Don’t Need No Doctor: A Prescription for Mannequin Fever

mannequins with colorful tuxedo vests in storefront window, DuBois, PA
Dressed to impress. Mannequins all set for prom, heads optional.

If you’re like most, you can’t even remember when or where the fever set in. A trip to the department store with Mom, perhaps—that’s where I caught it—or glanced from the corner of the eye while hustling down a busy sidewalk past downtown shop windows.

Figures, stiff and lifeless with contorted expressions and abstracted features frozen mid-pose, draped in seasonal attire or modeling hats and jewelry. Not people, but also not not people, mannequins are no simple clothes hangers in 3-D. Mannequins lead strange existences like harmless exhibitionist vampires—caught in an eternal state somewhere between alive and dead, real and imagined, naked and clothed, a waking dream and a living nightmare.

purple mannequin torso in green overgrowth
A raspberry mannequin in her natural habitat
mannequin dressed as Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty, mannequin style

One can be excused for thinking mannequin fever only expresses itself within the world of retail apparel. I’m not going to lie, when your author is jonesing and it’s been a while he’ll take a stroll into a Marshall’s, Gabe’s, or Target’s just to take the edge off. It’s a good idea to have one’s local vintage shops in poking distance during a fallow period.

Sure, that’ll get you through, but the real fever kicks in when you’re well out-of-range of sterile department store fluorescent lights and the ringing of cash registers. We’re talking about the not-quite-beating heart of Mannequin Nation.

wig store window with many mannquin heads and painting of Santa Claus
Forget eight tiny reindeer, Santa’s got dozens of mannequins ready to party!
female mannequin of front deck of wooden house
Nothing creepy here. On the lookout with a vacant stare at Lobo’s Lair.

Dozens of mannequin heads stacked cheek-to-jowl in the front window of a wig store. Headless mannequins dressed in patriotic red, white, and blue finery. Like something out of a cable TV crime drama, a lone female model, dressed for summer sun, on the front deck of a house literally down by the river with a sign reading Lobo’s Lair.

You don’t need a head—or a brain—to love America!
male mannequin wearing black and gold leather underwear
Let’s go Steelers!

Mannequins cheer on the Pittsburgh Steelers—in their own way—and advertise political candidates on crime scene cleanup coveralls. (“Shut up and do your job!”) Mannequins hawk vape store offerings—like we need another reason to try Juul strawberry lemondade e-cigs, am I right? Along with the rest of us, mannequins have their own pandemic concerns to worry about and get left out on the curb for big garbage day.

storefront with two mannequins wearing full-body hazard suits
Send in the clones
sculpture made from mannequin torso with large white wig
Mannequin art!

Bored fashion mannequins—hey, you’d be bored too if you had to sit still for months at a time!—wait to catch the eyes of sidewalk strollers. Arty mannequins with paint-cracked skin, ridiculous wigs, and detached hands look for a whole different type of attention. Mannequins are relegated to the side porch with the cat box and dumped in construction sites like stool pigeons who’ve squawked for the last time.

painted mannequin boy left on curbside
Been there! Mannequin left out for the trash
mannequin dressed in banana costume holding sign for vape shop
Vape shop banana mannequin, a “bananaquin”

One more note for the heads (ha!): no discussion of Pittsburgh-area mannequin fever should leave out Randyland—the city’s grand buffet of mutant mannequins. The central North Side artvironment has a little bit of everything and whole lot of over-the-top. That includes mannequins—available any time you need them—hand painted, accessorized, and ready to party. A must, when you’ve got the fever.

man posing behind painted mannequin heads
Mannequins as far as the eye can see. Randyland, Pittsburgh’s mannequin central.
six mannequin midriffs on shelving
Mannequin midriffs, on sale
mannequin heads with protective face shields in storefront window
That’s not six feet apart! Mannequins get Covid-safe.
pair of mannequin heads with wigs and white lipstick
White lips passing in the night
five mannequin heads, each with a long wig, in storefront window
Bored mannequins with long haircuts floating in space
mannequin torso and cat box on porch of house
Still life with mannequin and cat box
mannequins dressed in vintage formal wear in storefront window
Mannequins all set for their dreamy music video
storefront mannequin dressed with bikini top and carnival mask

mannequin lower torso with golden bikini bottom and yellow sashes
Hey, it’s carnival time!

Lastly, a big shout-out to our sister blog The Portland Orbit whose recent story Whatever Happened to Mannequin Fever? got us up off the thinkin’ chair and digging through the archives for a suitable answer post, many years in the making.

mannequin left in muddy water of construction site
Mannequin hit job