If you’ve ever found yourself in a store change room, wondering why the clothes you just picked out look so different on your body than the mannequins, there’s a reason. A new study, conducted by the Journal of Eating Disorders found that the majority of female mannequins in stores are not only depicted as underweight, but severely underweight.
Co-authors Paul Aveyard and Eric Robinson surveyed stores in two major cities in England. Because shop owners were hesitant to let the researchers physically measure the mannequins, Aveyard and Robinson enlisted research assistants to conduct a ‘visual rating scale.’
The study found that 100 per cent of the female mannequins used in stores represented underweight bodies, with the majority of the mannequins representing a severely underweight body.
However, when it came to male mannequins, the findings were quite different. Only 8 per cent of male mannequins showed underweight body types.
The issue of underweight mannequins is nothing new. The researchers noted a similar study that looked at mannequins made between the 1920s and the 1960s in Japan, Malaysia, and Italy. Their findings showed that the body dimensions of the female mannequins were so small that if they were an actual woman, the mannequins would not possess enough body fat to be able to menstruate.
The researchers noted that, while there does seem to be a move towards more average proportions for mannequins in large scale department stores in England, underweight mannequins remain the norm for high end retailers. This move mirrors the fashion industry, with commercial and catalogue models held to less stringent weight requirements than high fashion runway models.
Thankfully, many countries are finally putting rules into place to help decrease the bombardment of harmful images that children, young people and adults are faced with on a daily basis. Efforts to ban the use of underweight models in countries like Israel and France, over fears that these images will promote unhealthy and unrealistic body standards are becoming more widespread. Write Aveyard and Robinson, “…there is growing awareness that prevention efforts against body image problems need to address the wider environment and reduce communication of ultra-thin body ideals.”
If this means body diverse mannequins, we’re all for it.