A Mannequin Like Me

I recently had a need for some new professional clothing, and I went from shop to shop in the local mall looking at my options. In every store window were mannequins, white and plastic and slender.

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Not like me. I’m big boned and curvy. Every time I would see a cute outfit, I would find that when I tried it on it looked nothing like it had on the mannequin.

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But then, I was so used to seeing mannequins like these—tall and skinny—that I directed my annoyance at my body, not at the mannequins. The problem was that I was too fat, not that the skinny mannequins had given me an unrealistic idea of what I would look like in the clothing.

This changed when I came to a store named Maurice’s. It was then that I stopped and stared.

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While some of the mannequins in Maurice’s’ store window were the standard type, others were not. These other mannequins, quite simply, looked like me. And that meant so much to me that I quite intentionally patronized that store rather than the others.

This got me thinking.

First, I can’t be the only woman who finds it so very annoying to see a cute outfit on a mannequin only to try it on and find that on my curvy body, it looks nothing like I’d been led to expect. Most mannequins are a size 4 or 6 while the average American woman is a size 14. How are such slender mannequins a good marketing choice? Wouldn’t it be better to give women a realistic idea of what that outfit will look like on their body? It seems that stores with this sort of mannequin sell an ideal, and lead women like me to respond by seeing our bodies as problems to be despised.

Second, I may be curvy, but I’m otherwise not that unlike the typical mannequins. I’m white and I’m able bodied. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a mannequin in a wheelchair, and while I have seen black mannequins they are both not all that common and just as slender as the white mannequins. In other words, my growing annoyance that most mannequins are nothing like me—i.e., curvy—is only the tip of the iceberg compared to what other women farther from the norm must experience.

And so I have to wonder. What would storefronts look like if the mannequins that filled them actually reflected the true diversity of women, from body type to skin color? If women could look through store windows and know that they would see women like them, how would that effect their body image?

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • AAAtheist

    I think advertising that reflects the diversity of the customer base is a good thing, as long as it’s not pejorative (i.e., “before & after” comparisons or the like).

    About a year ago, it seems plus-size mannequins caused a minor controversy in a Swedish store because some patrons thought they might encourage obesity. It’s revealing, though, those same customers didn’t complain that default ultra-thin mannequins could encourage anorexia.

    • The_L1985

      Not to mention, some of us have such a high metabolism that we’d have to deliberately try, for months on end, in order to become obese (the same way people with a low metabolism have such a hard time losing weight). “Encouraging obesity” is just a silly thing to say. Some people are heavier than others, just by default.

      I can’t make my hips smaller, no matter how much I exercise or how much weight I lose. I also can’t become much curvier than I already am. The shape of the body is largely genetic, and as long as people have healthy eating and exercising habits, I don’t care how big or small they are around the middle.

      It just seems to me that fat and sex are two things people obsess too much over–especially people who are trying to avoid them.

      • AAAtheist

        Very good points about health, size, and body image. I was trying to illustrate the hypocrisy of declaring a certain body type (curvy = bad; rail-thin = good) as inherently unhealthy. Hope I succeeded.

        Here’s an article that backs up your point.

      • onamission5

        I was just talking about this with Spouse the other day! How I have been skinny, I have been fat, I am now something akin to plump, and at no size has my basic shape ever changed. Hips: wide Butt: round Shoulders: square Boobs: smallish Legs and arms: short Torso: long.
        I have to shop for bathing suits and other one piece garments in the Tall section, but my pants fit best when they are petite. Dresses which fit my bottom half gape open on my top half more often than not. There has never been a time when I could tell if something would fit me properly by looking at it on a store mannequin. Shopping on line is such a crapshoot!

      • The_L1985

        I agree with you. Unless I’m buying T-shirts (which are fairly standard) or shoes (which I pretty much HAVE to get online, since so few stores nearby stock a size 5), I want to try it on first.

      • onamission5

        Yes to trying things on! And sizing… online sizing is infuriating. Like, I am a size 10-12. Problem? Most garments come in either an 8-10 or a 12-14. An 8-10 is (usually but not always) sized to fit size 8 people and a 12-14 is (usually but not always) sized to fit size14 folks. So what the hell am I supposed to wear? Things which are too tight or too baggy, too long or too short, I guess. Ditto for when a size 12-14 was too tight for me, but a 16-18 was too big. Whaa for in between sized people. Tailoring is expensive and I am not all that good at/interested in sewing.

        I am not even going to get into those companies who size things as xs-xl, and then when you look at their sizing chart, their xl is sized as an 8-10. Those companies get none of my business or fucks.

      • texcee

        I HAVE to try on each and every pair of jeans I buy. I can go to the clothing store and pull three pairs of jeans off the shelf — same brand, same size, same batch. Two of them will fit and the third won’t. Or one will fit great and I can’t even get the other two buttoned. Ordering clothes out of a catalog? My success rate is about 20% at that; the rest have to be returned.

      • Miss_Beara

        Target is guilty of that. I have to get XL shirts, although i still have to try them on because they might be made differently in Indonesia than they are in China. Sometimes L fits, sometimes XL and sometimes XL is even too small. XS looks like a child size which is why there are a lot of those left.

      • The_L1985

        Ugh, I know, right? When you’re curvy, it’s like the store somehow senses it and has everything BUT your size. :(

      • jasmine999

        I’m into costume history, and I can’t think of a European era since the Middle Ages that did not foist really strange physical ideals on women. 16th to early 20th centuries are characterized by corseting, bizarre tiny foot fetishes (18th-19th), topped (bottomed lol) with panniers/crinolines/multiple petticoats to achieve “the look.” There WAS a break during the Regency. Lucky Jane Austen.

        We then get the hobble skirts of the 1910s, followed by the hyper-slender look of the 1920s and 1930s. The ideal size goes up a bit in the ’50s, early ’60s, but returns to skinny in the late ’60s.

        It’s a shame, and it can’t be healthy.

      • Saraquill

        I’m not as familiar with the later regency styles, but in the early years the clothes could get ridiculously thin, to the point that there’s a portrait by Jacques Louis David of a woman with nipples showing through her clothes.

      • jasmine999

        True :) I meant that, for a few decades, women only had to deal with a modified corset to support their breasts, and did not have to suffer panniers and crinolines. The clothes were body revealing rather than body reshaping, and the ideal was neither overly thin nor overly fat. btw they did have pretty substantial overgarments, hats, muffs, boots, etc., for cold weather.

      • Saraquill

        I know, I’ve made Recency outfits from petticoat to shawl. I still get amused by excesses in the style and the satirical drawings of exposed stays and rears.

      • jasmine999

        Oh wow. The furthest I’ve gone was to make a dress with a bib top from Janet Arnold. It was SO comfortable to wear! I didn’t make the modified stays that would have gone with it, as the top provided enough support without that. I also made a couple of 18th century corsets, and they are surprisingly comfortable. I don’t have panniers to go with, so I’ve never made the costume to go with them.

  • Lola

    I have less of a problem with mannequins than I do with just plain advertising. Those mannequins are entirely representative of the models that those same companies use for everything else, which seems to be more of the root of the problem. They’re showing off the clothing on the models the same way that they are represented in the flyers or advertisements, probably so it’s very obvious where those clothes are. It’s also easier for me to separate fairly fake look of the mannequins and how things will look on me than it is to make that same disconnect when I see actual humans in the clothing.

    While on the subject of body diversity in advertisements, I have NEVER seen a mannequin or model representative of my build (very short and curvy). The “petite” models for the petite section are the exact same as for the standard sizes and they never show one with any curve. My build is probably closer to that middle mannequin in the last picture, but many, many inches shorter, meaning that those shorts would hang past my knees. Moral of the story- bring on the short, curvy mannequins as well.

    • The_L1985

      Short, curvy girl seconding this! Also, if there were a petite-juniors sort of sizing, too, the me of 10 years ago would be in heaven. Cute long-sleeved tops aren’t so cute when the sleeves are 3 inches too long.

      I’m not a fan of Daisy Dukes, but other shorts tend to look a bit odd on me. Capris become pedal-pushers. Mid-thigh shorts become Bermuda shorts. I’ve been known to actually hem up shorts from Misses just so they’ll look right on me.

      I have a sweater I’ve owned and worn since 2001. It’s taken that long for the sleeves to go from “too long” to “just right.” (That sweater still looks good, too. Stuff like that is why I miss the Goody’s chain.)

      • Lola

        The petite juniors would be awesome and me 10 years ago agrees with you 10 years ago. I just had a great conversation with my 15 year old cousin who is stepping into the sad realities of being a petite curvy girl too. She’s struggling with clothes because the juniors don’t fit her because she has too much curve, but the petites that do fit look like little old lady clothes (I remember feeling the same way at that age).

        Here’s to hemming.

      • victoria

        Have you seen the blog Extra Petite? The author isn’t especially curvy but has a lot of resources about tailoring and petite-friendly brands.

        My sister is petite and curvy too. She gets a lot of her clothes from J. Crew and Ann Taylor, but she will be the first to tell you that she always dresses like a lawyer. (Which is appropriate for her, since she is, in fact, a litigator, but probably not so great for a 15-year-old girl.)

      • The_L1985

        I had to wear belts all the time as a teen, because of the severe waist-gap in EVERY SINGLE PAIR of jeans I owned.

        On the plus side, T-shirts are always long enough to cover as much midriff as you want covered. :)

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Me too. That was because I’m just very small (I was petite 00 for a short time, petite 0 for a long time) and most stores don’t carry those sizes. I’d buy a 0 or small 1 and wear a belt.

        On the plus side, belts were a “cool” accessory then and I could pretend to have some sense of style!

      • Mogg

        Nope. I’m tall and curvy with short legs and long torso. Regular t-shirts which aren’t so large as to be ultra-baggy pretty much meet my waistband at best, and I will always have some skin showing if I stretch or bend over. When short t-shirts are in, I have difficulty finding one which comes anywhere near my waistband, which almost always has to be belted due to waist-gap unless I was extremely lucky the last time I went shopping for jeans.

      • The_L1985

        Sorry, I meant “when you’re petite.” I probably should have qualified that.

      • Mogg

        No worries. I have a good friend who is a minimum of two sizes lager in tops than bottoms, and once had a good friend who was 4’10″ in shoes and could often only find clothes in the children’s section. And there are my sisters who are respectively as tall as me but with bigger bones, longer legs, no bust or waist and broad shoulders, and 6′ with a bust requiring specialist fitting because it’s impossible to find adequately large cup size with a “normal” band size, so I’ve participated in pretty much every form of shopping frustration possible!

  • The_L1985

    A size 6 can be curvy, too, depending on your height. I’m 5’2″ and pear-shaped, and some size 6 pants look great on me.

    Others either make my butt look huge, or are too tight around the thighs. And by “others,” I mean 80% of the pants in any given store (sometimes the petites section is kinder, but not always).

    I could go a size up, but then I’d have to get control-top pants so the waist doesn’t look huge and weird. I often do this for work, since you can’t see the waistband under some of the cute professional blouses out there.

    As for mannequins–I personally think they should be colors that don’t match human skintones. A snow-white mannequin bothers me less than a Caucasian-skin-tone mannequin, because the latter just makes it look like you’re trying to alienate shoppers of color. Snow-white isn’t technically a skin color, so at worst it just looks like you didn’t think about it. I’ve seen black mannequins, too, but they’re rare–maybe there should be a better mix of snow-white and jet-black. Oh, and the plus-size section of the store should NOT have skinny mannequins! Plus-size clothes look like a tent on skinny people, and I’m pretty sure that’s not how anybody wants their outfit to look either. (Yes, I’ve seen this. At a store with a separate “plus size” section. Fortunately, there are chains that know better.)

    • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

      Several mannequins I’ve seen are now grey or black speckled, like they are carved from stone, which is neat, but they are also, nothing like ANY human body. They are very angular, are missing hands, completely flat in the back, which is stupid.

      • The_L1985

        Yikes! I like the color idea, but not the shape. If the clothes are going to go on people, the mannequin torsos should be shaped like people.

        The missing-hands thing doesn’t bug me either. Mannequins are supposed to be showing off the clothes, and not too many styles of clothing cover the hands unless you’re wearing gloves.

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        Yeah, it’s the strangest thing. It’s a display, but just for the clothes. It’s not attempting to show what they will look like on you or anyone else. Just “Look, the clothes are standing!! Isn’t that enough?”

      • ZebulaNebula

        Ya know, they should really make them transparent.

    • Jayn

      That’s true that even at the same size size, shape can differ. I’ve tried on clothes that looked way different on me than on the mannequin, and I’m small enough to have actually bought clothes from the display.

    • Revenwyn

      Here’s something disturbing that I have seen. I have seen stores where the plus size mannequins were skin color black… not a white to be seen. Apparently it’s socially acceptable for black women to be overweight but not whites. Even jet black ones would offend me if there were no stark white ones.

      • The_L1985

        Ugh. It also perpetuates the stereotype of the overweight “Sassy Black Woman.” People are not stereotypes!

  • Jeri

    I saw a mannequin in a wheelchair once; I think it was at Kohl’s. It was surprising, in a good way!

    I definitely relate to your shopping frustration. I loved those Swedish mannequins that actually had some thigh!

    • Mel

      I saw a mannequin in a wheelchair at Kohl’s. Our family loved it and told the store our feelings.

  • Sophie

    Clothes shopping in a wheelchair can be a nightmare. Never mind the issues of accessibility but actually finding clothes that look good, well most of the time I settle for what’s comfortable. I am luckier than others in that I can stand for a minute or two, and I can walk 10-20 metres with crutches and that makes trying clothes on easier. But finding clothes that look good when you are sitting down is hard, since clothes are cut to look good when the person wearing them is standing. Right now I have one store where I know the clothes will fit me and that they will look ok when I’m in my wheelchair. My other issue is that my body shape is completely non-standard and I’m not talking about being big-boned or curvy, I am talking about having a skeleton which is not the normal shape. My rib cage is twisted and I have a small kyphosis (humped back), my torso is much shorter than standard due to my twisted spine and my spinal fusions and my pelvis is tilted with one hip higher than the other. Finding tops that do not go halfway down my thighs is nigh on impossible this year, as is finding skirts and trousers that fit me since the distance from my waist to my hips is not standard. Mostly I live in empire-line dresses or empire-line tunics with leggings, which I have a lot of. But it would be nice to have a little more variety.

    I’m not sure how I would feel about seeing mannequins in wheelchairs, I suppose it would depend if it was in a lot of shops or just in one. If it was just in the one I would feel like it was exploitative, using the image of a disabled person to proclaim how accepting the brand was. If it became normal for shops to have disabled mannequins then that would be cool but I don’t see it happening. The shops PR departments would be too worried that having the ‘weird-looking’ mannequin would put off normal people. A few years ago, there was a British department store that used a disabled model as part of one of their advertising campaigns but it was a stunt that had been organised through a fashion TV show. Basically they were pressured into doing it and it never happened again. To be honest if it hadn’t been tied in with the TV show and I hadn’t seen interviews with the model, then I would have been suspicious that they has just put an able-bodied model in a wheelchair.

  • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

    You said the average woman in the US is a size fourteen and I, being a size 14 on bottom, instantly feel a thousand times better about myself :) I thought the average was closer to a size ten – which I used to be smaller than, making me feel incredibly large. I suddenly feel normal :)

    • KarenJo12

      Same here. I will be 50 on Thursday. For all but the last 2 years of my life and during my two pregnancies, I was a size 10 or, usually, smaller. I really rather hate my current body, but I am also unwilling to put the effort into returning to a size 10. Knowing that I am actually average is good news to me.

    • Christine

      I’m sure it’s a size 10. From 30 years ago. (Actually, I suspect that might be bigger than a modern size 14, but it depends on where you shop.)

  • That Other Jean

    Heh. Short, round, plus-size person here. Plus-sized women get this every day, both in brick-and-mortar stores and in print. Ever looked through a plus-size catalog? The models wearing the clothes that are intended for us have bodies nothing at all like ours. If they’re actual people wearing actual clothes and not some CGI magic, they’re able to set off metal detectors from all the pins taking up the slack in places we can’t see, or they’re wearing versions of plus-size clothes made to fit them, not us. And we’re supposed to choose clothes based on how they look on tall, skinny models.

    It’s true that plus-size models/mannequins may not be as pretty to look at for most people, but most people aren’t trying to buy the clothes they’re wearing. For those who are, it’s nice to see what they’d actually look like on us. Everybody else, ignore them.

    • J-Rex

      I’ve noticed that all plus-sized models just look like normal-sized women. They’re certainly larger than the anorexic models that are used for most clothing, but they’re really not large at all!
      I was watching America’s Next Top Model and there was a woman on there who wasn’t particularly skinny, but she wasn’t that big either. Tyra told her that she was in-between weights for regular or plus-sized models and that she should try to either gain weight or lose weight. While it’s nice that she wasn’t automatically told she needed to lose weight, I was shocked that they considered her anywhere near plus-sized just because she wasn’t anorexic looking!

      • Revenwyn

        Plus size modeling starts at size 8 and typically ends at a 12. Lane Bryant will use up to a 14. At the same time, their stores won’t hire anyone less than a 22… I fit their clothing and tried for years to get hired on. I was constantly told I looked like I could buy my clothing elsewhere or that I didn’t look like I was big enough to need their clothing. I was a 16-18.

      • Speedwell

        I worked in a Lane Bryant years ago when I was a size 16-18. Fun times. My co-workers, also lovely young curvy women who turned heads, would go to the other mall shop that sold clothing in sizes like 0 and 2 and ask to try stuff on, just to enjoy the deer-in-the-headlights looks on the faces of the sales staff there.

      • Tess

        My dad accidentally got my (pretty tiny) mom a gift card to Lane Bryant one year. He had no idea walking around in the store that they only sell plus size clothes, because he doesn’t pay enough attention to advertising to realize that their models–who look pretty representative of many “normal” people in our lives–were definitely not skinny enough to be a non-plus size store’s models.

    • Gillianren

      I was going to mention the pins, actually. I’ve seen clothes that had to be pinned on all sorts of mannequins, because they used a larger size than the mannequin was–and that wasn’t even just in the plus-sized section.

      • Jayn

        I wonder if it’s an inventory issue? IME the smaller sizes tend to be the first to run out in a lot of stores–if the mannequin originally wore a smaller size of the item it may have been sold to someone who couldn’t find their size on the racks.

      • Gillianren

        Hmm. Possible. As I am (when not nine months pregnant!) a size 18 at smallest, I wouldn’t know.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        Larger stores won’t pull a display just because a person wants the size the mannequin is wearing. They figure the visual allure will more than make up for the lack of a single sale. Many people don’t even think to ask for the mannequin’s clothing and, more often than not, I would see zealous sales people strip mannequins as a proactive measure.

      • aim2misbehave

        I actually end up regularly asking for clothes off mannequins, because for some reason it’s always the small sizes in the local malls that sell out first, and I’ve never had anyone decline that request. It seems about 50/50 on whether the salespeople will just put a bigger size on the mannequin, or grab the nearest item in the same size from the same brand and use that.

    • texcee

      It drives me nuts when I look at clothing for “plus size” women in the catalogs. Do any of those women have paunchy stomachs? Do any of them have thunder thighs? Do any of them have muffin tops where their flab hangs over their pants tops? Hello — real woman have those things! Let’s see what REAL women will look like in your clothing!!

      • nobodyssister

        I’m sure those women have all those things. It’s the pictures of those women that don’t have them. Photoshopped all to hell and back.

      • The_L1985

        Well, yes, but there are also real plus-sized women who don’t have those things.

        (There are also people like me, who have these things without being plus-sized.)

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    Hear hear! I am a very short woman, and clothes regularly look “different” on me than they do on the average 5’4″ or 5’5″ woman. Then I see those tall mannequins who look like Amazon goddesses and it just makes me sick! :b

  • Geoffrey

    I was living in London back when the UK’s “Say No to Size Zero” campaign was first kicking off, and I had an interesting conversation about it with a Savile Row tailor who’d be making women’s clothing for the better part of the century: he pointed out that the problem hadn’t originally been models or mannequins, but rather the rise of the department store and rows and rows of clothes on HANGERS.

    As department stores became bigger purchasers than private individuals, they also got more say in the design process, and tailors were encouraged to work in straight, skinny lines that looked good on a cheap wire hanger. In addition to an obvious influence on fashion, that also meant you had to, in his words, “find a girl who looks like a bloody coat hanger to model it.”

    Pure anecdote, so take it with a grain of salt…but it was a clever enough argument that I wanted to believe it, whether the rise of the department store coat hanger actually had anything to do with size zero models or not.

    • aim2misbehave

      Campaigns like these frustrate me to no end. Size 0 and 00 don’t exist because humans are suddenly getting skinnier, they exist because the black magic incantations that retailers use to apply arbitrary numbers to the tags on women’s clothes have been slowly shifting so the same numbers indicate larger and larger actual sizes over time, therefore necessitating the creation of new number sizes down at the smallest end of the range of women that they expect to shop at their store.

      And if they could just size women’s clothes like men’s clothes where a size “34″ shirt is meant to fit someone with a 34″ chest, we wouldn’t have that problem at all….

      • Christine

        No, I object to the existance of size 0 and 00. I am a size 16, and if I have to wear a 7 or a 10 at your store, I’m not amused. I only have to wear from 7 to 12 because of the vanity sizing. If the smallest sizes didn’t exist they’d be forced to use more appropriate names for the other sizes.

        Heck, even my wedding dress was labelled as being a size too small. And that’s when I was paying a lot of money.

      • Jayn

        The whole thing just points to how arbitrary clothes sizing tends to be. I tend to gravitate towards whatever’s the smallest size on the rack, so I don’t care that much what the actual label is, but I can see how it would be a bigger issue if you’re not on the edge of the size range.

        I think the problem with saying things like ‘No to Size 0′ is that it’s unclear if you mean no to having them labeled that way, or no to having clothes in those sizes to begin with. From the rest of your post I’m sure you mean the former, but it’s not hard to read it as the latter, especially with people railing against unrealistic body images in advertising (which yes, for most people they are and we need more variety in advertising, but I get the feeling that my very existence is a problem sometimes). It can feel like an attack on being that small, rather than an attack on how manufacturers choose to label their clothes.

      • Christine

        I wonder if it’s because I hang out with sensible people, or because I’m at the large end of clothes myself (so I miss subtext), but I’ve never really heard anyone complain about the existence of clothes for small people. It’s as stupid as caring what the size says (and yes, I do care, but only because I’d like the sizes to actually convey information. If I could wear the same size everywhere, I wouldn’t care what it was. Sure, I was happy that I got into a size 42 shirt, but that’s just because it was a pre-pregnancy shirt. The tag could have said anything and I’d have been that excited).

      • Sophie

        If I remember correctly, this campaign was about models being required to be size 0 which was leading to a lot of models losing weight and becoming unhealthy. I believe the campaign started after a model died from an ED. So it wasn’t about saying that people aren’t allowed to be size 0 if that’s what they naturally are, it was about not expecting models to make themselves ill trying to achieve a size that they weren’t.

      • Semipermeable

        “”34″ shirt is meant to fit someone with a 34″ chest,”

        This!
        I wish clothing was listed by the simple measurements, perhaps length, width, height, so it would just be #/#/#.

        Small, medium and large are totally arbitrary depending on the population. In ‘fashion stores’ I’m a Medium/Large, in sport T-shirts I’m a small, and pants are a total shot in the dark.

        I wouldn’t even mind the numbers if there was some sort of industry standardization.

        Clothes shopping is a huge waste of time when you have to try on 5 different sizes to even figure out what your ballpark size is on that day/in that store/for that manufacturer. Plus they change the sizes all the time year by year. Old Navy sweetheart jeans from 2007 to 2009 barely seem to line up with one another when compared.

        It just drives me nuts.

  • Olive Markus

    Clothes shopping has always been a traumatic experience for me, as my body does not conform to the clothing options given to me. I have quite a large, curvy and stocky lower body with a slender, bony and small-chested upper body. I’ve hated my body since I was old enough to know my body wasn’t considered “normal”, but clothes shopping brings all of these emotions to the surface. There is nothing out there made for me, and I always feel like a freak.

    When I was younger, I resorted to greatly oversized men’s clothing, pants and tops, simply to avoid having to deal with it. Now I tend to wear long, loose skirts with tighter tops. I’m actually very happy about the current maxi-dress trend, as many of those tend to work for me, as well. We’ve worked out a system where my mom buys me clothes, I try them on, she takes back what I don’t like. It has alleviated a lot of stress for me.

    I recently had somebody close to me tell me that the only way I can possibly look good is by hiding my lower body. Yeah. Ouch. I already have BDD, and haven’t looked in the mirror in four years. I grew up with extreme judgement and devaluing of women, and I continue to bring people like that into my life somehow.

    My entire undergraduate art thesis worked around the theme of Body Image and Identity. It was painful, but it helped me work out a few things. It also seemed to resonate with a lot of the girls in my classes, which fostered a very supportive atmosphere.

    • MissMikey

      I have stocky legs and I have always always felt so self-conscious of them. Even as a child I knew that my heavy thighs and muscular calves were not the cultural ideal of women’s legs. When I was my most fit, in my late 20′s and early 30′s, I still would not leave the house wearing a short skirt without both heels, to lengthen and slim the appearance of my calves, and opaque tights, to somehow minimize my “unattractive” legs. I’m 39 now and wore a short dress with flip-flops instead of wedgie sandals for the first time in my life on July 4 and I was still anxious when I left the house.

      I actively try to avoid shopping for pants and shorts because clothes manufacturers seem to refuse to believe that American women are anything but apples. Last summer I needed new shorts and found only one pair that fit my waist and wasn’t cut so tightly on my thighs that I would be cutting off circulation just by standing. And of course, even though intellectually I recognized that the problem was with the manufacturers and not me, the experience did bring up all of the old feelings of being unattractive, shame, hating my own body, etc.

      • Olive Markus

        I completely feel your pain. It doesn’t help that my body has not been well-received by those in my life. For some reason, everybody feels compelled to tell me how awkward and “wrong” I look. I would never, EVER consider insulting anybody in that way, but especially not knowing how much it would hurt them.

        The problem IS with the manufacturers and the media and NOT us, but still… I know exactly what you mean. Shopping brings out the worst of my buried insecurities every single time. The biggest mistake my parents ever made was allowing me to subscribe to fashion and teen magazines as a young girl, I think.

  • tsara

    I’m 5’6″, 104lbs, and a size zero. Maybe it’s the body issues and eating disorder talking, but I’m pretty sure I’m curvier than the mannequins in the first window. :(

    • mdt

      I am 5’4″, 100lbs, and size zero. If y’all go behind these mannequins you will see that the stores often pin or even staple the clothes to fit tighter. The fit is a lie, period. The do it because it does draw you in with the fantasy, but if the clothes are not cut right, it won’t drap on anyone, not even me, correctly without help.

      • Miss_Beara

        I noticed the pinned clothes before so not only is the mannequin unrealistic, the clothes are too. And that is why I never by clothes online.

    • Miss_Beara

      :( It does sound like it is body issues and eating disorder talking. :

    • Rosa

      You are different from those mannequins in many ways. You have a brain, and joints that move, and you stand up without a pole stuck up you. These differences – and the curves – are all improvements on a mannequin, trust me.

      (also, one time when I worked in retail we had to pop the mannequin’s head off to get a shirt over her head. I bet your head doesn’t pop off.)

    • aim2misbehave

      Well, for one thing, the mannequins’ ankles and knees look too small to accommodate the necessary bones and tendons that humans have in their joints, never mind things like skin… IDK if I can say anything more concrete, but now you’ve given me an urge to find a skeleton and some mannequins and a pair of calipers and take some measurements. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if other parts of the mannequins are also smaller than human bodies *need* to be just to physically fit in all of the bones and such.

      • Revenwyn

        I don’t know, I’ve seen some people whose ankles are literally the size of my 6.25 inch wrist.

    • alwr

      It would be useful for all of us to remember that mannequins are not people nor are they meant to look like people. Ignore them. Look at the clothing on the rack and on your own body in the dressing room. The latter is what matters.

  • Karleanne Matthews

    I think that the most important thing in all these debates about marketing and body type is to validate large/curvy/short/whateverdifferentshapepeoplehave without attacking small people or making assumptions about the health of being small. I understand the urge to boost the confidence of larger women (I’m in the process of learning to appreciate myself several sizes larger than I’ve ever been), but when we assume that small women are small because of an eating disorder, it’s stigmatizing thinness under the false banner of good health just as the people who “worry about promoting obesity” pretend it’s out of some benevolent concern–never mind that they have no access to that person’s medical information. “Anorexic” is not a synonym for “thin”; it describes someone with a medical condition that may or may not result in extreme thinness. So yes, absolutely, let’s make a call for more body diversity in marketing, but let’s do it without attacking those who happen to conform to marketing “ideals,” as so often happens.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I appreciate this. I was really skinny through high school and college and did have the “ideal body shape”, though I was short: very small breasts, modest hips but definitely there, small waist. I got asked so many times about eating disorders. It was especially annoying if we were getting food somewhere and someone commented on the fact I was eating a lot/eating fried things. No shit, Sherlock, we’re at a restaurant to get food, and fried mozzarella sticks are awesome!

      • Jayn

        In high school it felt like I couldn’t win with food–Eating junk food? Jealous comments on how could I eat like that and stay so thin. Eating a smaller, healthier meal? Comments on how I should eat more. From the same people.

        Even though I get fewer comments on my weight these days, it’s still something I’m really self-conscious of, especially around friends who are trying to slim down. They’ll be talking about how much they’ve lost or what diet they’re on, and I’m wishing I could vanish into a corner even though none of the group I hang out with currently have acted like they hold it against me.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Yeah. I’ve put on some weight since college, so while I’m still thin, I’m not stick-skinny anymore. I just sit quietly and maybe make noises about eating more healthily when people start talking about diets. It’s almost always a good idea to eat more plant-foods, after all!

      • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

        Yep. I came very close to giving myself an eating disorder because I was a rake-thin teenager – and all the girls at my school made so many comments about me being anorexic that I started binging on junkfood just so I could put on enough weight to stop them.

        And the infuriating thing was that, if I told any of my friends that I was being picked on, I’d get “Oh, well, at least you’re skinny. You don’t really have anything to complain about.” as if teasing you about your weight only “counted” if you were fat.

      • Susie M

        Honestly, most my “skinny” friends eat a ton–when they’re hungry. And often, often they have “skinny” parents, etc. The ones who are super careful and deliberate tend to have heavier families, etc. Or, they’ll notice if they gain two pounds and make that go away, or they work out a lot so they can eat a lot.

    • Alice

      Thanks! Relatives were always pushing food on me with the enthusiasm of car salesmen. Even when I had eaten a big meal before getting to their house. I think people have flat-out asked me about anorexia only 3 times, but there were many times when people would hint around in an obvious manner and give me worried looks. My BMI is in the lower end of normal.

      I just can’t eat very much at one time. I need small meals throughout the day, which is actually healthier. I am quite a picky eater. My thinness is mostly metabolism, but I do /try/ to exercise and not overeat. One semester I gained 12 pounds from all the soda, gallons upon gallons of ice cream, and no exercise (which I then lost from working a blue-collar job full-time in the summer and eating healthier) so I definitely don’t take my weight for granted anymore, but I also don’t think about it all the time.

    • Saraquill

      I guy once dated me after I had a long illness, on top of the chronic one that kills my appetite. He was more than a little convinced that I had an eating disorder, complained about my eating habits (I like fruits, vegetables and beans,) and complained to my face repeatedly about my weight. Once when I left a bathroom, he demanded to know whether or not I threw up. I think he wanted to play a hero and “rescue” me from my non existent disorder.

      Once I returned to my regular weight, he complained about the change in my appearance and said that I was a person who had to be careful with what she ate. This coming from a man who refused to consume any fruit or vegetable, or any beverage that wasn’t heavily sweetened.

      I’m so glad he’s my ex.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      This is exactly why I avoided saying that there shouldn’t be slender mannequins. I don’t think shaming skinny people is any less wrong than shaming curvy people or overweight people or what have you. I think the focus shouldn’t be on what you do or don’t weigh but rather on health — are you eating healthilyt and getting regular exercise? Then you’re fine.

      • Karleanne Matthews

        Absolutely! (I wasn’t critiquing your post, to be clear, just making a more general observation on the way this discussion tends to go and some of the comments below were going.)

      • sdr

        Thanks for saying this specifically. I wasn’t offended at all by your post–I definitely *get* it, but I’m one of those people who’s just naturally very thin. I just have a high metabolism…I run marathons and eat anything and everything I want to, but I’m pretty much going to always be a size 2 with no boobs and tiny hips (and this is after two babies). Like the previous poster mentioned, someone blatantly asking about an eating disorder almost never happens, but the “hinting around” thing was really common, especially when I was in my 20′s.

      • alwr

        I used to get blatantly asked. I was actually confronted by an employer once with the claim that I had an eating disorder and was a poor role model for students. I was also harassed about being underweight by an overweight co-worker who was allowed to continue for fear telling her to stop would upset her. No one cared how I felt.

    • Trollface McGee

      I’ve never understood the idea that acknowledging that non-skinny people exist, and that they should be treated like human beings as “promoting obesity.” I remember people making that comment on an article which mentioned more clothing lines making plus sized clothing. Denying people basic dignity and respect isn’t going to do a damn thing for obesity rates any more than banning wigs is going to reduce the incidence of cancer.

      • Susie M

        Especially because stylish, trendy clothes can do a lot for a person’s self worth.And so many eating issues are psychological.

    • Sierra

      In an ideal world marketing should validate all body types. A apparel brand can’t recall the name of at the moment has started to use multiple models to advertise the same item; one thin, one average, and one plus sized. Studies show that women are more likely to buy an item modeled by someone with a body type similar to their own, so I wonder why more brands haven’t taken this type of approach. I know that brands want to cultivate a certain mystique around their brand, such as the way Ambercrombie is supposedly just for the “cool kids,” but wouldn’t it be more effective if brands told women that they would look great in their clothes, no matter their size or ethnicity, rather than, this brand is for you only if you are size XYZ?

    • Ash

      Thank you for this. I’m sick of being told that I have an eating disorder or that I’m not a “real woman” just because I’m naturally small.

  • Revenwyn

    My problem is that my body type is debatable as to whether it actually exists in women or if it is just a subtype of another. I am an inverted triangle. This means I have broad shoulders and large bust, a large rib cage that narrows only slightly, slim hips and slim legs. Women with this body shape have next to no waist to hip ratio. It is not because they are fat; in fact many of them have a low amount of body fat, as I do (19%.) It is rather that our ribs are elongated and don’t nip in as much at the natural waist. My waist can get down to 37 inches, and it is toned then, and my ribs are sticking out as if I were an anorexic once they reach 38 (yes, I really only have an inch difference between scary-rib-thin and my natural waist size.) We put on muscle mass like crazy. We are most often confused as being Apple shapes because they have little waist to hip ratio. The difference however is that in an Apple shape’s bust is either very slightly larger than their waist, equal to their waist, or sometimes even smaller than their waist. An overweight Inverted Triangle does have a tendency to turn into an Apple, but so does the ruler shape when they are overweight. Some experts think our type does exist, others lump us in with Apples, as we are about 1 out of every 1,000 women. The problem with the plus size mannequins is that it doesn’t matter that they are plus size. THEY ARE STILL HOURGLASS and the majority of plus size women are not. Heck, the majority of WOMEN are not. Plus size models are hourglass, and many of them look like they should lose weight for their health. Not scarily much, but yes, a lot of them do look overweight. However the majority of plus size consumers are apples or pears, and it does them little good to have clothing made for hourglass figures. Then there is me. I need a 20 for my bust, a 16 for my waist, a 12 for my hips… and a 4 for my thighs. I am 5’4″, 175 pounds, 19% body fat, and can bench press 250 pounds, leg press more than 400 pounds (the machine only goes up to 400 though…) The doctors at first tell me I’m overweight by 40 pounds according to the BMI then see how little body fat I have and take it back.

    I am not a curvy woman. Sure I have large breasts, but I have no hips. And things are made for the curvy woman, not in the nice name for fat sense, but for those with that perfect ten inches between bust, waist, and hips. Or at least six. My pants sag in the hips and especially the thighs. I have too much fabric in the waist of my shirts by the time I get them to fit over my bust. I can’t find any career wear that fits me right because it’s made for a C cup max, and I have six inches of extra fabric on my waist if I get it to fit my bust.

    Different mannequins is a good idea but one that I don’t think will ever come to pass since there are at least five different shapes of women (Ruler, Hourglass, Pear, Apple, Inverted Triangle) and combinations of them all. And there are various weight ranges too, and heights. It would be super expensive to even get a store running with them.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I’m waiting for the clothes of the future, where you step into a body scanner and it tells you what size/brand combos in the store will fit you. Maybe even make them for you, if we manage to turn 3D printers into full-on replicators.

      • onamission5

        Your ideas, they are grand; your newsletter, I must subscribe to it.

      • islandbrewer

        Apologies for being off topic – eckchay ouryay ogblay.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Oh thank you! And done.

    • MrRoivas

      Gotta say, you have some impressive muscles. And in a saner world, that would be something that would be universally considered a good thing.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

      I’m a bit like you – I need a 20-22 depending on brand for my bust, and a 12-14 for my waist and hips. I find it so depressing to try and buy clothes that dont either make me look really fat, or gape across my chest. I have a small bum, so it doesn’t hold pants up very well, I have to wear a belt even when I have a small muffin top.
      And then I got pregnant, and now I dont know what size or shape I am, and have to re-learn what suits me! (And my chest is bigger again. Sigh)

    • http://autistscorner.blogspot.com Thalestris

      Yep.

      I’m just like you, only taller, thicker of leg and minus the bust. I have to buy for my shoulders and arms, even though that means the rest of the garment will be too loose. Most of the time it’s not too bad, but if it’s ridiculous I’ll take in the sides. Knowing how to sew is practically imperative when you’re both large AND “disproportionate.”

      Before I discovered the “inverted triangle” terminology I’d been saying I was basically a man from the waist up. And not a small man, either!

      (It might be a little easier for me, because I really only span two sizes across different body parts — my chest, waist, hips and thighs all more or less match, and then there are my arms and shoulders, which are a few sizes up from that.)

    • Mogg

      You’re not alone! My best friend is of this type.

  • Miss_Beara

    I saw a mannequin in a wheelchair once at Kohl’s. The mannequins there aren’t super skinny, but they do clip the clothes in the back to make it seem more form fitting than it actually is. I don’t mind buying clothes that much now since I lost 25 pounds (so far), but it is so discouraging when I see clothes that look good on a mannequin, i try it on and it makes me look like I am wearing a sack. Sizing is really crazy too. I can fit into size 10 and size 12. Sometimes I can wear large and x-large. It might depend where it is made or the material. I don’t really get hung up with clothing sizes, just how I feel in the clothes.

  • Saraquill

    I like to look at the backs of mannequins. Often they’re wearing clothes much too big for them, and the garments are folded in back and pinned in place.

    • Christine Vezina

      Exactly what I was going to say… I am a tall, stick-straight size 2, and clothing still doesn’t fit me the way it fits mannequins.

      I do see a lot of black mannequins, too. Either black or white – I assumed it had to do with processing the plastic, since neither one is actually a skin color.

      • Susie M

        Some stores sell pink mannequins. I agree, the color thing doesn’t really count.

  • Anon

    According to the website of Maurice’s,they’re doing the same thing the other stores are doing. That size 14 mannequin is advertising that they carry size 24 clothes, just like the size 6 mannequins advertise size 16 clothes.

  • Rebecca M

    Then you have me. I am about a size four, but I am what you’d call curvy. I am very fit, but I am an hourglass and have T & A. These mannequins aren’t just bad for people who wear larger sizes (although I totally grant you that is definitely ONE big problem with them), but also for people who are not stick straight and uniform all the way up and down. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a mannequin with boobs! Not even the one you shot above has a D cup like me! I weigh 115 lbs with a D cup… try finding a mannequin like THAT! Oh, and to top that all off, I’m short too! LOL. Honestly? It isn’t just a problem with larger-statured women not being able to tell what clothes look like on them… It is about 90% of the female population not knowing. And I’m with you… I think representing diversity in general would be a good thing. :-P

    • Susie M

      I swear, boobs are the problem. ;)

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      I find that mannequins do usually have very small breasts but that they also do have very defined waists–and then the clothes on them are pinned at the back to make them look like they actually fit a waist. It’s false advertising because actually finding fitted clothing that hugs your waist is pretty difficult!

  • Susie M

    I’ve actually noticed that no one looks “good” in everything. I’ve had a lifetime of practices automatically finding styles that suit my body. In high school, I was a size ten when most my friends were 6 and under. (One was my height because she was taller and bulkier.) But, I could still pull of dresses the others couldn’t. I have a theory that every woman has a certain style that she looks better in that most people–she just has to find it.

  • Nurse Bee

    A little bit of a rabbit trail, but it’s kind of a myth that skinny=attractive. I’m 5’2″ and about 100 lbs, usually a size zero or XS. I’m not particularly pretty….

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