When I was first given this assignment I thought it would actually be a breeze to write. As I “googled” “Mannequin Modeling” to get as much information as possible, I quickly realized that I had my work cut out for me because there appeared to be some confusion as to what “Mannequin Modeling” really is. So I put out some feelers to my model friends in the industry and the feedback was truly interesting.
Mannequin modeling, also known as “Freeze” modeling, is defined as:
“Learning how to be so stationary, that people are not sure if you are really real. Generally used for store windows or for an event to draw people in, the human model poses as a lifelike mannequin and may make subtle movements to attract onlookers and draw curiosity.”
The trend began in the mid 1970s, when Abraham & Straus’ Flagship Store which was located in Downtown Brooklyn, put Mannequin modeling on the map. Linda Timmins, head of the division at the time, selected one juvenile and one ingénue with “The Editorial Look” from each of the high schools across the Brooklyn and Manhattan areas. These “Mannequin Models” would pose for up to an hour at a time in the windows of the store as “Living Mannequins” wearing classic designer clothes to the fashions of the day designed by Nik Nik and Pierre Cardin. The living mannequins in the windows became and instant smash and eventually the store had to stop live mannequin modeling in their front store windows as the crowds became so large that they would stop traffic and it (the crowds) became a safety hazard. Ultimately, Abraham & Straus eventually had to restrict their living mannequins to model INSIDE their flagship store or face stiff penalties from the City of New York. But the ploy worked even with the models inside…the crowds would come every season to see them. But like all good things…the trend began to fade somewhat in the mid eighties with the rise of the “Supermodel”.
I recall seeing a resurfacing of the trend in the early 90’s when I was a new model on the scene and Brooklyn based designer Moshood used living mannequins to bring traffic to his Fort Greene boutique. As I began putting this article together, I thought of my own personal experiences in this field. I can only remember one. It was also in the 90’s and the setting was inside a mall in New Jersey. There were about 10 models, both male & female and we worked in half hour shifts. We were on platforms, in transparent cages, displaying clothes from different designers. Alas, my memories of this are not good ones, because being a bit of a “fidget” myself, I found it extremely hard to stand still for 45 minutes and NOT play around with the crowds. Many of the models that I interviewed for this article expressed the same or similar opinions. It requires a great amount of focus, concentration and some athletic ability to maintain a difficult pose for a long time.
Ashley Stewart used this technique a few years ago to draw attention to their new store on 34th Street and I also saw the technique in use at a recent Full Figured & Fabulous competition in Atlanta. Most recently we used mannequin modeling as an assignment on my episode of MTV’s MADE with Krystine Kauffman. We put her in lingerie and then had her pose in the windows for passersby, it was a great way to get her to be comfortable with her body in front of people and she did well… but unfortunately, the scene didn’t make the final edit.
The rate of Mannequin Modeling pay depends on the client and it can vary drastically…
On the local level, I have heard of rates being as low as $10.00 an hour to a flat rate for the day. There also seems to be a bit of confusion between Mannequin Modeling and Fit Modeling. The two divisions are vastly different, as with fit modeling it’s truly about the business. You are hired for your measurements and you are NOT allowed to make any changes to your body, lest you lose your job. But with a couple of steady clients, a few hours a week, a fit model can supplement her income very nicely. Mannequin modeling, in my opinion seems to fall under the category of entertainment more than anything else.
Unlike in the 70’s, these days, with children are coming out of the womb wearing a size 12…there appears to be less of a need to appear to have the body attributes of an actual size 2 mannequin and more about how you look in the clothing you are placed in. I have seen a definite rise in the trend of using plus sized models in this manner to bring more attention to a store…The message seems to be timeless… If you can get them to stop and look at the window…you can get them to come inside. As stores and designers look for new and innovative ways to bring more attention to their businesses, I can definitely see more opportunities for aspiring models in this arena in the future.