If you’re the proud owner of a mannequin that’s spent some time in a shop window or warehouse, she (or he) might be looking a little worse for the wear.

Displaying a vintage mannequin is a great way to make your window display stand out, but you need to make sure the mannequin’s not standing out for the wrong reasons… like chipped paint or pock marks.

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Good news, though: old mannequins are resilient, and with a little elbow grease on your part, you can give a weathered mannequin a complete makeover. Here’s how.

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Remove dust and grime. First things first: get your mannequin cleaned off. Remove any grease, dust, and other spots by putting rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab and gently (gently!) wipe down the mannequin’s surface. We also find that Mr Clean Magic Erasers are fantastic!

 Assess uneven surfaces. If your mannequin has chipped paint or uneven surfaces that look like pock marks, you should start by lightly sanding down these areas (don’t worry about taking off more paint in this process—you can repaint later).

Use a spackling paste to repair pock marks. Before you repaint your mannequin, even out any unsightly pock marks with something like Dap’s Crackshot High Performance Spackling Paste. Carefully fill in pocks and let dry overnight. If the paste leaves any bumps, you may need to do some more light sanding.

Match your mannequin’s skin tone. Need to repaint part (or all) of your mannequin? You can ensure it doesn’t look like she’s the victim of a weird tan or makeup experiment by color matching her current skin tone with paint at Home Depot.

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Although mannequin restoration may not have been what Home Depot had in mind when they began advertising their color matching service, they should be able to help you find the perfect shade of paint if you bring in your mannequin’s arm.

Reattach disconnected or loose body parts. Many mannequins are designed so that they can be easily taken apart and put back together, but if your mannequin has become detached somewhere she shouldn’t have, you may be able to provide a quick fix with tape alone.

Specialty tapes like those made by Essentra are strong, can stick to a number of different surfaces, and won’t be obvious when your mannequin is dressed up.

What you can’t tape, glue. If you’re repairing a broken area that won’t be covered by clothes, such as fingers, you should use a strong glue. Super glue works with some mannequins, and applying rubbing alcohol to any breaks before you add glue will help it stick.

What you can’t glue, Bondo. If it seems like glue isn’t going to be enough, or you have some major cracks and breaks that need repairing, you can turn to Bondo. This heavy duty putty was originally designed for doing body works on cars, but many carpenters also use it to repair wood defects—and now mannequin repairers have discovered the benefits as well.

If you do use Bondo, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area, because the vapors are toxic. Mix your Bondo in small batches and apply to problem areas, not worrying about creating lumps or uneven surfaces. Let the putty dry for 30 minutes, then sand down the area.

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Repaint with a layering technique. Once you’ve got the right paint color, you can repaint large areas of your mannequin using a roller brush and smaller areas, like the hands and face, using a more delicate paint brush.

Whatever portion you’re repainting: keep in mind that the best way to get a consistent color is to paint a layer, let dry, and then repaint rather than just throwing one thick layer on.

Style your mannequin. Once you’ve got your mannequin looking young and fresh again, you can style him or her however you want. You might consider adding a wig and re-outlining the eyebrows using a fine-tipped pen. Choose the outfit you want to display, and you’re ready to go!

About the author: Juliana Weiss-Roessler runs Weiss-Roessler Writing with her husband Josh. Together, they offer advice on retail, blogging, website copy, and other writing services to small and mid-sized businesses. Her writing has been featured on high-traffic websites, such as Yahoo.com, and in major publications, such as PARADE and People. Along with her husband, Juliana lives in Austin, TX, with their two tiny-but-rambunctious dogs and one tiny-but-rambunctious baby boy. Learn more on www.WeissRoessler.com, or follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook

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  1. This is very helpful, thank you for the tips! I have a question though, and hopfully it can be answered!

    I got a Mannequin from my cousin as a present, it’s a vintage one and is in need of a paint job. I would love to try making her eyes larger, because right now she has very tiny squinting eyes. I want to try sculting new eyes for her but I don’t know what to use for the actual sculpting. I guess Bondo is used for that, but can I use something else? Things that are toxic scare me, so I try staying away from it, haha. Can I use regular clay? Would it stick to the mannequins skin, and not fall off? Or is it Bondo that will do, and nothing else?

    Thank you for the reply!
    – Sandra.