A new study in the Journal of Eating Disorders has found that the majority of Female Mannequins in store windows are actually overwhelmingly underweight. As part of the study, researchers from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom visited two major shopping districts in the country and found that all female mannequins represented body types that were underweight. In fact, the researchers noted that the average size of a female mannequin was “that of an extremely underweight human woman.” Conversely, just 8 percent of male mannequins were found to look underweight.
“Our survey produced consistent results; the body size of female mannequins represented that of extremely underweight human women,” lead researcher Eric Robinson explained. “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. Given the prevalence of body image problems and disordered eating in young people is worryingly high, positive action that challenges communication of ultra-thin ideal may be of particular benefit to children, adolescents, and young adult females.”
The researchers ascertained the size of the mannequins and judged to what extent they were underweight by having two objective viewers compare the mannequins in store windows with the photos of the bodies of 10 adult females, each of which was given a BMI rating. Each observer was then asked which of the photos most closely matched the mannequin. The researchers noted that the sample size was quite small – limited to just 32 mannequins – and because the study was limited to the United Kingdom, it doesn’t give a full picture of mannequin weight globally. Therefore, more research is needed.
The researchers also noted that making mannequins bigger won’t solve the body image problems many women face. “We of course are not saying that altering the size of high-street fashion mannequins will on its own ‘solve’ body image problems,” Robinson said. “What we are instead saying is that presentation of ultra-thin female bodies is likely to reinforce inappropriate and unobtainable body ideals, so as a society we should be taking measures to stop this type of reinforcement.”
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