Fashion

Mannequins, models and diversifying fashion’s ideal body

When you hear the word model, what are the first words that come to mind? Skinny? Tall? Attractive? Such associations have, over time, left a damaging effect on hundreds of thousands of people, including models themselves who are left with ludicrous standards that have to be met.

Mannequins that showcase the clothes we buy measure in, on average, at 34”-24”-34” (bust-waist-hips) – the same measurements that models are expected to uphold. To give some perspective, the average woman measures in at 40.5”-33”-43”. From these numbers alone, some huge issues are highlighted: our mannequins and our models paint an unrealistic image for women. We are led to believe that the shape and size of a mannequin is a true reflection of ‘beauty’. These unrealistic standards bring about a number of problems. With first-hand experience in the fashion industry as a model, these are issues which are very personal to myself and those around me.

The standard sample size used when shooting e-commerce (online images for websites) is a UK 10. However, these size 10 clothes are often being shown on models who are on average a UK 6; warping our perception of sizes, and our own bodies. Clothes, in my own modelling experience, have nearly always been pinned back – which involves shooting images from the front, back and sides and moving the clips that are pinning clothes between each shot. This process that is so normalised for industry insiders came as a shock to the public when it was revealed via an image that hadn’t been correctly edited, uploaded to ASOS in April 2019. The image showed a bulldog clip clipping a dress back on a model, and caused uproar on social media, with many questioning what other deceptive techniques fashion brands are using to skew our understanding of clothing sizes.

The ever-growing understanding of the importance of mental health in today’s society brings to light a number of different issues, many of which are interesting to consider in relation to these worrying beauty standards. Body image and mental health are often intertwined, resulting in a rise in related illnesses like eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, as well as increasingly common mental health disorders like body dysmorphia.

However, with society’s views changing and many of us moving towards greater self-acceptance and self-love, one important question is, what are the fashion industries doing to progress alongside society, recognising how deception and unrealistic standards of beauty can breed mental health issues? Well, for one, many brands are becoming more size-inclusive – with some brands including plus-sized mannequins in their stores and many brands catering to a greater range of sizes with specific ‘curve’ ranges. Additionally, some high fashion brands, such as Mark Fast, include plus-sized models in fashion shows, a trend which has continued to grow with plus-sized models walking for a number of well-known brands such as Kate Spade and Michael Kors, throughout New York Fashion Week.

It is clear that there has been a lot of positive progress in the diversification of the fashion industry’s perception of the ‘ideal body’, however there is still a long way to go. But with petitions circulating on sites like change.org about changing standards within the fashion industry, I look forward to seeing fashion’s ideal body gradually being knocked down to align with society’s growing attitude towards self-acceptance and self-love.

22/09/2020

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Fiona McCormick