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Mannequins get a makeover to look more real

Mannequins Getting Realistic Makeover
NEW YORK (AP) - 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 the 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 Inc. 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 college in New York City.

Stores for over a century have played with the look of their "silent sales people." Until the early 1900s, the most common ones were just torsos. But with the rise of mass production clothing, by full-length mannequins became popular.

The first ones were made of wax and melted in the heat and had details like human hair, nipples and porcelain teeth. By the 1960s, stores were investing in hair and makeup teams specifically devoted to taking care of the mannequins. That decade also started the trend of mannequins being made 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 Donyale Luna, the first black fashion model.

The next decade or so ushered in an era of hyper realism, with mannequins showing belly buttons and even back 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.

Saks Fifth Avenue, for instance, spent about a decade using mostly mannequins who were headless or faceless. But in the past two years, the luxury retailer 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, a big mannequin maker that creates figures 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 said 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 certain places like the belly and back.

American Apparel also is going more realistic. The teen apparel retailer known for its racy ads, this month has mannequins in its store in the trendy SoHo shopping district of New York City that are wearing see-through lingerie that reveal pubic hair and nipples.

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

The windows were attention grabbing, with most people on a recent Friday, stopping, pointing and laughing.

But Allison Berman, 19, thought the realism went too far. "I see this as sexual," says the Manhattan resident.

Join the discussion

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Cath's January 29 2014 at 4:30 AM

There's just no substitute for going in and trying clothing on. I've been at both ends of the spectrum in my life, wearing a size 16 complete with body fat and now a size 4 so I understand both sides but it seems a bit exploitive to make mannequins 'realistic' with pubic hair. Let's leave something for the imagination.

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lillilannesarah January 28 2014 at 5:31 PM

people come in all shapes, sizes and colors. beca:;use i have worked at it my entire life
i am a size 4. so, most anything will fit me. however other people my not be as bull headed
as i am or do not care about their size and that is okay. they deserve to have pretty, comfortable
clothes and feel attractive. maybe patience, kindness and understanding will be fashionable this year.

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1 reply
Hi Sandra lillilannesarah January 28 2014 at 6:11 PM

If you don't careabout being a size 6, hmmmm, why even mention your allegded size? I am proud to say I wear a size 10, not small in this crazy world of all women wanting to be a size 0- 2 but I can live with it. Seems everyone, well, the women always say they are a size 6, why is that? We all know not everyone is, so why not fess up and tell the truth. Being a size 10, 12, 18, 24 so on only shows me that we all come in all sizes and if we aren't satisfied with the size of uur clothes, lose weight!

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1 reply
a.hiegel Hi Sandra January 28 2014 at 6:45 PM

I would like to say that a year after I had my daughter I was back into a bikini with a flat stomach. but... I have always had bigger hips and thighs. I wore a size small/medium tops and always had to wear at least a large or bigger bottoms. my doctor considered me obese.. I pretty much told her to shove it bc I worked out, did yard work, and ate good healthy food. some body types are really different. I know from experience.

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cal3301 January 28 2014 at 6:53 PM

The whole fashion world needs to go back to what the sizes were in the 60's. The neasurements for a size 10 was 32 1/2in. (83cm) bust, 24in. (61cm) waist, 34 1/2in. (88cm) hips. Increasing the measurements the way they have to make women think they are thinner than what they are is stupid.
If they keep it up they will have to invent new negative sizes. Before 5-7-9 were the skinny people. There was no 0, 2, or 4. Those that don't want to believe me check the measurement on patterns here- http://www.etsy.com/listing/69966361/vintage-60s-a-line-dress-coat-simplicity?ref=shop_home_active_2

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1 reply
Emmalee cal3301 January 28 2014 at 11:43 PM

I do a lot of vintage shopping and I am a 10 or 12 in vintage clothing but a 0 or 2 in modern clothing. I totally agree with what you're saying. Old Navy is the worst for undersizing everything. If you're normally an 8, at Old Navy, you're a 4.

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charocano January 28 2014 at 7:41 PM

I was once a size 4 and now that I am in my 50's I am a size 8. I could actually wear a 7 but can't seem to find that size anymore. I can't wear the skinny jeans and would like more appropriate sized clothing if possible. If I could see clothing on a heavier model then I could imagine the fit on myself. I see no problems with the difference in sizing not too keen on pubic hair. That might be a bit unnecessary.

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diamondbaby1968 January 28 2014 at 8:36 PM

I haven't seen any of the new mannequins in any store but it sounds like a good idea. Now women can see what they may look like in a new outfit and take the proper size and not be disappointed by taking a size 2 sizes too small because it is the size they ALWAYS wore. Now the latest generation,now coming into their early to mid 20's are showing recessive body traits of their grandparents.The men are shorter and heavier,but not as muscular.The woman have broader builds and fuller shape,but just like all generations the height of the new generation of women istall short average just like every generation before them. Seeing the new mannequins will help them understand that their bodies are normal and each woman has their own build,body and look. My generation and the new generation are beautiful and should appreciate the fact that some store managers and stylists see it is a great idea to show women what the true body sizeof women is today. KJK

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weeeally January 28 2014 at 10:33 PM

Wow, the white mannequins even has pumped up lips. I guess that is today's reality.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
beautiful.zeo January 28 2014 at 5:05 PM

Not everyone can control their weight. Those with medical issues should be able to be free to have idea of what clothing look like on them.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
valgaavmiko January 28 2014 at 4:17 PM

Women have different body shapes. The new mannequins are going to have the same problem as the old ones. You can't have a mannequin of every shape for every size on your floor.

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1 reply
gettinlow2tony valgaavmiko January 28 2014 at 5:55 PM

stores need to start using fun house mirrors to distort your own image just to make the sale, yea fat obese people will appear to be slim and skinny skinny people will appear more heavy store sells clothes pays taxes hire workers getting economy back up an running

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1 reply
Luvucats gettinlow2tony January 28 2014 at 7:46 PM

I thought they already did use funhouse mirrors! OMG, you mean that's what I really look like?!!!

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imjovized January 28 2014 at 10:35 PM

About time. lol

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NANCY January 28 2014 at 4:01 PM

Finally some reality in merchandising...I'm a size 6, but none of my friends are no more, so this is great.

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1 reply
Luvucats NANCY January 28 2014 at 7:50 PM

They say that if you want to look thin, have a lot of fat friends. I'm a size 4, but I'm still fatter than some of my friends. I'm not about to become anorexic to compete with them!

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