Mannequins Put on Some Weight

Discussion
Mar 07, 2012

Driven by the popularity of some more ‘shapely’ or ‘curvy’ stars — but also seen as long overdue in many circles — apparel stores in the U.K. are asking suppliers to make more womanly mannequins with DD bust sizes.

Displaysense, a maker of mannequins, has seen orders for British size 12-14 fashion mannequins soar by 16 percent, according to The Telegraph. The typical mannequin size is 10 (U.S. 8)

The shift is said to be partly driven by the soaring popularity of crooner Adele, who just won six Grammy Awards and is a British size 16 (U.S. size 14.) Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks as well as U.S. TV reality star Kim Kardashian are also said to represent a return to retro silhouettes.

Displaysense executive Jim Moody told the Telegraph, "Curves are back and set to stay this spring-summer. We believe the trend is partly due to vintage fashions being back in style, particularly from the 40s and 50s, which suit the hourglass figure."

But others felt that any shift to larger mannequins is long overdue given that the average women is much closer to British size 16 (U.S. 14) and the plus-size market has been thriving in apparel retailing for years. Many blame the svelte mannequins — as well as skinny models in general — on the fashion industry’s unrealistic obsession with thin as an aspirational ideal.

That was confirmed to some after legendary fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel fame told Metro Paris that Adele was "a little fat" while noting she has "a beautiful face and a divine voice." The uproar over the weight talk led to a quick apology and drove Adele to defend herself. She told People, "I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that."

Under the anonymity of the comments section following the Telegraph’s article, several readers praised the move to represent "natural women" more realistically. One commenter noted, "The fashion industry lost sight of what is ‘normal’ a very long time ago" while noting that British size 12 is still unrealistically thin. Another lamented that it takes celebrity star power to drive such change.

On the other side, some believed Adele is unhealthily overweight. Given the health problems resulting from increasing levels of obesity, being overweight is as equally a concern as being too thin, a few argued. Wrote one commenter, "I hope being overweight doesn’t become even more acceptable."

Discussion Questions: Will being more realistic in their presentation of the female form be sales-positive in the end for apparel retailers? Is an aspirational ideal required to spark interest and the consumer’s imagination in fashion?

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14 Comments on "Mannequins Put on Some Weight"

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Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Possibly an interesting topic, especially for a woman comfortable in her own skin and willing to voice an opinion. As for me, I am fighting my own weight problem and couldn’t care less about a male mannequin’s size.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
First of all, this business about Adele being “unhealthily overweight” is patently nuts. The woman is 23 years old, and just shedding her baby fat (I remember the first time I saw her it occurred to me “I finally understand what the term baby fat really means”). Is it more acceptable to witness the increasing number of anorexic adolescents? What do we say about that? “Well at least they’re thin”? Whoever that commentator was should be ashamed of him/herself. Women already have such an awful time with body image — dysmorphia I think it’s called. I hope this kind of debate doesn’t make comments like his even more acceptable. The cover photo of Adele on this month’s Glamor (or maybe it was Vogue) magazine was photoshopped to the point of unrecognizability. In fact, many of the endorsement ads I see in magazines now include the name of the female endorser because you can’t really tell who she is (Beyonce, Drew Barrymore and others). How can this possibly be helpful to anyone? Okay, end of rant. I would think a size 12 mannequin would be the logical size — a bit smaller than the average, but a bit larger than the… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

This always seems to be short-lived. People are fascinated by power. For men, power is money. For women, power is thinness and beauty. Ordinary generally doesn’t sell. Ordinary is boring. Otherwise we would have a TV show called American Ordinary.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
5 years 4 months ago

There will always be two schools of thought with large numbers of adherents: 1. Aspirational – showing a thinner body style; 2. Realistic – showing a ‘normal’ body style.

Both body styles are acceptable and attractive, as long as they are healthy. As long as marketers are not advocating unhealthy lifestyles, all body styles are acceptable. It is when too thin or too heavy are idealized that the discussion and the implications become unhealthy.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

I disagree with the phrase you can’t be too thin. As I watch a variety of shows on television, I am very concerned that many of the “beautiful” people are far too thin. It is unrealistic and unhealthy. No wonder many young girls have negative self-body images. I think having mannequins representing a more realistic size is a far better approach. I agree with the majority of voters who indicated that they believe a size 12 is a more realistic mannequin size.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

If the goal is to portray more realistic views of the clothes in sizes that will really be purchased, it makes sense. If the goal is to be affirmative towards views on women and the dangers of being obsessed with thinness, it makes sense.

However, (and this is individual and subjective) people tend to be aspirational and want to imagine that a product (clothing) will transform them into something they are not. Many marketing campaigns are totally based on that premise. So the odds are, you won’t see male mannequins with pot bellies modeling swimwear.

Plus, many many brands now have vanity sizing, just to make customers feel better about themselves.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
I think the real question is, “When are male mannequins going to be ordered with receding hairlines, wedding ring ‘tan lines’, and beer guts?” Assuming most people buy clothes to help them reach an idealized version of themselves, rather than to “discover the self” they see in their mirror every morning, the easy answer to your question is, “No.” This discussion does little to address the broader questions of (a) “Is there something in our lifestyles that makes more of us “Plus Size”? and (b) “Why have we persisted in foisting off an “idealized” version of the female form on the market — assuming of course your vision of an “ideal” and “healthy” human being is one suffering from heroin addiction, anorexia or both — and, even worse, on generations of young women AND men?” If you want to change fashion sales you have to first change the cultural norms about what attractive looks like. If women in particular have been conditioned to think in terms of weight as “bad,” large mannequins won’t help. Perhaps better to encourage people like Adele who repeatedly notes she’s not a Size 0 but doesn’t seem too apologetic about it. Getting people to pursue… Read more »
Joan Treistman
BrainTrust

I’m with Ken on the aspirational point of view. If I see a mannequin that I think of as very thin, I can’t imagine me in that dress or pant. But I have no clue what I look like exactly. My interpretation of me is pleasantly not thin at all. As Robert Burns said, “O, wad some Power the giftie gie us … To see ourselves as others see us!” or not.

Bottom line, if shoppers can’t visualize themselves dressed as the mannequin is clothed, it’s not realistic to expect them to buy those clothes. Whether shoppers envision themselves as thin or not too thin, well that is what the retailer should establish.

Ed Dunn
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

To me, a mannequin seems like an outdated touchpoint/display concept in the 21st century. From my experience, I never looked at a mannequin or even cared what a mannequin had on. I have been more impressed with clothing on a flat display and I try it on in the dressing room.

Even further, there should be mesh technology to allow dynamic “reshaping” of a mannequin.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

‘Thin thinking’ has become an unhealthy obsession for many women. We certainly do not need to encourage anorexic behavior. On the other hand, I can’t help but remember what one fashionista told me many years ago: “Models and mannequins are nondescript, stick skinny in order to represent hangars. You aren’t suppose to look at them but rather at the clothes so you can visualize yourself.” I have to admit, the statement does bring some clarity, however, it does not help an average-size woman determine her own style. I would like to see brand stylists dress mannequins according to shape and style and this would go along way to help women make fashion decisions. One size doesn’t fit all!

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

@Ed Dunn: as a technology guy, I wasn’t going to go there but….

There are virtual technologies with things like augmented reality and “magic mirrors” that are beginning to get quite sophisticated. Their goal is to show a customer the clothes they’re considering, overlaid on their body, live, sized and draped as it would “really” look on them. If/when the technology goes mainstream, this conversation will be for naught.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
5 years 4 months ago

Notwithstanding Jim Moody’s rationalization that “We believe the trend is partly due to vintage fashions being back in style,” the issue still resides with the designers. They design for the thinner figure, and often their designs are simply not flattering in larger sizes. Large florals look great on thin women, but not on larger women.

Lane Bryant has broken through this impediment by designing specifically for large figures, but traditional designers will need to have their arms twisted to design for larger women and mannequins. (DD? Really?) Even Donna Karan, no skinny girl herself, designs for thin figures (except for her “black” lines, which are popular with larger women).

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I hate what we’ve become sometimes. I LOVE curves! Take me back a couple hundred years when big people were all the rage! I have actually heard some crass comments that the Sports Illustrated cover model in this past swimsuit issue was too heavy! UGH!

This movement comes and goes. I hope more retailers produce better selections of fashionable, affordable, real-sized women’s clothing soon!

Jerry Gelsomino
BrainTrust

I think it may work for some fashions and some stores, but I wouldn’t bet on it as a long-term trend. It may make some larger women feel better, but what about the majority, how do they want to feel about their size?

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