Some major retailers are taking a hit in the media. They are being accused of fat shaming girls due to how they promote body image in advertising and with mannequins. Victoria's Secret is dealing with blowback for its Perfect Body campaign. Then, UK shoppers Becky Hopper and Georgia Bibby tweeted a snap of Bibby posed alongside a Topshop mannequin with twig-like legs that look like they might snap at having to carry any body weight, pointing out the marked difference between perception and reality when it comes to the female form and the dress form.
Hopper and Bibby received heaps of attention for the tweet, with Bibby telling BuzzFeed, "I have seen mannequins like this before but never this bad. I think it’s possibly worse in the store than it looks on that photo. It appalled me, as it's such a poor misrepresentation of the female body and just irresponsible from a company as big as Topshop."
Topshop, which was riding high from its announcement of an athletic-wear fashion partnership with Beyonce, who is known for promoting positive images for women and their bodies, has finally responded to the hullabaloo about the stick-sized mannequin legs. What's their excuse for promoting being really thin?
Turns out the fast fashion giant isn't doing that. The mannequins are generic, if inconsiderately sized, and they are outsourced. They are not designed expressly for the brand or to promote one size or figure shape over another. In fact, the shape is meant for a functional purpose.
First, here's the photo of Bibby's perfectly normal sized legs.
And here's Topshop's statement, as issued to
"Topshop has long made it a priority to showcase a healthy size image to its customer from the choice of models used in the campaigns, to the stories run online and on the blog. The mannequins Topshop uses are not bespoke to Topshop and are supplied by a company that has been working with leading retailers for the past 30 years. The mannequin in question has been used in stores the past four years and is based on a standard UK size 10. The overall height, at 187cm, is taller than the average girl and the form is a stylised one to have more impact in store and create a visual focus. Mannequins are made from solid fibreglass, so in order for clothing to fit, the form of the mannequins needs to be of certain dimensions to allow clothing to be put on and removed; this is therefore not meant to be a representation of the average female body."
Ah, OK, so the mannequins are that size for visual purposes and for ease of clothing removal for styling for in-store promotional displays. For their part, Topshop's explanation does make sense — and some inhuman shapes are far less offensive than, say, mannequins with ribs poking out. However, it does seem a bit irresponsible for the marketing and design teams at the brand to not realize that its shopperswould look at the mannequin for style (and purchasing) ideas and immediately associate the thin frame with how the clothes are supposed to look, on the body.
However, it's highly doubtful that there is any malicious intent there. I personally don't think Topshop is playing the fat shaming game, but they still might want to think about introducing a variety of mannequins in their retail outposts.