How Mannequins Are Made - The Details Behind Quality Mannequins

July 01, 2016 3 min read

Our company has been in the business of selling mannequins for quite some time, we've seen a lot, we grew and we learned a lot. With this thought in mind, we considered that it would be interesting for us to share some of the "behind the scenes" information with our customers and readers.

Continuing this train of thought we want to share with you how mannequins are made and some information on what custom mannequins are. This, we are sure will offer you support with your buying decisions. It is important to take these facts into consideration because a mannequin can "make or break" a display, as the saying goes.

In The Beginning

The word mannequin comes from the French language and means in fact "an artist's model". In early years, it was attributed to fashion models in the UK.

The first mannequins are documented to go as far back as the 15th century and they were used to display fashion items to customers, just as today. They had a miniature form, reason for which they were called "milliners' mannequins". Further along the path of time, namely in the mid-18th century, in Paris, mannequins become full scale and are made from wicker and wire.

Still in France, at the middle of the 19 century, the first ever papier mache mannequin came to life. Later on, the preferred material for making mannequins became wax, because it gave them a more lifelike appearance. Soon enough, by 1920, the wax used to make the mannequins was substituted with plaster, offering more durability.

As technology progressed, mannequins also evolved and now they can be crafted from a wide variety of materials, but the most important ones remain fiberglass(1940) and plastic. The difference between these two is the production cost and overall appearance, thus, fiberglass mannequins which are much more realistic, are more expensive than the plastic ones.

During the 1980s and 1990s, for example, the faceless and headless mannequins became more popular and much more affordable because they don't require hair and make-up.

The Process

In order to make a mannequin, you have to have the right tools, materials and of course time.

For a single mannequin, you need minimally a month, it might seem like a tedious process, but high-quality products demand focus and an impressive level of detail. But this kind of process refers exclusively to figurative sculptures.

The process of making a sculpted mannequin is documented by Len Gifford, one of the artistic minds that work for Rootstein. "The Making of Laura" is the actual story behind making a figurative sculpture, which is used further on to create mannequin casts.

The pose of the sculpture is decided, after which photos and measurements are taken. Using these measurements an aluminum body is created on which wood and wet clay is attached. The head, hands and feet are added to the frame and the detailing process begins. After the clay sculpture is finished, they move on to create casts from this beautiful model's parts.

Another process to obtain the perfect store mannequin is by making a mold of a real human being. It sounds a bit sinister, we know, but how else do you expect to achieve anatomical accuracy and perfection?

Fiberglass is the standard material used in the creation of gorgeous mannequins that help retailers sell their products and create fascinating designs and windows displays, simply because it is lightweight and can be perfectly sculpted to specific requirements. It is also the best material to work with in the sense that it allows mass-production of realistic mannequins that include very fine details such as make-up, muscles, distinct facial features, abstract mannequins that allow for the use of imagination and of course for separate body parts that serve only a specific function at a time.

This type of material doesn't offer the same durability as wood for example but it certainly can withstand some external factors(weather, certain types of damages).

Here is an example of how to make a silicone mold of a mannequin that can be used further to make new ones.

Since there are numerous types of mannequins out there we can look at different ways in which they can be created. For instance flexible or foam mannequins have a completely different process, realized with the aid of machines.

The video below explains how foam mannequins are made, so you have a better understanding of where their flexibility comes from.

We invite you to browse our beautiful and  high-quality mannequin selection to find the perfect ones for your retail store and window displays.

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