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Mannequins' job a long study of still life

Published Oct. 18, 2005

The mannequin blinked, then broke into a smile. The man on the other side of the store window grinned, waved and walked away. He had won. He had brought a mannequin to life.

It was the day of the living mannequins at Countryside Mall.

What sounds like a low-budget horror film is happening regularly throughout area malls, including Tyrone Square Mall. People are posing as department store dummies.

It's called mannequin modeling, or freeze modeling. And it's not easy, especially if you are wearing only a towel as Sharon Nolan and Sandra Tupper were recently.

The two members of Countryside Mall's Fashion Troupe had to stand stock-still in the window of Bath and Boudoir Fashions looking as if they had just stepped out of the shower.

A crowd gathered.

"It brought a lot of attention to our end of the mall," said Joan Hughes, the store's manager. "I had so many people walking by you wouldn't believe it."

Not all of them were interested in buying towels.

"I thought people were just sitting there to see if the towel was going to slip," Tupper said.

One man thought he might be able to hurry things along a little.

"There was one fellow we had to kind of tell him to leave," Mrs. Hughes said.

But the two women survived the four-hour ordeal with their towels intact. And now they laugh about it.

Most of the fashion troupe's assignments aren't so potentially embarrassing _ they do runway modeling as well _ but they get the most attention when they make like mannequins.

Some of the models are so good they have people wondering whether they are real.

"People will stop and look at you and try to figure out if you are real," said Geoff Henderlong, another member of the Countryside Mall Fashion Troupe.

They even ask their companions for opinions.

" "You think she's real?' Then they will reach up and touch you and say, "She's warm. She's real,' " Mrs. Nolan said, recounting a typical conversation.

Once people realize the models are real people perched on the platforms, the onlookers often do their best to try to make the models break their pose.

"They will get right into your face," Carol Hagenau said. "I had one guy actually throw himself against the store (window)."

Desiree Fleming, who coordinates the mall's fashion troupe, has taught the 20 members tricks to help them maintain their pose and ignore the agitators.

She aims for the "You are there, but you aren't really there" look, she said.

To maintain that, she has them pick a spot in the distance to stare at.

"I am a good daydreamer. I will daze out," said Randall Jones. "Sometimes you feel like you are looking through them."