Do larger mannequins make you feel better about your figure?

Debenahms mannequins

Debenhams old-style mannequins, sized 8 – 10

Last week, Debenhams introduced size 16 mannequins (For reference, a UK size 16 is roughly equivalent to a US 12) into its stores, saying that size 16 is the “average” size of women in the UK, and the new mannequins are therefore more representative of its customers. Previously, clothes were displayed on models sized 8-10, which, says Debenhams, is unhelpful to shoppers in the store.

“The average British woman is a size 16, but the high street has been showing them clothing on a mannequin that is three sizes smaller – until now,” said Debenhams director Ed Watson. “Having worked on this project for three years, we hope that it will help people in some small way to feel comfortable about their bodies and, crucially, that other retailers will follow.”

Whether or not other retailers WILL follow remains to be seen; this week, however, MSP Dennis Robertson, whose daughter died of anorexia, urged retailers to follow Debenhams example, and adopt this new standard, which leads us to wonder: DO larger mannequins help women feel better about their figures?  

We’ve long been aware that many women just can’t relate to the images presented by the fashion world, whether it be in the form of the models on the catwalk, or the airbrushed figures in magazines. However, women come in such a variety of shapes and sizes (Two women could both wear a size 16 dress, for instance, but look totally different in it, depending on their body shape), that we’re not sure there’s really an easy fix for this particular problem. Making store mannequins larger seems to be a step in the right direction, but it still only allows people who are exactly the same shape and size as the mannequins to be able to relate to them: in fashion, there really is no such thing as “one size fits all”, and no matter what size they make their models and mannequins, retails will always end up excluding someone.

What do you think of this move? Would larger mannequins in stores help you feel better about your figure?

12 Comments

  • November 14, 2013

    Carol

    It doesn’t sway me one way or the other. I know what size I am, know what looks good on me and know what to avoid. So I appreciate the displays and the colors, accessories, etc. for ideas, but I know I’ll be looking on the rack for my size, not on the mannequin.

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  • November 14, 2013

    tanya

    I wouldn’t say larger size mannequins would make me feel better about myself, but certainly they would offer an alternative. Seeing how clothes will actually look on me could perhaps motivate me to buy them (or, in some cases, stay away). I say yey to Debenhams and yes to diversity!

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  • November 14, 2013

    lizvocal

    In general, i don’t pay much attention to models, magazines or mannequins, and they don’t influence how I feel about my shape. And as a bi woman, I prefer larger women. 🙂

    But, I think having a mix of sizes on display helps little girls to see alternatives, and helps those less sure of themselves see beauty in themselves. If nothing else, it gives a larger woman an idea of what the clothes might look like on her.

    If store displays are styling larger mannequins, it might also make them more conscious of what works and what doesn’t on a size 16, something that can only improve clothes in larger sizes.

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  • November 14, 2013

    Cassi

    The ploy that bothers me is retailers sneakily pinning clothes in the back so they look better on mannequins of all sizes. I’m based in the U.S., so I’m not sure if this is a practice in the U.K., but it’s really common here. It’s so frustrating, because it misrepresents how the clothes will actually look when I try them on!
    I think the best thing would be to have a variety of mannequins and not manipulate the clothes that are on them.

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  • November 14, 2013

    karlie

    I hate the pinning in the back also. So many times a see a top that looks fitted but when you pick up the actual top it is really boxy.

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  • November 15, 2013

    Jaynie

    I think if there is any effect (would like to see some research on it), it’s likely to be subtle. There are studies where average women who have looked at photos of “desirable” (for example, dressed and posed in an alluring way) larger women feel more confident than those who have looked at pictures of similarly posed thin women. But they don’t tend to make a connection between the confidence boost and the photos, and would probably say the pictures didn’t affect them if asked. It’s a really subconscious thing.

    That said, if we have to have a one-size-fits-all mannequin, it makes sense to me that it should be the average size. It’s not representative, but it’s more representative than what we’ve already got. Ideally, it would be great to see a variety of shapes and sizes of mannequins, which would allow retailers greater flexibility in dressing them too, but I’m not sure how economically feasible that is.

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  • November 15, 2013

    Claudia

    I think the stylist has to pin the clothes because in the shop, they would find nothing to fit the ridiculously small mannequins directly. In Germany they seem to be a size 34, which would be US 4 (UK 8?), and many stores now start only with 38 (US 8), so they have full three to four inches of additional width to tuck away.

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  • November 15, 2013

    Ana

    I avoid to look at the manequins. Even if they make larger ones, mannequins, unlike real people, don’t have problems like cellulite and are completely proportional. I pick up the clothes and see if they are ok to my frame.

    However, I do think they should have multiple mannequin sizes with clothes that would look good to most people of that “weight”.

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  • November 15, 2013

    Viper

    I’d like to see a variety of mannequins. I don’t think they have as much effect on our perceptions of our bodies as do images of real people, but I’d like to see different shapes and sizes (and less pinning!!!!!!!!). I’m a short size zero with broad shoulders. Where’s my mannequin? I’d like to see boxy mannequins, curvy mannequins, pear-shaped mannequins, petite mannequins, etc. so people can get a better idea of how the clothes fit on a human frame. I don’t have a problem with the tall, slim, small-framed mannequin, but if we’re going to start using them as references rather than simple clothes hangers, as the demand for different mannequins suggests, then we need more.

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  • November 15, 2013

    violet

    for me, yes. Larger mannequins make me look twice and think about whether that is closer to my body shape and size than the usual size mannequin. That said, the latter does make clothes look more attractive (in my opinion). But at least I’d get a more realistic idea of how clothes would look on me if they were about a UK 12.

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  • November 26, 2013

    Katja

    I think it is a great initiative. I know people usually argue that no two bodies are the same, and that is true – but the skinny mannequins represent only a small margin of the European population whereas I think a UK size 16 is much more representative of the whole population. In an ideal world the mannequins would be all different sizes, shapes and heights, but until that day I’m happy that young girls get at lest one more impression of female bodies than the size 0 (which in itself is not unattractive but a rather dangerous goal for most people).

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  • January 19, 2014

    Kat

    I think it’s a nice idea, but ultimately doesn’t matter much to me. I do tend to look at the outfits the mannequins have on, to see how they match this top to whatever bottom and to get ideas, ectera, but I know what my size is and anyway, I always visit the dressing room before I buy, to see if the item of clothing would look good on me.

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