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Mannequins get a makeover to look more real

  • In this Dec. 17, 2013 photo, David's Bridal senior vice president Michele von Plato, right, arranges a dress on a plus-size mannequin in New York. David’s Bridal, the nation’s largest bridal chain, started changing its fit mannequins used to create gowns to reflect the average body. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK — The one-size-fits-all mannequin is getting a much-needed makeover.

Wings Beachwear's mannequins in Miami sport flower tattoos like some of the women who shop there. The mannequins at American Apparel's downtown New York City store have pubic hair peeking through their lingerie. And at David's Bridal, mannequins soon will get thicker waists, saggier breasts and back fat to mimic a more realistic shape.

"This will give (a shopper) a better idea of what the dress will look like on her," says Michele Von Plato, a vice president at the nation's largest bridal chain.

Stores are using more realistic versions of the usually tall, svelte, faceless mannequins in windows and aisles. It's part of retailers' efforts to make them look more like the women who wear their clothes. That means not only adding fat and hair, but also experimenting with makeup, wigs and even poses.

This comes after two decades of stores cutting back on mannequins to save money. Many have been using basic, white, headless, no-arms-or-legs torsos that can cost $300 compared with the more realistic-looking ones that can fetch up to $1,500. Now, as shoppers are increasingly buying online, stores are see mannequins as a tool to entice shoppers to buy.

Indeed, studies show mannequins matter when shoppers make buying decisions. Forty-two percent of customers recently polled by market research firm NPD Group Inc. say something on a mannequin influences whether they buy it. In fact, mannequins ranked just behind friends and family in terms of influence.

"Mannequins are the quintessential silent sales people," says Eric Feigenbaum, chair of the visual merchandising department at LIM College, a fashion college in New York City.

Stores for over a century have played with the look of their "silent sales people." Until the early 1900s, the most common ones were just torsos. But with the rise of mass production clothing, by full-length mannequins became popular.

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