It’s not the first time a fashion retailer has sparked controversy, and it certainly won’t be the last. Karen Millen is the latest high street brand to hit the headlines for using, what can only be described as, dangerous mannequins to display one of its new season dresses. If you haven’t already seen the photo which swept across Twitter last week, the mannequin – which is reportedly an industry standard size 10 – quite clearly shows protruding collar bones and very visible ribs. Much like the model who wears the dress on the Karen Millen website, funnily enough.
Of course the image has sparked outrage from many Twitter users, including mental health campaigner Laur Evans, who was first to spot the mannequin in the West Quay store in Southampton and brought it to the unforgivable attention of social media.
However on the flip side, I have seen some responses from people questioning why this is even an issue. Having visible collar bones is not uncommon if you’re a slim size 10, and besides, doesn’t everyone knows that mannequins aren’t a realistic representation of women?
There are two things that bother me about instances such as this when they crop up on our Twitter feeds every too often. Firstly, is the fact that shop mannequins do not normally have bones on show – if they did we wouldn’t be shocked when confronted with it – but lets not even go there. This mannequin would have to be specially made, meaning the company has made a conscious decision to portray this. I can only speculate on the reasons behind this, does it make the dress look more appealing? Does it encourage more people to buy it?
I can’t answer these questions for sure, but say both answers are yes, it is ignorant and irresponsible that a respected brand would resort to these measures in the marketing of a dress, particularly given the much increased awareness of eating disorders triggered by the fashion industry.
Which leads me nicely on to my second point. The mannequin is extremely triggering. Collarbones and ribs are a core theme of the “thinspiration” sites that plague the internet and ruin lives, yet here it is so blatantly and unashamedly on display in a high street store. It is also not just in terms of eating disorders that this mannequin is damaging, it is aesthetics such as this which fuel the negative body image that dominates our culture. Sure, we may know deep down that mannequins aren’t what real women are supposed to look like but imagery like this affects people and ends in many women feeling insecure and inferior.
As a brand who describe themselves as ‘for the confident, uncompromising woman of today,’ Karen Millen really do have some explaining to do.
This mannequin is not about celebrating different body shapes, it is simply using bones to sell clothes.