Mannequin makeover

 

Associated Press

The one-size-fits-all mannequin is getting a much-needed makeover.

Wings Beachwear’s mannequins in Miami sport flower tattoos like some of the women who shop there. The mannequins at American Apparel’s downtown New York City store have pubic hair peeking through their lingerie. And at David’s Bridal, mannequins soon will get thicker waists, saggier breasts and back fat to mimic a more realistic shape.

“This will give [a shopper] a better idea of what the dress will look like on her,” says Michele Von Plato, a vice president at the nation’s largest bridal chain.

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. That means not only adding fat and hair, but also experimenting with makeup, wigs and even poses.

This comes after two decades of stores cutting back on mannequins to save money. Many have been using basic, white, headless, no-arms-or-legs torsos that can cost $300 compared with more realistic-looking ones that can fetch up to $1,500. Now, as shoppers are increasingly buying online, stores are see mannequins as a tool to entice shoppers to buy.

Indeed, studies show mannequins matter when shoppers make buying decisions. Forty-two percent of customers recently polled by market research firm NPD Group say something on a mannequin influences whether they buy it. In fact, mannequins ranked just behind friends and family in terms of influence.

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

Until the early 1900s, the most common mannequins were just torsos. But with the rise of mass production clothing, full-length became popular. The first ones were made of wax and had details like human hair, nipples and porcelain teeth. By the 1960s, stores were investing in hair and makeup teams to maintain mannequins. That decade also started the trend of mannequins in the image of celebrities.

The late Adel Rootstein, founder of mannequin maker Rootstein, created a mannequin based on elfin model Twiggy in 1966. A year later, it made the first black mannequin based on model Donyale Luna.

The next decade or so ushered in an era of hyper realism, with mannequins showing belly buttons and even spine indentations, says ChadMichael Morrisette, an expert in mannequin history. But by the late 1980s, the trend moved away from realistic mannequins and toward torsos or mannequins without faces. Now, retailers are doing another about-face.

In the past two years, Saks Fifth Avenue has been showcasing more mannequins with hair, makeup and chiseled features. “There’s this whole generation of shoppers that hadn’t seen realistic mannequins,” says Harry E. Cunningham, a senior vice president at Saks. “We saw it as an opportunity.”

Others also see opportunities. Ralph Pucci International, which creates mannequins for Macy’s, Nordstrom and others, plans to offer versions with fuller hips and wider waists next year.

David’s Bridal also is going for a more realistic look. In 2007, the company scanned thousands of women’s bodies to figure out what the average woman looks like and applied those measurements to its first mannequins.

Whereas the original forms were closer to a size 6 with 36-26-36 bust-waist-hip measurements, David’s Bridal’s Von Plato says the new torso has less of a difference in measurements between the bust and the hip. The breasts are now flatter on top and rounder underneath. And the plus-size mannequins will now show the imperfections of getting heavier, with bulges in the belly and back.

American Apparel, the teen apparel retailer known for its racy ads, this month has mannequins in its store in New York’s SoHo shopping district wearing see-through lingerie that reveal pubic hair and nipples.

Ryan Holiday, an American Apparel spokesman, says the number of customers in the store has increased 30 percent since the debut of the mannequins.

“We created it to invite passersby to explore the idea of what is sexy and consider their comfort with the natural female form,” the company said in a statement.

Read more Fashion & Beauty stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category