Mannequins Versus Dress Forms For Your Displays

Contributed by Patricia Sims, Social Media Coordinator at Store Supply Warehouse

Not all mannequins and dress forms are created equal. There’s a significant difference between the two and a lot of factors to consider when choosing what’s right for your store. Let’s dive in and discuss the main purposes of each, as well as the pros and cons to using one over the other.

All About Mannequins

Mannequins are stylized and exaggerated versions of the real human form that are commonly used to display clothes. Typically, they help shoppers imagine how these items would look in real life and help answer the questions “Can I pull this off?” or “What would I wear with this?”

The most common types of mannequins are headless, abstract, semi-realistic, and realistic. Designed to make clothes look much more attractive than they would on a simple hanger, mannequins are made in a wide range of colors, styles, and materials, from white or black plastic to gold fiberglass.

However, it’s crucial to shop for mannequins that fit what you’re selling. The right mannequin helps tell your customers exactly who your store is geared toward and serves as another way to express who you are. For example, if your store specializes in business apparel, it would be a costly mistake to purchase mannequins that look like they belong in a juniors department. Likewise, a realistic model with a full face of makeup and a coiffed hairstyle might look out of place in a store that sells more modern, trendy styles.

Why Choose Mannequins Over Dress Forms?

Mannequins convey your store’s personality and attitude. That’s why they come in a much larger variety of styles than dress forms. You can usually shop for mannequins that have the right aesthetic to reflect your store’s unique style, whereas most dress forms are designed to aid in the actual process of creating clothes. Mannequins come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and positions to match exactly whom you’re trying to market to.

Now for the cons, typically, mannequins cannot be used to alter clothes since their proportions aren’t realistic. Plus, the materials they’re made out of won’t hold many of the tools used during clothing creation. This means your mannequins need to be the same size as your items to really showcase what you’re selling. Also, mannequins can get costly depending on the style, material, and finishes you choose.

All About Dress Forms

Dress forms are actually a type of mannequin used for fashion design. Built tough, they’re made to withstand needles, pins, and scissors. They’re also made with a specific body measurement in mind. There are quite a few different kinds of dress forms, so we’ll briefly cover the two most common ones: sewing forms and display forms.

A sewing form typically has:

  • Collapsible shoulders to help when fitting tighter garments
  • A heavy-duty build made of material with thick padding covered in linen or muslin
  • A foot pedal to adjust the height
  • A shape that’s close to being anatomically correct
  • The ability to be adjusted to accommodate different proportions

A display form is different from a sewing form in a few important ways. While you can pin to it, these forms usually have a lot less padding, the height is usually not as adjustable, and the proportions tend to be designed to make finished garments look great. Display forms are a decent way to display your items, but they do lack the unique branding possibilities you’ll find when using mannequins.

Why Choose Dress Forms?

Dress forms are best if you’re planning on doing some tailoring to items or need to alter them to display correctly. They’re more dual purpose than traditional mannequins since sewing materials can be used with them. However, dress forms provide more function over fashion and don’t leave you with much room to express your store’s personality.

Contributed by Patricia Sims, Social Media Coordinator at Store Supply Warehouse, which offers store fixtures and supplies to independent retailers across the country. They offer free store design services, custom products, and unbeatable customer service with the lowest prices guaranteed! Like them on Facebook for the latest on new products, price cuts, and more. Start building the store of your dreams today at

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