How to make a store mannequin

Updated April 17, 2017

Mannequins can be used in many ways. If you like making your own clothes, a mannequin can be used as a form to work from. If you sell jewellery or clothing (online or in your own store) a mannequin will help you to display your goods. Some people use mannequins in windows as theft deterrents. You can save money on a mannequin by making your own using inexpensive materials.

Dress your volunteer. If you want your mannequin to simply be a torso, have your friend dress in a long T-shirt. If you desire more of a full body, have your friend wear a long sleeve t shirt and leggings. This clothing will be cut so make sure it is something you don't mind ruining.

Wrap your volunteer in duct tape. Wrap the duct tape horizontally around your friend's body. Make sure it is tight enough to fit to the body, but not too tight so as to squeeze or distort the body shape. Make sure the duct tape covers the entire torso and arms and legs (if applicable, stopping at the wrists and ankles). Only tape the areas that the T-shirt and leggings are touching to ensure the tape doesn't stick to the skin. Tape one additional layer of duct tape over the first layer to enhance the strength and shape of your mannequin.

Cut off the duct tape shell. Make sure to cut the shell down the right and left sides of the body as opposed to down the front and back. This will allow for easy removal. When cutting the duct tape, be sure to cut the T-shirt and leggings as well and take care not to cut your friend's skin or undergarments. Carefully pull the shell off your friend once both sides have been cut.

Stuff the T-shirt and leggings inside the form and tape the shell back together in the shape of your friend's body.

Stuff the form. Add strength to the form by stuffing it with wadded up paper or cotton batting. Make sure to pack the stuffing tight enough that it fills in all the cavities--you want it to strengthen the form, but not bulge out of it.

Tape up all the openings with duct tape.

Add other features. If you desire a neck and head, or hands and feet, you can build them by hand with crumpled-up paper. Simply crumple and squeeze paper into the desired shapes and tape them to the body in the appropriate areas. Tape over the shapes with duct tape to add continuity.

Cover the form with papier-mâché. Some people may be happy with a simple duct tape mannequin, but for a more finished look, you can cover the mannequin with papier-mâché. To do this, mix 240 ml (1 cup) of flour with 480 ml (2 cups) of water. Cover your entire mannequin with strips of torn newspaper dipped in the mixture, smoothing it with your hands as you go. Allow it to dry completely. Add another layer of papier-mâché for a stronger mannequin.

Sand bumpy spots. If you are not happy with the texture of the papier-mâché, you can use a fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots. Do this only after the papier-mâché has thoroughly dried.

Paint your mannequin. This will give it a finished look. Use a paintbrush with acrylic paint. You may choose to paint the entire mannequin one solid colour, or add facial details such as eyes and lips.


Make sure to let the papier-mâché layers dry thoroughly to prevent mould.

Things You'll Need

  • A volunteer friend
  • Cotton T-shirt
  • Cotton leggings
  • Two 60-metre rolls of duct tape
  • Scissors
  • 4 large newspapers (such as the Sunday paper), 3 ripped into 2.5-cm (1-inch) strips and 1 reserved for crumpling
  • Cotton batting
  • 240 ml (1 cup) flour
  • 480 ml (2 cups) water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Acrylic paints
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About the Author

Stacy Tabb began writing in 2001, specializing in business and human resources. She has written web content and other communication materials for a large Fortune 500 company. She spent two years at Northeastern University's School of Journalism before completing her bachelor's degree in psychology at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.