High Street retailer Debenhams is planning to introduce size 16 mannequins to its 170 UK stores. They will be displayed alongside the traditional size 10 mannequin.
British Equalities Minister Jo Swinson with Debenham’s new size 16 mannequins, Oct 2013
Now I know I should feel that this is a great step forward in terms of retailers accepting that the average British woman tends more towards size 16 than she does towards size 8 (according to various nebulous surveys). I know that I should probably be applauding any attempt to help women love and appreciate the size they are.
But this move makes me feel vaguely uneasy. I’m more concerned that we are daily becoming more accepting of being overweight and increasing mannequin size is a tacit admission that the dial on the scales is moving ever-upwards.
And the real motive behind the increase in mannequin size is, in my mind, simply to sell more dresses without irritating the hell out of women who are fed up of never finding a size above a 12 on the rack.
Will other stores follow Debenhams lead? For this to work, merchandising and stocking will have to reflect the change. More larger sizes will need to be stocked. Is there anything more frustrating than having to cue at customer services to have an assistant ring round or checking online with other branches to see if your size is available, and you then having to wait a week or so for it to arrive?
And will this policy be rolled out unilaterally? By that I mean will all stores operate in exactly the same way? For example, many stores seem to run a ridiculous system whereby keynote pieces are available in limited numbers only in prime store locations such as Marble Arch or Oxford Street – and certainly not here in Cardiff.
Are designers really going to be happy to put their name to clothes catering to larger sizes?
Certainly there is a plethora of new online / catalogue retailers challenging Evans plus size crown – Curvissa, and SimplyBe to name just two. I’m not sure if I’m even allowed to use the term plus size now because it sounds derogatory.
We’ve got ourselves in a right mess regarding weight issues, haven’t we? We can’t discuss being overweight (God forbid you should use the term obese) without giving offence or sounding as if we’re being ‘sizeist’ but I think we need to. Size 16 certainly isn’t fat. It’s more the subtle acceptance of our increasing size that gives me concern.