Curvy shoppers, rejoice: major U.K. department store chain Debenhams is introducing size 16 mannequins to their women’s fashions floors. Debenhams’ choice to use realistic mannequins signals a genuine effort to appeal to a wider base of shoppers and promote body acceptance in the fashion world. In an industry that uses sizes 4-8 as standards, it’s exciting to see a major retailer take steps to accurately portray women’s bodies.
Debenhams’ Oxford Street store already displays plus size mannequins and plans on adding mannequins to all 170 locations. This is a business move as well as an appeal to consumers—recent business research shows that women are three times more likely to buy clothes when the fashion models wearing them are their size.
Different politicians have added their support to the plus size mannequin movement. British Equalities Minister Jo Swinson has been very vocal about holding various retailers and fashion outlets as responsible parties for body image awareness: “Many customers want to see more realistic images in magazines….having mannequins that reflect and celebrate our diverse society is one way of helping to achieve this.”
Swinson’s sentiments are echoed by Scottish parliament member Dennis Robertson, a politician whose daughter’s death from anorexia in 2011 prompted him to endorse the use of plus size mannequins as a means to combat eating disorders. Robertson believes that the media and fashion industries have a responsibility to help fight against eating disorders just as the medical community does its best to promote body acceptance. Doctors cannot be the only voice against eating disorders in society; major fashion publications and other media outlets must take responsibility for the tones they set when using models that do not accurately represent the average woman.
The typical store mannequin should not be a size 6 when the average American woman is a size 14. With all the diversity that exists in society, mannequins should have varying body types so that all shoppers can feel represented and accepted while buying clothes. We applaud Debenhams for taking the first step towards widespread body acceptance and hope to see other retailers (especially American!) follow suit.