The Mannequin In The Shop Window — a short story for English reading and speaking

The Mannequin In The Shop Window blog pic-min


What is a shop window mannequin?

What do you think of these things?

Could a mannequin come to life?

If so, how?

The Mannequin In The Window

Edith worked in a department store in the city centre.

It had a good name, and it was Edith’s first job since graduating from college.

She was happy to be there. She liked the store, and she liked the people she worked with.

And she liked her job.

She was a junior window dresser, which meant she had to dress the shop window mannequins in the latest fashion items in the store.

Edith started out working in the women’s fashion department. She worked under the department manager; an older woman who took Edith under her wing.

She showed Edith how to dress the mannequins. How to make the display look special.

“We must treat the mannequins with respect,” said the manager. “Treat them as if they were human beings.”

Edith found this a little odd, but did as she was asked.

Now she had the opportunity to dress the window all by herself.

She regarded this as a big step up and took to it with great passion.

At home, Edith would plan out all the displays that she wanted to do for the following week. She would make detailed sketches of what she had in her mind’s eye.

Then at night, after the store closed, Edith got to work in the shop window.

She would often finish late in the evening, sometimes not getting home until well after midnight.

The more Edith worked with the mannequins, the more she became engaged with them.

The manager’s words started to ring somewhat true in that the mannequins, despite being made of plastic, did have an inherent human quality about them.

Edith would dress one particular mannequin and would marvel at the smoothness of her skin. Not real skin, of course, but alone at night in the shop window, with no other people outside on the darkened street, it appeared flawless and smooth.

Even the expressions on the mannequin’s faces. It was like they expressed real human emotions.

There was one particular mannequin that Edith liked to dress. She gave her a name; she called her Olivia. It seemed to suit her.

There were times when it looked as if Olivia were smiling. Not a big broad smile, but just something in the way her lips turned up a little at the corner.

Then other times when Olivia had a look of concern on her face. Like her eyebrows and brow were merging just above her perfect nose.

Edith knew all this was silly, but it helped to pass the time in the long nights as she dressed the window of the store.

Then one night she was in the window, dressing the mannequins. She saw a note written in the window.

The traces of some words were left in the condensation on the glass.

Edith could make out one or two letters, but that was all. She could not actually read the entire note.

She glanced over at Olivia and she swore she could see her smiling back at her. A little twinkle in her eye, as if this were a secret between the two of them.

The next day she told the manager. But the older woman just smiled back at her.

Edith was unsure whether she wanted to continue dressing the shop window alone at night.

But she liked working in the store. And something compelled her to do it.

She was attracted to the mannequins, and in particular to Olivia. It was like she knew her as a person.

Another evening came when she had to dress the window and Edith stayed on the shop floor as the customers gradually made their way out.

Security guards ushered the last remaining customers outside and finally, it was just Edith and the manager.

“Will you be all right this evening, Edith?” asked the manager.

Edith didn’t want to appear stupid or unable to do her job, so she replied quickly.

“Yes, of course. I like to do it. It’s fun, and the work is very interesting.”

The manager gave her a smile, put on her jacket and waved good night.

Edith was alone on the shop floor.

She went to the window and saw the outline of the mannequins under the street lighting outside.

She quickly glanced at Olivia’s face and saw that she had a dark, cloudy expression. She forced herself to not pay any notice to it and got to work dressing the window.

As Edith struggled to try to put a shirt sleeve over Olivia’s arm, she heard her breathing.

She didn’t want to look up, but she forced herself to do so.

And then Olivia turned her face to look directly at Edith.

“Hello Edith,” she said.

Edith staggered back. She could not believe her ears.

She shook her head, trying to clear the bizarre thoughts from her mind.

“Edith,” said Olivia.

Edith looked back up into Olivia’s face like she had no control over her own movements.

“You’re alive,” said Edith with a gasp.

“Of course I am,” said Olivia. “As alive as you are.”

Olivia reached out her hand to touch Edith on her arm. The touch felt warm and soft. It felt real. Like a real person.

Then Olivia stepped down from the stand that held her upright as a mannequin and embraced Edith.

The next day, the manager came to work in the morning.

Knowing that the store window had been dressed the night before, she walked past to make an appraisal. It looked wonderful.

The new girl was doing a great job. She made the mannequins in the window look like they were real people.

One mannequin in the corner had an almost sad look on her face.

The manager walked into the store and up to the women’s fashion department. The new girl had already arrived. She was such a hard worker.

“Good morning, Olivia,” said the manager. “I like the new window display. Is that a new mannequin I see there?”

Olivia smiled. “Yes, it is. I’ve called her Edith.”

Reading Comprehension Questions

Who is the main character in this story?

Where does the story take place?

What job does Edith do?

Is Edith still a student?

Which department does Edith work in?

Who else works in the department with her?

How does the manager feel about the mannequins?

Does Edith like dressing the mannequins?

How does she prepare her work?

What time of day does Edith dress the window of the store?

What time does she get home?

What name does Edith give one of the mannequins?

What human qualities does Edith notice about the mannequins?

What does Edith see in the window one night?

Does she mention this to the manager?

What clothing item is Edith putting on the mannequin towards the end of the story?

Does the mannequin talk to Edith?

What does it say?

How does Edith react?

Does the mannequin make physical contact with Edith?

How does Edith feel about this?

Does the manager often look in the shop window?

Who is the new girl working in the store?

What is her name?

Essential Vocabulary

department store



window dresser






human beings




big step up




mind’s eye



to ring true



human quality






to suit her

broad smile


turned up

















security guards




shirt sleeve










Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:


Department Store — a large retail establishment that sells a wide variety of goods.

Graduatingin the process of completing a grade in education either at school or university.


Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase correctly.


There is a great department store in the centre of town where we buy all the things we need for our house.


I will be graduating from college this June and then I will start looking for a job.


Do this with all the vocabulary and, over time, this will help improve all your English skills — reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Discussion Questions

What do you think of this story?

What happens at the end of this story?

How is it possible for a mannequin to come alive?

Do you work in a department store? Have you worked in a department store?

Would you like to work in a department store?

What do you think would be the good and bad things about working in a department store?

Edith seems to like her job very much. Why do you think this is so? What is so special about the work she does?

The manager in the store says: “Treat the mannequins as if they were human beings”.

What do you think she means about this?

Do you agree with this?

Why would Edith want to do this?

What do you think of the manager in the story? Does she have some special relationship with the mannequins?

After some time working with the mannequins, Edith’s feelings about working with the mannequins change.

Why is this?

What do you think happened to cause this?

Do you think it is possible to have some kind of emotional feeling towards an inanimate object? Why/why not?

Have you ever had a feeling like this?

What about when you were a young child?

Why did this happen?

Edith gives one of the mannequins a name, Olivia.

Why do you think she did this?

What does this say about Edith as a person?

Do you think something has happened to her emotionally or mentally?

Edith finds the remnants of a note left in the window.

How would you feel if you saw a note written in condensation like this?

What kind of feelings would you have? Fear? Curiosity?

When Edith tells the manager about the note, she just smiles.

What does this smile mean, do you think?

At this stage, would you have still continued dressing the window late at night and all alone? Why/why not?

Olivia, the mannequin, starts to talk to Edith.

How would you react if this happened to you? What would you do exactly?

What feelings would you have about it? Fear? Fascination? Excitement?

What do you think Olivia means when she says to Edith: “As alive as you are”.

Do you think Olivia was always alive?

Or was Edith just imagining it?

How would you feel if you were Edith when Olivia embraces her?

Would you embrace her too?

Or shove her away?

Why did the new mannequin have a sad look on her face in the morning?

Is it important to create displays in the window of a department store? Why?

Why are mannequins still used in store windows after so many years?

Do you believe in the supernatural? Do you think inanimate objects can come to life?

Do you know any stories like this in your own culture or country?


This is a creative writing exercise.


You are going to write a flash fiction story. The story can be around 500 words long.

The title of the story is:


From Flesh To Plastic


In the story in the lesson plan, Edith works with shop window mannequins. She meets one particular mannequin, called Olivia, who has very human qualities.

Olivia comes to life and embraces Edith.


Write a story about Edith’s transformation from a living human being to a mannequin stuck in the shop window. Unable to speak and unable to move.

But she can still think.

Write a story about this.


When you have finished writing your story, read it out loud in front of your classmates.

Or give it to your teacher for review.

You can download the full lesson plan by clicking the link below!

You can also join my mailing list by clicking the link below. I will send you new guides, articles and lesson plans when I publish them.

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