Size 16 mannequins for Debenhams

Proportion London mannequin factory

Slender models and clothes draped over stick-thin mannequins in shops have long caused women untold anguish.

Now Debenhams has made a step forward in promoting body confidence by becoming the first high street retailer to permanently introduce size 16 mannequins.
The new mannequins, which were trialled three years ago, will be used at its shop in Oxford Street, London.

They will appear alongside size 10 dummies on all women's fashion floors, before being introduced in all 170 of Debenhams' UK stores.

Size 10 is the standard size for mannequins on the high street, a far cry from the dimensions of the average British woman.

Debenhams director Ed Watson said: "The average British woman is a size 16, but the high street has been showing them clothing on a mannequin that is three sizes smaller - until now.

"Having worked on this project for three years, we hope that it will help people in some small way to feel comfortable about their bodies and, crucially, that other retailers will follow."

The move was backed by equalities minister Jo Swinson, who has led a Government drive to promote body confidence among women.

She said: "The images we see in the world of fashion are all pretty much the same - it's as if there's only one way of being beautiful. Yet nine in 10 people say they would like to see a broader range of body shapes shown in advertising and the media.

"That's why the Government has fought hard to challenge our looks-obsessed culture. Our Body Confidence campaign has been working with the retail industry and others to encourage a diverse range of models.

"Recent research found that women are three times more likely to buy clothes when the fashion models are their size, so I hope more retailers will recognise that meeting customer demand for more diversity makes good business sense.

"Many customers want to see more realistic images in magazines, TV and on the high street, and having mannequins that reflect and celebrate our diverse society is one way of helping to achieve this."

Debenhams has a history of defying conventional fashion promotion, using a disabled model when it launched its Principles range, banning airbrushing on swimwear advertising and running a lingerie campaign featuring a model over 50.

Advertising's most sexist ads
See Gallery
Size 16 mannequins for Debenhams

"A woman is only a woman but a good cigar is a smoke". Only a woman? Feminists would take issue at the "only" adverb, and the idea that any human being of either gender is inferior to a cancer-inducing product from Benson & Hedges.

Don't blame the ad men completely. That ad tag line is actually the evil work of one Rudyard Kipling. From a poem he penned called "The Bethrothed".

Now this is a creepy ad: "I have created a playground for men's hands." Armando Ghedini created wigs "for other men who adore women". This wig was also wash'n'wear. Nice.

The thoughtful signor Ghedini had also designed a wig to be combed in any direction, "for men to tousle". Men, he said, become "inspired" by women who wore it and women, Ghedini added, were grateful.

VW advertising has often been self-deprecating and clever. In 1960s America their ads were phenomenally successful, persuading thousands of Americans to ditch large thirsty home-made offerings for the company's cramped, noisy but economical Beetle.

Their ads flattered the intelligence of the American middle class. But this ad depicing a bashed-up VW bug? "Sooner or later your wife will drive home one of the best reasons for owning a Volkswagen". Not their female customers, clearly. What were they thinking?

Similarly, Easyjet also thought that a pair of ample breasts would be enough to help ticket sales. This ad dates back to 2003 when George Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair were getting very animated about those hard-to-find weapons of mass destruction.

This particular ad garnered around 200 complaints to the Advertising Council and also escaped any ticking off. And plenty of publicity of course. It all worked out beautifully for Easyjet. Tits away, Stelios.

Car manufacturers and cigarette companies are regular sexist offenders. Here Italian typewriter maker Olivetti peddles the idea that young women are passive, servants ready to transcribe boardroom minutes at a moment's notice.

Where are Olivetti now in the global brand firmament?. Join the Olivetti girls. At ease, ladies, please.

Melon distributor F.H.Hogue of California thought his melons were pretty buxom and wanted to spread the word. Ho-ho, Mr Hogue.

There are plenty more examples and we'll be looking at more anther time. In the meantime let's leave with a woman knowing exactly where she should be (in the home, honey).

Here is a 1970s shoe ad from a brand called Weyenberg. You may find it hard to track down a Weyenberg shoe today however.

However, not all car makers followed such a well-worn patronising path. Back in the 1970s Honda in the US reversed the idea that women always needed cars with simple, easy-to-drive automatic gearboxes.

Despite offering both a manual and auto gearbox, neither was "a women's car" Honda stated firmly. Note the jaunty hat and jeans. A stab at selling to the US lesbian community? Or an independent straight girl fed up with stereotypes. Good for Honda.

Read Full Story