By “industry standard”, I am a “plus size” girl – even though I’m currently wearing size 6? OK, I’m not exactly a giant among women at 5′ 1.5 but that seems a little crazy to me (and I was so excited to “shrink” back to a 6)! By today’s runway standards, supermodels Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley, would also be considered “plus-size”! According to studies, the average dress size for North American girls is size 12…while models are size 00 and shrinking! Are you confused or am I the only one who suddenly feels like an imaginary carpet has just been tugged out from underneath my feet, and I’ve fallen on my (suddenly) very large bottom?
Imagine my excitement, and then my dismay, when I discovered that a fabulous photo shared repeatedly on Facebook last week, was a hoax!
H&M received a lot of attention for a photo of a full-figured mannequin in purple lingerie (rumored to be in Sweden). Women world-wide were applauding the more realistic shape and size of the mannequin, only to discover that H&M never has and currently does not have any immediate intention of using a voluptuous mannequin in any of the 44 countries in which it operates. Nor, does it seem, do most retailers.
Mannequins only joined the fashion industry during the Industrial Revolution (early 1800s) to display the latest fashion trends. Body proportions, not just fashion trends, changed throughout the ’30s to reflect society, and only in the ’60s, were mannequins fashioned to also reflect pop culture and fashion icons. In more recent years, stick thin mannequins (male and female) have been garnering a lot of negative attention. For example, in 2007, British Health officials demanded London’s High Street stop using stick thin models in an effort to embrace the range and shape of British women. In fact, Displaysense, a mannequin wholesaler in the U.K. recently reported an increase in sales of mannequins above size 12.
Based on the popularity of the photo and the overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses to it, when will retailers take the hint? A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that overweight women’s self esteem “crashes and burns” when facing models of any size (underweight women’s self-esteem increases), so there is no easy answer. But as long as mannequins are influencing people to buy fashion, reflecting real-life, healthy bodies is a step in the right direction.
Check out Brittany Gibbons, who decided to metaphorically climb a mountain and not only track down the perfect bikini for her body, but to show the world that “big girls” can be bold and beautiful!
It might even inspire me? We’ll see…that’s a pretty big mountain!