When it comes to fashion we are surrounded by images of ‘perfect’ skinny models, which certainly do not represent the average woman, or man for that matter. However a change may be coming to the high street.
At the beginning of November this year, Debenhams on Oxford Street in London introduced size 16 mannequins into its store to better represent the average woman in London. The director of Debenhams, Ed Watson explained why they took this approach, “We’ve developed our own range of size 16 mannequins to sit alongside our usual size 10 dummies. We felt it was important to better represent what real women actually look like when advertising our clothes.”
Other high street shops like Miss Selfridge and Topshop usually use size 10 mannequins, while the likes of Dorothy Perkins and Wallis use size 10-12. The UK’s Equality Minister, Jo Swinson, believes Debenhams approach is a step in the right direction to confronting body image issues, “Many customers want to see more realistic images in magazines, TV and on the high street, and having mannequins that reflect and celebrate our diverse society is one way of helping to achieve this.”
Debenhams have been in the spotlight before when it comes to using ‘unusual’ models. The company has been banned from airbrushing lingerie and swimwear models, they were the first high street retailer to use paraplegic models and have also used a Paralympian amputee model in their diversity campaign.
DCU student, Jack Cullen O’Dea said: “It’s a great idea because it indicates Debenhams is becoming more in touch with the realities of life. From walking by not only women’s department stores, but also men’s stores, the mannequins are often unreachable, elusive bodies that are almost impossible to attain. The move is in stark contrast with the policies of Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mark Jeffries. Earlier this year Jeffries announced that the the store doesn’t want any “large people” coming through the doors to shop. I think Debenhams is taking a positive step forward for society.”
Robyn Hargadon is strongly in favour of the idea: “Yes it’s definitely a good idea. Mannequins should be a range of sizes just like people are. It shouldn’t be a bad thing that someone is either a size six or a size 16. Having a variety of shapes and sizes would surely give women more hope when buying clothes, like seeing a tiny size on a mannequin with no shape wouldn’t personally make me want to buy what they’re wearing because I’d think ‘oh god I could never pull that off!”.
A survey conducted by The College View revealed the majority think that it is a good idea that Debenhams introduced size 16 mannequins, while the remaining people said it doesn’t bother them or that it was a good idea but it was just a publicity stunt for Debenhams. “You kind of have to look no further than their website to cop that this is just a bit of free publicity for Debenhams, they’re still using size zero (or thereabouts) models. Good idea, but a bit disingenuous in my opinion”, said Caroline Boyd, a final year CCS student.
Avril Noble, had a different opinion on the matter, “It’s an awful idea, few women are healthy outside sizes 10-12, why would promoting obesity be any better than promoting anorexia?”
But will other departments store follow suit? Nothing has been confirmed as of yet, however Marks and Spencers released a new advertisement this year with a variety of women who wouldn’t be classed as your average model. The advert includes actress Dame Helen Mirren (68), boxer Nicola Adams (30), United States Vogue executive Grace Coddington (72) and Katie Piper (29) whose ex-boyfriend threw acid in her face, leaving her permanently scared. This isn’t your average group of models, but it is a more realistic approach to attracting real customers who can relate to these real women.
A study conducted in Toronto, found that women are three times more likely to buy clothes when the models in advertisements wear their size, so maybe this means retailers will wake up and use real people to advertise their clothing.