As fashion department store Debenhams take the bold and brave step of introducing size 16 mannequins to their high street stores, I’m wondering if this is a step too far? Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely a positive sign that fashion retailers are starting to acknowledge the unhealthy body image issues that surround their models and campaigns, I just fear that this is the right move but in the wrong place.
It is quite a remarkable move for Debenhams to make, although they must believe there is a profit to be made from these, equally unrealistic, overweight mannequins. Size 16 might be the average women’s size in Britain, but generally speaking, size 16 is not a healthy size to be. Britain is not a healthy nation. I’m not discriminating against those who are naturally a size 16 and for whom this is a healthy weight to be, I’m talking about the majority of those size 16’s who are so because they lead an unhealthy lifestyle, of eating too much and not exercising enough.
I don’t believe shops should be promoting the message that it is okay to be overweight, it is not, and the government spends millions of pounds telling us this. This isn’t because the media says a size 16 is fat and only size zero is beautiful. It’s not okay to be overweight because its dangerous for our health. This is mind, I can’t help but wonder why Jo Swinson has decided to undo some of those millions by reassuring and encouraging people that – to put it bluntly – it’s okay to be fat.
It is the attitudes of the media, and women themselves that need to change, not the size of the shop mannequins. Of course the mannequins are not a realistic model of the average size 16 woman, with flat stomachs and legs slimmer than my own ‘size 10’ legs, but that is because they are just that, mannequins. Dolls. Not real. Therefore, I am doubtful about how they are going to make real women feel better about their bodies. This change needs to be applied to the real women who front the fashion industry, then maybe we will get somewhere in the battle for better body image.