Although mannequins can’t talk, they are very self-expressive. Here are all the terms, defintions and descriptions of mannequins. This information was compiled by Martin M Pelger and the info donated by James ML of

ABSTRACT MANNEQUIN: A highly stylized, usually non-featured mannequin devoid of wig and / or make-up details. Through based on human measurements and proportions, the shape and sculpting is not realistic and strives instead for a decorative and non-objective effect. A female, male or child mannequin that is ageless, non-ethnic, nonspecific and can be finished in a variety of decorative colors or metallics.

ANKLE ROD: The short, upright bar that extends up from the floor base and inserts into the fitting above the mannequin’s ankle. It is the usual way of keeping male mannequins upright and is also desirable for female mannequins that wear pants. It is almost invisible and usually doesn’t require the opening of any seams for the insertion of the supporting rod. See: Foot Spike. 

ARMATURE: The metal framework or skeletal construction upon which the original clay sculpting of a mannequin or form is done. The metal frame inside a molded form or the bendable and shapable skeleton in the stuffed doll type of mannequin which makes possible the repositioning of these soft forms.

ARTICULATED FORMS or MANNEQUINS: Forms similar to, or the life-size variations of, the wooden artist’s mannequins that can be repositioned into myriad human poses. Forms or mannequins with articulated or movable joints (elbows, wrists, knees, hips, etc.) which can be swiveled or turned in different directions.

BASE FLANGE: A flat disk with a perpendicular hollow tube extending up from the plate. The flat plate can be screwed or secured to the floor, onto a base or platform and the hollow tube will accept the mannequin’s butt or ankle rod and thus support the mannequin. See: Ankle Rod, Butt Rod.

BIKINI CUT: A female mannequin with a removable leg and the break or cut line is close to the pubis area and thus will be successfully hidden by the bottom of a bikini swim suit. A more natural look for displaying abbreviated swim wear, sportswear and lingerie.

BLOUSE FORM: An armless and headless, bust defined form which ends just below the waistline. It may be equipped with an adjustable up-and-down rod and a decorative base. It is used to display ladies blouses, sweaters and sometimes jackets.

BODY TRUNK: A torso form, sometimes male, which starts above the waistline and continues down to just below the knees and is used to show walk shorts, underwear, swimwear, etc. See: Torso Form, Trunk Form.

BRA FORM: A headless and armless bust form, with or without shoulders, which ends just below the bustline. For long-line bras and braselettes it is possible to get longer bra forms that continue down to the waistline or slightly below. The form is usually scaled for Misses at 34B and to 32A for Juniors.

BRASELETTE FORM: A bra form that ends at the hips rather than below the bustline or at the waistline. It can also be used to show lingerie and slips. It takes a 348.

BUTT FITTING: A square metal hollow tube with a set screw that is set into the mannequin’s butt or upper thigh. It receives the butt rod which angles up from the metal, glass or plastic mannequin base and holds the mannequin erect. See: Butt Rod.

BUTT ROD: The square metal rod which extends up, at an angle, from the mannequin base. The metal end fits into a square opening, equipped with a set screw, on the mannequin’s butt or upper thigh. The butt rod, when secured in place, keeps the mannequin upright in the position it was meant to hold.

COAT FORM: A headless and usually armless male form which ends above the hips and can be raised or lowered on an adjustable rod. The form will show coats, jackets or sweaters. Most are flatfronted, without chest muscle definition, and the arms, when used, are either bendable rods or sleeve pads.

CUSTOM MANNEQUIN: A mannequin that is especially sculpted to order for a particular customer. It may be a special head which can be used on an existing line body, or it may be an all new form which will express a store’s Image or look. It may also refer to a very individualized makeup, finish, glaze or texture.

DICKEY: A detachable insert which simulates a shirt front, with or without a tie. A bib either of fabric or molded in plastic which fills in for a shirt on a coat or suit form.

DRESS FORM: A headless, armless and legless form which goes from the neck to below the hips. It is often made of papier-mâché and covered in linen, jersey or velvet. There is usually a fitting on the bottom of the form to receive a rod which may be attached to a base, fixture, platform, etc. A dress form averages between 36 and 38 ins., depending upon the neck extension.

DRESSMAKER FORM: A dress form used by designers, tailors, seamstresses, etc. to fit garments in work, or to try out designs or patterns. It is available in a variety of dress sizes and can also be customized for specific bust, waist and hip measurements. The dressmaker form is often seen on a wire basket-like structure supported on an ornate cast-iron base, with or without casters. The dressmaker form is usually associated with custom-made and designer fashions.

DUMMY: Reference for a mannequin most commonly used to describe the headless, legless and armless upholstered dressmaker form.

EGG HEAD: An abstract sculpture of a head which resembles a smooth, oval egg with no defined features or anatomical details. It may be used as a millinery head form or a wig stand, or be the head of an abstract mannequin. The egg head is usually available in a variety of non-skin tones and metallics and in assorted neck lengths. Faces can be painted onto the featureless face.

ETHNIC MANNEQUIN: A mannequin which is realistically portrayed with the skin tone and body and facial physiognomy of a particular ethnic group.

FLEX ARMS: Flexible metal extensions from the arm sockets of coat or suit forms which can be bent or reshaped into various natural arm positions. They may be similar to EX cables or the uprights of goose neck lamps, or they may be metal rods joined with swivel sockets at the shoulder and elbow. With flex arms it is possible to break the rigid dummy look of a coat or suit form and give some semblance of naturalness to a garment.

FOOT BRACKET: A sandal-strap-like device that is attached to a flage or base and will accept and hold a leg form or pantyhose form in an upright position. It is usually made of a clear plastic material. It may also resemble a cup.

FOOT SPIKE: The short metal rod that extends up from the metal, glass or plastic mannequin base and insets into the matching square fitting, with set screw, midway between the heel and the calf of the mannequin leg. It supports and holds the mannequin upright, but can interfere with the use of hosiery or the wearing of pants. See: Ankle Rod.

FORM: A headless mannequin. Specifically a three-dimensional representation of a part or parts of the human anatomy; the torso, bust, shoulder to waist, hips to ankles, etc. See: Torso Form, Bra Form, Coat Form, Dress Form, Blouse Form.

FULLER FIGURE: The larger sized mannequin for the plumper, fuller figure. The female form wears a size 14′/2 and, depending upon the pose, stands about 5 ft. 9 ins. tall. The bust, waist and hips, as well as the arms, legs and head, are proportioned to suit the half-size garment.

GIRDLE FORM: See: Pantie Form.

GLASS BASE PLATE: The heavy piece of glass, equipped with a metal plate or flange and extending rod, which is used to support a mannequin. The base plate may be almost any shape and is usually about 18 ins. wide.

GLASS EYES: Large, artificial, but extremely realistic eyes which fit into the hollowed-out eye sockets of a mannequin. They are usually made so that they can be positioned to look to the right, left, straight ahead, up or down and appear to make contact with other mannequins in a grouping.

GLOVE HAND: An accessory to a mannequin, replacing the regular hand that joins the arm at the wrist or a separate entity, which is designed to wear gloves. The finger arrangement facilitates the putting on and taking off of gloves and yet presents them in a graceful manner.

GROUPING: Two or more mannequins which are designed, arranged or positioned to go together and create a situation or a semblance of belonging in the same place at the same time. Mannequins which are proportioned and posed to be used together.

HEADLESS MANNEQUIN: A complete, life-like mannequin which ends at the neck. Sometimes the neck is straight or flat cut, or it may end in a fanciful swirl. Either way, the decapitated form is a full-size, full-scale, non-personalized representation.

JUNIOR: A mannequin size rather than an age. It is often posed and made-up as a young, active type of woman, but depending upon pose, make-up and wig style, the Junior mannequin can be a college freshman, young executive, or sophisticated, mature lady. It wears a size 7 dress and averages about 5 ft. 8 ins. in height. Hip, bust and waist measurements will vary slightly with the manufacturer and the fashion trends.

JUNIOR PETITE: A special size and type of mannequin which, depending upon the manufacturer, will wear a size 5 or 7 and average about 5 ft. 5 ins. in height. It is often made-up and posed as the superannuated, freckled and braided, saucy and perky teenager, though with the right pose, make-up and wig can represent the smaller woman.

MAKE·UP: Body and facial coloring — the color and art work used on the lips, cheeks and around the eyes. The subtle or dramatic use of rouge, mascara and lipstick — the enhancement of the facial sculpture. The brushwork, the blending or sharpness of line and color. The mannequin type or Image as personalized by art work.

MANNEQUIN, MANNEKIN, MANIKEN: A three-dimensional representation of the human form, somewhat idealized and stylized, to show wearing apparel. It may be a realistic interpretation, semirealistic or abstract. Mannequins will vary in sizes and proportions depending upon type, age group, manufacturer and current fashion look.

METAL BASE: A flat base with perpendicular flange into which the butt rod or ankle rod fits. It is heavy enough to sit on the ground and support the mannequin in an erect position. See: Butt Rod, Base Flange.

MISSY or MISS: A female mannequin that wears a size 8 and varies in height from 5 ft. 8 ins. to 6 ft. tall. There is a great variety of interpretation in the Missy group and depending upon the manufacturer, the pose, make-up and wig, the Missy can be the young college type, active sportswoman, career woman, super-sophisticate or grandest lady at the ball. The Missy mannequin can be personalized to represent the store Image.

NECK BLOCK or NECK CAP: The cap, usually metal, that finishes off the neck top of a suit, coat, shirt or other headless form. It is usually finished in chrome or brass and sometimes topped with a finial or ring.

PADDLE HAND: See: Pocket Hand.

PANTS FORM: A three-dimensional male or female form which starts at the waistline and ends at the feet. In men’s forms, it usually wears a size 30 with a 32 in. length. Boy’s forms take a 28 in. waist with a 30 in. length. Female pants forms wear a size 8. See: Slack Form.

PANTIE or PANTIE FORM: A three-dimensional form that entends from above the waist to the knees and is used for the counter and ledge display of panties, girdles and bikini bottoms. The longer leg girdle form shows more leg and averages 25 to 26 ins, in height to the pantie form’s 23 inches.

PANTIEHOSE or PANTYHOSE FORM: Usually a lightweight, three-dimensional form, flesh colored waist to toes. It may be used toes up and waist as the base, or upright with the toe set into a foot bracket. It may also be used to show stretch tightsand slacks.

PEARLESCENT or PEARLIZED FINISH: A lustrous, milky finish on a mannequin or form reminiscent of the sheen of a pearl. An opalescent or macrous quality often used to tone down a color.

PETITE: A smaller, slighter mannequin that usually wears a size 5 and is not necessarily posed or made-up as the superannuated teenager. A mannequin for the presentation of merchandise cut for the smaller, slighter woman.

PLEXIGLASS BASE: Similar in deisgn and function to the glass base plate, but made of a heavy-weight, heavy-duty, non-breakable plastic material. See: Glass Base Plate.

POCKET HAND: Also called a paddle hand. A hand lacking in anatomical details that resembles a shaped thumbless mitten that fits into a pocket and presents a smooth outline of a hand rather than bumps and knuckles. It is also flatter and more tapered to fit into and out of pockets.

PORCELAIN FINISH: Usually a shiny, white enamel finish which is similar to the gloss of fine china, but may also refer to other pastel lacquer finishes.

PORTRAIT FINISH: The matte, lightly stippled texture and finish of a mannequin’s face and body. The skin appears more porous and thus more realistic. The flat finish adds depth to the skin color which varies as per the customer’s specifications.

POSE: Body position of a mannequin or form. The relationship of the arms and legs to the body, the body line, the angle of the head to the shoulders. Movement and attitude of the body composition.

PRE-TEEN: The ten-to-twelve-year-oId mannequin which is still a child-like mannequin, but has the beginnings of a more mature body. Usually proportioned to wear a girl’s size 8 to 10.

REALISTIC MANNEQUIN: A full round sculpted form that resembles in face, pose and proportions a particular type and size woman, man or child. Not abstract.

RIGGING or RIG: Dressing of a mannequin or form. The padding, pinning and plumping out of merchandise on the inanimate object to make the merchandise look and fit better and to emphasize the best features of the garment.

SEMI-ABSTRACT MANNEQUIN: An abstract or highly stylized mannequin which may suggest either in the sculpting or the artwork a face or semblance to a particular type of individual. Sometimes a mannequin with sculptured features but no make-up or tonal qualities.

SEMI·REALISTIC MANNEQUIN: A fairly realistic sculpted mannequin which is made more stylized by the vagueness of the facial features or the lack or realism in the art work or make-up. Wigs may be replaced by painted hair styles, or the hair may be sculpted in and not detailed.

SHELL FORM: A half-round form. Usually a lightweight, plastic bra, blouse, sweater or dress form with a fully dimensional front but scooped out back for one-sided merchandise presentation.

SHIRT FORM: The male version of the blouse form. See: Blouse Form.

SLACK FORM: A sculpted dimensional form of a pair of legs and hips that end at the waist or slightly above. If the legs are crossed, one leg will be removable. To facilitate standing, the form usually comes with a foot spike that holds the form erect without affecting the fit of the garment. See: Pants Form.

SLEEVE PADS: Flattened, sausage-shaped cushions that are used to pad out or fill in the sleeves of coats and jackets shown on armless coat or suit forms. They add dimension and form to what would otherwise be limp appendages to a contoured garment.

STOCKING FORMS: Flesh-colored, dimensional, plastic leg shaped, usually with hollow tops, available in assorted lengths depending upon the type of merchandise to be displayed: thigh-high; knee-high or calf-high. The forms are usually shown with the instep arched and the weight on the ball of the foot. Some stocking forms are two-dimensional, plastic shapes with a twist that are presented toe up with the thigh as a base.

SUPPORT ROD: See: Ankle Rod, Butt Rod, Foot Spike.

THREE QUARTER FORM: A dimensional form or mannequin, with head, arms and separated legs, that ends at the knee or just below. Usually used on ledges or where there isn’t sufficient height to accommodate a full-standing mannequin.


TORSO: See: Torso Form.

TORSO FORM: A full round, headless and armless body form that ends just above the knees and is used for showing bathing suits, lingerie and sportswear. The average height is 38 ins, for the female and 43 ins. for the male figure. It differs from the usual dress form in that the body line is more animated and the legs are parted and defined.

T·ROD: An upside-down, T-shaped metal device. The upright end secures into the butt fitting of the mannequin while the flat, horizontal bar rests on the ground and serves as an easel base for the mannequin.

TRUNK FORM: A masculine body part that extends from above the waistline to the knees or slightly below. It is ideally suited for showing shorts, swim trunks and briefs. This form is usually designed to wear a size 30. Longer forms will show more leg while the shorter forms will cut in mid-length.

WIG FOUNDATION: Skull cap or bathing cap type of unit to which the fibers of a wig are attached. The foundation fits onto the head of the mannequin and sets and keeps the wig in place.

WIGS: Detachable hair pieces used on the bald heads of mannequins. They are usually made of synthetic yet realistic fibers that can be arranged into life-like hair styles. Wigs may also be quite decorative and made of yarn, rope, papier-mâché, wood shavings, etc.

WOODEN JOINTED ARM: An articulated wooden or plastic arm which fits into a mannequin’s shoulder fitting and is designed to wear a realistic hand at the wrist fitting. Under shirt, jacket or coat, the jointed arm can be positioned into a variety of realistic poses and only the flesh-colored hand is visible. A pocket or paddle hand may also be used with this repositionable arm. See: Pocket Hand.


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