This week Topshop said they would stop purchasing a mannequin that was criticised by a customer for being too slim and for giving unrealistic ideas about body size to women.
Topshop justified their choice of the mannequin saying that it was a size 10, and that the reason it looked so slim was because the mannequin was tall at 6 ft 1.
Well that makes it alright then.
There are 2 reasons why this doesn’t cut it with me:
1) I don’t hate store mannequins because they’re uber-slim. I dislike them because they don’t represent the body proportions of the average person. And I’m pretty certain the average person isn’t 6 ft 1 and a size 10. I’m not an expert, but I’d say being that tall and that clothes size would mean you had a pretty low body fat percentage, and whilst some people can be that size and be completely healthy, for the majority of people this isn’t the case. Everyone’s body is unique, so there’s no ‘right’ size for a mannequin, but choosing one whose body proportions are so far to one end of the body proportion spectrum seems to me to send out the wrong messages.
2) I can’t say that I’ve been into Topshop recently, but I know I’ve been in there in the past and seen size 8 clothes on mannequins which have had to be pinned at the back because they’re far too big. And this isn’t just Topshop, is the majority of shops I go in to. So shops are using mannequins so small that they’re even too small for their own products…that just seems ridiculous…
I find it terrifying that with so many young girls and women practically starving themselves to reach the body standards set out by clothes designers and the media that this is allowed to carry on. These petite mannequins have become so common place that we barely notice their tiny proportions, and yet every time we see one it’s readjusting what our belief of an ‘acceptable’ body is.
I recently read an article on the blog Run Eat Repeat about how Women’s Running featured a more curvy lady on their front cover. Monica from the blog was unsure whether to write a blog post on it or not. She wanted to celebrate that the media was doing something right by recognising that everyone, not just size 8 people with toned arms and abs, run. But at the same time she didn’t want it to be something to celebrate – she wanted this to be the norm, she wanted all body types to be represented in magazines.
I felt like this about Topshop’s decision to no longer order such slim mannequins. Hooray, one store decides to buy a larger mannequin size! Sure, this is excellent, and is one step forward in that a huge brand is making a positive change. However, this should be standard practice. We shouldn’t be in a position where a brand telling us that they’ll use more realistic mannequins makes the newspapers. When we go into a shop we should feel like the clothes are designed for us and we should feel supported to know that every body size is as good as another and worthy of the brand’s products. And yet so often in the past I’ve walked into a clothes shop and felt panic and like I’m inadequate. Thoughts like “I’ll never look as good as those mannequins” whizz through my head. Woah, hello there. I will never look good as a plastic mannequin?! Sounds ridiculous now it’s written down, but not so easy to question when those thoughts are taking up all your brain power.
I love my body. It’s mine, and there’s no other body out there like it. You should love your body too. Positive body image is so important to enable us to be happy individuals and to do everything we want to do. However no matter how strong our body image is, if we’re constantly being bombarded with images of people far skinnier than us our body image will always get dented and eaten away at. It should be normal that what sits in the windows of all clothes shops represents the people that are out on the street, spending their money in these stores.
I’m not going to shoot down a positive step in the right direction, but I can’t help think the gap between what we have now and where we need to be is so huge. When all shops use realistic models, use advertising with people of an average size, and don’t airbrush photos, then we’ll be in a place to really celebrate.