I recently came across this fabulous and liberating idea. A department store in Sweden has caused a huge body image debate by introducing more realistically sized mannequins. The store behind such dispute is Åhléns, the Swedish equivalent of John Lewis which displayed the new-look mannequins to all of its 76 stores back in 2010.
Back in 2007, in the UK, there were urgent calls from health experts to make British mannequins more realistic. Size zero does not reflect to real life body images and it consequently amounts to the pressure women feel nowadays.
Information head manager for Åhléns, Therèse Johnsson Sundberg, says: ‘our customers are all different shapes so we need to reflect that in our stores. Initially they were brought in because we were starting a plus-size range, for sizes large to XXL, so we needed mannequins in different sizes. The appreciation from the customers was great, which is why we carried on.’
The department store uses mannequins ranging in size from 36 to 44 (UK size 10 to 18). This innovation received positive feedback from retailers and customers alike. By selling unattainable and senseless beauty, women’s insecurities are triggered but the fashion industry never cared enough to consider that. Surely, it would make more sense and also produce more sales if models, real life and mannequins looked like our own bodies.
Studies have indeed shown that ‘repeated exposure to the thin ideal negatively impacts body image in girls and women and is a significant factor in low self-esteem and disordered eating’, (Shelly Grabe, L. Monique Ward and Janet Shibley Hyde, 2008). And anthropologist Kate Fox confirmed in her 1997 summary of body-image research that ONLY 5% of women actually fit this narrow ideal.