Manipulative mannequins

They are clotheshorses in shopping windows – vehicles to depict the latest fashion styles and colours. Unlike scarecrows meant to drive away birds by simulating human presence, mannequins do just the opposite – they stop and attract shoppers. Do you even notice the expressions? Or whether they have well-sculpted, androgynous bodies?  They seem lost, gazing into infinity with their sightless eyes. Some shops even dispense with the heads and keep the limbs clothed figuring that no one will notice the difference. And they can be used to depict dresses for the young and old, saving on costs. Every single square centimeter in a shop is oriented to enable a sale and mannequins perform their role invisibly. The manipulation is subtle, understated and shoppers are not even aware that the big names in fashion have subliminal cues conveyed through mannequins.

Roberto Cavalli has mannequins with bronzed bodies. Translucent fiberglass defines the look at Giorgio Armani. The growth and sophistication of the mannequin industry have been promoted by the establishment of the fashion industry worldwide, bringing in the need to differentiate. Merchandising requires freshness, both in terms of shop decor and to make a brand statements. Now, they have moved a step further with mannequin body parts being used to display product categories other than garments. Jewelry, for example. Or shoes. It makes eminent sense to relate it to the human figure to get people more interested in a purchase.

If you want to explore the mannequin world, this site is a good place to get background information, the evolution of the business and a sense of where it is going. Absolut made great use of a display to show off their product range. The automotive industry uses mannequins in a completely different way – as crash dummies to test the safety of cars. But there has been growing concern that crash dummies are predominantly male and do not adequately test the effects on accidents on females. So, the US government is now making amends – and officially implementing a rating system.