The average female mannequin used to model clothes on the British high street represents a severely underweight woman, helping to reinforce an unhealthy “ultra-thin” ideal, research has found.
The study from the University of Liverpool, published in the Journal Of Eating Disorders, looked at 17 national fashion retailers in two British cities and assessed the body size of male and female mannequins.
A higher proportion of female mannequins were underweight and the average male mannequin was significantly larger than the average female mannequin, the research found. This probably won’t surprise you, but the extent of the difference is both shocking and dispiriting.
Every single one of the 32 female mannequins assessed was underweight, while just 8% of the male mannequins represented an underweight body size.
Not only was there a lack of diversity of body size among the mannequins, but the body size would in fact be considered “medically unhealthy” in real people, the researchers concluded.
Dr Eric Robinson, who led the study by the university’s institute of psychology, health and society, said its results consistently found that: “the body size of female mannequins represented that of extremely underweight human women,” reported Science Daily.
Changing the size of the high street’s mannequins would not “solve” young people’s body image problems, Robinson admitted. But he said the underweight mannequins likely perpetuate society’s existing body ideals and should therefore be curbed.
"Because ultra-thin ideals encourage the development of body image problems in young people, we need to change the environment to reduce emphasis on the value of extreme thinness,” he said.
The “presentation of ultra-thin female bodies” in the form of mannequins, Robinson added, “is likely to reinforce inappropriate and unobtainable body ideals, so as a society we should be taking measures to stop this type of reinforcement.
"Given that the prevalence of body image problems and disordered eating in young people is worryingly high, positive action that challenges communication of an ultra-thin ideal may be of particular benefit to children, adolescents and young adult females."