Female shop mannequins are 'medically unhealthy' and 'unrealistic': British study

The study in the Journal of Eating Disorders found that the average size of a female mannequin was representative of a severely underweight woman.
The study in the Journal of Eating Disorders found that the average size of a female mannequin was representative of a severely underweight woman.PHOTO: ST FILE

LONDON - The bodies of female shop mannequins are "unrealistic", a recent study in the Journal of Eating Disorders has suggested.

The study, which was published on Tuesday (May 2), looked at the mannequins on display at high street fashion shops in two British cities, and concluded that the body size of the female mannequins "would be considered medically unhealthy in humans".

It found that the average size of a female mannequin was representative of a severely underweight woman. All the female mannequins represented an underweight body size.

The study's co-author Eric Robinson has said that "there is clear evidence showing that the ultra-thin ideal is contributing to the development of mental health problems and eating disorders", the BBC reported on Wednesday (May 3).

He said that that after being "perplexed by the dimensions of the mannequins" he saw while he was out shopping, he decided to investigate further.

"We didn't find a single female mannequin that was a normal body size on display," he told the BBC.

The researchers had originally planned to go into shops in Coventry and Liverpool and physically measure the dummies.

None of the retailers gave them permission to do this, so they had to rely on visually assessing their size.

While some fashion retailers in the UK have announced that they are starting to use bigger mannequins, none were spotted when the University of Liverpool researchers carried out their study in 2015.

The research also found that the average male mannequin was significantly larger than the average female one, and only eight per cent represented an underweight body size.

But it added: "Although male mannequins were less likely to be slender than female mannequins and therefore more representative of what constitutes a 'normal' male body weight, during data collection it was noted that a number of the male mannequins appeared unrealistically muscular."

"In the same way that exposure to ultra-thin ideals may negatively affect body image in women, exposure to unattainable muscular ideals may promote body dissatisfaction in men."

The study has called for a "formal examination" of whether male mannequins promote unrealistic muscular body ideals for men.

This is not the first time mannequin size has been raised as an issue, the BBC said.

The study's authors cited a study carried out in 1992, which looked at shop dummies between the 1920s and 1960s.

The 1992 study concluded then that a woman "with the shape of a modern mannequin" would probably be too thin to menstruate.