Size diversity has come a long way in the past few years, with expanded clothing options in a variety of major retailers. However, one thing that has remained mostly the same: mannequins. A group of drama and theater students, though, are on a mission to change them by taking to the streets and protesting the plastic forms they feel promote unrealistic standards of beauty.
“We believe that there is a global diversity of body image and that the uniqueness of body image should be celebrated rather than slammed for not being the ‘perfect ideal’ that society dictates,” Shannon Mack, one the students behind the campaign, tells Yahoo Style.
In order to spread this message, Mack and others from St. John University in York, England, are visiting popular clothing stores and posing beside the mannequins in the windows and on the floors to highlight the difference between the body types advertised and the kinds most regular people have.
“We want to encourage people to be their own mannequins instead of trying to become a body size which is near impossible to achieve,” says Mack.
The campaign began as a project for a class called Politically Engaged Practice. In it, Mack and her group members decided to do their project on body image, given its social relevance and prevalence on social media.
“The inspiration for our project came from an artist called Yolanda Dominguez, a visual artist who creates projects around social issues,” Mack explains.
In her performance art piece “Poses,” Dominguez re-creates images from fashion magazines in public. The result is a stark difference between the glitz and glamour of the modeling world and the pedestrian one occupied by everyone else.
On her website Dominguez describes the project’s aim as showing the “highly distorted image of women” that the industry transmits “through models that do not represent real women and promoting harmful parameters and attitudes.”
The students also took inspiration from photographer Julia Busato’s series of photographs of nude models posing with shop mannequins. The series’s tagline is “Showcasing Women Who Don’t Want to Fit the Mold.”
The issue is front of mind for the younger generation, according to Mack. “For young people, finding confidence within themselves is a hard thing, and these shop mannequins are adding to the pressure of expectations,” she says.
While most stores around the world have been slow to introduce non-straight-size mannequins (a majority of mannequins, including those in department stores, are typically a size 4 or 6 despite the fact that the average American woman is a size 14), others have taken the initiative. In Australia, Target stores introduced size 14 mannequins, while Swedish department store Åhléns featured mannequins in sizes 10 and 12.
Debenhams, a British chain store similar to Macy’s, also has size 12 mannequins. While they were originally lauded, the country’s chief medical officer claimed that large mannequins normalize being overweight and can make individuals believe that obesity is acceptable.
The group hopes to see more diverse body types in mannequins in the future. The students aren’t planning any more demonstrations for now but will remain active on social media.
“The core message of the campaign is to love your body image and don’t compare yourself to plastic,” says Mack. “Mannequins present unrealistic expectations of body image for men and women, so instead let’s celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of body image by being our own mannequins.”
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