4 May 2010

The last time I visited my supermarket, the entrance aisle was filled with mannequins. The company sells discount clothes at the back of the store, underneath the café mezzanine. There are clothes for men, women, and children, just as there are mannequins: figures of clear perspex inside steel frames.

They’re dressed in the new lines for summer. The women’s accessories are unsecured. None of them have any heads, or hands.

Mannequins, like clowns, have passed the point of ‘Those everyday things are a bit scary, actually,’ and advanced straight for the collective terror of the everyday. The writers of the revived Doctor Who made the ninth Doctor’s first enemy a race of sentient mannequins who dropped their wrists to shoot death-rays from their arms.

But these ones have no hands and have no heads and have gone out on display in metal cages.

Did nobody in the design chain stop and have their stomach turned, even just a little bit? Did somebody with a spreadsheet calculate that the saving in extra plastic, one more mould, those two or three seconds on the production line wouldn’t outweigh the loss made when we walk past the bodies with parts missing and lose any appetite for those treats for tea?


8 Responses to “Mannequin”

  1. AlexJ Says:

    I’ve always wondered about that, too. They are disturbing without heads and hands. Ever see the ones that are flat, black metal? Those are just odd.

  2. kate m Says:

    Although it seems counter intuitive, I think the lack of head may be an attempt to disturb people *less*. The closer mannequin design edges towards realistic representation, the more there’s a problem with “uncanny valley”. Also, mannequin fingers seem very vulnerable to getting broken (which I do find unsettling and have seen in shops many times). Maybe leaving the hands off altogether makes them more durable?

    Some time ago I read that shop mannequins were headless till cinema assumed mass popularity. That is, mannequins began to be modeled on film stars, which is a lot easier if they have a face. Can’t remember the source so may be utter tosh.

    I have a dressmaking form at home, without a head or limbs, and it is just more practical that way. Only the torso is needed to make clothes and a head/limbs would make the form less portable. (From when I worked in retail I’d say portability makes shop assistants’ lives easier too.) But perhaps having a headless form in the house has inured me.

    • Actually, I’m all right with dressmaking forms… they’re obviously what they are. It’s the necks without heads and wrists without hands that give me problems 🙂

      You could be right about the fingers though!

  3. Ann Says:

    Most certainly wouldn’t induce much shopping after turning the stomach!

  4. Old Kitty Says:


    It’s weird isn’t it??? I don’t even notice mannequins so much. Although I remember gigglin when still at school at a bunch of naked male mannequins left in a shop window….

    You know I completley forgot that Dr Who epi!

    Take care

  5. When I was at university I worked in a clothing shop and had to dress the mannequins in the store window. The most awkward bit was trying to get the stand up their butts. Seriously.

    After that experience, mannequins don’t seem creepy! I am just glad I don’t have to dress and undress them anymore!

  6. LouM Says:

    No head doesn’t worry me in the slightest. But no hands and in cages? Now that freaks me out slightly.

    Of course, this is probably one of those instances where *imagining* it is infinitely worse than seeing it (I mean, you say “metal cage” to me, and I immediately think “gibbet” – one too many trips to the Clink museum for me, possibly) but still.

    Cages. No hands. How on earth are they going to take over the world…? Oh, wait.

    • Hi Louise, welcome!

      One too many such trips for me as well, I think (in a metaphorical sense – never actually been to the Clink).

      There’s a fashion chain that actually has headless (and, I think, handless) grey mannequins dangling from chains in their windows: Yuck…. yet the marketing people don’t seem to see the same thing I (or all the commenters on that blog post) do at all. National imagination deficit?

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