A couple of days ago, Becky Hopper tweeted a photo of her friend (size UK 8-10) standing next to an exaggeratedly skinny Topshop mannequin. It has been retweeted thousands of times so far and become the subject of a fierce debate over an unrealistic body image so willingly promoted by high street stores (Photo above: Twitter/Becky Hopper). The mannequin thighs measured only 14 inches at the widest part which is slightly over half the size of Becky’s friend (22 inches).
In response, Topshop issued a disappointing statement saying that mannequins they use “are not meant to be compared with real women”. Really? As representations of women, mannequins inevitably reflect the idea of what a woman’s body should look like! They also added: “The mannequin in question has been used in stores the past four years and is based on a standard UK size 10. The overall height, at 187cm, is taller than the average girl and the form is a stylised one to have more impact in store and create a visual focus”. It takes some nerve, and a special kind of detachment from reality, to claim that they “made it a priority to showcase a healthy size image”. Is it really sending the right message? Especially when the average British woman is a size 16 and stands at 163cm. Also, it’s estimated that more than 1.5 million people in the UK, of which nearly 90% are female, have an eating disorder and one in five girls (aged 7 to 11) has been on a diet. That is frankly a horrifying figure!
Shockingly thin Topshop mannequin sparks outrage | Fashion Miroir Blog
Many other clothing stores have been criticized for perpetuating unrealistic expectations about women’s bodies. Manhattan lingerie store La Perla has come under fire earlier this year after using super skinny mannequins with exposed ribs. Back in July, Mel Fraser shared a Twitter picture showing a mannequin with protruding ribs used to sell bikinis in Primark stores. Following complaints, Primark promptly withdraw thin mannequins from its window displays. In October, “The Perfect Body” campaign by Victoria’s Secret was slammed for failing to promote the diversity of women’s body shapes and choosing to call only one body type “perfect”. Recently, American retailer Walmart released an apology after labelling plus-size women’s Halloween costumes as “Fat Girls’ Costumes”.
So far, Debenhams has made a step forward in addressing diversity in fashion by introducing size 16 mannequins in 2013. It’s definitely a good start, however, has anyone seen a size 16 woman with a flat belly and perfectly toned, cellulite-free legs? Doubtful. I’d recommend you read this Guardian article by Harriet Walker: “A size 16 mannequin with a flat stomach? Excuse me if I don’t rejoice, Debenhams”.
I really think it’s about time clothing stores took a hard look at the way they present the idea of body image to their loyal customers.
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