Not surprisingly, none of the stores would allow the researchers to come in and assess the mannequins with a tape measure.
Yet, a new study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders shows that most mannequins still depict female bodies that can only be described as unrealistically thin. The researchers looked at mannequins in 17 major U.K. chain stores and found that 100 percent of female dummies represented an "underweight body size."
Not surprisingly, none of the stores would allow the researchers to come in and assess the mannequins with a tape measure. So instead, the researchers asked two assistants with no knowledges of the study's goals to inspect and rate each mannequin’s size on a visual scale of one to 11, with one being emaciated and 11 being obese. They also compared the mannequins to 10 different standardized photos of adults with known BMIs. What they noticed: The average mannequin size fell around a three on the one to 11 scale—and was equivalent to a woman even skinnier than the slimmest woman on the researchers' BMI chart.
Male dummies, on the other hand, scored far better: Only 8 percent of those guys were too thin. Yes, you read that correctly. Even plastic life-size dolls have double standards.
Researchers concluded that emaciated and unhealthy-looking dummies in fashion stores could encourage "body-image problems and eating disorders" in young people.
It's no secret that body dysmorphia and eating disorders can be deadly, and according to the National Eating Disorders Association, the mortality rate in women with anorexia nervosa is six times higher than the general female population. Suicide rates are also higher in women with bulimia, the association reports.
The researchers also made this valid point: “It is plausible that using inappropriate-sized mannequins may actually be counterproductive to fashion retailers, as consumers may feel that the clothes would not suit their body size,” write the study authors. Plus, “most females would not be likely to desire a body size which would be comparable to the extreme slenderness of mannequins we observed, nor would it be healthy.”
In other words, silly stores—we don’t even WANT to look like that.