Model Employees

Fascinated by the figures we found at Carson’s, we set out to learn the story (and the fate) of the department store’s attention-grabbing mannequins.

They stand in the window displays dotting Meridian Street, fabulously dressed, and somehow looking timeless and futuristic at the same time. Up in the mezzanine of the men’s department, among the suits, there are more dapper-looking figures with perfectly coiffed hair, full lips, and striking life-like features. They might have caught your eye a time or two if you were in the Carson Pirie Scott department store, affectionately called Carson’s, in downtown Indianapolis.

Yes, we’re talking about mannequins, and not your run-of-the-mill ones with amorphous figures and no eyes you pass as you walk in the door. We feel almost sentimental about losing these items now that we’ve learned Carson’s will be closing this spring.

Our curiosity began when we’d heard a range of tales about these sacred mannequins. Maybe they were from the old Ayres’ days? Were they fashioned out of wood? Why do they always seem to catch the eye of casual shoppers among them? Honestly, we didn’t know what to believe—and we weren’t even sure why it was important to us—so we went on a mission to find out just a little about them before they leave us.

Just consider about how many mannequins you’ve seen in stores, malls, and even art classes. (Now, don’t think about that Twilight Zone episode where the mannequin comes alive because that’s a touch unsettling.) We discovered through our internet journey that mannequins are a big business, but honestly, we only care about our mannequins. So, we reached out to Natalie McIntire at Carson’s, who works in the visual merchandising department, and found out these  mannequins have set themselves apart from all of the others (in their store and other stores) because they are Ralph Pucci mannequins. Based out of New York City, Ralph Pucci International has specialized in luxury furniture, lighting, and mannequins since the 1950s. As to their artistic mannequins, they have worked with supermodels and fashion designers, they have books about them, catalogs, and exhibitions … this brand of mannequin appears to be an industry gold standard and they only end up in top-tier establishments.

But what about the Ralph Pucci mannequins inside Carson’s? Do they have names? How old are they? What will happen to them when the doors close? McIntire shared with us they’re from the ’90s and are holdovers from when the store was Parisian at best (so much from hoping they were from Ayres, or even before that). They’re made out of plaster, and names like Martin, Leander, Hamilton, and Leander (yes, there are multiple Leanders) are imprinted on the shoulder hinges. Fancy a Leander (or two) of your own? The mannequins will be auctioned off at the store right before it finally closes.

Honestly, maybe we will go to auction and get one. We could place one of them in a hallway here and admire this oddity, maybe even share story ideas with him. Or just maybe we want one so we can remember Carson’s before it closed and left a hole in the center of downtown Indianapolis. I guess we can pinpoint why we’re sentimental after all.

While contemplating your mannequin purchase, enjoy a mini-documentary on the story behind the mannequins produced by Ralph Pucci: