Buying a mannequin – even a used one – can be expensive, so here are some tips to help you select the right style of mannequin for your needs. Whether you have an online store, retail store or sell at a trade-show, your mannequins are an extension of your brand.

A mannequin is your silent salesperson and the right mannequin will enhance your image and your products, the wrong one will detract or send a mixed message to your customers.

There are four basic styles of mannequins

  1. Realistic
  2. Abstract
  3. Headless
  4. Bendable

This post discusses realistic mannequins. The other styles of mannequins as well as how to select the right pose for your mannequin are discussed in individual postings in our “How to select the right mannequin for your business” series on our

Realistic mannequins (aka realistics ) have clearly defined facial features, eyelashes, perfectly applied make-up and can wear a wig. Realistic mannequins are like supermodels – they are beautiful and a little high maintenance, but their striking presence causes people to notice them.

Realistic Mannequin are showstoppers
Realistic Mannequin are showstoppers

Some realistic mannequins like the ones manufactured by Adel Rootstein are fiberglass representations of actual real-life models, celebrities and dancers. Erin O’Connor, Agnes Deyn, and Coco Rocha and recording artist Beyonce are just a few of the fashion icons that are Rootstein mannequins.

Realistics are versatile because you can put different wigs on them. This not only dramatically alters their “personality,” but makes it appear as if you have a different mannequin. The mannequin will wear one style of wig when she is wearing dressy clothing and a wig of a different style and color when she is wearing casual clothing.

And since good visual merchandising requires variety and change, the impact of effectiveness of your “silent salesperson” increases when you can change her look with her outfit.

Different wigs change the personality of Realistic Mannequins
Different wigs change the personality of Realistic Mannequins

While most realistics are Anglo, there are African American, Asian and olive colored ones. There are realistics that look youthful, sophisticated or sexy. And there are even a few that look “mature” despite the absence of wrinkles or gray hair. All of these choices allow you to have a realistic that mirrors the demographics of your clientele and image of your clothing. Since Obama has been elected President there has been an increase in the number of requests for African American mannequins, especially ones that resemble Michelle Obama.

Diversity in Realistic Mannequins
Diversity in Realistic Mannequins

Recently restaurants, bars, and casinos have started buying the busty mannequins that we sell which have realistic looking faces and UNrealistic bust sizes (Think Jenna Jameson or Pamela Anderson)

Realistic Mannequin with Big Breasts are coveted by certain customers
Realistic Mannequin with Big Breasts are coveted by certain customers

There are two prevailing schools of thought regarding realistics. Some retailers feel a realistics take away from the clothing the mannequin is wearing because people will focus on mannequin’s face and persona. Other retailers feel realistics can enhance the fantasy of what a customer will look like wearing the clothing. Both are valid points.

The decision comes down to your personal preference as well as factors such the type of clothing the mannequin will be wearing, what your competition is doing and what are the current trends. Some seasons realistics are all the rage, other years it is headless or abstracts. Large store chains often keep a stable of both styles and alternate using headless, abstract and realistics in the window. It is considered a visual merchandising faux pas to mix these different style mannequins in the same display.

Realistic mannequin
Realistic mannequin

The time involved for the maintenance of the hair and make-up on realistics is why many major retailers have ceased using them because they want their staff to focus on other things. If the hair and make up does not stay contemporary it can make the mannequin (and the clothing she is wearing) seem dated. Unless you are selling vintage clothing, this is not a good thing.

A mannequin with a dated hairstyle and make-up
A mannequin with a dated hairstyle and make-up

A brand new realistic mannequin from a high end manufacturer can cost between $750-$1200. Mannequins imported from Asia can retail between $150-$400. The disparity in price is a function of the quality of the materials used, thickness of the fiberglass, type of paint, and craftsmanship of the mannequin.

Lifelike mannequins are still made the way they’ve been made for more than 100 years. A sculptor makes a form from a live nude model. Less expensive mannequins are made by machines and resemble dolls and look stiff instead of fluid. If you stand a quality mannequin and a cheap mannequin next to each other and there is a noticeable difference.

The attachment arm and leg fittings on cheap mannequins are aluminum or plastic (sometimes painted to look like metal) instead of metal that expensive mannequins have. Also the support stands on cheaper mannequins are not as strong or sturdy as expensive mannequins.

These are some of the reasons why you can pay more for a used mannequin made by a high end manufacturer than a brand new mannequin imported from China. Similar to buying a used but authentic Louis Vuitton purse at a consignment store versus a knockoff version from a street vendor.

As a rule of thumb the more expensive the items you are selling, the better the quality of mannequin you should use. For example the type of mannequin at JC Penney is different that what you’d see at Neiman Marcus.

Retail stores where the mannequins have to be the latest trend, look good and are durable enough to withstand frequent clothing changes and manhandling (by lots of staff and customers) buy the more expensive mannequins. Not everyone needs to pay the premium prices for these.

You can either buy gently used versions of the high end mannequins (see list of manufacturers below) or buy the better quality imports from China. These imports are ideal for online vendors, smaller boutiques or people who use a mannequin infrequently say at trade-shows or for seasonal displays.

Here are some of the high end mannequin manufacturers:
Rootstein Patina V Goldsmith Hindsgaul Greneker Pucci
Silvestri CNL Mannequins Fusion Specialities Schlappi

This guide was written by Mannequin Madness, mannequin liquidator that carries new and used mannequins from . All of the images in this posting are of mannequins that we have had or currently have in our inventory.