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Plus sized is the new skinny for dummies

  • News
  • July 30, 2015
  • Elly Strang
Plus sized is the new skinny for dummies
Image credit: Debenhams

According to The Guardian, the average mannequin measurements are an almost impossible standard for women to reach. Most are around six feet tall, with a 34 inch bust, 24 inch waist and 34 inch hips.

Once upon a time, people turned a blind eye to these perfectly poised and slim figurines, but it seems as though a revolution is looming – perhaps spurred on by customers’ ability to voice their opinions on social media.

Shoppers are becoming increasingly vocal about their disappointment and outrage at “ridiculously” slim mannequins.

It happened with women’s clothing retailer Glassons and its mannequins with protruding ribs, and now the latest mannequin mishap has hit UK fashion brand Topshop.

Much like Glassons, it came under fire when a customer, Laura Kate Berry, took a photo of a slim-legged mannequin and shared it to the retailer’s Facebook page.

“As you are aware, the year is 2015. A time when I like to believe we are conscious of the harsh unrealities often imposed on us by the fashion industry,” she wrote. 

“So let me get to the point, I'd love to hear how you can justify the ridiculously tiny mannequin in your Bristol Cribbs Causeway store? We come in all shapes and sizes.”

She said no mannequins in the store showed anything bigger than a size six.

This worried her, she said, as she thought it would have a negative effect on a generation that’s incredibly insecure about their bodies.

“So today, I'm calling you out Topshop, on your lack of concern for a generation of extremely body-conscious youth.”

Topshop responded by saying the mannequin was not intended to be a representation of the average female body, as it needs to be a shape that clothes can be put on and removed from easily.

However, it has now agreed to discard all of the mannequins like the one Berry photographed.

On the other side of the fence, some are arguing that a mannequin’s purpose isn’t to be a realistic portrayal of the human body.

Dave Sidious left a post on Topshop’s Facebook page saying that it’s ridiculous to place so much importance on something that’s there to hang clothes on.

He demonstrated this by using the same logic with a faceless mannequin and said it was “unrealistic” for shoppers to try live up to.

So, do mannequins actually have a negative influence on customers?

AUT University senior lecturer in marketing, retailing and sales Jae-Eun Kim says slim bodies have traditionally been recognised as attractive, so mannequins were made to emulate that.

“But the negative part about using the slim mannequins, or even models, is researchers have found it has a negative influence on consumers because it decreases consumers satifscation and their self esteem,” Kim says.

“When seeing an really unrealistically thin body, it’s not really good for the consumer’s mental health.”

She says she thinks the tide is changing now, as more retailers who sell plus-sized apparel are using plus-sized mannequins.

One of these is the Debenhams store in Britain.

It became the first department store chain to display size 16 mannequins in its stores in December 2013 and urged others to follow suit.

Famously, England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said to the Telegraph using size 16 mannequins would “normalize” obesity.

“I personally think that having more plus size and more realistic mannequins is a good sign,” Kim says.

She says the fact they are now in stores shows companies are listening to their customers, as they have more ways to voice their opinions and ideas than ever before.

There hasn’t been any word yet on whether this change has helped Debenham’s sales.

Kim says in New Zealand, mannequins influence the shopper’s image of the store, rather than directly influencing sales.

“The mannequins create the right perceptions about the store image that the retailers want to achieve,” she says.

However, it’s probably fair game to say if a customer has a negative perception of a store or if their self esteem is being affected, they won’t shop there – resulting in less dollars for retailers who offend a large portion of their target market.

Studies surrounding using (human) skinny models in marketing have also unearthed similar results when it comes to purchasing.

A recent study by lingerie brand Adore Me found plus-size models are more likely to sell underwear than slim models.



The company carried out three TV adverts, one of which a plus-sized model was used.

They then applied A/B testing by showing women different ads to measure their buying habits and preferences.

The plus-sized model generated four times as many sales as the ad featuring skinny models.

A marketing professor has even come out and said that brands that go for the “thin ideal” model could be alienating up to 70 percent of their audience.

Some are even saying that one day soon, mannequins might become obsolete.

This is because as technology is increasing at a rapid pace, customers can see themselves in the clothing in a virtual fitting room in store, rather than need to see it on a mannequin.

So, what do you reckon? Retail revolution in the making or a hoo-ha over nothing?

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