Using Mannequins Vs. Models – The Good, The Bad And The Invisible

If you’re in the fashion industry you know that first impressions count for a lot and appearance is almost everything. To help make your clothes as appealing as possible, you need to show them in their best light, figuratively and literally.

This is where the question of whether to use a mannequin or real models comes in.

And, that is precisely what this blog post is all about, discussing the pros, cons and the in-betweens of when to use a mannequin vs models and the various elements and deciding factors that come into play when displaying fashion.


Although mannequins have come a long way, even the most life-like ones cannot compete with the natural look and feel of a model sporting your creations. This can engage a viewer before they even see the clothes.

The right model will accentuate the clothing they are wearing; helping people to see exactly what it looks like and what it should look like when being worn making the item much more realistic.

This is in stark contrast to a mannequin: Even with careful dressing the clothes will simply sit on the mannequin, almost as though on a hanger. You could use 3D imagery and special-effects but no matter how good your re-touching skills, a mannequin cannot compete with a real model in terms of realism.


There’s a strange pleasure in the known, the familiar which is why a model can make the item much more appealing by making it more relatable. Your potential customers can see themselves in the clothing and therefore increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

This is much harder to achieve with a mannequin; especially if you use a mannequin without a head.


The internet has brought shops directly into your home and now video of models sporting the clothes isn’t all that uncommon. This is a fantastic tool when marketing fashion clothing as people want to see how an item moves and what the potential fit might be like.

You can achieve this with a video and a live model only and as mentioned above, no amount of special effects can help mannequins deliver that same feeling.


Of course, one of the downsides of using models is that they tend to cost a fair bit more than using mannequins. You have to account not just for the model’s time but as often as not, also the cost of other team members such as make-up artists and other ‘essential’ staff.

You’ll also need a dedicated fashion photography studio and perhaps some props to complete the picture.

All of these dramatically increase the cost in comparison to a mannequin and this is one of the few areas where a mannequin wins (no) hands down!

Of course, this isn’t to imply that mannequins come for free. Unless you already have a few in stock, you will need to rent one or more and they can be surprisingly expensive; the better the quality of the mannequin the higher the cost.

Mannequins don’t need make-up artists but they do need stylists and you will need to dress them with the same attention-to-detail to help make the clothes fit and look their best.

When you put all of that together, you will generally find that using mannequins are approx. 30% cheaper compared to models.


When you don’t have a lot of time you can squeeze a mannequin photo shoot into the evening or even overnight. Timing and/or availability with models may not be as flexible of course.

You’ll also need less time to prep your mannequin; helping you to get the job done when you need to.

Also bear in mind that models require a huge number of shots. This is because there are so many different poses that can be adopted you’re likely to continue until you find the perfect one. In contrast the mannequin has a very limited array of poses; you’ll take far fewer photos.

Attention Focused On Clothes

There are plenty of people who say that a live model detracts from the beauty and the style of the fashion clothing. The benefit of a mannequin is that they allow you to see the clothing and not the person.

Models tend to be very attractive; making it very easy to focus on them more than what they are wearing. This is one of those times that negates the purpose of using beautiful people as models in the first place as perceived sales may not always be higher. Then there’s also the question of...

The Look

Is it possible for someone to love a new item of clothing but not to want to buy it because of the model wearing it? You better believe it is.

We’re all judgemental by our very nature and personal preference can manifest in a number of ways including a dislike of the specific model. Another example is when the model reminds you of someone you don’t like. This will create a negative image of the clothing and is likely to prevent the sale.

In this respect the mannequin may actually be the better choice.

Getting The Figure Right

When you’re trying to appeal to a wide genre of people you are likely to feel that live models are the only way to go. A mannequin generally accentuates the human form; showing just how good an item can look.

However, unless you’re blessed with the same figure you’re likely to question whether the clothing will really suit you or not. With a live model or even a number of them this is less likely to be an issue.


A relatively new concept is the idea of shooting on a mannequin and then removing the mannequin from the picture. This gives the same 3D effect as a mannequin or a model but without any distractions. It can help to make the clothing more relatable and at the same time, retain the clothing’s fit and flair.

The same process can be completed with live models but this is generally not practiced which makes sense.

Removing the mannequin can add a playful nature to the clothes but it is still limited by the ability of the mannequin to only move in certain ways.


So, there you have it.

We hope this article gives you a much better idea on the advantages and disadvantages on the various ways you can have your clothing displayed for sale. Of course, if you need any help, you can always get in touch with us for a free consultation.