How to Dress a Mannequin in 10 Easy Steps

In the world of Retail Clothing, dressing mannequins and displays are an integral part of promoting Clothing Ranges and accessories. Dressing a garment on a mannequin and setting it within a display has proven to increase sales by up to 70% in some instances – so great idea for promoting poor selling lines! But the sales lift cannot just be put down to better visibility within the store i.e dressed on a mannequin – it also has a lot to do with the lifestyle that they create, the way they make the customer feel, think and act when they see the garments displayed on mannequins. Sometimes it can be seen as an endorsement to the shopper that if the store has selected these garments for display then they must be credible, stylish or on trend – so i’ll have one too!

When dressed on a mannequin the garment is presented immaculately (ironed without a crease in sight!) and draped on a perfect figured mannequin – then it suddenly becomes something more than just visibility and seeing more of the garment – its about prompting the suggestion to the customer: ‘that looks great on those models, i want one of those’.

The average customer is physically shopping when they are in a store, however few of them are actually engaged in shopping mentality – their minds are on a whole lot of other things, such as thinking about what they need to get in for dinner, remembering to pay a bil…etc etc. most are browsers simply because most are not mentally shopping. For this reason it is the power of display that makes them stop in their tracks and think – wow that looks fantastic!. A dressed mannequin or a display will always catch the customers eye before any garment on a hanger.

Now that we have established the importance of Mannequins and bustforms or tailors dummies, here is ten top tips to a successful display.

Top Tip – Always dress mannequins from bottom to top and the finishing off should always be from top to bottom.

1 – Carefully select garments and outfits to be displayed. It is important that the dressings co-ordinate especially if there is more than one mannequin in the display. Accessories that compliment the selected garments can also add ‘finishing off’ and ‘attention to detail’ to a display. Take time to select the outfits because what might seem like a small error of garment choice whilst dressing the mannequin in the back area will be a huge noticeable error out on display.

Note for point 1: Always select the garment size that perfectly fits your mannequin. Do not use oversized garments as these will give an inaccurate image of fit, drape and styling.

2 – Iron or steam thoroughly all garments and outfits to be included in the display. If ironing remember to iron on reverse side of all garments as a sheen will be left on the facing side making your garment look cheap and distressed under display lighting. Displays will amplify the good but also the bad.

3 – Ensure that the mannequin to be dressed has been separated into its separate components at the arms, legs and torso. Always begin with the legs and feet area. Fit the socks and shoes that have been chosen to compliment the outfit put them on the mannequin first before attempting to dress with clothing. The last garment to be dressed should always be the one that is most visible in the display (e.g jacket or top, dress etc) – dressing it last will ensure minimal creasing during dressing.

Note for point 3: This will mean that you may have to turn the legs upside down so the feet area are closest to you for dressing. Then flip it back on its feet again to add torso and continue dressing.

4 – Dressing from the bottom to the top, the next item should be the ‘bottoms’ – skirt, dress or trousers. Note for trousers these should be slotted over both feet just before putting on the shoes – the turned upright again and torso secured. For a skirt or dress the torso would have to be secured back on top of the legs/hip section first before draping the skirt or dress over the head of the mannequin.

5 – To enable smooth dressing of the top section (most visible section) it is necessary to first insert and secure one of the mannequins arms into the shoulder socket on the torso (make sure its the correct arm! right on the right side left on the left side). After securing one of the arms, open the blouse,shirt etc and slip it onto the secured arm – letting the excess fabric drape from the shoulder whilst you secure the other arm in place.

Note for point 5: If the garment will not open – such as a t-shirt, then it should be popped over the torso before any of the arms are inserted and secured. Once over the head, slip the mannequin arms up the short sleeve if width of arm allows, and secure to shoulder socket. Otherwise slip the arm through the neck and along to the shoulder to secure in the shoulder socket.

6 – The other arm should be slipped down the sleeve (insert from the neck line down the length of the sleeve hand facing downwards. Then once fully inside the sleeve the arm can be secured.

7 – Once the top garments are on and all components in place, the main ‘dressing can begin. But first check to ensure that the full mannequin is firm & secure to the base (usually through a hole in the calf or foot for the sprigot to fit in). Once full dressed and styled the mannequin should be handled very little to avoid creasing so positioning accurately beforehand is advantageous.

8 – Dressing and styling should start at the top and work down to the feet. Starting with the neckline and collars, ensure that they are straight and that buttons are lined up symmetrically on each side. For styling purposes collars can be flipped up, or just a single collar flicked up at the ends. If the neckline is straight or styled this will instantly give a good impression.

9 – Continuing down the dressing to the waistline and hips. The styling of the garment will depend on its length and whether it has a fitted waistline or not.

10 – Finishing off and attention to detail are the things that are done lastly but are the most crucial part of the dressing. If the finishing off isn’t sharp then the impression is gives to the viewer is untidiness and sloppiness, therefore spending a little more time on the finishing off could reap rewards.

Finishing off starts with standing back from the dressing and identifying areas that are unsightly or untidy – such as: unexpected creasing on items, necklines off centre, inside seams on arms facing out instead of in towards the body, accessories not straight or don’t match or maybe more required.

Ultimately dressing a mannequin is just like dressing yourself! You wouldn’t go to work with one collar in and one collar out or your buttons not in line etc. This how to guide and tips is simple yet crucial to the perception the customer will have on your display, brand and ranging – if displayed well and dressing is sharp this will increase the perceived value of the item and the customer may be willing to pay more for it!