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When I first started selling clothes online I figured that getting a mannequin was the holy grail, one of the signs that I was actually a reseller and not just some dude listing his old clothes for sale.
So, naturally, I went out and bought 4 different mannequins to prove to myself how professional I was. Did it help? Well, I make way more money now but I’m not sure it was the mannequins (and I definitely can’t say I’m professional….)
While the mannequins turned out to be great for selling used clothing, they had an even higher calling. Scaring the crap out of my wife. I would routinely dress them up, put a large hat on them, and then go stick them in the driver’s seat of her car. When she went to work she would often run back in to yell at me or throw something in my direction.
Despite my hijinks, we still have 2 of the 4 mannequins that I originally bought, and, in addition to being photographed thousands of times, they have earned nicknames and a place in the family. Now here’s my warning, if you don’t choose the mannequin that you buy very carefully it won’t be around long enough to earn a name. It will either break on its own or you will become so frustrated that you’ll break it yourself.
The “budget” side of the mannequin market is full of crappy and lopsided forms with low-quality stands. So, seriously, unless you have someone telling you from their personal experience which one to buy here are your options: buy one where you can see it in person, or choose one of the following which I can vouch for:
Our criteria for a mannequin:
When we were first in the market for male and female mannequins we didn’t have a lot of stipulations. Mostly because we didn’t know any better. Having used half a dozen by this point I have a slightly more refined sense of what works and what doesn’t. Here are the items I used to narrow down this list:
- Price. Mannequins can be very very expensive. When we were outfitting our fledgling business we needed something that would return the greatest possible ROI. If you sell clothing online I would imagine that you’re in a similar position. So we stuck to options that wouldn’t break the bank.
- Size. One of the problems with buying things online is that, if you don’t pay attention to the measurements, you’re likely to end up with something way smaller than you expected. So it is with mannequins. The base size for many mannequin makers is way too small to be useful for eBay or Poshmark. We only checked out mannequins that were available in an average size range.
- Color. While some Etsy or Poshmark sellers disagree, I recommend that you get a plain white mannequin. I’ve used black mannequins and mannequins with designs and have always found that plain white offers the best picture quality consistently. Some mannequins come with “sleeves” to change the color but, let’s be honest, changing them is too much of a hassle. So get something that is white to begin with.
- Stand Quality. Having a mannequin that won’t stand upright is annoying. The first male mannequin I bought always leaned heavily to the left and I had to adjust the angle of every picture I took with it.
#1 Bonnlo Upgraded Female Dress Form
If you are a reseller that focuses mainly on women’s clothing, this is the mannequin you should get. It is a great price, good quality, looks great, and as in the proper size to be useful for a wide range of clothing. Don’t be tempted to get the cheaper “non-upgraded” version as it is rickety and difficult to use.
#2 AMT Mannequin Male Torso with Black Wood Stand
While I prefer to sell men’s clothing on eBay, finding a mannequin to use was no easy task. The majority of mannequins available are female so I was ecstatic when I tried this one. Good size, decent quality, and a great price make this the best male mannequin for resellers (at least in my humble opinion)
#3 Roxy Display Female Plus Size
Before I had a plus-size mannequin I spent months putting a padded bra on my male mannequin when I was photographing larger items. While it worked, it is so much easier to have this plus-sized mannequin that I can easily dress-undress without issues.
#4 EZ-Mannequins Hollow Back Hanging Form Set
While I no longer use hanging forms such as these (I have enough space that I can afford no to) they were once my go-to for photographing tops. These are a great option for adding dimension and a level of professionalism to your photos. And when you’re done? Just hand them in your closet!
Types of Mannequins:
If you’re into selling clothing (or buying) you’re probably painfully aware that there are a ton of different mannequin types/styles out there. Because we’re trying to maximize our ROI, let’s take a look at the types available (other than the ones above) and see which ones will help your business the most:
Full body: The only time I would recommend a full-body mannequin for selling clothing online is if you either, A: get it for cheap, or B: get it for free. If you do manage to avoid their increased cost they come with another problem: you have to dress the part you aren’t using. It’s unappealing to see a shirt on a half-naked mannequin. But you face the problem of making the outfit work together so the piece your photographing doesn’t look worse than it is. Also, lower half mannequins have very limited usefulness.
Legs only: As I literally just mentioned, lower mannequins aren’t that useful. Skirts and shorts are more easily photographed as a flat-lay and pants are so size-sensitive that it is almost impossible to make them look appealing on a mannequin. Give these a pass.
Hands: If you are a jewelry seller, by all means, get a handequin. Otherwise, I can’t fathom what you’d need one for.
Heads: For the average reseller, a head-mannequin is the only other type I recommend people own besides a torso. They are small, store easily, and can be had super cheap. While they are really only useful for hats and sunglasses, they make both of them look 100x better. Look for a head at a craft store (or Saver’s) after Halloween when you can usually pick them up for $1.
Dress Forms: I’m conflicted about dress forms. On one hand, I’ve used one and it worked well (since you can adjust the size) but, on the other hand, they look terrible. If you have one already or can get one cheap I won’t discourage you. But they would not be my first choice of mannequin for selling clothing online.
Hanging Busts: If you have a limited amount of space, a hanging bust (or a set of them) can be an awesome investment for your reselling hustle. Really just a glorified hanger, they manage to give some depth to your tops and give the buyer a better idea of how it will look on them.
Do I Need a mannequin to sell clothes on eBay or Poshmark?
The obvious answer is, no, you don’t need a mannequin to sell used clothes online. I have swung back and forth many times from not owning a mannequin to only using a mannequin, to only using flat-lays, to only using a mannequin, etc. The reality is that there are so many ways to picture clothing to sell online that you can do extremely well with or without a mannequin. The question, then, is whether or not it’s worth adding a mannequin to your business. That’s a bit more difficult to answer…
- You can take amazing pictures!
- You can provide the customer with a better idea of fit and style (which typically means fewer returns).
- A mannequin (used properly) can make your business look more professional.
- Taking great pictures takes more time and work (dress/undress the mannequin, making sure clothing fits right, etc)
- Storing a mannequin that isn’t being used takes up a good deal of space.
- Clothing can look lumpy if you don’t have the right size of mannequin
- You typically need two genders of mannequin (as opposed to only one gender of hangers)
So, at the end of the day, using a mannequin in your clothing business is really a matter of preference. There are pros and cons but, if it works with your business model and photography style, a mannequin can be a great choice.
Will purchasing a mannequin increase sales?
It might. But it probably won’t. If you have already figured out a solid method for taking pictures, purchasing a mannequin probably won’t make a huge different to your work flow or sales. I noticed an increase in sales when I bought one but it was mostly because buying one was a sign that I was fully dedicating to my business and I was spending more time on it than ever.
Should a mannequin be my first purchase for a reselling business?
Honestly, probably not. You can (and mostly people do) get by for years without a mannequin. We sold well over $100k worth of clothing before we decided that we better get a mannequin to up our game.
If I was looking to scale my eBay business or other reselling side-gig I would invest in a good lighting kit and a thermal printer (for shipping) before going all out and getting a mannequin. However, if you’re looking to grow your business quickly and look professional, a mannequin is a solid way to do it!
So should you get a mannequin? Yes. But remember, a mannequin is just one tool in your toolbox as a resellers. Diversify and conquer! Happy Sales!