Living Doll? Stores Turn To More Realistic Mannequins Wearing Larger Sizes & Even Tattoos

February 19, 2014  |  


It may be taking fashion designers longer than necessary to adopt diversity, but mannequins are getting a makeover of sorts in an attempt to make them look more like the shoppers milling around them. Next time you go shopping, you may find that some of the plastic models are wearing large sizes, have tattoos, and, hopefully, reflecting women of color.

“Stores are using more realistic versions of the usually tall, svelte, faceless mannequins in windows and aisles. It’s part of retailers’ efforts to make them look more like the women who wear their clothes,” reports The Detroit Free Press.

For instance, David’s Bridal will be using mannequins with thicker waists, arms and legs as they highlight a designer Zac Posen’s debut bridal collection. “We’re focusing on the initial impression and the emotional connection,” said P.J. Sylvester, David Bridal’s director of visual merchandising.

For nearly 20 years many stores have been using basic, white, headless, no-arms-or-legs mannequins,which run about $300. More realistic-looking ones can cost up to $1,500. But in order to lure consumers into stores who are now buying online, stores are spending a little more to purchase a more eye-catching version.

It’s not a bad move. According to studies, mannequins help shoppers make buying decisions. Of customers polled by market research firm NPD Group Inc., 42 percent say an item worn by a mannequin actually influences their decision to buy. Mannequins fall just after friends and family in terms of influence on shoppers.

“Mannequins are the quintessential silent sales people,” says Eric Feigenbaum, chair of the visual merchandising department at LIM College, a fashion college in New York City.

Mannequins have come a long way. They used to be made out of wax and were adorned with human hair, nipples and porcelain teeth. When the 1960s rolled around, stores hired hair and makeup artists to fix up the mannequins. Also,during this time the trend emerged of celebrity mannequins.

In 1966, the late Adel Rootstein, founder of mannequin manufacturer Rootstein, made a mannequin based on model Twiggy. Then in 1967, it created the first black mannequin in the image of Donyale Luna, the first black fashion model. The trend turned to torsos or mannequins without faces in the late ’80s.

Besides the aesthetic appeal, retailers are also trying to entice shoppers who are increasingly checking out the merchandise in stores but ultimately spending their money online, a practice the industry calls “showrooming.” Business Insider recently revealed findings from its analysis of how retailers are trying to fight this trend. For instance:

Offline retailers have realized they have a lot to offer, as long as they can integrate offline and digital, and beat e-commerce competitors on convenience. They’re using tactics like knowledgeable sales staff, in-store pick-up of online orders, in-store Wi-Fi, and smartphone discounts that nudge showroomers to buy in-store.

What most influences your decision to buy? (And seriously, when are we going to see a few more of those mannequins of color?)

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