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Mannequins in a clothing shop in Canada Holt Renfrew Mannequins.jpg
Mannequins in a clothing shop in Canada
Mannequins in Chanel store, 31 Rue Cambon, Paris Chanel Display, Rue Cambon, Paris April 2011.jpg
Mannequins in Chanel store, 31 Rue Cambon, Paris
A lay figure by Albrecht Durer in the Prado Museum. Durero---Maniqui-20181002.jpg
A lay figure by Albrecht Dürer in the Prado Museum.

A mannequin (also called a manikin, 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).


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]

A mannequin outside a shop in North India. Indian mannequin2.jpg
A mannequin outside a shop in North India.

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 impressive and 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]

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

Historically, artists have often used articulated mannequins, sometimes known as lay figures, as an aid in drawing draped figures. The advantage of this is that clothing or drapery arranged on a mannequin may be kept immobile for far longer than would be possible by using a living model.

Medical education

A medical student performs eye examination on a mannequin in Mauritius. A medical student performs eye examination.jpg
A medical student performs eye examination on a mannequin in Mauritius.
A baby medical simulation mannequin Simbaby.jpg
A baby medical simulation mannequin

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. [9]

Today, medical simulation mannequins, models or related artefacts such as SimMan, [10] the Transparent Anatomical Manikin or Harvey [11] are widely used in medical education. [12] 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. [13]

A wooden mannequin Gliederpuppe.png
A wooden mannequin
Mannequins in a clothing shop in Indonesia Mall culture jakarta36.jpg
Mannequins in a clothing shop in Indonesia

Mannequins were a frequent motif in the works many early 20th-century artists, notably the Metaphysical painters Giorgio de Chirico, Alberto Savinio and Carlo Carrà. [14] [15] Shop windows displaying mannequins were a frequent photographic subject for Eugene Atget. [6]

Mannequins are a common theme 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. [16] [17] Mannequins come to life and attack the living in "The Trevi Collection" (episode 14 of the television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker ).[ citation needed ] Abandoned nuclear test sites consisting of entire towns populated by mannequins appear in such films as Kalifornia (1993), Mulholland Falls (1996), and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes (2006).

The romantic comedy film Mannequin (1987) is a story of a window dresser (played by Andrew McCarthy) who falls in love with a mannequin that comes to life (played by Kim Cattrall). [18]

A family of mannequins posed for a photograph Hybridlll.jpg
A family of mannequins posed for a photograph

The cast of the satirical Japanese television series The Fuccons/Oh! Mikey consists entirely of inanimate mannequins with voices dubbed in.

Four mannequins can be seen on the cover of the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. All were wax dummies modeled after the members of the band.[ citation needed ]

The music video for the hit single "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." by a-ha features the band performing in a church full of mannequins.

Commercials for the clothing store Old Navy sometimes use inanimate mannequins with voices dubbed in.[ citation needed ]

Al Snow had/has a sidekick/tag-team partner/opponent named "Head" that was a long haired female mannequin head. In addition to being a one-time WWE Hardcore Champion, Head was often used as a weapon or spoken to as a moral compass.[ citation needed ]

EDM duo FEMM consists of two “living mannequins” and the duo's persona is that of an agency trying to “end the suffering of mannequins worldwide”.

Military use

Military use of mannequins is recorded amongst the ancient Chinese, such as at the Battle 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. [19]

A 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. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Action figure Character toy figurine made commonly of plastic

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Crash test dummy Full-scale anthropomorphic test devices that simulate human bodies in vehicle crash testing

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The Autons are an artificial life form from the British science fiction television series Doctor Who and adversaries of the Doctor. They were originally created by scriptwriter Robert Holmes for Jon Pertwee's first serial as the Doctor, Spearhead from Space (1970), and were the first monsters to be presented in colour on the series.

Spearhead from Space is the first serial of the seventh season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts on BBC1 from 3 to 24 January 1970. It was the first Doctor Who serial to be produced in colour and the only one to be made entirely on 16 mm film.

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

Maquette Scale model of unfinished sculpture

A maquette is a scale model or rough draft of an unfinished sculpture. An equivalent term is bozzetto, from the Italian word for "sketch".

Transparent Anatomical Manikin 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.

Wax sculpture

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Fashion doll

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.

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<i>Procession in Lace</i> Painting by Paul Delvaux

Procession in Lace is a painting made by Paul Delvaux in 1936. It shows a group of women walking toward a Roman triumphal arch. It was one of the first paintings where Delvaux drew inspiration from Giorgio de Chirico and painted women reminiscent of mannequins, something he would continue to do throughout his career. Art historians have highlighted the painting's theatricality and described it as one of Delvaux's first major works.


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Further reading