A clothing store in Sweden is being hailed by women around the world after a photo of two surprisingly curvy mannequins were photographed and posted online.
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Dressed in skimpy lingerie, the mannequins displayed softer stomachs, fuller thighs and generally more realistic proportions than the traditional department store models. For comparison, most mannequins in the U.S. are between a svelte size 4 or 6—a departure from the average American woman who is a size 14.
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On Tuesday, a blogger at Women's Rights News posted a photo of the department store mannequins to Facebook and the response was overwhelming. "It's about time reality hit..." wrote one out of almost 2,500 commentators. "Anybody saying these mannequins encourage obesity or look unhealthy, you have a seriously warped perception of what is healthy. I guarantee the "bigger" mannequin in the front there represents a perfect BMI" wrote another. As of Thursday, the photo had garnered almost 50,000 likes and shared almost 15,000 times. That's a lot of attention for a hunk of fiber glass and plastic.
There were rumors that the mannequins were on display at H&M in Sweden but a spokesperson told Shine: "The image is not from an H&M store. At this time, we are not using this type of mannequin, but we do not rule of the possibility of doing so in the future."
Mannequins have been around for thousands of years but their function in fashion is fairly recent, first appearing in store windows in the 1800s during the Industrial Revolution when window panes were installed in stores to display the latest fashion trends. Throughout WW1 and the Depression, mannequins changed their outfits and body proportions to reflect society at that time. Cut to the 1960s, when British mannequin firm Rootstein began modeling their dolls after pop culture and fashion icons to reflect runway trends at the time.
Modern-day mannequins have long been critiqued for having tiny proportions. In 2007, British health officials demanded that stores on London's fashionable High Street stop using stick-thin models in an effort to reflect the wide range of sizes and shapes of British women. In 2010, Club Monaco came under fire for featuring mannequins with protruding spines and clavicles. And in 2011, GAP was chastised by bloggers for mannequins with bone-thin legs modeling the "Always skinny" jeans display. “I'm wondering what the internal project name for this was at Gap HQ,” wrote one blogger. "Death-camp chic’? ‘Ana Pride’? ‘Famine fashion forward?"
And male mannequins haven't escaped scrutiny either. In 2010, Rootstein debuted male dolls under their "Young and Restless" collection modeled after teenage boys with 35-inch chests and 27-inch waists. The company had to defend its decision to use smaller models to eating disorders groups.
As much as the public contests these down-sized mannequins, when designers have attempted to create dolls that reflect real-life proportions they're met with criticism, even disgust. In late 2012, when a Reddit user posted a photo of an "obese mannequin" in satire, commentary ranged from "Ew, fat people", "It's embarrassing how obese America is" and the amusing, "He's not fat, just big foamed."
A recent published in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that women's self esteem takes a nosedive when exposed to models of any size, so maybe there is no easy answer. But as long as mannequins are influencing people to buy fashion, reflecting real-life bodies is a step in the right direction.
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