Getting real: Mannequins get a makeover - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Getting real: Mannequins get a makeover

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The snow is still falling but there are glimpses of spring. Like at the Ski Rack in Burlington, where the winter goods are coming off and cooler clothes are the focus. But the real stars of these window displays are the mannequins bringing it all together.

"I think mannequins are extremely important," said Michael Valente, a visual merchandiser. "But I'm kind of partial to them."

Valente has changed, rearranged and presented products in displays like this for 40 years. He worked in what is arguably the fashion capital of the world, New York City, for many years, but eventually made his way to Vermont. He now works with several stores around Burlington, including the Ski Rack.

"In a pose it shows what it looks like on a body instead of on a hanger," said Karen George of the Ski Rack.

The mannequins at the Ski Rack are all fit, but they're still different shapes, sizes and ethnicities.

"They're also different ethnic faces," George said. "We're a culture of many different types of people from different backgrounds."

Valente says it's a sign of the times. For years, body forms-- mannequins with no heads, arms or legs-- were popular. But now there's no more one size fits all; mannequins are getting a makeover. They're getting real, reflecting what store customers actually look like.

"They did get very lifelike during the eighties, and then I think we're getting back to that now," Valente said.

That means things like love handles, tattoos and body hair; all are fair game in this realistic marketing tactic. You won't see many mannequins getting their human hair combed or makeup changed around Vermont, but in bigger cities it's all the rage. That's because mannequins are expensive and bigger cities mean bigger stores with bigger budgets.

"It's an expensive prop," Valente said. "It's a fixture."

Valente says the average mannequin costs around $1,000. Ski Rack just invested in this group after 25 years of using the same ones.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Is it worth the investment? People walk by and see the window for a split second.

Michael Valente: That's all you have. And because of that, that's what makes them important.

"If somebody does notice and they can relate to because of their background then that's great. The idea is to allow people to see what's possible and create a vision and mission for themselves," George said.

Quintessential silent sales people bringing displays alive, hoping to make you look twice.

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