Was there ever a time when you picked out a really cute outfit at the store, tried it on in the dressing room, but didn’t buy it because “it didn’t look right”? What would have made it look right? Were you comparing how it looked on you to how it looked on the mannequin? The catalogue model? The celebrity who wore it on the red carpet?
The fact of the matter is, the fashion industry is full of homogenous images of women’s bodies. Unfortunately, this single image has been embedded into many minds through media and advertising as the “ideal” body to aspire to. One UK retailer hopes to change this.
Back in April, UK department store Debenhams released their “High Summer Look Book,” showcasing upcoming clothing lines and styles. What set this look book apart from the many others was their choice of models. Here’s the roster:
- Kelly, born without her left forearm, was discovered when she won the TV show ‘Missing Next Top Model’
- Paralympian amputee Stefanie Reid
- Jada, size 18 model and face of the recent Plus Size Fashion Week
- Tess, who is just over five feet tall
- Valarie, 69 and Maxine, 44
- Philomena, a size 18 model, who wants to be Britain’s first black plus size supermodel
- Hugo 47, and 6ft 4in tall Lucio
Debenhams was one of the first retailers in Britain to put plus sized (or what I like to call real sized) mannequins in their stores. I once read somewhere that if women were shaped like the average mannequins we normally see in stores, the majority of our internal organs wouldn’t be able to fit inside our bodies. Yet when that super cute dress we saw on the mannequin doesn’t look the same on us, we’re disappointed.
In response to their inclusive campaigns, Debenhams received the Body Confidence Award and sits on the Government’s Body Confidence Advisory Committee. “Our customers are not the same shape or size so our latest look book celebrates this diversity. We would be delighted if others followed our lead. Hopefully these shots will be a step, albeit a small one, towards more people feeling more comfortable about their bodies,” said Ed Watson, Director of Public Relations at Debenhams. Debenhams has also banned airbrushing from swimsuit ads.
As someone who has been bullied because of my weight and has felt the burden of not having the media’s version of the ideal body, I think what Debenhams is doing is a step in the right direction that I hope more retailers catch on to (although Abercrombie & Fitch may be a lost cause on that one).
I’d love to start including more body-positive beauty posts on this blog. I hope that it doesn’t come off as hypocritical, since this is a makeup blog and the beauty industry is not completely innocent of distributing the homogenous image of what “beauty” is. I’d like to remind my readers that nobody, not one person or company, has the authority to dictate what nor who is beautiful.
What do you think of Debenham’s campaign? Is it progressive, and do you think US retailers will follow in their footsteps?