Mannequin Madness (Part I)

Mannequins are essential display tools in the fashion world, but they have one big drawback:   Unless you’re a size 0 or 2, they don’t have much in common with your own measurements.    Seeing something on a mannequin can be totally misleading as to how it will actually appear on an average-sized human being.

This isn’t a huge problem if you’re shopping in person, because you can look at the skinny mannequin and immediately realize that it’s not remotely your own size.   Additionally, you can look at the backside and see where excess “real-people” clothing has been pulled back and pinned.

When shopping online, though, it’s very easy to make invalid assumptions about items displayed on mannequins.     In most cases the retailer isn’t intentionally trying to mislead you, he’s simply using a human-shaped hanger, i.e., mannequin, to to show an item in 3-D.    It’s your responsibility as the shopper to interpret the display in such a way that you can make good buying choices.

The best way to buy wisely is to have as much information as possible and use it actively.   Being able to recite the dimensions of a scarf or blouse is useless if you don’t know how those measures compare to your own.

Scarf on Mannequin(1)In the example here **, we see a scarf wrapped shawl style around a mannequin and, seeing it displayed in that manner, we make some subconscious judgments about its size.    Being the savvy shoppers that we are, though, we start looking at all the information on the page.   Because we’re actively reading and not just moving our eyes, we find an important piece of information.  The scarf is 34 inches x 33 inches.   Hm-m.   A red flag just went up.    It’s a large scarf, but not necessarily wrap-around size.

Unfortunately they didn’t give the diagonal measure, but if we grudgingly pull out our old school math, we’ll remember the ever-present triangle with its a2+b2=c2 message.  Grab an old-fashioned calculator and you’ll quickly discover that the hypotenuse (diagonal) is 47.38 inches.   (If math gives you a panic attack, simply take your indispensable tape measure, mark out two lines equal to the sides, and then measure between the two end points.)     We don’t need NASA-worthy mathematical certainty, only a reasonably close idea of how long that diagonal is, and now we know that  it’s in the 47-48 inch range.

The next step is to take the tape measure and wrap it around yourself in the same manner as the photo.    Where does the 48-inch marker come?   Unless you wear a very small size, you can see that this scarf will not wrap around you the same way that it does on this mannequin.    If you were planning to wear it the same way, you’ve just avoided a disappointment.

Knowing that we can’t wear the scarf the same way the mannequin is doesn’t automatically mean that we therefore shouldn’t buy it.    Unfortunately, this beautiful scarf is no longer available, but it has multiple rich colors and could have accessorized many different outfits.    It could have been draped or wrapped around your neck, tucked into the neckline of your winter coat, or, if you have a small enough waist, tied around your middle.    What we needed to know, though, was that we weren’t going to be wearing it like the mannequin was.   Savvy shopping is exactly this — buying with your eyes wide open.

Next month we’ll finish discussing this topic in Mannequin Madness (Part II).    Until then, remember that avoiding unpleasant surprises and saving money is what savvy shopping is all about.

 See you next month.

SS Signature

** The scarf in the illustration was originally offered at

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