Even as a naturally skinny person, I believe we need to represent bigger girls in our store mannequins
They’re worryingly thin and we need to talk about it
Without fail, every single year during “fashion month” there is a massive amount of publicity and campaigning directed towards the employment of healthier and more representative models. While clothing brands are now more forward thinking in having ranges for girls of all sizes featured in their stores, the most common way to exhibit- and sell- their clothes is with mannequins. And now we have it as fact – they’re far too thin.
Obviously, the vast majority of us are not remotely similar in body shape or size to those reflected in the mannequins shops use. Their limbs are so long and thin that it seems it would be impossible for them to actually hold a human up (and often they have to be supported by strategically-positioned metal poles which speaks volumes). Nevertheless, when we go into these stores, we are bombarded by these bodies wearing the clothes we want to buy; it’s no surprise, then, that so many then feel disheartened when they try the clothes on and they look so different.
The reality is, it can’t be healthy. We assume that, because that’s how something looks on a mannequin, that’s how it should look. Anything that deviates from this is, therefore, somehow wrong or worse. I will admit, I am a naturally skinny person. I am that one that can eat absolute shit and not put on any weight, who never grew boobs or a bum. I am also the person who closest resembles the mannequins in shops, the one who can buy something off of the rack and be pretty sure it’ll look on me how it looks on that glossy, fibreglass figure. And I am also the person who was labelled as “very underweight” by my GP in my last year of school. But even I feel uncomfortable looking at the preying-mantis body type exemplified by our mannequins.
According to The Guardian the average mannequin has a waist measuring 24 inches, and is six feet tall. It also, conveniently, has a textbook hourglass figure, with bust and hip measurements of 34 inches. These are measurements that some women are naturally born with, but they’re also measurements that many other women will put themselves in danger to achieve so that they, too, can resemble those “perfect” figures.
These mannequins are generally monochromatic, hairless and without facial features; they are essentially a blank canvas upon which anything can be imagined and which can represent any woman. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that – styles change with every season and a versatile platform is necessary to present them.
Unfortunately, most brands seem to think that versatility is a concept reserved purely for the actual clothes, and rather than encouraging us to branch out and try something new, what they’re actually selling is an image unattainable for the vast majority of healthy women.