Let’s take a moment to discuss one of the creepiest aspects of in-store shopping: the mannequins. We’re less concerned with the chances of a Valley of the Dolls-style mannequin uprising than the message these unrealistically thin figures send to real flesh-and-blood shoppers.
Most female mannequins are so proportionally ridiculous that even the smallest clothes need to be cinched at the back to keep from hanging loosely off their bony shoulders. And if they were to come to life (see aforementioned uprising scenario), they would be too thin to menstruate. Given these facts, it’s no wonder that when this photo of more realistically-sized mannequins in a Swedish store hit the Internet, the response was an international roar of approval.
A blogger at Women’s Rights News posted the photo of the department store mannequins to Facebook last week, and the comments have been pouring in ever since. Although the dummies still represent the idealized hourglass shape, blonde hair, and fair skin, their softer-looking tummies and fleshier thighs have inspired 61,538 likes and over 19,000 shares as of this writing. The fact that they are dressed in lingerie also helps to perpetuate the idea that this store recognizes its shoppers don’t have to be a size 2 to be sexy.
The disconnect between the waif-thin, perfectly sculpted, Photoshop-perfected “ideal” and the women to whom these ads are targeted is old news–but even campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty, which capitalized on the radical idea of marketing to “real” women by fairly representing them in advertising, have been criticized as disingenuous and possibly unhealthy.
How can brands win when they face criticism from all sides? At the end of the day you can’t please everyone, but the decision to feature larger mannequins certainly earned this (as yet unnamed) retailer a lot of attention. Shouldn’t the company build a campaign around these images?
Now if someone could just find a way to de-creepify the whole concept of fiberglass people and convince us nothing sinister goes on in the mall after the lights go out, we’d be much more comfortable in the local department store.