“I just get the biggest kick out of looking at her every day,” said Dee Gulledge, who works at the Veteran’s Affairs Clinic in Moab. She was talking about Sheila, a stylish mannequin on display in a neighborhood yard near Rotary Park that Gulledge passes on her way home from work. Sheila sports a rotating wardrobe of exuberant outfits and has a penchant for sequins, bright colors, and animal prints.
JoAnn Miller said she started dressing the mannequin on a whim in mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic was prompting strict shut-downs.
“It was right when quarantine started,” Miller remembered. “I didn’t have work, I didn’t have anything to do all day.”
One of Miller’s housemates had earlier found the mannequin in a bin of free items in Telluride, and, amused, brought it back to Moab. In March, Miller had just returned from an international trip and had been planning on beginning work as a server in a local restaurant, but the restaurant was closed under public health guidelines. With free time on her hands and a quirky sense of humor, Miller dressed the mannequin in a costume appropriate for a Renaissance Festival and set her up in view of the road. She was surprised by the response from passersby.
“People honk, people stop and take pictures with her,” Miller said. “I’ve had people who’ve tried to buy the outfits off the mannequin, people who’ve tried to buy the mannequin itself.”
Those reactions encouraged Miller to continue designing new looks for the mannequin, whom she and her housemates had taken to calling Sheila. Miller started changing Sheila’s outfit every day, drawing from a collection of unique and interesting clothing.
“I really love costuming and costume clothes, so I have an excessive amount,” she said, adding that Sheila is bold enough to wear some items Miller isn’t sure she would actually wear herself.
Neighbors continued to express their appreciation for the display, so Miller carried on.
“I just kept doing it, ’cause it’s hilarious,” she said. She was glad to spread that light humor to others as well, giving people a glimpse of something surprising, expressive and fun.
“Knowing that it was making people’s day was a huge impetus to keep doing it,” Miller said. “I think people really needed that in the last couple of months.”
Miller described Sheila’s style as “’90s disco party clothes.” Sometimes formal, sometimes playful, Sheila’s been seen wearing a fur vest, rainbow bikini bottoms, and scuba goggles in various ensembles.
“It makes my day, it brings a smile to me when I go home,” said Gulledge, who didn’t know who was behind the mannequin when she spoke about it. “I think they’re brightening more people’s day than they may realize,” she said, “and I love it.”