I Do Windows

The Role of the Visual Merchandiser

Posted in Fashion 49, Learn from the Pros by Arcadia on August 25, 2011

The number one question I get asked by students is, “how do you get a job in display doing windows?”  Getting on the window crew of a major retailer is fantastic if you’re lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, but most newbies will start out as a “trimmer” or display artist doing the in-store displays.  That’s when I see the faces drop!

I feel I need to explain that “doing windows” is only one part of the job, there are so many other duties that fall under the responsibility of the visual merchandiser.  I love knowing that the entire look of the store falls under my domain!  Perhaps when you grasp that, you won’t be so forlorn when you don’t get put on the window team right away.  I actually only did windows for the small chain stores I worked for, the big department store had me doing Cosmetics, Juniors, all the Accessories, Lingerie and sometimes the Kids Dept.  I really let my skills show in the Cosmetics Department!

The role of the visual merchandiser is not only to make the store pretty, and dress mannequins.  You also work with the buyers, do a complete floor layout of new merchandise, maintain the standards of the store, replenish merchandise when needed, and make sure all the signage in every department is correct, in addition to making sure the in-store displays and windows are clean and presentable.  Oh – did I forget to mention staff meetings, and meetings with the Department Managers on the visual standards for their respective areas.

While you’re running around doing all this with your feather duster, scissors, pins, hammer, and glue gun, the General Manager is wondering why sales are down.  This is where you come in again.  We contribute to sales too!  How?  By creating displays that are so attractive people want to come into our store; in-store displays that make them want to shop, and an ambience that makes them want to stay.  It is definitely our job to help increase sales, for without which, we would be out of one!  Keep in mind the fashion merchandising team will take all the credit for when sales are really good ;).

I’ve had a few run-ins with the sales staff, but I know my role is to be understanding, patient, dependable, and hard-working, on top of being creative.


(image via: Bestof NJ)

It’s been “Back to School” for me

Posted in Fashion 49 by Arcadia on August 25, 2011

Wow, what a “Back to School” week it’s been!!!!  It started with one of my teachers quitting at the last minute in the construction program I manage (I now have to cover those classes in addition to my own teaching load), my cell phone going kaput (no time to go buy a new one), and I have new fashion class this semester, FASH 50 – Runway: The Business of Modeling, with over 50 students!  I’m just now coming up for air :).  I will admit, in this economy, I am beyond grateful to be really busy rather than not all.

Have a great school year!



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How to dress a mannequin

Posted in Mannequins by Arcadia on August 8, 2011

This post prompted me to do one on dressing mannequins, and to my students it’s actually question #53 on the final (providing I don’t change it).

Before I give my instructions, how about a little challenge:

(taken from the final exam)

53.  Please number from 1 to 8

  • Turn back to upright position
  • Add shoes
  • Finish dressing and styling mannequin
  • Pull on pants and shorts
  • Add the undergarments first if needed
  • All clothing should be pressed or steamed
  • Separate the legs from the torso and turn upside down
  • Slide arms through sleeves, one at a time, and attach to torso

How did you do?

I get a variety of numerical orders for answers, and certainly, the way I dress a mannequin could be slightly different from my co-worker, but some steps you obviously have to do before others.

1.  Make sure all clothing is steamed or pressed.  Remove price tags and re-attach them with your Kimble gun to a less conspicuous place.  Don’t remove them and save them in mannequin clothing book?!?  My old boss used to do that, the tags always ended up lost, and sales people hate that.  Always keep the price tags with the garment, attached through a seam, or the name tag at the back of the garment.

2.  Detach the legs from the torso (or upper body) of the mannequin.  If you’ve never worked with one before, keep in mind mannequins are a tiny bit heavy, and awkward. Twist the torso and pull it up.  Once you have the legs separated, turn them upside down.  You might notice on some mannequins even the legs can be separated from each other, this makes it easier for slipping on pants when you have a mannequin that does an elaborate pose.

3.  Add the undergarments first, if your choice of outfit requires it, such as tights, put on socks too if needed, now pull on the pants or shorts.  Sometimes you can add the shoes at this point too if they will stay securely in place.

4.  Turn the legs back upright and re-attach to the torso.  I also at this point will put it back on its base so it’s standing on its own, fix the pants or shorts.

[What if it’s a skirt or dress?  With the mannequin standing upright on its base.  I remove the arms from the torso and slide garment over the head of the mannequin, then slide the arms through the sleeves if it’s a dress, and re-attach to the torso.]

5.  Detach the arms from the torso, you will notice a seam at the hands too.  Pull the hands off.  Carefully slide the arms through the sleeve of the shirt, then re-attach the arm to the torso.  Do the same with the other side.  Re-attach the hands.

6.  Re-attach the torso to the legs.  Can you put the shirt on with the torso already attached to the legs?  Of course, just remove the arms and separate the hands.

7.  Finish dressing and styling your mannequin, pay attention to detail, keep those garment tags tucked in and out of sight!  View your mannequin from all angles, especially the view your customers are going see.

8.  Add shoes.  I don’t know why, but I always add shoes last.  You don’t have to but I do; with the mannequin secured on its base I grab a coworker to slightly lift my manny while I slide on the shoes.

This was a quick and easy rundown of dressing a mannequin.  I have even been known to completely lay my manny on a table and dress it that way – whatever gets the job done!

Points to remember:

  • Don’t dress your mannequin on the sales floor.  Take it to the studio or a back room.  Don’t ask me why, but customers get offended at the sight of a naked manny!
  • Make sure your manny is clean and dust free.  Wipe it down if needed before dressing it.
  • The limbs ARE NOT interchangeable with other mannequins.
  • Don’t re-paint the face of your mannequin yourself, leave it to the professionals who specialize in this.

Feel free to share your tips!

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My Pet Peeve!

Posted in Discuss This Display, Mannequins by Arcadia on August 4, 2011

This week I’ve actually been researching US retailers that have recently opened up store oversees (i.e Forever 21) and how more and more of them are doing so.  While perusing the various sites I came across this photo by a fashion blogger who was being shown around a particular showroom:

Who can tell me what’s wrong with this picture?  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, next to garbage being left by displays!  It only takes seconds to fix and anyone can do it.  Every morning on my walk-thru I would go around fixing this on displays.

If I were an owner who is letting a fashion blogger take photos of my designs for their site, I would want everything shown at it’s best!

I am putting my “US retailers oversees” story on hold and I’ve just been inspired to do my next post on dressing mannequins!

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