Last updated
Mannequins in a clothing shop in Canada Holt Renfrew Mannequins.jpg
Mannequins in a clothing shop in Canada
A mannequin in North India Indian mannequin2.jpg
A mannequin in North India

A mannequin (sometimes spelled as manikin and also called a dummy, lay figure, or dress form) is a doll, often articulated, used by artists, tailors, dressmakers, window dressers and others, especially to display or fit clothing and show off different fabrics and textiles. Previously, the English term referred to human models and muses (a meaning which it still retains in French and other European languages); the meaning as a dummy dating from the start of World War II. [1]


Life-sized mannequins with simulated airways are used in the teaching of first aid, CPR, and advanced airway management skills such as tracheal intubation. During the 1950s, mannequins were used in nuclear tests to help show the effects of nuclear weapons on humans. [2] [3] Also referred to as mannequins are the human figures used in computer simulation to model the behavior of the human body.

Mannequin comes from the French word mannequin, which had acquired the meaning "an artist's jointed model", which in turn came from the Flemish word manneken, meaning "little man, figurine", [4] referring to late Middle Ages practice in Flanders whereby public display of even women's clothes was performed by male pages (boys). Fashion shops in Paris ordered dolls in reed from Flemish merchants. Flanders was in logistics the easiest region to import dolls in reed from, as transport on the rivers Schelde and Oise provide easy routes from Flanders to Paris. As the Flemish wrote 'manneke(n)' for 'little man' on their invoices, the Parisians pronounced this as 'mannequen', hence shifted to 'mannequin'. A mannequin is thus linguistically masculine, not feminine.


Shop mannequins are derived from dress forms used by fashion houses for dress making. The use of mannequins originated in the 15th century, when miniature "milliners' mannequins" were used to demonstrate fashions for customers. [5] Full-scale, wickerwork mannequins came into use in the mid-18th century. [5] Wirework mannequins were manufactured in Paris from 1835. [5]

Shop display

The first female mannequins, made of papier-mâché, were made in France in the mid-19th century. [5] Mannequins were later made of wax to produce a more lifelike appearance. In the 1920s, wax was supplanted by a more durable composite made with plaster. [6]

Modern day mannequins are made from a variety of materials, the primary ones being fiberglass and plastic. The fiberglass mannequins are usually more expensive than the plastic ones, tend to be not as durable, but are significantly more realistic. Plastic mannequins, on the other hand, are a relatively new innovation in the mannequin field and are built to withstand the hustle of customer foot traffic usually witnessed in the store they are placed in. [7]

A lay figure by Albrecht Durer in the Prado Museum Durero---Maniqui-20181002.jpg
A lay figure by Albrecht Dürer in the Prado Museum

Mannequins are used primarily by retail stores as in-store displays or window decoration. However, many online sellers also use them to display their products for their product photos (as opposed to using a live model). [7] While the classic female mannequin has a smaller to average breast size, manufacturers are now selling "sexy/busty mannequins" and "voluptuous female mannequins" with 40DDs and Barbie doll-sized waists. [8]

Use by artists

Renaissance artist Fra Bartolomeo invented the full-scale articulated mannequin (more properly known as lay figure) [9] as an aid in drawing and painting draped figures. In 18th-century England, lay-figures are known to have been owned by portrait painters such as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and Arthur Devis for the arrangement of his conversation pieces. [10] [11] Miniature figures of human beings which feature various degrees of abstraction and realism are used by artists to this very day to model poses and tableau, verisimultide being afforded by some 22, [12] 30, [13] or even more than 40 points of articulation [14] (the human spine alone has over twenty joints); in this wise they may serve the same purpose as preliminary sketches. Early precursors of the action figures of pop culture, they can also be used as elements pf décor as objects of art in their own right.

Medical education

Anatomical models such as ivory manikins were used by doctors in the 17th century to study medical anatomy and as a teaching aid for pregnancy and childbirth. Each figure could be opened up to reveal internal organs and sometimes fetuses. There are only 180 known surviving ancient medical manikins worldwide. [15]

A medical student performs an eye examination on a mannequin in Mauritius A medical student performs eye examination.jpg
A medical student performs an eye examination on a mannequin in Mauritius

Today, medical simulation mannequins, models or related artefacts such as SimMan, [16] the Transparent Anatomical Manikin or Harvey [17] are widely used in medical education. [18] These are sometimes also referred to as virtual patients. The term manikin refers exclusively to these types of models, though mannequin is often also used.

In first aid courses, manikins may be used to demonstrate methods of giving first aid (e.g., resuscitation). Fire and coastguard services use mannequins to practice life-saving procedures. The mannequins have similar weight distribution to a human. Special obese mannequins and horse mannequins have also been made for similar purposes.

Over-reliance on mass-produced mannequins has been criticized for teaching medical students a hypothetical "average" that does not help them identify or understand the significant amount of normal variation seen in the real world. [19]

Representation in art and culture

Abstract and anatomically correct lay figures form a suspensful tableau vivant between computers SavvyCouple.jpg
Abstract and anatomically correct lay figures form a suspensful tableau vivant between computers

Mannequins were a frequent motif in the works of many early 20th-century artists, notably the metaphysical painters Giorgio de Chirico, Alberto Savinio and Carlo Carrà. [20] [21]

Shop windows displaying mannequins were a frequent photographic subject for Eugène Atget. [6]

Mannequins have been used in horror and science fiction. Mannequins can be disturbing (perhaps due in part to the uncanny valley effect), especially when not fully assembled. The Twilight Zone episode "The After Hours" (1960) involves mannequins taking turns living in the real world as people. In the Doctor Who serial Spearhead from Space (1970), an alien intelligence attempts to take over Earth with killer plastic mannequins called Autons. [22] [23]

The romantic comedy film Mannequin (1987) is a story of a window dresser who falls in love with a mannequin that comes to life. [24] The romantic thriller film Bommai (2023) is the story of a person who works in a mannequin factory who falls in love with one of the mannequins, imagining it as his childhood crush. [25]

Military use

Military use of mannequins is recorded amongst the ancient Chinese, such as at the siege of Yongqiu. The besieged Tang army lowered scarecrows down the walls of their castles to lure the fire of the enemy arrows. In this way, they renewed their supplies of arrows. Dummies were also used in the trenches in World War I to lure enemy snipers away from the soldiers. [26]

A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report describes the use of a mannequin ("Jack-in-the-Box") as a countersurveillance measure, intended to make it more difficult for the host country's counterintelligence to track the movement of CIA agents posing as diplomats. A "Jack-in-the-Box" – a mannequin representing the upper half of a human – would quickly replace a CIA agent after he left the car driven by another agent and walked away, so that any counterintelligence officers monitoring the agent's car would believe that he was still in the car. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Doll</span> Model, typically of a humanoid character

A doll is a model typically of a human or humanoid character, often used as a toy for children. Dolls have also been used in traditional religious rituals throughout the world. Traditional dolls made of materials such as clay and wood are found in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. The earliest documented dolls go back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. They have been made as crude, rudimentary playthings as well as elaborate art. Modern doll manufacturing has its roots in Germany, from the 15th century. With industrialization and new materials such as porcelain and plastic, dolls were increasingly mass-produced. During the 20th century, dolls became increasingly popular as collectibles.

An action figure is a poseable character model figure made most commonly of plastic, and often based upon characters from a film, comic book, military, video game or television program; fictional or historical. These figures are usually marketed toward boys and adult collectors. The term was coined by Hasbro in 1964 to market G.I. Joe to boys.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Figurine</span> Small item resembling something, usually a person

A figurine or statuette, is a small, three-dimensional sculpture that represents a human, deity or animal, or, in practice, a pair or small group of them. Figurines have been made in many media, with clay, metal, wood, glass, and today plastic or resin the most significant. Ceramic figurines not made of porcelain are called terracottas in historical contexts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bobblehead</span> Doll with a large head on a spring

A bobblehead, also known by nicknames such as nodder, wobbler, or wacky wobbler, is a type of small collectible figurine. Its head is often oversized compared to its body. Instead of a solid connection, its head is connected to the body by a spring or hook in such a way that a light tap will cause the head to move around, or "bobble", hence the name.

A manikin is a life-sized human doll used especially in sales.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Action Man</span> Action figure

Action Man is an action figure launched in Britain in 1966 by Palitoy as a licensed copy of Hasbro's American "movable fighting man", G.I. Joe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transparent Anatomical Manikin</span> 3D human model for medical training

The Transparent Anatomical Manikin (TAM) is a three-dimensional, transparent anatomical model of a human being, created for medical instructional purposes. TAM was created by designer – Richard Rush, in 1968. It consisted of a see-through reproduction of a female human body, with various organs being wired so specific body systems would light up on command on cue, with a pre-recorded educational presentation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clothes horse</span> Frame for air drying wet laundry

The term "clothes horse" is used to refer to a portable frame upon which wet laundry is hung to dry by evaporation. The frame is usually made of wood, metal or plastic. It is a cheap low-tech piece of laundry equipment, as opposed to a clothes dryer, which requires electricity to operate, or a Hills Hoist, which requires ample space, wind and fine weather. It also served as an alternative to an airing cupboard. In cold, damp seasons and in the absence of central heating, a clothes horse placed by a fireside or a kitchen range provides a place to warm clothing before putting it on. The practice of airing, once ubiquitous in Great Britain, for example, in the constant battle against damp and mold, has become far less common with the advent of central heating and affordable clothes dryers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wax sculpture</span>

A wax sculpture is a depiction made using a waxy substance. Often these are effigies, usually of a notable individual, but there are also death masks and scenes with many figures, mostly in relief.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fashion doll</span> Doll designed to be dressed to reflect fashion trends

Fashion dolls are dolls primarily designed to be dressed to reflect fashion trends. They are manufactured both as toys for children to play with and as collectibles for adults. The dolls are usually modeled after teen girls or adult women, though child, male, and even some non-human variants exist. Contemporary fashion dolls are typically made of vinyl or another plastic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paper doll</span> 2D figure made from paper or thin card

Paper dolls are figures cut out of paper or thin card, with separate clothes, also made of paper, that are usually held onto the dolls by paper folding tabs. They may be a figure of a person, animal or inanimate object. Paper dolls have been inexpensive children's toys for almost two hundred years. Today, many artists are turning paper dolls into an art form.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ball-jointed doll</span> Type of articulated doll most commonly purchased by adult collectors

A ball-jointed doll is any doll that is articulated with ball and socket joints. In contemporary usage when referring to modern dolls, and particularly when using the acronyms BJD or ABJD, it usually refers to modern Asian ball-jointed dolls. These are cast in polyurethane synthetic resin, a hard, dense plastic, and the parts strung together with a thick elastic. They are predominantly produced in Japan, South Korea and China. The BJD style has been described as both realistic and influenced by anime. They commonly range in size from about 60 centimetres (24 in) for the larger dolls, 40 cm (15.5 in) for the mini dolls, and down to 10 cm (4 in) for the very smallest BJDs. BJDs are primarily intended for adult collectors and customizers. They are made to be easy to customize, by painting, changing the eyes and wig, and so forth.

G.I. Joe: Classic Collection is an action-figure-and-accessories set produced by Hasbro US in a style initially influenced by the Hasbro G.I. Joe products of the 1960s. The set was first released in 1996.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">G.I. Joe: America's Movable Fighting Man</span>

G.I. Joe: America's Movable Fighting Man is a line of action figures produced by Hasbro. The initial product offering represented four of the branches of the U.S. armed forces. The term G.I. stands, in popular usage, for Government Issue and became a generic term for U.S. soldiers, especially ground forces. The term originated in WWI, when much of the government-issued equipment was stamped "G.I.", meaning that it was made from galvanized iron. The development of G.I. Joe led to the coining of the term "action figure".

Go Nagai's Mazinger related mechas and characters have many different toy lines, developed since Mazinger first appeared in the 1970s. Some of the most well known ones are described here.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hopi Kachina figure</span> Dolls in the Hopi religious tradition

Hopi katsina figures, also known as kachina dolls, are figures carved, typically from cottonwood root, by Hopi people to instruct young girls and new brides about katsinas or katsinam, the immortal beings that bring rain, control other aspects of the natural world and society, and act as messengers between humans and the spirit world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Théâtre de la Mode</span>

Théâtre de la Mode was a 1945–1946 touring exhibit of fashion mannequins created at approximately 1/3 the size of human scale, and crafted by top Paris fashion designers.It was created to raise funds for war survivors and to help revive the French fashion industry in the aftermath of World War II. While raising funds, Théâtre de la Mode was also meant to showcase the work of Parisian couturiers. The original Théâtre de la Mode exhibit toured Europe and then the United States, and is now part of the permanent collections of the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington state in the United States. In addition to its fundraising and industry revival goals, the Théâtre de la Mode exhibit played a significant role in promoting French fashion internationally. The miniature mannequins and exquisite designs showcased the creativity and craftsmanship of Parisian couturiers, attracting attention and admiration from fashion enthusiasts worldwide. The exhibit's subsequent journey to the United States helped solidify the global influence of French fashion and contributed to the post-war cultural exchange between Europe and America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional Mexican handcrafted toys</span>

Traditional Mexican handcrafted toys are those made by artisans rather than manufactured in factories. The history of Mexican toys extends as far back as the Mesoamerican era, but many of the toys date to the colonial period. Many of these were introduced as teaching tools by evangelists, and were associated with certain festivals and holidays. These toys vary widely, including cup and ball, lotería, dolls, miniature people, animals and objects, tops and more—made of many materials, including wood, metal, cloth, corn husks, ceramic, and glass. These toys remained popular throughout Mexico until the mid-20th century, when commercially made, mostly plastic toys became widely available. Because of the advertising commercial toys receive and because they are cheaper, most traditional toys that are sold as handcrafts, principally to tourists and collectors.

<i>A Great Big Bunch of You</i> 1932 short film

A Great Big Bunch of You is a 1932 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon, directed by Rudolf Ising. The short was released on November 12, 1932. A ventriloquist's dummy in the city dump improvises a piano, from the junk there, to play and sing the title song, "A Great Big Bunch Of You", by Mort Dixon and Harry Warren. The various animals and animated junk perform in segued vignettes.

The cuchimilco figures are unglazed terracotta figurines, created between 1200 and 1450 AD by the Chancay culture, which developed in the latter part of the Inca Empire. Ceramic guardian figures were important in Chancay culture. They normally come in pairs of male and female figures, with stocky, almost triangular shaped bodies and upraised arms. The figures are similar but have different painted decoration to indicate gender differences in dress. The exact function of these figures is unknown, but it is thought that they may have acted as guardians to the tombs of the Chancay people, or as companions in the afterlife.


  1. 1902 Pall Mall Mag . XXVII. 119 Another salon ornamented with tall mirrors in which were reflected the slender elegant figures of several mannequins, most of them exceedingly pretty and all arrayed in magnificent dresses... 1939 M. B. Picken Lang. Fashion 97/2 Mannequin model of human figure for display of garments, hats, furs, etc. "mannequin" . Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press.(Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. "Nuclear Test Mannequins". Seattle Times Trinity Web. Seattle Times Company. 1995. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012.
  3. Trivedi, Bijal P. (15 July 2002). "Archaeologists Explore Cold War Nuclear Test Site". National Geographic News . Archived from the original on 18 August 2017.
  4. "mannequin". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language . Houghton Mifflin Company. 2004. Archived from the original on 2009-08-10. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Steele, Valerie (ed.). Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. p. 377
  6. 1 2 Steele, Valerie (ed.). Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. p. 379
  7. 1 2 The Mannequin Guide Archived 2013-10-02 at the Wayback Machine and The Ultimate Visual Guide to Choosing the Right Mannequin by The Shop Company
  8. Ted Eisenberg and Joyce K. Eisenberg, "The Scoop on Breasts: A Plastic Surgeon Busts the Myths," Incompra Press, 2012, ISBN   978-0-9857249-3-1
  10. Polite Society by Arthur Devis, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, 1983, p.67
  15. Jennifer Ouellette (27 Nov 2019). "CT scans confirm 17th-century medical mannikins are mostly made of ivory". ars Technica. Archived from the original on 30 November 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  16. "SimMan". Laerdal . Archived from the original on 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
  17. "Harvey: Major Changes". Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education. Archived from the original on 2007-03-28.
  18. Cooper Jeffery B, Taqueti VR (December 2008). "A brief history of the development of mannequin simulators for clinical education and training". Postgrad Med J. 84 (997): 563–570. doi: 10.1136/qshc.2004.009886 . PMC   1765785 . PMID   19103813. Archived from the original on 2018-04-21. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  19. Jacobson, Ella (20 May 2019). "Too Human". Real Life. Archived from the original on 2019-05-27. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  20. Holzhey, Magdalena. 2005. Giorgio de Chirico 1888–1978 the modern myth. Koln: Taschen. pp. 42–43. ISBN   3-8228-4152-8
    • Cowling, Elizabeth; Mundy, Jennifer. 1990. On Classic Ground: Picasso, Léger, de Chirico and the New Classicism 1910-1930. London: Tate Gallery. p. 54. ISBN   1-85437-043-X
  21. "Spearhead from Space". BBC . Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  22. Mulkern, Patrick (14 September 2009). "Spearhead from Space". Radio Times . Archived from the original on 27 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  23. McQuade, Dan (4 December 2013). "Why Mannequin Is the Best Movie Ever Made About Philadelphia". Philadelphia . Archived from the original on 7 March 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  24. "Bommai Movie Review: Another psycho act by SJ Suryah in a film that's a treasure trove of cliches". India Today . Retrieved 15 July 2023.
  25. "List of strategies". Archived from the original on 2012-10-27. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
  26. Royden, Barry G. (2003), "Tolkachev, A Worthy Successor to Penkovsky. An Exceptional Espionage Operation", Studies in Intelligence, 47 (3), archived from the original on June 13, 2007

Further reading