Should Mannequins Be Inspirational or Realistic?

Talent Management

Sometimes it seems impossible to imagine how clothes are going to look on. They look good on the hanger in the shop. They look good on the mannequin. Then you try them on and for unknown reasons suddenly you look a completely different shape and size and you feel awkward and chunky. Not what you want.

Towards the end of last year Debenhams rolled out their size 16 mannequins across the nation and at Talent Management agency we rejoiced. Some websites are enabling shoppers to use a virtual fitting room where they can create a customisable version of themselves so they can envisage what the clothes will look like on their body shape and size.

The new Debenhams mannequins are being rolled out throughout their women’s departments alongside the current size 10 models.

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The Debenhams mannequins don’t look overweight. They look healthy but curvy.

So should clothes be modelled on the real or the aspirational woman? The UK average clothes size is a 16. The UK standardised mannequin is a size 10. That’s three sizes and quite a fair few inches between the average and what we’re seeing clothes modelled on.

Any talent management agency worth its salt will have women on its books in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and many of us don’t wear the same size in a t-shirt as we would in trousers or pencil skirt. While shops have to standardise to a degree, we just aren’t built the way a mannequin is.

Enter the real model. The kind talent management agencies should be championing. Studies have shown that women are more likely to buy clothes when they’re modelled on someone their own size or their own age. In fact, you’re a whopping 200 percent more likely to buy clothes modelled by someone your size and 175 percent more likely to buy clothing modelled by someone your age.

So shops should step further away from the size zeroes who ruled the catwalk a few years ago, and stop pretending that only twenty year olds buy jeans. A more diverse range of models is what the people want. It makes for more effective marketing, because after all, if people are more likely to buy if they see clothes modelled on their own size then it’s definitely better for business. As the average UK woman is a size 16, then websites and shops who show clothes on 5’11” size 10 women are missing out on a huge percentage of the market.

There has been a bit of a backlash about the mannequin sizes. Some people argue that a size 16 is unhealthy and that advertising it is enforcing negative views and an acceptance of being overweight. Others think it’s a really positive method of marketing.

While health is obviously important, not everyone who wears a larger size is necessarily putting themselves at risk – taller, naturally bigger or muscular women might be healthier than their size ten counterparts.

The Debenhams mannequins don’t look overweight. They look healthy but curvy, and in doing so they are able to appeal to the average woman. Yes, they might have a much flatter stomach than the average size 16, but that doesn’t make them unattainable. They are both inspirational and realistic. Most importantly, they show what the clothes will look like on women of different sizes.

It might be expensive to manufacture mannequins in different sizes but if it makes women feel better about themselves then surely it’s worth the cost. And if the figures are anything to go by, women will be more inclined to spend as well. At Talent Management agency, we hope to see a more diverse range of models in advertising in the future.