the early 1800s and died down in the early 2000s. Whiting was a window dresser and was laid off due to major department stores closings because it is cheaper for smaller stores to use dress forms. But that did not prevent Whiting from enjoying his passion for dressing up the mannequins.
Whiting is now the merchandising manager at the Plant City Marshalls, and uses his creativity through decorating the features and displays throughout the store. However, he brings his work home and turns it into a stress-relieving hobby.
The moment one walks into his home, the first thing that comes to sight is a Tyra Banks’ look-alike mannequin greeting guests at the front door.
But she is not the only one; there are mannequins displayed from his living room to the upstairs lobby. “I change the outfits twice a month to correlate a theme or season of the year,” explains Whiting. He also changes out the actual mannequins.
One of his spare rooms is filled with extra pieces waiting their turn to be featured. “Whenever my friends and neighbors come over, they always expect to see something different,” said Whiting. He influenced a neighbor to start her own collection. “I enjoy showing them off when I host parties and teaching people about my collection,” says Whiting. Whiting is not the only serious collector. There are over 1,000 people who collect them worldwide.
There are countless Facebook groups who exchange innovative ideas for decorating or selling their pieces to one another. He is good friends with about 50 collectors. In the past, Whiting has been private about his interest.
Now he is willing to educate others about his unique collection and invests his free time into discovering new looks and trends. Whiting is a perfect example of what it means to express one’s creativity and to be bold with what is interesting.