Mannequins Are Getting A New Look, Learning New Poses

Retailers have finally figured out how to lure customers back into stores: More unusual mannequins. The theory is that mannequins with more personality will help customers imagine what they'd look like in an outfit — if they were posing in one position and possibly lacking a head.

The New York Times reports that retailers are now going for mannequins that feature more lifelike bodies, odd poses, and celebrity faces. Some stores have already started the transition:

The Disney Stores chain has added little-boy figurines that fly from the ceiling and little-girl ones that curtsey. Nike has made its mannequins taller, and added about 35 athletic poses. Armani Exchange has ordered models that will lie down to help shoppers imagine wearing lingerie. A new accessories-only store by Guess features glossy black mannequins in model-like poses on an actual runway, while Ralph Lauren's new women's store in Manhattan commissioned mannequins with the face of the model Yasmin Le Bon.

Athleta, the sportswear company owned by Gap, has put forth the most impressive effort, ordering new mannequins based on track and field athlete Danielle Halverson. Her body has been scanned to meticulously recreate her image, down to the muscle, in fiberglass. Well, not that meticulous: she's lacking a head. An Athleta marketing executive explains, "We wanted to make sure that our customers weren't worrying about the hair, or anything else." Yes, why worry about what's upstairs when there's clothing to be bought?

While we may be accustomed to white, hairless mannequins which are about as anatomically correct as a Ken doll, the figures have evolved since starting out as little more than dress forms. In the first half of the 20th century, mannequins acquired appendages, wigs, makeup, and even nipples. Following the economic downturn in the '70s, mannequins started becoming less flashy, even as they found success in a certain Hollywood feature.

With each custom mannequin costing about $400 to $1,200, revamping their look company-wide can be a costly endeavor. And it's unclear if it's worth it. Lingerie-clad mannequins may make people pause, but the more important test will always be in the fitting room, with acutal human figures.

Stores Demand Mannequins With Personality (Heads Optional)

Image via Marc Dietrich/Shutterstock.