A clothing mannequin in a Canadian store. A UBC study says *perfect looking* mannequins can actually turn some consumers off the clothing the mannequins are supposed to promote.

A clothing mannequin in a Canadian store. A UBC study says *perfect looking* mannequins can actually turn some consumers off the clothing the mannequins are supposed to promote.
Photo Credit: Canadian Press

Mannequins perfect bodies: bad for clothing sales?

When shopping for clothes, you’ll see examples of various styles draped onto mannequins.  It’s a time honoured practice, but in recent years, those female mannequins have become idealized, with perfect busts, thin waists, and long slender legs while male mannequins  for example often have chiselled six pack abdomens and both with classically shaped smooth skinned heads and hair styles of young adults.

In some cases even “over idealized”, being criticized for being unrealistically thin for example, to the point of being anorexic.

A new study from the University of British Columbia says those mannequins are putting people off.

Perfect mannequins, and others that are far too thin have come under criticism for promoting unreatlistic body image. The UBC study shows they may even be hurting sales of the clothes they want to promote
Perfect mannequins, and others that are far too thin have come under criticism for promoting unreatlistic body image. The UBC study shows they may even be hurting sales of the clothes they want to promote © Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press

The study says real people with lower self esteem can be intimidated by the mannequins and the clothes. They

‘“When that mannequin is an example of perfection, it reminds people who are vulnerable that they don’t measure up,” said UBC Sauder professor and study co-author Darren Dahl in a UBC press release. “The problem is the beauty ideal that mannequins represent. When people feel they don’t meet that ideal, their view of the product dims as well.”

The study called, “ Standards of Beauty- the impact of mannequins in the retail industry”, was ublished in the Journal of Consumer Research, and  co-authored by University of Alberta marketing professor Jennifer Argo. (abstract HERE)

A store in Sweden has been using some mannequins that aren’t super slim.
A store in Sweden has been using some mannequins that aren’t super slim. © Rebecka Silverkroon

For the study , subjects were asked about their own level of “appearance self-esteem” and then asked to evaluate clothing like bikinis or dresses on the mannequins.

Part of the study then involved toning the mannequins beauty down a bit by taking away a wig if there was one or removing the head entirely. The result was a lessening of the negative reaction to the clothing.

Also when “modeling” items not readily associated with appearance, such as umbrellas, the negative reaction disappeared.

The authors note there has been little study of mannequins effect on consumer buying in the $3 billion dollar clothing industry.

They suggest that retailers may want to use half-mannequins which they say are “less threatening” to people who don’t have perfect bodies, or who are self-conscious about their body image.

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2 comments on “Mannequins perfect bodies: bad for clothing sales?
  1. Benalbanach says:

    Never have I ever thought that mannequins had perfect bodies. Farfrom it.

  2. Peter Ashcroft says:

    Perfect ‘mannequin’ body contours, or normal down to earth ones. No wonder some youngsters suffer from anorexia nervosa as they try to over-slim.