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Full-figured Swedish mannequins go viral, spark body-image debate

March 18, 2013|By Tiffany Hsu
  • This photo of Swedish mannequins, posted on Women's Rights News' Facebook page, has added to the debate about body image in retailing.
This photo of Swedish mannequins, posted on Women's Rights News'… (Women's Rights News )

Two female mannequins with more meat on their plastic bones than the standard department-store dummy are causing a social media ruckus – and not just because they’re clad only in lingerie.

A photo of the fuller-figured pair, rocking purple panties and matching bras, appeared last week on the Facebook page of Women’s Rights News and soon went viral.

“Store mannequins in Sweden,” the caption noted. “They look like real women. The US should invest in some of these.”

As of Monday, more than 61,000 people liked the image and more than 3,000 visitors had commented. One linked to another image of a curvy underwear mannequin on New York City’s Upper East Side.

Initially, there was some confusion over where the Swedish mannequins were located. Some said H&M, a theory that the Swedish retail giant debunked. The company responsible was eventually rooted out as Ahlens, a Swedish chain.

The backlash against uber-thin fashion dummies isn’t new. Back in 2007, Spanish companies such as Zara and Mango reached an agreement with Spain’s Ministry of Health to gradually replace super-slim mannequins in store windows with size-6 mannequins or larger.

Shoppers such as Stephanie Marcus complained in 2010 of Club Monaco mannequins that were so scrawny that their spines were visible. In 2011, Cory Doctorow posted a photo of “a dangerously emaciated” mannequin at a London Gap store modeling the chain’s “Always Skinny” line.

“I'm wondering what the internal project name for this was at Gap HQ: ‘Death-camp chic’? ‘Ana Pride’? ‘Famine fashion forward’?,” Doctorow mused in the post.

A petition on Change.org from Florida resident Dae Sheridan asks J.C. Penney to remove dummies whose legs were the same size as Sheridan’s arms – or, as she called them, “two malnourished poles with jeans on them.”

“Nobody notices because of the saturation of an unrealistic thin-ideal and beauty standard in our culture which teaches girls and women to attempt to "achieve" impossible proportions,” Sheridan wrote. “People walk by, faced with emaciated chic and famine fashion, because sadly, this is becoming our ‘new normal’.” 

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