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Mannequin Style & Buying Guide

Mannequin style guide

Posted on 20, February, 2015

Last Modified on 11, May, 2015

Mannequins may not be able to speak, but they still manage to say a lot. These lifelike fixtures are commonly used as window displays and models in retail stores or at trade shows. Using mannequins offers retailers a ton of benefits. Clothes look better on a full body figure than they do folded up on a table or hanging on a rack. Because of constantly increasing demand and quick turnover of merchandising setups, the market has exploded. Different styles, sizes and colors are constantly being created, leaving merchandisers with a variety of options. With so many choices, it’s important to understand how different styles are perceived. We'll cover the different styles that are available and how those styles are perceived by consumers.


Realistic mannequins are some the most popular models because of their lifelike facial features and humanistic appearance. When thinking about purchasing a realistic mannequin, there are many factors to consider. First, what will make your clothes look the best? The biggest advantage of realistic features is that figures look lifelike and give customers a great visualization of how clothes may look on them.

Scary Skeleton Mannequin
This one will not make a good impression.
Regular clothes, i.e. jeans & t-shirts, will likely look best on a realistic mannequin.

Next, carefully consider the facial expression of the mannequin you’re purchasing. The last thing you want is this creepy fella staring down customers and passersby. A neutral expression is almost always the best choice.

Plus size mannequins are continuing to grow in popularity. These figures show realistic sizes, not the skinny, picturesque model like forms of many other mannequins. Many women feel they can relate to the size of these figures and it’s a better depiction of how clothes will fit. Body image is a huge factor when deciding which mannequins to use, and it doesn't always go so well.


Gloss Mannequin
Abstract figures offer a unique look.

The unique look and shape of abstract mannequins is popular amongst designer stores. These figures are often associated with an attractive gloss finish and an “egg” shaped head. Why use abstract mannequins? At times, realistic features on mannequins can freak people out and come across as creepy. With an abstract figure, people can still see how well clothes may fit without the mannequin peering back into the depths of their soul. The sleek combination of a gloss finish and faceless head help keep the focus on the wardrobe. For retailers looking to be more contemporary, abstract is the way to go.


Worried about what impression a face will make? Or maybe what impression having no face will make? Trying to attract more “Sleepy Hollow” fans? Then remove having a face from the equation entirely! Headless mannequins portray wardrobes just as well as abstract and realistic displays, they just happen to not have a head. These are the most generic full body figures available. For retailers purely focused on displaying clothes, a male or female headless mannequin is likely the best bet.

Partial - Torsos, Legs, Arms

Partial displays include heads, torsos, legs, arms and more. If you’re trying to highlight a specific accessory, like a watch or a bracelet, an arm or hand mannequin is the ideal choice. The smaller sizes allow them to be placed directly in display cases or on countertops. Highlighting specific items instead of piecing together an outfit offers a few distinct advantages. When consumers see an entire outfit on display together, they may believe that each specific item must be purchased with all the other items. You may be thinking, “So they’ll buy more clothes, this a good thing!” Unfortunately the results are more likely to be the opposite. Customers will be deterred from purchasing any items because of the cost of an entire outfit. When using torsos and leg displays, customers can view pants or shirts without other items and let their imaginations run wild.

Art & Controversial

For some, a simple generic mannequin is not enough. As the saying goes Any publicity is good publicity" or "There is no such thing as bad publicity." Some retail companies have taken this to heart, especially when it comes to mannequins. American Apparel released these incredibly controversial displays. Several lingerie stores have taken heat for mannequins so skinny that the rib cages were showing. These companies gained a negative public perception, but also gained them a ton of exposure that would not have had previously.

Another option to stand out without offending anyone or fostering a negative image, is to have artists custom create mannequins. There are many artists who work exclusively with mannequins. Something creative that’s never be seen before is a sure fire way to get more customers in the door.

With all the options floating around out there, it’s easy to be flustered when trying to make a decision. Take the time to analyze all aspects of your store and clothing line to figure out your exact needs. From there use this guide and figure out exactly what kind of mannequins you need!