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Clothes for Real Women – Celebrating Plus Size Mannequins

By Margaret Manning February 05, 2014 Beauty

Innovation moves fast these days and we have made tremendous progress in industries like healthcare and technology – look at how much our lives have been transformed by smartphones and social media, and look at how many “miracle” cures now exist for diseases which once were fatal.

However, it seems like even with all of the innovation in certain industries, some items have not really evolved over time. For example, based on my experience and observations shopping at the department store, I would have guessed that store mannequins had remained virtually unchanged for years.

It appears that these simple purveyors of fashion do have a fascinating history and are ready for another big reinvention as shopping preferences and women’s self-awareness change as well.

Finally! Plus Size Mannequins Are Becoming Popular

In the early 1900s, mannequins were just torsos, later evolving to full-length figures made from wax with real human hair and porcelain teeth. In the 1960’s they evolved and were made in the image of celebrities like Twiggy. The first Black mannequin was introduced in 1967. In the 1970s there was a period of super realism which swung back in the 1980’s to what we know today – headless torsos or mannequins without faces. Now as consumers demand that the shopping experience be more realistic, some shops are introducing plus size mannequins.

Some, like the ones at New York’s American Apparel, are going viral on social media with their provocative hyper-realistic “see through nipple” lingerie. David’s Bridal, the largest bridal chain in the United States, is now selling wedding clothes for real women, and mannequins are evolving to match. They will have bigger hips and waist, saggier breasts and realistic, if not totally desirable, back fat. Finally, and thank goodness, mannequins are moving from a size 6 to a more realistic size 12.

The goal is for a wider spectrum of women to be able to see what the clothes will actually look like on them. This use of “plus size mannequins” is part of the wider trend toward truthful advertising, which is something that the Sixty and Me community has been asking for.

The point of all this is to bring an added level of realism and authenticity to the shopping experience. The mannequins at one swimsuit shop in Florida have tattoos. Turns out that women love tattoos and I was surprised to discover that more women than men actually have tattoos. Does it really matter what mannequins look like?

Well according to research, family and friends still are the strongest influencers of customers’ buying behaviour. However, mannequins do influence purchasing decisions for forty-two percent of customers. Mannequins are the silent sales people, helping customers to visualize themselves in a new outfit – and it makes sense that as the consumer market becomes more diverse, individualistic and self-expressive, shoppers will expect mannequins to reflect a wider array of “looks” as well.

I just wonder how long it will be before the mannequins start moving and talking to us by name! Perhaps that’s one new technological innovation that won’t catch on anytime soon – most people probably prefer mannequins to remain “silent” and to be seen and not heard.

Do you think the trend towards more lifelike plus size mannequins is a good thing? What is one message you would like to give to retailers when marketing to you? Please leave your comments below.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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