Kate Moss playing a mannequin at the launch of her Topshop collection
Topshop has landed itself in hot water this week for using ultra-skinny mannequins in its stores.
When shopper Laura Berry spotted one in the Bristol branch of Topshop, she wrote an open letter to the brand on Facebook questioning its use of the tall, pin-thin shop mannequins. ‘I’d love to hear how you can justify the ridiculously tiny mannequin in your Bristol Cribbs Causeway store?’ she wrote.
Berry argued that the mannequins – with their 25-inch waists and 6’2” height - were compounding the insecurities of ‘a generation of extremely body conscious youths.’
She does have a point: at 187cm tall and a dress size 6, the Topshop mannequins would make even a Victoria’s Secret Angel look big boned. To fulfill those proportions you'd need to have the height of Karlie Kloss and the tiny waist size of Kim Kardashian.
Topshop have previously argued that the mannequins are skinny so the clothes can be easily removed. ‘Mannequins are made from solid fibreglass’ they said in a statement last year, ‘so in order for clothing to fit, the form of the mannequins needs to be of certain dimensions to allow clothing to be put on and removed. The mannequins are not meant to be a representation of the average female body.’
But after the furore this week Topshop has agreed to put on a stop on all further orders of mannequins in that size.
What's more, there are now plenty of options available to Toppers if they want to modernize their mannequins.
Because gone are the days of one-size-fits-all policy - dummy diversity is a hot button issue.
A few years ago, the image of a plus-size mannequin in a Swedish store went viral after a customer posted it up on the Women’s Rights News Facebook page.
Since then Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson has lobbied for mannequins to have more meat on them and department stores Debenhams and Marks and Spencer have followed suit, introducing size 16 mannequins to their shop floors.
There's even evidence to suggest a curvier mannequin can lead to healthier sales. In her campaign Swinson backed up her point with research suggesting women are actually more likely to buy a piece of clothing if the model wearing it is closer to their size, so Topshop wouldn’t be losing out if they ditched the ultra-skinny dummies.
Shop mannequins have hit the headlines in the last few years not just for their size. Last year American Apparel drew a crowd when they put a set of mannequins - all of which had pubic hair - in one of their New York shop windows.
We’re not sure Topshop is about to follow suit in that respect, but they’ve certainly got a lot of options…