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Clothing Store H&M’s Displays of Fuller Mannequin Spark Controversy

Update Date: Mar 15, 2013 11:12 AM EDT

In a society that idolizes skinny models and fit people, the use of fuller and larger mannequins to display lingerie quickly sparked controversy. The pictures of the mannequins used by the Swedish company, H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, better known simply as H&M throughout the world, showed up online revealing that the Swedish stores are using bigger mannequins to display undergarments. Although many people would think that this step is a progressive step in dismantling society's perceptions of body weight and image, this photo has been subjected to controversy and debate over the messages that it might be sending.

The new mannequins with fuller legs and less-toned stomach arguably depict more realistic proportions of the everyday consumers. Department store mannequins tend to be around size four or six in the United States where the average body size is a 14. On one end of the debate, women are stating that these mannequins are good for women's self-esteems and perception of body weight because they normalize the body. By seeing these mannequins, women might not feel the pressure to look good for fashion. However, on the other end of the spectrum, people see the mannequins as a form of reinforcement, promoting obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.

This photo was originally uploaded on a website titled "I Am Bored," but has also been uploaded on the "Women's Rights News" Facebook page, which continued to reveal the controversial and often, unhealthy, viewpoints on image and perfection, with people arguing both sides. The photo has received roughly 50,000 "likes" and has been shared and reposted over 15,000 times within the first day.

One commenter wrote that "anybody saying these mannequins encourage obesity or look unhealthy, you have a seriously warped perception of what is healthy. I guarantee the "bigger" mannequin in the front there represents a perfect BMI."

Mannequins have existed for over thousands of years and started to be used more often in displaying fashion during the industrial revolution. At the beginning of its popularity, mannequins accurately displayed the body proportions and weight of the people during that time. However, the mannequin proportions started to shift to represent people from pop culture and high fashion. After this change, more and more debate began regarding the appropriateness of these new sizes.

In 2007, the high fashion stores located on London's High Street in Britain were asked to stop using abnormally thin models to reflect the average body size and shape. Then in 2010, the clothing company, Club Monaco was reprimanded for using mannequins that had protruding spins and clavicles comparable to those present in overly skinny models. In 2011, GAP was under scrutiny for only using thin legs to display their skinny jeans' line, which used the catchphrase, "Always Skinny."

Regardless of what sizes companies make their mannequins, they seem to inevitably fall into heated debates. 

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