What are mannequins?

In the world of fashion, one element plays a pivotal role in showcasing the artistry and craftsmanship of designers – the mannequin. While often overlooked, these seemingly lifeless figures possess the power to captivate our attention and breathe life into the garments they wear. But what exactly are mannequins?

Mannequins are life-sized figures or models, specifically designed to resemble the human body. They serve as a means to display clothing, accessories, or other fashion-related items in a realistic and visually appealing manner. Mannequins are typically made of various materials such as fibreglass, plastic, wood, or wax and are often crafted to accurately represent human proportions and postures.

The history of the mannequin

Mannequins have been an integral part of human culture for centuries, evolving from rudimentary wooden forms to modern-day sculpted masterpieces. 

Ancient Egyptians, as early as 1300 BC, left behind evidence of mannequin-like forms discovered in their tombs. These representations varied in size and shape, mimicking both royal figures and deities, carrying profound religious and historical implications rather than serving as mere fashion displays.

The concept of mannequins we recognise today emerged during the Industrial Revolution, coinciding with the rise of urban department stores and the advent of sewing machines.

In around 1870, shopping began to be seen as a pleasure, rather than as a necessity. It was during this era that mannequins crafted from wax made their appearance, adorned with real hair, glass eyes, and even false teeth. In an effort to preserve the innocence of these lifelike figures, legislation was introduced, requiring stores to cover their windows before changing their mannequins’ clothes!

Mannequins and their uses

These structures serve as essential tools for visual merchandisers, designers, and retailers alike, enabling them to showcase clothing and accessories in an engaging and persuasive manner.

Beyond their practical purpose, mannequins possess a unique ability to evoke emotions and spark imagination. They are used in fashion and retail because their presence allows us to envision ourselves embodying the beauty of the outfits they exhibit. In a world where fashion continuously evolves and trends come and go, mannequins serve as timeless icons, representing the evolving styles of our society.

Beyond their obvious connection to fashion, mannequins have also found their way into art installations and museums. Within the museum context, mannequins are crafted to accurately represent historical figures, allowing visitors to visualise the past in a tangible way. Additionally, mannequins allow for the preservation of delicate garments and textiles, as they provide a stable and secure platform for showcasing fragile pieces without subjecting them to excessive handling or environmental damage. Through the skillful use of mannequins, museums create immersive environments that transport visitors to different time periods, offering a memorable educational experience.

The different types of mannequins

Mannequins can come in a range of different shapes and forms. Usually, the type of mannequin chosen will be decided based on what is being displayed. For example, if you are selling women’s clothes, you’d usually use a full-body female mannequin, whereas if you are showcasing a ring or bracelet, you would use a hand mannequin instead of a full-body.

The types of mannequins available include:

  • Full-body mannequins: These can be male, female or child, and include the entire body. You can also get plus-sized and pregnant mannequins, to ensure that your entire customer base is represented. Full-sized mannequins can have heads, if needed to display accessories such as a hat or headband, but not always.
  • Mannequin parts: Mannequin parts allow you to focus on one specific part of the body, such as mannequin legs to show off shoes, socks, or anklets, or mannequin arms for gloves, bracelets, and rings.
  • Flexible Mannequins: Standard mannequins don’t tend to have many moveable parts, but if you want to get creative with your displays, a flexible mannequin will allow you to move your model into different poses to keep your customers interested in what you have to offer. These are often useful for sports shops, as they can showcase clothes in a range of poses.
  • Ghost Mannequin: A ghost mannequin ensures that the clothes are the main focus, as you cannot see the mannequin at all when it is dressed. The mannequin gives the clothes a shape so that customers can see how they might look when they wear them. 
  • Face Mannequins: A face mannequin is a popular option for cosmetics stores or beauticians that want to practise their art.

How Proportion can help

We craft mannequins, bust forms, and accessories for high-end and high street brands, as well as museums and public attractions. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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