Female shop mannequins do not have realistic body shapes and would make ‘medically unhealthy’ people, a new study asserts.
Published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, the study is based on assessments of numerous fashion shops’ ‘dummies’. These were shops in two cities – Liverpool and Coventry (representing the North and centre of England)
To be eligible for the study, the stores had to be in these cities’ primary shopping centres, be part of a known chain and have one or more mannequins positioned inside. This gave the University of Liverpool’s Dr Eric Robinson and his colleagues a total of 32 ‘female’ and 26 ‘male’ mannequins – residing in 17 stores – to examine.
This was a first-time study involving what the university’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society terms ‘visual rating scales’. Such scales were used to compare mannequins both within their own gender and across the board.
Ultimately, only eight per cent of male mannequins were rated ‘severely underweight’, compared to every single female mannequin. That led the study to conclude that ‘the body size of mannequins used to advertise female fashion is unrealistic and would be considered medically unhealthy in humans.’
Mannequin Body Sizes
“We became interested in this topic after seeing some news report about members of the public noticing that some mannequins in fashion stores were disturbingly thin”, Dr Robinson explains in the university’s body sizes news release.
He continues: “Around the same time, we had also read news coverage that fashion retailers had responded to this concern and adopted more appropriate sized mannequins, so it felt like an interesting research question to examine. Our survey of these two high streets in the UK produced consistent results; the body size of female mannequins represented that of extremely underweight human women.
“Because ultra-thin ideals encourage the development of body image problems in young people, we need to change the environment to reduce emphasis on the value of extreme thinness. We of course are not saying that altering the size of high street fashion mannequins will on its own ‘solve’ body image problems. What we are instead saying is that presentation of ultra-thin female bodies is likely to reinforce inappropriate and unobtainable body ideals, so as a society we should be taking measures to stop this type of reinforcement.
“Given that the prevalence of body image problems and disordered eating in young people is worryingly high, positive action that challenges communication of ultra-thin ideal may be of particular benefit to children, adolescents and young adult females.”
Titled ‘Emaciated Mannequins: A study of mannequin body size in high street fashion stores’, Robinson et al’s study was published on 2 May.