Thu November 29, 2012
Arts & Culture

Do Shoppers Prefer Reality or Fiction? Plus-Sized Mannequins Launch Big Debate

It started simply enough. Five days ago a Reddit user posted a photo of an overweight mannequin asking “Anyone else horrified that they make obese mannequins too now?”

The photo was far from flattering. On top of pasty, white skin of a male mannequin was an even whiter wifebeater and boy shorts. Its head and hands appeared freakishly small. Meantime, its arms, legs and stomach looked inflated and marshmallow-like.

Credit Reddity Doopity / Imgur

The inquiry on Reddit touched off an online debate that garnered more than 1,400 comments—many of which were strongly in favor or against the notion.

And it touched off some interesting questions as Colorado and other states combat obesity. In a world where the average American woman is a size 14, why is the typical mannequin a size 4 or 6? Should mannequins reflect reality—i.e. the rising rate of obesity in America—or the small shapes that many aspire to?

Mannequin makers including Broomfield-based Fusion Specialties have discussed the importance of mannequins capturing part of a customer’s imagination. Back when mannequin companies were changing forms to become more lifelike in 2011, Brand Manager Peter Huston explained to KUNC:

A well-designed mannequin will always be far more aspirational than it is realistic. And so you walk a fine line there.

But in an article posted on Good Morning America’s website on the Reddit debate, President of the mannequin company Alvanon, Ed Gribbin, said retailers are warming to the idea of plus-sized mannequins.

They certainly don't want to be seen as passing judgment on anyone and plus sizes are now the majority of sales for many.

While stores are open to the idea, don’t expect things to change overnight. Mannequin Maddess, a company that buys used items from retail shops, wrote in its blog last March that only a small fraction of the mannequins it acquires are larger than a size 6. In its blog the company wrote:

There is still not public acceptance of plus sizes. This is why plus size mannequins are rarely seen in store windows or on the main floor where the glamour mannequins are. They are typically relegated to the second or third floor of major department stores.

Only in stores that specifically cater to plus size women do you see plus size mannequins prominently displayed.

And here’s another dose of bizarre mannequin-style reality.

Mannequin Madness’ blog goes on to point out that “plus size” in the mannequin world is women’s size 10—far from what many see as “obese”.